“Ji dhoondta hai phir wohi fursat ke raat din
Baithe rahen tassavur-e-jaanaa kiye huye…” – Mirza Assadullah Khan “Ghalib”
“Dil dhoondta hai phir wohi fursat ke raat din
Baithe rahen tassavur-e-jaanaa kiye huye
….Barfeeli sardiyon mein, kisi bhi pahaad par
Waadee mein goonjti hui, khaamoshiyaan sunen
Aankhon mein bheege bheege se, lamhe liye huye…” – Sampooran Singh Kalra “Gulzar”
[(My) heart yearns (anew) for those nights and days of leisure/freedom
Leisurely ensconced, contemplating thoughts of my beloved
..on any distant mountain spend snowy winters
Listening to the echoing silence of the glen
Eyes retaining moist moments (of memories past)]
In their comments on an earlier blog, two of my friends had quoted the song penned by Gulzar that I have used to open this blog. Gulzar acknowledged that the sher from Ghalib’s ghazal had inspired the opening lines of his own song.
Urdu is a beautiful language that I can neither read nor write. I remember as a child my father would take me along to “mushairas” (poetry recitation soirees). He had studied Farsi and Urdu and would occasionally explain to me the gist of thoughts being expressed by a poet. Munching hot, fresh fried salted cashews and sipping a coke, I would feel adult enough to also partake of the food for the soul that my father would share with me.
This early exposure to traditional music forms like ghazals, nazm, Sufiana qawwalis and folk music planted in me the seeds that firmly took root and finally burst forth in the early 1970s. Luckily, that was the time when a number of artistes had started to produce recordings of ghazals and qawwalis for hoi polloi. Even so, with no father figure to hold my hand I could not truly appreciate the musical smorgasbord on offer. Eventually, in 1984, after an extensive search spanning nearly 9 years I finally found a “lughat” (dictionary) in Bombay (now Mumbai) produced by Sultan Nathani that lists 10,000 most common Urdu words used in ghazals and poetry, providing their meaning in English and Hindi. In Urdu language, phonetic intonation is very important; for instance, with a slight change in glottal emphasis “saagar” (ocean) transforms into “saaghar” (wine cup). The phonetic transcription of the Urdu word in Hindi helped me tremendously to pick the correct word. I had struck a gold mine!
As this new vista opened up, I started to delve into not just Urdu poetry but was drawn deeper into the milieu of an earlier Indian period when culture, etiquette and the art of correct communication were accorded a great deal of importance. “Lucknowi andaaz” (etiquette/manners of the cultured people from Lucknow) was synonymous with good form and behavior. Nuanced mannerisms and usage of refined language served to define the class of a person.
In this context I find it fascinating that to symbolize the pining heart of a lover, these two poets born nearly 150 years apart chose “ji” and “dil” respectively. Which works better for you? Or, would you instead prefer “mann”? It is the limitation of my “tassavur” or understanding of either word that constrains me from reaching the “emotive high” either poet is able to attain.
Irrespective of the language used to communicate with the other party, we will only “hear” what we choose to, with our interpretation being influenced by our own life experiences, cultures and the environment we live in. These are some of the factors that shape our perception. What does “table” mean to someone who has never seen a table before? How does one express feeling? While it is said music needs no language, does understanding the sung word not enhance the listening pleasure? Can one appreciate an operatic aria the same way as one might a ghazal? A Rose by any other name is not quite the same thing. Each person will react to the sight and smell of the same flower differently.
I wonder if the art of letter writing, now reduced to brevity through texting, tweeting and messaging has made it simpler for everyone to be “on the same page”. Has usage of concise and “standardized” expressions simplified the expression of thoughts and revolutionized the art of communicating?
I guess we can be BFF unless I accidentally attach the wrong emoticon and cause a “dislike”.