I am SHE. OK, when exactly did my fascination for Urdu start? I think it started from my high school days, with the poetry written for Hindi films songs by the likes of Sahir Ludhianvi, Shakeel Badayuni and Shailendra. (Note: Hindi and Urdu are interchangeably used.) However I did nothing to give credit to this fascination. I picked up a few words from the movie songs and from ghazals and just sat up tight . I also wrote some childish poems in my school days and I remember winning a (class-level and not any bigger) prize in my 7th standard for a silly poem. I wrote more bad poems during my Engineering and had the audacity to read it aloud to my friends. I believe no one (including me) had any inclination for poetry and hence I escaped unscathed, without any one remembering anything about those poems and I’m glad that when we meet, many more unpleasant things may be brought up for the innocent purpose of laughter but not the poems.
OK, coming back to Urdu, the most attractive part of Urdu for me is the phonetics. It’s very sweet to the ears. I can speak five languages (of which two languages have no script) and follow 3 or 4 more. So, I think you can take my word for it. Even if someone does a research on the sweetest languages, you can be sure that Udru will figure in the list. Another attractive part for me is that the pronunciations in Urdu will always allude me, no matter how much I try. Tell me, how many of you have a personal tutor to get the pronunciations of your mother tongue right? Many Muslim families, who speak Urdu at home, get a personal tutor for their children to help them get the right pronunciations of the difficult to pronounce Urdu syllables. (For example, ka in qayamat or kismat or taqdeer. Kha, Ga, pha are relatively simpler)
I read my first Hindi novel about six years back. I would have liked to say I have come a long way from there but no. Recently I read Ismat Chugtai’s novel which had at least ten unknown Urdu words on each page and the publisher was kind enough to give meanings of these words on the footer of each page. This helped me read the book but I don’t really know how many of them I remember now.
Five years after first listening to Abida Parveen’s recitation of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, considered one of the greatest Urdu poets of our times, I got curious to find out what is the meaning of the poem. There was another favourite Faiz’s poem ‘ Gulon me rang bhare’ sung by the great Ghazal artist Mehdi Hassan. We knew this was a poem about revolution and had a vague idea of what it means but again, not giving any leeway to my fascination, I left it there. I cannot rule out a certain thrill when there was an unknown word in the poem that sounded good and was open to any interpretation, limited only by one’s imagination.
Last week I read a random poem by Faiz and looked up online Urdu dictionary and this led me to try my hand at translating it. This rekindled my interest in poetry and new interest in translation. I also found that translation is a sure way of remembering the difficult words that, otherwise, get wiped out of memory in no time. Just like any other fascination of mine, this will also die very soon but as long as it lasts, I want to contribute to this blog of my dearest friend who has kindly given me unrestricted permissions for a hundred years. But if he does a re-org, I will have to remind him again.