Saturday, 31 July 2010


Ours was a Punjabi family but I spent all my childhood in Himachal because my father was posted there in the horticulture department. My schooling was entirely in Himachal and after the schooling I was amongst the first batch of students to have got a Pre-Engineering degree from the newly established Himachal University in 1970-71.

The second language in our school was Urdu. In the Government School, Chamba, our Urdu teacher was a very hard taskmaster and looked for any opportunity to cane us on our hands. We used to cringe more because of receiving this chastisement in front of girl students than with the physical torture. Indeed, we had made various jokes and couplets about what we would do to Urdu, the teacher and the school, if given a chance. Our favourite was, “
Ain gan (Urdu alphabets) school dhale tanh mundya nu chan” (Ain gan, if the school would collapse, boys would be relieved).

Little did I know at that time that I would be in love with the language. I was just stepping into boyhood and the language seemed to me the answer to my emotional needs and curiosity. I discovered that Urdu had a way of expressing feelings that no other language can match. Many other languages are direct, in-your-face, but, Urdu's lehza (style) is to always express things indirectly. We had a joke about the effrontery of Punjabi or Hindi or even English in something as routine as introducing one self in comparison to an Urdu person who would say, "
Khak dar khak, khuda-e-pak, khuda ke bande ko Akhtar miyan ke naam se pukarte hain". An Urdu person won't directly claim to be Akhtar but that he, the insignificant being, is called by that name.

No one can beat the humility of an Urdu person. He is a
ghulam (slave) and his abode, however ostentatious it might be, is always the gharib-khana (the poor house).

However, the aspect in which Urdu really excels is in expressing matters of the heart. For example, "
Mujhe tumse mohabbat hai magar main keh nahin sakta" (I am in love with you but I cannot say it!)

Literal meanings of words are never necessary when you use the language of the heart. One would say 'Silence' and 'Khamoshi' have the same meaning until you hear:

Rafta rafta bujha jaata hai chirag-e-aarzoo,
Pehle dil khamosh tha, ab zindagi khamosh hai
(Gradually the lamp of my desires extinguishes; first my heart became khamosh, now my life has)

You can say things in Urdu that would sound so rude in other languages. Take this from Ghulam Ali's ghazal:

Shaam ko subhe chaman yaad aa'ii;
Kiski khushboo-e badan yaad aa'ii

Translated (and I am not even attempting to do it) it would evoke the tease that perhaps she should start using better deodrant.

Being a language of the heart, Urdu writers and poets normally plunge deeper than in other languages. Taste this of Mehdi Hassan:

Ik zara sa gham-e-dauran ka bhi haq hai jis par,
Maine woh saans bhi tere liye rakh chhodi hai.
Tujhpe ho jaaoonga qurbaan tujhe chahoonga,
Main to mar ke bhi meri jaan tujhe chahoonga;
Zindagi mein to sabhi pyaar kiya karte hain

(Rather than giving full meaning, suffice it to say that the poet conveys that many people love in their lives but I shall love you even after I die. In the last breath people normally remember their Maker, but even that breath I have saved for you)

Here is my own (infantile) attempt:

Khud ko mujhse itna bhi na tu door samajh,
Apne parwaane ko itna bhi na majboor samajh.
Main agar chahoon to itni bhi hai taqat mujh mein,
Yaad ko teri main ik tu hi bana sakta hoon.
Ik to tu hai meri har baat ko samjhe vehshat,
Apni us tu ko main har ik baat suna sakta hoon.
Gham nahin gar tu lakh bhi roothe mujhse,
Apni us tu ko main jab chahe mana sakta hoon.

(Once again no full translation but the thought that: 'My love, do not think you are that far from me or that I am totally helpless. I have the power to turn your memory into you! This 'you' will always be mine')

All those who are ruled by the heart find a natural bonding with Urdu.

Remember Mirza Ghalib? Here goes:

Dil-e naadan tujhe hua kya hai,
Aakhir is marz ki dawa kya hai?

There is no cure; but who the hell wants to be cured?
Urdu is for those whose hearts beat in love even after life.

1 comment:

  1. This seems to have come straight from the heart.You are humility personified if you call your lines 'infantile'.They are lovely and a heart that loves will always understand.It sure is a beautiful language and so sweet to hear and soothes the soul.Have you heard the couplet from the film 'Mere Mehboob'...
    Maine ik baar teri ek jhalak dekhi hai
    Meri hasrat hai ke mein phir tera deedar karoon
    Tere saaye ko samajh kar mein haseen Taj Mahal
    Chandni raat me nazaronse tujhe pyar karoon..
    According to me ,the Chaandni arat mein..nazron se tujhe pyar karoon couldn't have been described more beautifully in another language.
    Brilliant piece,very beautifully written<3!!!


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