Saturday, September 18, 2004

guzaarish ba zubaan-e-Urdu (गुज़ारिश ब-ज़ुबान-ए-उर्दू)

guzarish ba zuban-e-urdu (गुज़ारिश ब-ज़ुबान-ए-उर्दू) is an interesting, thought-provoking article written by मोहतरमा Hamida Banu Chopra. The article is available for your perusal in three formats: in the Urdu script, in the Hindi script, and in the audio form (mp3) read by Hamida Chopra herself. Please read/listen to the article and send your comments to or post them here.

A few words are warranted about the author, मोहतरमा Hamida Banu Chopra. Mma. Chopra has been a Lecturer of Urdu language and literature at the University of California, Berkeley, and currently offers Urdu classes via the auspices of the local India Cultural Center. She has an M.A in Philosophy from Rajasthan University and an advanced degree in Urdu from Aligarh University. Mma. Chopra has spent many a selfless decade in the service of Urdu language and literature, and holds a place of prominence amongst the Urdu connoisseurs of the San Francisco Bay Area. She has frequently organized Urdu poetry readings targeted towards educating the Indian diaspora of the Bay Area and elsewhere about the beauty of Urdu poetry and literature and familiarizing the masses with the works of the Classical Masters (Meer, Ghalib, Iqbal, et al). Mma. Hamida Banu also teaches Urdu at home on an entirely pro bono (free of charge) basis -- she asks only that you match her fervor and love for the Urdu language with your own (which, if you ask me, is much harder than it sounds, so great is her passion for the language). मोहतरमा Hamida Banu has released two audio tapes of recitations of Urdu nazms: banjaara (बंजारा) and parinde ki faryaad (परिंदे की फ़रियाद); these are prosodic readings of poetry (not to be confused with singing renditions for which artistes like Mehdi Hassan, Ghulam Ali and Jagjit Singh are famous). While nazms comprise a very large segment of Urdu poetry, most commercial recordings of Urdu poetry only showcase the Ghazal; मोहतरमा Chopra's recitations seek to remedy this imbalance to a certain extent. The cassettes are available upon request.


Accept my apologies for not keeping this blog up to date. I appreciate the patient understanding all of you have shown in the past few months while I have been trying to get my own life under control. Among other things, my better half and I had been trying to get the house in order for our first baby. I'm sure you (at least those of you who have kids of your own) understand how hectic and exciting that can be.

Enough about that. Let's move on to more poetic things.

Monday, June 28, 2004

ASAD [11] contd...

This article is by U.V. Ravindra.

There is a school of thought that is gaining increasing acceptance amongst Urdu poetry aficionados of today which argues that the world we live in has changed so drastically and is so different from the era in which the Old Masters like Meer, Momin and Dagh prospered, that the poetry of those old masters is all but irrelevant today. To them, the works of that bygone age are only of academic importance, nary more than a lesson in the history of Urdu literature. They claim that the old style of poetry has been heard and re-heard, quote and re-quoted so often that it has lost its bite. It is no longer possible for a poet to write poetry in the classical style and still maintain even a modicum of freshness.

I have two words for them: Ahmed Faraz.

One of my favorite Faraz couplets is the following:

तुम तकल्लुफ़ को भी इख़लास समझते हो, 'फ़राज़'
दोस्त होता नहीं हर हाथ मिलाने वाला
tum takalluf ko bhi iKhlaas samajhte ho, 'Faraz'
dost hotaa naheeN har haath milaane waalaa

तकल्लुफ़ takalluf: formalities, societal norms of behavior
इख़लास iKhlaas: sincere, pure friendship; deep affection


ASAD [11]

Ahmed Faraz. A modern-day shaa'ir in the classical mould. One of the most famous Ghazals of all time, ranjish hi sahi, is written by him. The diction and 'texture' of Faraz's poems is reminiscent of some of the greatest masters of Urdu Ghazal. Time and time again, the nazaakat of his poetry reminds one of the magic of Meer Taqi 'Meer' or Momin Khan 'Momin'. Countless are the occasions when, upon hearing one of Faraz's sh'ers, an exclamation of 'waah, kyaa baat hai!' automatically escapes one's lips.

ये किन नज़रों से तूने आज देखा
केः तेरा देखना देखा न जाए
ye kin nazroN se tuune aaj dekha
ke teraa dekhnaa dekhaa na jaaye!

No difficult words here. No complex metaphors. No strange similes. Just a simple couplet dripping with the honey of extreme classicism!

- Abhay.
ASAD _also_ stands for "A Sher A Day" !

[(c) Abhay Avachat. Editor: U.V. Ravindra]

Saturday, June 26, 2004

ASAD [10]

Some couplets are such that their meaning does not jump out at you immediately; they require a few seconds of attentive thinking after you have heard the sh'er ... to understand what the poet is trying to say.

And then, when you get it, you smile!

To achieve this effect, a clever device is used ... any explicit references are omitted, and the poet merely hints at what s/he wants to say. Observe the following sh'er by the brilliant female poet Parveen Shakir (परवीन शाकिर):

इसी कूचे में कई उसके शनासा भी तो हैं
वो किसी और से मिलने के बहाने आए
isii kooche meN ka`ii uske shanaasaa bhi to haiN
woh kisi aur se milne ke bahaane aaye

कूचा koocha = street
शनासा shanaasaa = friends

Once you understand the hidden complaint which the shaa'iraa is making, you'll definitely like this sh'er.

- Abhay.
ASAD _also_ stands for "A Sher A Day" !

[(c) Abhay Avachat. Editor: U.V. Ravindra]

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

ASAD [9]

These sh'ura (poets; plural of shaa'ir) can sometimes be rather cute. They offer an excuse just for the sake of it knowing full well that no one will buy it. Here's how the poet Abdul Hameed 'Adam' explains his "shamelessness".

शायद मुझे निकाल के पछता रहे हों आप:
महफ़िल में इस ख़याल से फिर आ गया हूँ मैं!
shaayad mujhe nikaal ke pachhtaa rahe hoN aap
mahfil meN is Khayaal se phir aa gayaa hooN maiN

- Abhay.
ASAD _also_ stands for "A Sher A Day" !

[(c) Abhay Avachat. U.V. Ravindra]

Monday, June 21, 2004

ASAD [8]

Symbolism is not a new trend in Urdu poetry. Metaphors like "gul-o-bulbul", "jaam-o-sharaab", etc were very popular amongst the classical poets.

Modern poets also use symbolism to great penetrating effect. Many a time, a simple, day-to-day situation is described in a manner that provokes the listener to think of it in a new light. The following sh'er by Aslam Kolsari exemplifies this.

सारे मुसाफ़िरों से त'अल्लुक़ निकल पड़ा
गाड़ी में एक शख़्स ने अख़बार क्या लिया
saare musaafiroN se ta'alluq nikal paRaa
gaaRi meN ek shaKhs ne aKhbaar kyaa liyaa

त'अल्लुक़, ta'alluq: connection, relationship
अख़बार, aKhbaar: newspaper

What an interesting study in the dynamics of human relationships!

For those of us who have travelled in trains or buses in our home country, this is a common sight to see. One traveller buys the newspaper in a train, and everyone sitting around him borrows different parts of it, even before the buyer has himself had a chance to peruse all sections of it. Not only that, if you have ever been in the position of the newspaper purchaser, you know that you are expected to share your paper with your co-passengers. Otherwise you are an uptight snob. After all, you can only read one page at a time, so what are you going to gain by "hoarding" the rest of the paper?

However, no sooner has the paper been read, than everyone goes right back to being strangers to each other!

- Abhay.
ASAD _also_ stands for "A Sher A Day" !

[(c) Abhay Avachat. Editor: U.V. Ravindra]

ASAD [7]

Most shaa'iri is full of pain, sorrow, grief, et cetera. There is a point, however, beyond which the pain ceases to hurt any more, one becomes numb to it;
one is reduced to becoming a dispassionate observer of one's own destruction.

Here's a sh'er that touchingly captures this state. The poet is Ejaaz Aazar.

ये धुआँ कम हो तो पहचान हो मुमकिन, शायद
यूँ तो वो जलता हुआ, अपना ही घर लगता है
yeh dhuaaN kam ho to pahchaan ho mumkin, shaayad
yooN to woh jaltaa huaa apnaa hi ghar lagtaa hai

- Abhay.
ASAD _also_ stands for "A Sher A Day"!

[(c) Abhay Avachat. Editor: U.V. Ravindra]

Saturday, June 19, 2004

ASAD [6]

Today, Ghalib is known to everybody. Even many who have little interest in Urdu shaa'iri know that he is regarded as one of the finest Urdu poets of all time. However, he did not always receive the same recognition. During his own lifetime, for instance, he was often ridiculed for writing incomprehensible poetry. Here's an example of the kinds of taunt Ghalib's poetry received:

ज़ुबान-ए-'मीर'1 समझे, और कलाम-ए-'मीरज़ा'2 समझे
मगर इनका लिखा? ये आप समझें, या ख़ुदा समझे!
zubaan-e-'Meer'1 samjhe, aur kalaam-e-'Meerza'2 samjhe
magar inkaa likhaa? yeh aap samjheN, yaa Khudaa samjhe

We have no trouble understanding the word of Meer, nor comprehending the writ of Mirza, but what this man (Ghalib) writes -- only he knows, or God!

Ghalib, on the other hand, was rather proud of his diction. Some say he didn't pay these critics too much attention. Others say he didn't suffer them gladly at all, that he wasn't one to take things lying down, that his way of responding to such comments was to slip in a critical retort here and there in his Ghazals. It is hard to say who is right, but it is true that one finds some very interesting couplets in Ghalib's deewaan which could be considered responses to the sharp criticism he received. The following couplet is one such particularly famous 'response':

पूछते हैं वो केः 'ग़ालिब' कौन है?
कोई बतलाए केः हम बतलाएँ क्या?
poochhte haiN woh ke 'Ghalib' kaun hai?
koi batlaaye ke ham batlaayeN kyaa?

- Abhay.
ASAD _also_ stands for "A Sher A Day" !

1Meer: Meer Taqi 'Meer', acknowledged universally by Urdu poetry aficionados as 'Khudaa-e-suKhan' (the God of poetry)
2Meerza: Mirza Mohammed Rafi 'Sauda', a contemporary of Meer's and an excellent poet in his own right.

[(c) Abhay Avachat. Editor: U.V. Ravindra]

Friday, June 18, 2004

ASAD [5]

As we have seen earlier in this series, some sh'ers have the nickname or "alias" of the shaa'ir in them. The Urdu term of a poet's pseudonym is 'taKhallus' (तख़ल्लुस). Couplets with a poet's taKhallus in them are usually the last in a Ghazal. A poet can use his taKhallus very cleverly to address himself, but it sounds still better when the thought is as clever as its presentation.

The sarcastic bitterness of the following sh'er will hit you hard and make you smile at the same time.

No difficult words this time :-) This sh'er is by (Jaan Nisaar?) Akhtar:

शे'र कहते हो बहुत ख़ूब तुम 'अख़्तर', लेकिन
अच्छे शा'इर, ये सुना है, केः जवाँ मरते है!
sh'er kahte ho bahut Khoob tum 'aKhtar', lekin
achchhe shaa'ir, yeh sunaa hai, ke jawaaN marte haiN

A clever way, indeed, to express the common belief about the fate of good poets!

- Abhay.
ASAD _also_ stands for "A Sher A Day"!

[(c) Abhay Avachat. Editor: U.V. Ravindra]


[1] Perhaps an even cleverer example of the use of a poet's taKhallus is in the following by Dagh Dehlvi (दाग़ देहलवी). We all know that 'daaGh' means 'wound, sore' and दिल का दाग़ is a phrase we hear very often, associated with lovers. Now witness how दाग़ himself has used it:

कोई नाम-ओ-निशाँ पूछे, तो ऐ क़ासिद, बता देना:
तख़ल्लुस 'दाग़' है, और आशिक़ों के दिल में रहते है!
koi naam-o-nishaaN poochhe, to ai qaasid, bataa denaa:
taKhallus 'daaGh' hai, aur aashiqoN ke dil meN rahte haiN!

Wasn't he amazing?!