Urdu Poetry and the times we are living in

Author: Mohsin Aziz

These days everyone is forwarding Bashir Badar’s famous Urdu couplet on WhatsApp groups and Facebook posts to highlight the concept of social distancing

  • Koi hath bhi na milaega, jo galey milogey tapaak se

         Ye nai mizaj ka shahar hai zara fasley se mila karo (Bashir Badar)

A friend of mine also forwarded the same on WhatsApp a few days ago. This led me to my diary of Urdu poetry (I keep a diary in my office. Whenever, I hear any Urdu couplet which I like, I immediately write it down). I found a lot of Urdu couplets which deal with various concepts that we are getting to know for the first time. It is true that these couplets were not written to describe the environment created by Corona Virus. However, it is also true that some of these Urdu couplets were indeed written to explain the Plague which humanity has witnessed before.

Doctors are advising us to stay at home as much as possible to reduce the possibility of catching the virus. Here are some of the Urdu couplets which I found to be relevant to the concept of not venturing out:

  • Yunhi besabab na phira karo koi shaam ghar bhi raha karo

          Ye ghazal ki sachi kitab hai isey chupkey chupkey padha karo (Bashir Badar)

This was written in a different context but the first line perfectly describes the current situation. Similarly following couplet also describes the situation in other words

  • Khudgharz hota to hujuum hota sath

         Mukhlis huun is liye to tanha hoon (Unknown)

  • Meri tanhai ko mera shouq na samajhna

         Bohot pyar se diya hai ye tuhfa kisi ne (Unknown)

Starting with China, sooner or later every major country has been forced to announce lockdown. The once bustling cities and their markets and roads are empty. Who would have thought that the busiest streets in the world would be deserted and biggest of the shopping malls and markets would be closed to contain the disease? None of us have seen anything like this before. So far there is no vaccine or medicine for Covid-19. The only way to control and contain is to close and cut off the cities from the rest of the world. I found some of the Urdu couplets beautifully describing the situation. For example:

  • Ajeeb marz hai jiski dawa hai tanhai

         Baqai shahar hai ab shahar ke ujadney main (Unknown)

  • Aur kis mausam men jab ta.un hai phaila hua
    Zarra zarra hai vaba ke ḳhauf se simta hua (Unknown)
  • Bazaar hain khamosh to galiyon pe hai sakta

          Ab shahar main tanhai ka dar bol raha hai (Ishaq Virdag)

  • Basti basti parbat parbat dahshat ki hai dhoop ziya

         Charon janib wirani hai dil ka ek wirana kya (Ahmad Ziya)

  • Sehra ko bohot naaz hai wirani pe apni

         Waqif nahin shayad merey ujdey hua ghar se (Khumaar Barabankwi)

  • Rastey hain khuley hue sarey

         Phir bhi ye zindagi ruki hui hai (Unknown)

One of the major cultural casualty of the Corona Virus is the handshake. There are notices in offices and every guideline on stopping the virus highlights the importance of avoiding handshake. Already there are articles being written on whether Corona Virus is the end of handshake. Besides Bashir Badar’s couplet which I quoted in the beginning, there are many other relevant ones which describe either the fear which forces people to keep distance from each other or which forces them not to shake hands. Here’s a sample:

  • Ajeeb daur aya hai zamaney main

        Doori rakhni padegi rishtey nibhaney main (Unknown)

  • Afsos ye waba ke dinon ki mohabbatain

        Ek dusrey se hath milaney se bhi gaye (Sajjad Baloch)

  • Ye jo milatey phir rahey ho tum har kisi se hath

         Aisa na ho ki dhona padey zindagi se hath (Javed Saba)

  • Sabhi ek dosrey se chhip rahey hain

        Waba ….. basti main aisi agayi hai (Unknown)

  • Qurbatain lakh khoobsurat hon

         Duriyun main bhi dilkashi hai achhi (Ahmad Faraaz)

  • Dil to pehley hi juda tha yahan basti walon

          Kya qayamat hai ke ab hath milaney se gaye (Unknown)

Despite all the doctors telling us to avoid handshake, there still are friends who insist on the handshake. I was surprised to find couplets on this too. They were written in a different context but fit the bill. For example:

  • Merey dushman ko zarurat nahin kutch karney ki

         Is se acha to merey yaar kiye jatey hain (Jaleel Aali)

The following couplets also describes the situation in a different way

  • Ye kahkey usney mujhey makhmasey main dal diya

         Milao hath agar waqai mohabbat hai (Unknown)

  • Marney waley to khair bebas hain

         Jiney waley kamaal kartey hain (Khalilur Rehman Raz)

  • Haal pucha na karey hath milaya na karey

         Main is dhoop main khush hoon koi saya na karey (Kahsif Hussin Ghair)

While there are people who are still not ready to give up the handshake, there are others who are genuinely worried about talking to others face to face, lest they are infected.

  • Anjuman main ye meri khamoshi

         Burdbari nahin hai dahshat hai (John Elia)

However, with situation getting worse by the day, nobody is making fun of those who are avoiding to meet others or shake hand. A month back, anybody following the guidelines was seen by many as weak hearted. Not anymore. Everybody has started taking it seriously and nobody is now embarrassed not to shake hand or maintain a safe distance while talking to each other. The following couplet perfectly sums up the changed mood of the society.

  • Ab nahin koi baat khatrey ki

         Ab sabhi ko sabhi se khatra hai (John Elia)

There are some who are feeling stressed sitting under lockdown while there are others who are seeing too much news and getting further stressed out. As World Health Organization has suggested, we should not read or listen too much about what’s happening all over the world. This may further stress us.

  • Khwab ki tarah bikhar janey ko dil chahta hai

          Aaisi tanhai ki mar janey ko ji chahta hai (Iftikhar Arif)

  • Har ek jism mian maujud hashtpa ki tarah

         Waba ka khauf hai khud bhi kisi waba ki tarah (Saud Usmani)

One aspect of the lockdown has been urge of people to hoard foodstuff. So much so that in some places, there have been fighting between people at shopping stores. This one describes the situation very well.

  • Fikr to hai apni zaat ki bas alam hai nafsa nafsi ka

         Kisi ko farq nahin padta ab jiye koi ya marey koi (Manabil farouqi)

While a lot of people have succumbed to this disease there are many who had to face the situation of dying without their loved ones around them. See Mirza Ghalib’s take on this

  • Padiye gar bimaar to koi na ho timaardar
    Aur agar mar jaaiye to nauha-ḳhwan koi na ho (Mirza Ghalib

The people who are at the frontline in this fight against the virus are doctors and paramedical staff. However, despite their best of efforts they cannot save everybody. Sometimes doctors have to take painful decision of choosing between patients because of lack of resources. The most famous and most oft quoted Couplet on benefactors (usually referred to as masiha can be used as a synonym for doctors and paramedics here) is the one by the most often quoted by master poet Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib which goes as follows:

  • Ibn Mariam hua karey koi

         Merey dukh ki dawa karey koi (Mirza Ghalib)

Besides there are others some of which are quoted here:

  • Mehrbani charasazon ki badhi

         Jab badha darman to bimari badhi (Mubarak Azimabadi)

  • Kaun hai jo nahin hai hajatmand

         Kiski hajat rawa karey koi (Mirza Ghalib)

  • Bedum huye bimar dawa kyon nahin detey

         Tum achey masiha ho shifa kyon nahin detey (Faiz Ahmad Faiz)

  • Kya suna.en jan-ba-lab qaumon ki bimari ka haal

         Dard badhta hi gaya juun juun dava karte rahe (Unknown)

Doctors being at the frontline also means that many are themselves getting infected. There have been reports from Italy to China to India where the doctors and nurses have caught the virus while attending to the patients. Some have even lost their lives in the process. Here are few couplets which describe the situation

  • Charagar bhi jo yun guzar jain

         Phir bimar kiskey ghar jain (Unknown)

However, the most affected section of the society is the poor. It is a fact that the lockdown which has been announced in many countries has hit the poorest the hardest. Already there is news coming of poor dying of hunger because they cannot go out and work and don’t have enough at home to sustain them. The following couplets describe their pain and suffering

  • Sab pareshan hain ki aḳhir kis vaba men vo mire
    Jin ko ġhurbat ke alava koi bimari na thi
    (Hasan Naim)

But this is life. As long we are alive, we have to face one problem or the other. According to Ghalib:

  • Ghamey hasti ka asad kis se ho juz marg ilaaj

         Shama har rang main jalti hain sahar honey tak (Mirza Ghalib)

There is every chance that as it enters stage three of community spread, there will be hardships before it is controlled

  • Ibtedaye ishq hai rota hai kya

          Agey Agey dekhiye hota hai kya (Mir Taqi Mir)

Yes, these are difficult times but this too shall be over. As a poet describes it:

  • Hamesha ek hi alam main hona, ho nahin sakta

         Musalsal ka kahin akar badalna bhi zaruri tha (Muneer niyazi)

It is a lesson for us to realise how vulnerable we are as human beings. This has affected the richest of the countries with the best of the healthcare systems. It’s time to reflect on the purpose of our existence and understand that there is a Supreme Power beyond the super powers of this world who runs the show

  • Hai koi to jisney jahaan hila ke rakh diya

         Lagta tha hamary bin pattey na hilen (Unknown)

We don’t have any choice but to repent and go back to the Creator of the Universe asking for forgiveness, to help us come out of this huge calamity

  • Koi chara nahin dua ke siwa

         Koi suntan nahin khuda ke siwa (Hafeez Jalandhari)

  • Na charagar ki zarurat na kutch dawa ki hai

         Dua ko hath uthao ki gham ki raat hai (Rajender Krishan)

Many of us are wondering why our prayers are not being heard. May be this is the reason

  • Abhi dilon ki tanabon main sakhtiyaan hain bohot

         Abhi hamari dua main asar nahin aaya (Aftab Hussain)

For those who has no time and were always wondering when will they get some respite from their busy schedules and spend some me time, the poet has to say this:

  • Ae merey lamhai naraz kabhi mil to kahin

         Is zamaney se alag hokey guzarun tujhko (Ashgar Abid)

One way of restricting any epidemic (or pandemic) is to isolate those who are affected and not allowing them to move out. Still there are people moving out from their houses as well as moving from one country to another, thus spreading the virus. The following couplet describes the situation and offers advice, that:

  • Jahan jo tha wahin rahna tha usko

         Magar ye log hijrat kar rahey hain (Liyaqat Jafri)

For those of us who are fortunate enough to use the opportunity to spend time with their families and take care of others in these times may echo Mirza Ghalib once all this is over:

  • Ji dhondta hai phir wohi fursat ke raat din

        Baithey rahen tasawwur e janan kiye hue (Mirza Ghalib)

But till that time comes we have to take all precautions as prescribed by doctors and health experts and cut off ourselves from others as much as possible. Again it is Ghalib who are something to say:

  • Rahiye ab aisi jagah chal kar jahan koi na ho
    Hum-suḳhan koi na ho aur ham-zaban koi na ho
    Be-dar-o-diwar sa ik ghar banaya chahiye
    Koi hum-saya na ho aur pasban koi na ho

These are some of the Urdu couplets which I found relevant to the current situation. Most of the poets names I knew but there are quite a few couplets for which I did not know the name of the poet. Wherever I have written unknown means I don’t know the name of the poet. If any of the reader knows the name of the creator of these couplets, kindly tell me so that I can update. And yes there are hundreds of more such couplets proving again that very few languages in the world can match the subtlety and diversity of topics discussed in Urdu literature and poetry. It is not without reason that Daagh Dehlevi said:

Urdu hai jiska naam hamin jantey hain Daagh

Saarey jahan main dhoom hamari zubaan ki hai

(Daagh Dehlevi)












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