Aur bhi dukh hain zamane mein mohabbat ke siwaRahatein aur bhi hain wasl ki raahat ke siwa. ~Faiz Ahmed Faiz
(Other pains exist than those that love brings, Other joys than those of lovers’ union.)
Urdu poetry is reminiscent of a childhood not so long ago. I grew up, conditioned to hate the sappy tales of romance it brought along, ridicule the concept of the shaa’ir surrendering his being to the mehboob (beloved) and literally snort at the idea of wallowing in the misery of heartbreak. It is amazing how much has changed. What then seemed like an obligatory study of a dying script is something I connect to and identify with as a culture I should have felt for a little more while I had the chance. Even after ten years of studying the language, I still could not read a paragraph as fluently as I would have had it been in English. I couldn’t skim through the lines to know what it was about; I had to make an effort to join the alphabets in my head minding the ‘zer-zabar-pesh’ and create sounds. Rediscovering Urdu through poetry is mystical. The imagery, the articulation and frankly, just the fancy words give the language a feel so dreamy that you go into a thoughtful pseudo trance just by reciting a shair inside your head.
Hazaron Khwahishen aisi ki har Khwahish pe dam nikle Bohot nikle mere arman lekin phir bhi kam nikle. ~Ghalib
(The thousands of longings are such that over every longing I would die. Many of my wishes/regrets 'emerged'-- but still, few did.)
Does the couplet above not make you think of every tiny unfulfilled wish you ever had? Or how you ignored to revel in the happiness of those that did come true?
Nahin tera nasheman ,qasr-e-sultani ki gumbad par, Tu shaheen Hai, basera kar, pahadon ki chattanon par. ~Iqbal
(You don’t have to make your nest on the dome of Queen’s palace, Oh Eagle, you are royal, choose to reside on the peaks of mountains.)
Or this. Does it not inspire you to break through shackles of mediocrity telling you how you are destined for grandeur and things more majestic?
Jee dhondhta hai phir wohi fursat ke, raat din bethien rahien tasavur-janan kiye hue. ~ Ghalib
(My soul still seek those nights and days of leisure, When we would idle away, picturing the beloved in our head)
This of course, strikes a different chord with each of us. Nostalgia is always all around. We find different things to reminisce about. Memories are always beautiful. Our mind always finds ways of preserving the best of even the worst times. It could be the memory of a happy childhood symbolised by a picture of you running across the playground; the resounding laughter that plays in the back of your head, reminding you of people you’ve not heard of since long or even the first time you fell in love, simplistically and beautifully. Whatever the memory be, this shair does not go without taking you down memory lane, on a wholly personal journey which never fails to wrinkle your face with a smile.
Phir ji meñ hai kih dar pah kisi ke pare raheñ sar zer-bar-e minnat-e darbañ kiye huʾe. ~Ghalib
(Again it's in our inner-self that we would remain lying at someone's door having placed our head under a burden/obligation of the kindness/favour of the doorkeeper)
Urdu poets believed in love; self-consuming, destructive love ending in surrender of self to the beloved. Let the love possess your being, give yourself up entirely. As a concept, it may be terrifying but this poetry glorifies it. In most cases the love was unrequited, it came with misery but it was the sweet sorrow of a love that consumes all senses.
Nikalna khuld se adam ka sunte aʾe haiñ lekin bahut be-abru ho kar tire kuche se ham nikle. ~Ghalib
(We have often heard of the ousting of Adam from heaven, but the dishonour with which I was ousted from your haven was worse)
Recite anything a few times. It makes you want to fall hopelessly in love. It even makes you want to love and not be loved back, just to taste rejection; to add the missing dash of drama in your life; to love like never before.
Sham-e-firaq aab na pooch, aai aur aa ke Tul gai dil tha ke phir bhehal gaya, jaaN thee ke phir sanbhal gai. ~Faiz Ahmed Faiz
(Ask no more (about) the night of separation; it came, and passed. The heart got diverted again; life found its feet again)
Only then will you be able to appreciate the pleasures of love and the poetic bitter pangs of separation.
Dair nahiñ haram nahiñ dar nahiñ astañ nahiñ baithe haiñ rah-guzar pah ham ghair hameñ uthaʾe kyuñ. ~Ghalib
(Not a temple/church, not the Ka’bah/ a holy place, not a door, not a doorsill--we've sat down by the roadway-- why would the stranger(ghair) cause us to get up [and leave]?)
And of course, the irreverence towards the beloved; the constant urge to irk them just so you get their attention. Every shaa’ir has a different style, and different themes. They have underlying meanings, subtexts and undertones. My teachers tried to convince us, despite the constant imagery of the mehboob’s rosy lips, that the poet was talking about being in love with God. Mehboob-e-haqiqi, as they call it. I am not qualified enough to comment or state my opinion on any of it, but my interpretations lead me to believe that these poets, like Ancient Greeks, revered passion. Thus the ultimate quest in every man’s life was the transcend above it all and transform from being a lover to a true deewana.