Love was in the air in February, thanks to Valentine’s Day. The shops were full of chocolates and other goodies. Television stations ran endless soppy chick-flicks. Though I happily watch the films when I can, I don’t really buy into the Valentine’s day hype. My husband and I mark our marriage anniversary which falls close to Valentine’s day and that seems more than enough. This year we celebrated our 33rd year as a married couple –it sounds like a big number but time just flew by..
Though our marriage came by from our having fallen in love, we both will be the first to admit that our ‘mixed’ marriage was quite a challenge. I didn’t speak his language then, he still doesn’t speak mine. I love the arts. He swears by sports. I hoard my art magazines. He hoards his car magazines. I am fascinated by history but am bored speechless by politics or current affairs. He is the exact opposite. I like fiction and fantasy. He likes biographies and business tales. I am a dedicated vegetarian, I eat to live. He eats anything, he lives to eat. I anger rarely but forgive with difficulty. He angers quickly but forgives the next moment. I am careful with money. He is generous and extravagant. I find peace in temples. He won’t step into them. If we have lasted 33 years, I don’t give credit to love – instead I think of everything else which makes a marriage work, like respect and understanding, compassion and forgiveness, acceptance and compromise – these seem far more important to me than love.
And yet…it all resulted from having fallen in love. All of us (I hope!) have this as a common life experience – that heady, uncomfortable, exciting, joyful, miserable state that we call being in love. So a month late, I am going to concentrate on love-themed music for March.
My first choice is this beautiful ghazal in Urdu written by Agha Bismil. I loved the song from the very first time I heard it sung by Ghulam Ali; years later I still love it! It is very popular and you might well know it already but this time, walk with me to enjoy the nuances of the poetry.
As is the norm, Ghulam Ali starts with a few couplets to set the stage before he commences on the song (Note: authorship of couplets unknown to me). Here is a young man grieving a lost love. He clings to hope, remembering the few moments of joy they had shared. Meeting her is a bitter-sweet experience, his happiness in glimpsing her is followed by sadness afterwards. Hoping that she has come to regret casting him out, he comes once more to a gathering where he hopes to meet her.
चंद कलियाँ निशात की चुनकर |
मुद्दतों महर-ए-आस रहता हूँ ||
तेरा मिलना ख़ुशी की बात सही |
तुझसे मिलकर उदास रहता हूँ ||
नज़र नज़र से मिलाओ बहार के दिन हैं |
ग़मो को भूल भी जाओ बहार के दिन हैं ||
शायद मुझे निकाल के पछता रहे हो आप |
महफ़िल में इस ख़याल से फिर आ गया हूँ मैं ||
chand kaliyA.n nishAt kI chunkar
muddatO.n mehr-E-As rehtA hU.n
tErA milnA khushI kI bAt sahI
tujhsE milkar udAs rehtA hU.n
nazar nazar sE milA-O bahAr kE din hai.n
.gamO.n kO bhUl jA-O bahAr kE din hai.n
shAyad mujhE nikAl kE paCHtA rahE hO Ap
mehfil mE.n is .khayAl sE phir A gayA hU.n mai.n
Having chosen (chunkar) a few (chand) flowers (kaliyA.n) of happiness (nishAt), I have remained (rehtA hU.n) in expectation (As) of kindness (mehr) for a long time (muddatO.n).
Meeting you (tErA milnA) may well be (sahI) a matter of joy (khushI kI bAt), yet (implied) I remain (rehtA hU.n) sad (udAs) after meeting you (tujhsE milkar).
Meet my eyes (nazar nazar sE milA-O), it is spring time (bahAr kE din hai.n). Forget (bhUl jA-O) your sorrows (.gamO.n), it is spring time (bahAr kE din hai.n).
Perhaps (shAyad) you (Ap) regret (paCHtA rahE hO) having sent me away (mujhe nikAl kE)? On this thought (is .khayAl sE), I (mai.n) have again (phir) returned (A gayA hU.n) to the gathering (mehfil mE.n).
The first couplet of the song is my very favourite. The poet expresses that helplessness of attraction so very perfectly!! Again and again his eyes land on her. He tries so hard to avoid it, but no, his eyes have a will of their own. I love how Ghulam Ali renders ‘bAr bAr’..gentle and perfect! And his skills with the harmonium….Oooooooh!
महफ़िल में बार बार किसी पर नज़र गई |
हमने बचाई लाख मगर फिर उधर गई ||
mehfil mE.n bAr bAr kisI par nazar ga-I
humnE bachA-I lAkh magar phir udhar ga-I
In the gathering (mehfil mE.n), my eyes fell (nazar ga-I) again and again (bAr bAr) on somebody (kisI par). I tried hard to avoid it (humnE bachA-I lAkh=I saved a hundred thousand times), but (magar) again (phir) my eyes fell (ga-I) there (udhar).
She has cast a spell on him, it seems. He wonders if there is some magic in her eyes which make all those on whom she casts her eyes to fall for her.
उनकी नज़र में कोई तो जादू ज़ुरूर है |
जिस पर पड़ी, उसी के जिगर तक उतर गई ||
unkI nazar mE.n kO-I tO jAdU zurUr hai
jis par paDI, usI kE jigar tak utar ga-I
Surely(tO) her eyes have (unkI nazar mE.n) some (kO-I) magic in them (jAdU hai)! On whomever (jis pas) they land (paDI), it goes straight into (utar ga-I) their (usI kE) hearts (jigar).
But wait! His longing glances haven’t been in vain! Are those tears which spill out of her eyes? Does that mean she loves him still? The poet is very successful in expressing that hope which every unrequited love has, that somehow that love is reciprocated. Did you note how Ghulam Ali presents the word ‘paDE’ to show the falling of tears?
उस बेवफा की आँख से आँसू छलक पड़े |
हसरत भरी निगाह बड़ा काम कर गई ||
us bE-wafA kI Ankh sE A.nsU CHalak paDE
hasrat bharI nigAh baDA kAm kar ga-I
Tears (A.nsU) spill (CHalAk paDE) from (sE) the eyes of (kI Ankh) that unfaithful one (us bE-wafA). My longing (hasrat bharI) looks (nigAh) have achieved something (kAm kar ga-I) important / big (baDA)!
Until now the poet hasn’t mentioned her beauty. Is it because now that she has shown emotion, he can once more allow himself to be enraptured by her radiance? Don’t foget to note Ghulam Ali’s little demo of his three-Octave voice range..
उनके जमाल-ए-रुख पे उन्ही का जमाल था |
वोह चल दिए तो रौनक-इ-शाम-ओ-सहर गई ||
unkE jamAl-E-rukh pE unhI kA jamAl thA
woh chal diyE tO raunak-E-shAm-O-sahar ga-I
She was beautiful (jamAl thA) with the radiance (jamAl=beauty, here radiance fits better) of her own (unhI kE) face (rukh). When (tO) she (wOh) went (chal diyE), even the brilliance (raunak) of dawn (sahar) and dusk (shAm) faded (ga-I).
Those tears, does it mean she still cares for him? Shall he send a message? Tell her, he says, that Bismil is close to death. I assume this is metaphorical! Surely, he says, she will come if she knew? This is a verse of hope, a hope which has revived on seeing an emotional response from her.
उनको खबर करो के है बिस्मिल करीब-ए-मर्ग |
वोह आयेंगे ज़ुरूर जो उन तक खबर गई ||
unkO khabar karO ke hai ‘Bismil’ karIb-E-marg
wOh AyEngE zurUr jO un tak khabar ga-I
Give him the news (unkO khaba karO) that (ke) Bismil (name of poet) is close (karIb) to death (marg). She (wOh) will surely (zurUr) come (AyEngE) once (jO) news reaches her (un tak khabar ga-I).
We don’t know what happens next. Did the friend take the message? Did she come? Did they get together once more? If he sang with Ghulam Ali’s voice, which woman could resist him? Not this one….
Enjoy this wonderful live presentation (from the start, 18:06 mins) by the master of the art of Ghazal singing. The accompanying artists are excellent; unusual but lovely to see a violinist on the dais with Ghulam Ali.