Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Metaphysics of Symbolism and Motivation for Life in Urdu Poetry

Ragon mein daurhte rehne ke hum nahi qayal;
Jab aankh hi se ne tapka to phir lahoo kaya hai…

One thing that makes Urdu poetry significantly different from other forms of literary expressions is the symbolism or metaphysical association of human emotions. The above couplets beautifully symbolize life's realities in terms of pains and sufferings. The symbolism depicted here metaphysically ascribes to blood (lahoo). And that blood epitomizes the highest degree of suffering and pain is quite understood!

The way pains and sufferings as part of our lives is visualized by the first line of the couplet: Ragon mein daurhte rehne ke hum nahi qayal. We can visualize life being full with pain and suffering in the same way as veins (rag, or ragon) are filled with blood. This line emphatically suggests that although life is full of pain and suffering, the pains and sufferings are not significant, at least in the eyes of the poet. The line translates as: It's the basic characteristics of blood to flow in the veins, and the poet does not subscribe to the importance of blood till it flows in the veins.

The beauty of the thought is brought out in the second line of the couplet: Jab aankh hi se na tapka to phir lahoo kaya hai [The blood holds no significance till it flows out from your eyes]. The couplet in tandem translates into the thought that though blood is significantly symbolic of suffering and pain, the symbolism is not brought out till it flows down your eyes!! In symbolism, majority of life's miseries, pains, and sufferings are insignificant; till they reach an acme [the acme being symbolized by the blood flowing out from your eyes].

Though different people might have different thoughts and logic to comprehend this couplet. To me, the above sentences would definitely describe the best translation of the couplet. This holds the window to the reality of life, by urging us to view pains and sufferings as insignificant till they reach their acme.

The next couplet in this ghazal by Ghalib represents his own state of mind as far as pains and sufferings are concerned:

Chipak raha hai badan par lahoo se pairaham;
Hamari jeb ko ab hajat-e-rafoo kaya hai.

To me, the translation of this couplet amounts to stating that his (the poet's) sufferings [the origin of which lies perhaps in his poverty and misery] are so intense that the sufferings themselves ensemble his respite - he does not need to mend his torn pocket, as his shirt sticks to his body because of the blood flowing!!

A note to conclude: Although a very nicely written and an excellent masterpiece of its kind, this ghazal lacks the basic motivation towards life. A marked difference between poets like Ghalib and poets like Allama Iqbal is that while the former category focuses more on presenting the situations of life, the later category concentrates on motivating people to continue living against all odds, for these odds are part of life.

"Nahin tera nasheman Qasr-e-Sultani ke gumbad par;
Tu shaheen hai, basera kar paharon ki chattano mein."

This couplet by Allama Iqbal sums up what I intend to conclude: If you are a man of courage, grit, and determination, and you want to stand out in the crowd; do not approach the easy way. On the contrary, prepare to lead a rock-sturdy life, which is characterized by hardships (paharon ki chattanein).


Manzoor Khan said...

Aadaab Sharjeel Sahib,

Welcome to UkN. Thanks for the good post. I am sure with you on board now, we will have many more insights into the world of Urdu language.

Sharjeel said...

Thanks Manzoor sb!!

Qais said...

Wonderful post, Sharjeel. That's good start. keep it going, buddy.

Anonymous said...

i am glad i stumbled upon this blog...a good discussion..but just to clarify, i hope ghalib is not misunderstood as someone wallowing in self pity-yes he suffered from miseries and poverty, but was just world weary-"baazi chaa-e-atfal hai duniya mere aage, hota hai shab-o-roz tamasha mere aage.

Sharjeel said...

This is in reply to the anonymous comment.

Yes, I agree that Ghalib should not be misconstrued as wallowing in self pity. However, I had tried to bring out the motivation stuff in Urdu poetry. The two couplets of Ghalib that I took for the analysis are in steep contrast; the first creates an impression of leading a good life, which, however, is defied in the next couplet.

My effort was only to highlight and compare the styles of Ghalib and his likes to those of Allama Iqbal and his likes. Hope this clarifies the issue.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it does. thank you. and Congratulations once again for a great blog.i should be a regular here from now on.

solikapadia said...

Congratulations to you guys. My best wishes to you.
I am a singer/composer of Urdu Ghazals based in Mumbai India.
Let me know if you need to do any workshops on urdu ghazal singing and composing.

Mr.Soli Kapadia +91-98211 31793

riz said...

Masterfully written, or shall i say, composed, Sharjeel.

You have really explained it quite well here, though it would have been
better if the meanings of the couplets were translated as well ,below the original couplets so that people who aren't so well versed with urdu would also be able to fully grasp the meanings of the couplets..