Friday, 4 December 2015

Kaise Kaise...

At school, an inevitable – and difficult - question in the English exam was to differentiate between similar sounding words – eminent/imminent, insolent/indolent and the like. Now before you start googling those words, let me tell you what I’m getting at.

Urdu poetry too has similar sounding ghazals, complete with matching rhyme, metre and even words. Even diehard aficionados get confused, often merging the couplets of one with those of the other.  That the poetry was written by different poets over different eras, matters little.

Consider the lines ending with the words `kaise kaise’ in two prominent ghazals as a case in point.

The first is by Khwaja Haider Ali `Aatish’ (1778-1848).  He rues the changing of the times, the total effacement of the greats in a Shakespearean `How have the mighty fallen!’ tone.  Note the lines

Na gor-e-Sikandar hai na qabar-e-Dara

Mite naamion ne nishaan kaise kaise

I felt much the same sentiment on a trip to Alexandria, where we tried tracing the tomb of Alexander the Great. Imagine, he conquered half the world, and has left behind not a trace of where he lies buried. Again, to quote Shakespeare..

The scepter, learning, physic must
All follow this, and come to dust..

Here’s Aatish’s ghazal, and my version..

Dahan par hai unke guman kaise kaise

Kalaam aate hai darmiyan kaise kaise

His face inscrutable, expression unbeknown
Words only add to the doubts he has sown

Zameen-e-chaman gul khilati hai kya kya

Badalta hai rang aasman kaise kaise

The earth alters hues from autumn to spring
What moods do the changing skies too bring

Na gor-e-Sikandar hai na qabar-e-Dara

Mite naamion ne nishaan kaise kaise

No grave for Darius, nor Alexander’s tomb
Such glorious names, now back in the womb

Bahr-e-gulistan ki hai aamad aamad

Ke phirte hai khush baghbaan kaise kaise

As spring forces buds to open up in bloom
It’s gardeners that strut, jump up and swoon

Tawajju ne teri hamare maseeha 

Tawana kijiye natwan kaise kaise

A glance from our saviour has so often sent
Our spirits soaring, though broken and bent

Dil-o-deeda-e-ahl-e-aalam mein ghar hai

Tumhaare liye hai makaan kaise kaise

You live in our hearts, our minds and our eyes
Abodes that are humble, but only in size


Hamaare bhi hai mehrbaan kaise kaise

Sadness, grief, gloom and despair
Like lovers have loved me, with o’ so much care

Kar jis qadr shukr-e-naimat woh kam hai

Mazaa loot ti hai zabaan kaise kaise

Yet how does one thank Him, words always fail
The mellifluous tongue does tell its own tale

Amir Minai
Now let’s take the next ghazal by Amir Minai (1828-1900). Amir is more famous for the `Sarakti jaye hai rukh se naqab aahista aahista’ made popular by Jagjit Singh.

But in this poem, he talks more of how us humans (the earth) will always be beholden to the Almighty/Heavens (the skies), so much so that the Heavens, in their inexorable ruthlessness have `gobbled up’ the earth – zameen kha gayi aasmaan kaise kaise..  

The tone is a tad defeatist, as in the end he tells himself that solace may only be found in the madeena, the mosque – if you can’t beat the system, you join it..??

Here is Minai’s poem, and my version..

Hue Namwar Be-Nisha'n Kaise Kaise,
Zamee'n Kha Gai Aasma Kaise Kaise..

Such glorious names, all effaced by time
The earth bows its head to skies sublime

Na Gul Hai Na Boote, Na Gunche Na Patte,
Hue Baag Nazr e Khiza'n Kaise Kaise..

No flowers, no leaves, no petals we seek  
Desolation, despair, wretchedness so bleak

Sitaro Ki Dekho Bahaar AANKH Utha Kar,
Khilata Hai Phool Aasma Kaise Kaise..

Yet the stars will shine as bright as the day
Like flowers that blossom in every which way

Jigar Me Tadap, Dil Me Dard, Aankh Me Nam,
Mile Hai Hame Maihmaa'n Kaise Kaise..

Heart full of sorrow, eyes brimming with tears
With such bountiful gifts, my life has no fears

'AMEER' Ab Madeene Ko Tu Bhi Rawa'n Ho,
Chale Jate Hai Kaarwa'n Kaise Kaise..

To the mosque, I too must now wend my way
Each caravan must lumber along everyday..


And how could Bollywood keep its hands off such inspiring words? In the 1967 adaptation of Arthur Miller’s `Death of a Salesman’, Nasir Husain got Majrooh to pen these soulful lyrics against a desolate Rajesh Khanna job hunting through Bombay’s heartless streets, in `Baharon ke Sapne’..

Zamaane ne maare jawan kaise kaise

Zameen kha gayi aasmaan kaise kaise..

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