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?!


Thursday, June 17, 2004

ASAD [4] contd...

[(c) U.V. Ravindra]

The measure of the popularity of a language is how many people use it. English is very popular amongst Indian teenagers today. If you listen to a conversation between two 'Hindi-speaking' teenagers, you may well be struck by the number of 'foreign' words they use! They might say, "मेरे दादाजी को heart में pain होता है" using 'heart' and 'pain' instead of दिल and दर्द which are Hindi words. But wait! Did you know that dil and dard themselves are 'foreign' words? They are Persian (फ़ारसी) in origin! But nobody can say today that they are not part of Hindi. Indeed, which of these two phrases do you think is heard more often: दिल का दर्द, हृदय की पीड़ा. Case closed!

Likewise, one measure of the greatness of a sh'er is how many people know of it, use it, or quote it. Some sh'ers or parts of them are so popular that everyone from a learned Urdu scholar to a road-side rickshaw-wallah can be heard using them ... without realizing for a moment that it could have been a talented shaa'ir who first said those words.

Since we are on the topic of Ustad Zauq, I thought it wouldn't be out of place if I, UVR, made a brief interjection into Abhay's series to mention one such popular, common parlance sh'er by him which uses many 'foreign' words.

ऐ ज़ौक़! देख, दुख़्तर-ए-रज़ को न मुँह लगा
छुटती नहीं है मुँह से ये काफ़िर लगी हुई
ai 'Zauq'! dekh, duKhtar-e-raz ko na muNh lagaa
chhuTti naheeN hai muNh se yeh kaafir lagi hui

दुख़्तर, duKhtar = daughter (observe the similarity in the two words!)
रज़, raz = vine
दुख़्तर-ए-रज़ = अंगूर की बेटी = शराब
duKhtar-e-raz = daughter of the vine = wine

angoor ki beTi is, of course, a 'foreign' phrase that has become common lingo, but isn't it interesting to note the origin of "chhuTti naheeN hai muNh se ... lagi hui"? It is also so common that we don't think that it might have been part of a sh'er by some great shaa'ir!

Now we realize why Zauq was called 'ustad'!

ASAD _also_ stands for "A Sher A Day"

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

ASAD [4]

One thing Ghalib is well known for are his philosohical ash'aar (= plural of "sh'er"). However, it isn't like he has a monopoly on them. Other poets also produce quite an admirable number of worthy philosophical couplets. Here is one from a contemporary of Ghalib's, Ustad Ibrahim Zauq:

लाई हयात आए, क़ज़ा ले चली चले
अपनी ख़ुशी न आए, न अपनी ख़ुशी चले!
laayi hayaat aaye, qazaa le chali chale
apni Khushi na aaye, na apni Khushi chale

हयात, hayaat = life
क़ज़ा, qazaa = death

The striking simplicity of this sh'er was a hallmark of Zauq's poetry.

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

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


[1] Ustad Zauq was known as 'ustaad' (teacher), because he was appointed the official poetry guru of the then Mughal ruler of Delhi (who was a pretty decent poet in his own right), Bahadur Shah 'Zafar'.

[2] Another very popular sh'er by Zauq is the following, which is not only philosophical, but also fiercely critical of the self-proclaimed protectors of society's religious mores:

ज़ाहिद! शराब पीने से काफ़िर हुआ मैं क्यों?
क्या डेढ़ चुल्लू पानी में ईमान बह गया?
zaahid! sharaab peene se kaafir huaa mai.n kyo.n?
kyaa DeRh chulluu paani me.n eemaan bah gayaa?

zaahid = religious teacher; kaafir = blasphemer
DeRh = 1-1/2 (meaning, a few); chulluu = palmful;
eemaan = faith

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

ASAD [3]

The cleverness of a poet is most evident in the way he or she can twist a common situation and impart it a fresh, enjoyable feel. For example, 'ishq meN marnaa' is a commonly expressed sad and tearful situation, but here's a sh'er that puts a different spin on it:

अब मेरे रोनेवालो! ख़ुदारा जवाब दो
वो बार-बार पूछते हैं, "कौन मर गया?"
ab mere rone waalo, Khudara jawaab do
wo baar baar puchhate haiN, "kaun mar gayaa?"

ख़ुदारा: ख़ुदा के वास्ते, भगवान के लिए
Khudaaraa = For God's sake

I don't know the name of shaa'ir who wrote this sh'er. If you know it, I'd like to hear from you.

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

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

Saturday, June 12, 2004

ASAD [2]

[A few weeks ago]*, there was a small discussion on RMIM about the word "har-suu", and as was correctly explained, it means "everywhere". But there is more to it. "suu" is an independent word meaning "direction" or "towards".

Here is a very touching sh'er by 'Adeem' Hashmi which can explain the meaning clearly.

वो केः ख़ुश्बू की तरह फैला था मेरे चार सू
मैं उसे महसूस कर सकता था, छू सकता न था
woh ke Khushboo ki tarah, phaila tha mere chaar suu
maiN use mehsoos kar sakta thaa, chhoo saktaa na thaa

चार सू: चारों ओर, चारों तरफ़
chaar suu: har suu, all around (everywhere)

Sounds like Gulzar, a little bit, doesn't it?

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

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


[1] "A few weeks ago" refers to a few weeks before the date of the original posting of this article on RMIM: March 1995.

[2] The sh'er presented in this article is from a Ghazal made famous by Ghulam Ali:

फ़ासले ऐसे भी होंगे ये कभी सोचा न था
सामने बैठा था मेरे, और वो मेरा न था
faasle aise bhi hoNge yeh kabhi sochaa na thaa
saamne baiThaa thaa mere, aur woh meraa na thaa

[3] Another sh'er which uses the word 'suu' with telling effect is the following by Faiz Ahmed 'Faiz' from his Ghazal guloN meN rang bhare, which has also been sung beautifully by Mehdi Hassan:

मक़ाम 'फ़ैज़' कोई राह में जचा ही नहीं
जो कू-ए-यार से निकले, तो सू-ए-दार चले!
maqaam 'Faiz' koi raah meN jachaa hi naheeN
jo koo-e-yaar se nikle, to soo-e-daar chale

कू-ए-यार = यार (प्रियतम/प्रियतमा) की गली
सू-ए-दार = मौत की तरफ़ (दार = सूली)
koo-e-yaar = the street where the beloved lives
soo-e-daar = towards Death (daar = gallows)

Friday, June 11, 2004

ASAD [1]

Hi friends,

Although RMIM by name is a music group, its nature is quite diverse. Movies, acting, direction and shaa'iri are also discussed with a lot of interest. Considering this, I want to take the liberty of posting some gems from the Khazana of Urdu poetry. I hope Ghazal lovers and shaa'iri admirers will enjoy these postings ... but it's the "outsiders" whom I want to trap :) I hope even the casual reader will start taking an interest in reading Urdu poetry. With that purpose in mind, I have selected a few couplets, which I want to post giving the meanings of the difficult words, and a couple of lines of explanation -- or rather, just pointers to the explanation.

Comments are most welcome. Hope you enjoy this series!!!

Any series on sh'er-o-shaa'iri must naturally begin with a sh'er by Ghalib. But I also wanted to start this series with a sh'er that praises Ghalib. How good it will be if we can find a sh'er that accomplishes both!

Here it is ...

हैं और भी दुनिया में सुख़नवर बहुत अच्छे
कहते हैं केः 'ग़ालिब' का है अन्दाज़-ए-बयाँ और!
haiN aur bhi duniya meN suKhanwar bahut achchhe
kahte haiN ke 'Ghalib' kaa hai andaaz-e-bayaaN aur!

सुख़नवर, suKhanwar = poet
अन्दाज़-ए-बयाँ, andaaz-e-bayaa.N = style of expression.

Ghalib was never afraid of loudly proclaiming his 'greatness'. That's one of the reasons I like him so much. A person is not truly great if he fails to recognize his own greatness.

- Abhay.
ASAD also stands for 'A Sher A Day'

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

Thursday, June 10, 2004

What is "ASAD"?

ASAD, short for A Sher A Day, was a series of articles posted by Abhay Avachat on the USENET newsgroup (a.k.a RMIM) in the 1995-1998 timeframe. These articles were very well received by the RMIM population of those years.

Was everything rosy for the ASAD series while it ran? Not by a long shot. We must understand that RMIM is, by published charter, a group for the discussion of Indian music, and the the ASAD series, by its overt concentration on Urdu sh'er-o-shaa'iri (Urdu poetry) possessed only a very tenuous link, if any, to the charter of RMIM. The ASAD series never claimed to, nor did (at least during the initial part), relate to music in any manner. It was just a series that presented a viewpoint on couplets taken from Urdu poetry. During the early part of 1997, there was a serious discussion on the relevance of the ASAD series to RMIM and, for a brief period, the series went completely 'off air.' It was eventually revived after a hiatus of several months, and continued until it ran to its (abrupt) end -- presumably because Abhay had too many things on his hands and could not afford to spend time on ASAD.

This blog archive is an attempt to recreate some of the 'magic' of the ASAD series. I will be posting, one by one, Abhay's original articles, with minor edits and corrections, at the frequency of one article a day, or less. In some cases, I will follow up the articles with my own comments.

Hope you enjoy your visit here ...