The heart searches … dil dhoondtaa hai

“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”.

LOL. Whatever.

3 Replies to “The heart searches … dil dhoondtaa hai”

  1. Pankaj,

    Excellent food for thought, as always. A couple of questions, especially with reference to the ending of your blog.

    1. Is the written word intrinsic to human evolution, given that its proliferation is a direct offshoot of the printing press. Was that necessarily a good thing, considering it divided human kind into two binaries – literate and illiterate solely on the basis of one’s ability to read and write.

    The illiterate did not (does not) lack in wisdom that comes from experience, but was (is) always treated with disdain and contempt by the literate society. Literacy failed comprehensively to create the utopia it should have, and instead, succeeded in creating a dystopia.

    2. Are we moving back towards a more verbal communications, given the proliferation of vlogs, YouTube, etc. Is that necessarily a bad thing, considering the ability to communicate verbally is inherent to all human beings (unless physically challenged). All we will be ‘losing’ is the precious books, which could quite easily be turned into an audio format.

    Also, consider this: the holy scriptures of Hindu religion were memorized (not written) and passed down the generations (of course, this was to reinforce Brahminical hegemony, but that’s a different issue).

    So, in the Indian tradition, the spoken word has always had more power than the written word. This probably explains the enduring significance of mushairas.The so-called ‘West’ is only now awakening to the universality of the spoken word.


    1. Thanks for generating these ripples, just what I had intended when creating this site. I am neither a linguist nor do I have the expertise to even begin to address your comments or state which form of communication (verbal/written) takes precedence over the other. I have merely observed that the earlier free flow of expressions so prevalent in say, Dickensian times now appears to be getting replaced by monosyllabic brevity. While concise communication forms might help reduce the likelihood of misinterpretation, I wonder if this might also limit young minds as they choose symbols to define what could otherwise be a whole range of emotional expressions. Individualistic expression then starts to get defined by the public norm.

      I am not sure, but was it Davies who wrote, “A poor life this if, full of care,
      We have no time to stand and stare”?


  2. Furqat mein hai yaar ke phir bhi fursat nahin

    muddat huee hai yaar ko mehmaaN kiye hue
    josh-e-qadah se bazm chiraaGHaaN kiye hue

    jee DhoonDta hai fir wohee fursat ke raat din
    baiTHe rahaiN tasavvur-e-dostiyaan kiye hue

    Liked by 1 person

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