Friday, April 24, 2015

U is for Urdu

I absolutely adore the Urdu language. I believe that there is no language that even comes close to being as poetic as Urdu is. When I was a kid, my mom was the proud owner of a lot of ghazal cassettes. It does seem a little surprising now because frankly speaking, her Urdu was and is quite hopeless. She didn't understand a word of it, but she listened to ghazals all the time because of how soothing and melodious they sounded.

I, on the other hand, was more into the lyrics of the ghazals that were constantly playing at home. Of course, back then, there was no Google and so there was no way to find out what the lyrics meant. I had a Muslim friend in school, but she used to get very stressed whenever I'd ask her something like, "So what's the difference between ikhtiyar, ibtida, intehaa, imtihaan, istakbal and inteqal?" The look on her face translated into, "Please stop. We don't talk like that. Nobody talks like that."

So I stopped asking her. I'd write down the lyrics and try and figure out the meaning based on the bigger picture. Then I'd encounter the same words in another ghazal, which helped to either prove or disprove my hypothesis about what the word meant. Over time, I had quite a solid grasp of the language, especially the poetic parts that featured in songs. When I travelled to Pakistan, my knowledge of Urdu came in very handy. I was accepted instantly everywhere I went, and even though it was a business trip, it truly was one of my most memorable travel experiences.

Even in Bollywood songs, I could feel a stronger inclination towards those that featured Urdu poetry. Of course, now you don't get a lot of those because baby doll is sone di, and uski desi look pe mar gaye gore gore chhokre. However, there are still some new songs which I do enjoy, and lately they've been mostly songs of Arijit Singh. I suppose he gets picked for such songs, because his voice quality really does justice to poetry. I was listening to his song 'Jiya' from 'Gunday' some time ago, and I made a discovery. I'd heard it a couple of times before and each time I'd thought these were the lyrics:

Ishq ka tu haraf 
Jiske chaaron taraf 
Meri baahon ke ghere ka 
Baney aashiyan

It roughly translates into this: You're the letter (letter as in letter of the alphabet) of love, around which my arms make a home.

But when I was listening to it this time, I realised it was not 'aashiyan' ('home'). It was 'haashiya' ('margin', as in the margin on a piece of paper). The beauty of using 'haraf' and 'haashiya' together without compromising the rhythm or melody, and the analogy of her as the 'haraf' and his arms as the 'haashiya' blew me away.

However, I didn't know whom I could share this very random joy with. Viv would just look at me blankly. After all, he's the one who thought the solution to the problem in the ghazal 'Dard jab teri ataa hai, toh gila kisse karein?' was 'water'. So I was compelled to blog about this, so that readers far and wide can read this, shake their heads and go, "Say what?"

Jokes aside, if you like Urdu poetry and Bollywood, you must-must-must listen to 'Jiya' for the amazing poetry of Irshad Kamil (he has a PhD in Urdu poetry omg) and the soulful voice of Arijit Singh.


Arun said...

Sanskrit - we have forgotten it, though. Urdu is good, too.

Varsha said...

I totally agree with you on Urdu. I am fascinated, but not to the extent you are. The one song I deciphered, about 10 years back (Google was there and took most help out of it) is "Mere Mehboob", the title song. The movie is entirely in Urdu.
These lines:
Teri PHURKAT ne pareshaan kiya hai mujhko,
Ab chali aa, ki meri jaan pe ban aayi hai.
I was stumped by PHURKAT, it means "JUDAAI". And the whole song goes the same way. For an entire film in Urdu, you can check the old 60s or 50s movies, for unadulterated Urdu of movies based in Lucknow.
But yes, the length and the speed of the narrative will have to be withstood.

For poetry, it is Urdu, for preciseness of the language, it is Sanskrit, hands down. The most OBJECTIVE language, I have come across.

Yamini said...

Really? I never noticed that detail in 'Jiya'.. great that you wrote about it.. and I am so awestruck by the amazing usage of haraf and haashiya.. Superb!

Maya said...

You SHOULD share this 'random joy' with me. I enjoy listening to ghazals and more so deciphering their meaning on different levels. Those and add some shayari to that.'waah waah'.
I would love to have someone to discuss these, with over tea or better still, a few drinks ;)

Anonymous said...

so does tashreef mean butt or not?

humblog said...

listen to naadan parindey.
most lyrics on internet are wrong.
its koyi be le rasta tu hai bebasta

there is another old time classic for good lyrics

chalo ek baar phir se ajnabi ban jaaye hum dono

Divya said...

Love soulful, meaningful,lyrical melodies of Bollywood and Jagjit Singh's ghazals. I also feel that ghazals can be truly enjoyed if one understands the magic being performed by the lyrics. Jiya is a personal favourite among recent songs. Thanks for the amazing insight.

Sayesha said...

Sanskrit was my favourite subject in school at one point. :)

Thanks. :)

Go go go listen to it againnn! :D

Hahaha let's do that the next time we meet! :)

LOL! For the nth time this question has been asked, NOOOOO! It means 'honour'.

Ooooh I love 'chalo ek baar'! :))))

Thank you! :)

//I also feel that ghazals can be truly enjoyed if one understands the magic being performed by the lyrics.

Couldn't agree more. :)

Anonymous said...

That's what they tell you. Honestly how would you put your honor on their sofa.