Archive for shairi

What is a Ghazal?

Posted in poetry with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 30, 2013 by salaamreaders

Ghazals evoke mixed reactions among music lovers now. The younger generation do not seem to be particularly enthused by the genre. However, they are still popular. A lot of credit for this popularity must be given to singers like Begum Akhtar, Mehdi Hasan, Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammad Rafi  whose soulful and melodious renditions have brought the beauty of these lyrics to our hearts. Many of us may not even know the meaning of all the words of a ghazal, yet we know, almost instinctively, that these are poems mostly about love. It may be love for a person or even mystical love. The poets ache for a meeting with the beloved but know that their love must always remain unrequited and unconsummated. Ghazals are, therefore, poems about the pain of longing, separation and waiting. Of course, these are not the only subjects, but they are the most popular ones without any doubt. 

A ghazal is a collection of two-line verses. Each verse is called a sher. Their plural is ashaar. Interestingly, the collection need not have a central idea or unity of thought as each verse is actually an independent poem in itself. This makes them eminently quotable and, therefore, popular. Each line of a sher is known as a misra

Yeh na thi hamari kismet ki wisal-e-yaar hota

Agar aur jeete rehte, yehi intezar hota

This sher which is the first verse is called the matla. It may be noticed that both the lines(or misra) end with the same word which is known as radeef. It is also repeated as the last word of the second line of each successive couplet as in the following:-

Tere waade par jiye hum, toh yeh jaan jhoot jaana 

Ki khushi se mar na jaate, agar aitbaar hota

Koi mere dil se pooche, tere teer-e-neemkash ko

Yeh Khalish kahaan se hoti, jo jigar ke paar hota

Kahun kis se main ki kya hai, shab-e-ghum buri bala hai

Mujhe kya bura tha marna, agar ek baar hota

We may also note that each sher follows the same metre or baher which refers to its length. It make its recitation so much more enjoyable. One would also notice another interesting feature that the words immediately preceding the radeef in each verse have a rhyming pattern (yaar, intezaar,aitbaar,paar, ghumgussar & baar). This is known as qafiaa. Once the listeners pick this patternthey are able to guess the last words of the other verses. This makes them active participants of the mushaira  rather than just being its spectators. The last sher is called the maqta if it contains the poet’s takhallus or nom de plume, as in the following:- 

Yeh masail-e-tasawuff, yeh tera bayaan ‘Ghalib’

Tujhe hum wali samajhte, jo na badakhwaar hota.

The above ghazal is a typical example only. There are as many rules of composition as there are exceptions. For instance, there may be a ghazal even with out a radeef. The poet’s takhallus may be missing from the last verse and so on. This is because ghazal writing has evolved over a period of time. They were originally composed in Arabic and Persian from whence they came to Urdu. They are now being composed in other Indian languages also. Their subjects have also changed. They were mainly about love earlier but later poets like Iqbal and Faiz wrote about political ideas- of freedom, revolution etc. also. Their form and structure has also undergone changes. It is now acceptable to write free or azaad verses which do not follow the traditional restriction on metre. Further evolution of the ghazal is also inevitable with alteration of our social circumstances.

However, lay persons like us who enjoy reading and listening to ghazals need not be afraid of their technicalities. These may be left to the serious students to grapple with. For us, some familiarity with the basics should make the genre more intelligible and enjoyable.



Posted in India, poetry with tags , , on January 27, 2010 by salaamreaders

“Poochte hain woh ki Ghalib kaun hai!

Koi batlao ki hum batlayein kya?”

This verse, perhaps, best describes Ghalib’s own dilemma about himself. While the serious student of his life and works is likely to deify him for the deeper philosophical meaning of his shairi, the common man is more likely to treat him as the ‘lovable rascal’- a gambler who was fond of his drink and who could tug at his heart-strings with a neat turn of the phrase. Chuchha Ghalib is how Gulzar describes him!

Who really was Ghalib? Was he merely one of the best poets of all times or was their some other facets to his persona? He was a precocious child, a penurious householder perpetually in debt and a sceptic who always found himself questioning faith and dogma. He loved his wife and grieved for his seven children that did not survive. He cared for his brother and his family despite severe financial hardship. It shows that he was, essentially, a family man.

It is difficult to say how he felt at the vicissitudes of his life. He struggled to be appreciated for his works and for material success. He was not accepted easily by the court at Delhi and his rivalry with Zauq was legendary. He may have considered himself superior to his peers when he said,

“ Hain aur bhi zamane mein sukhanwar bahut achhe

Par kehte hain ke Ghalib ka hai andaaze bayaan aur”

But it is not that he did not acknowledge a master like Meer, of whom he said,

“ Rektah ke tumhi ustad nahin ho, Ghalib!

Kehte hain agle zamane mein koi Meer bhi tha.”

 He did not have any steady source of income and depended entirely on state patronage and money lenders. His uncle’s pension was the collateral against which he obtained credit. His efforts to publish his anthology were not very successful and he was unable to gain a foothold in the Moghul court. He must have been deeply disappointed for he says,

“Koi umeed bar nahin aati 

Koi soorat nazar nahin aati.”

To make matters worse, none of his seven children survived and he must have really been broken to say,

 “Jate huay kehte ho, qayamat ko milenge

Kya khoob! Qayamat ka hai goya koi din aur.”

His wife was deeply religious and he himself iconoclastic, for he says,

“Imaan mujhe roke hai, to khainche  hai mujhe kufr

Kaaba mere peeche hai, kalisa mera aage.”

He enjoyed gambling and was fond of his drink, against the tenets of his faith, for he says,

“Qarz ki pite the mae, lekin samajhthe the ke haan

Rang laegi humari faqa masti ek din.”

He was a man, mostly under the weather who kept a facade of cheerfulness even at the cost of being misunderstood, for he says,

“ Unko dekhe se jo aa jati hai mounh par rounaq

Woh samajhte hain ke beemar ka hal achha hai.”

 That he was human, like all of us, is all that we can safely say and wish him,

“Tum salamat rao hazar baras

har baras ke hon din pachas hazar.”

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