The Poetry of Parveen Shakir Posted by Rachael on Feb 27, 2019 in Hindi Language
For this week’s blog, I thought it would be interesting to delve into the world of Hindi-Urdu poetry, in the form of a ghazal by Parveen Shakir (1952-1994). As you may remember, I wrote a blog post about this poet previously, where you can learn more about her life and contributions to Urdu poetry. Below, you’ll find one of her ghazals, “समुंदरों के उधर से कोई सदा आई” (“Somewhere near distant waters, a cry rang out”). A ghazal (ग़ज़ल) is a type of poetry very common in Urdu literature that is composed of couplets – in this case, five pairs of couplets in which the first two lines rhyme and the second line of each couplet rhymes with the first two lines. Generally, these poems are about love, most often about the painful separation between the माशूक or beloved and the आशिक़ or lover, from whose perspective the poem is generally written. Oftentimes, the separation between the beloved and lover is inevitable as the relationship between the two is usually meant as an analogy between the human worshipper, racked by worldly problems such as pain and desire and the divine, who is pure, beautiful, distant and unaffected by the problems that torture humanity.
समुंदरों* के उधर से कोई सदा* आई
Samundaron ke udhar se koi sadaa aayi
Somewhere near distant waters, a cry rang out
दिलों के बंद दरीचे* खुले हवा आई
Dilon ke band dareeche khule havaa aayi
Hearts, their shuttered windows opening, as the wind came
सरक* गए थे जो आँचल* वह फिर सँवारे* गए
|Sarak gaye the jo aanchal voh phir sanvaare gaye
In disarray – those veils – were then set right
|खुले हुए थे जो सर उन पे फिर रिदा* आई
|Khule hue the jo sar un pe phir ridaa aayi
|Bare, those heads, the cloak then covered
|उतर रही हैं अजब* ख़ुशबुएँ रग-ओ-पै* में
|Utar rahi hain ajab khushbue rag-o-pe me
|Coming to rest on the body, a haze of wondrous fragrances
|यह किस को छू के मेरे शहर में सबा* आई
|Yah kis ko choo ke mere sheher me sabaa aayi
|Who has this gentle breeze touched, on its way to my city
उसे पुकारा तो होंटों पे कोई नाम न था
|Use pukaaraa to hoton pe koi naam na thaa
If you call out to him – on your lips – no name arises
|मोहब्बतों के सफ़र में अजब फ़ज़ा* आई
|Mohabbaton ke safar me ajab fazaa aayi
A wondrous atmosphere pervades these travels of love
|कहीं रहे वह मगर ख़ैरियत* के साथ रहे
|Kahin rahe voh magar khairiyat ke saath rahe
Wherever he lives, he is safe and sound
|उठाए हाथ तो याद एक ही दुआ* आई
|Uthaaye haath to yaad ek hi duaa aayi
If you raise a hand – remember – only one prayer remains
Explanation of Vocabulary:
- समुंदर = this is a variation of the standard समुद्र, meaning sea or ocean. In this poem, the word is plural.
- सदा = this word can be approximated by the more common Hindi words, आवाज़ and पुकार, meaning a sound, voice or cry; interestingly, the word doesn’t necessarily hint at what kind of sound is meant.
- दरीचा = खिड़की, in standard Hindi.
- सरकना/सरक जाना = means, in this case, for something to slip from place, or be out of place – in this case, the veil or आँचल.
- आँचल = “veil” is a rather poor translation but this word, meaning “the hem or border of a sari” doesn’t have a direct English equivalent. The आँचल is significant because it is the part of a sari that is pulled over a woman’s head to signify modesty, particularly in the presence of an unrelated man.
- सँवारना = in this case, this word means something like “adjusted” or “put in its proper place” although it has other meanings more akin “to adorn” or be decorative/serve as embellishment.
- रिदा = is a type of cloak, specifically worn by women while going out – in other words, another way of displaying modesty and restraint, specifically by covering the body and hair. You can see how, with words such as रिदा and आँचल, Shakir is taking on a distinctly feminine perspective, which was rare in Urdu poetry.
- अजब = strange, astonishing, surprising.
- रग-ओ-पै = “ओ” being a Persian particle meaning “and” (और). This literally means vein, sinew or “fibre” of the body (रग) and foot/feet (पै) – signifying that the fragrances here are falling not only on the external parts of the body but also, figuratively, the inner parts of one’s being.
- सबा = a gentle breeze, morning breeze or east wind.
- फ़ज़ा = in this case, this word signifies an ambience or atmosphere.
- ख़ैरियत = welfare, well-being, a way to express that all is well in one’s life.
- दुआ = a prayer or wish.
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