Category Archives: iqbal

Mirror Mirror

Self image and self esteem, words closely linked yet seldom found walking in tandem.

The mirror presents to us an image, but do we see this reflection or do we see what our thoughts are leading us to see?

Now imagine this:

You walk into the room and see her lovely hair, wavy and luscious. With hair like yours curly and thick, you would give anything to have hair like hers.

The one with the wavy, long hair, wants to have hair cut short, close to her ears. She hasn’t ever had short hair, something her family would disapprove.

She looks up at the women who just entered the room and observes her skinny arms. How she wished her arms were as thin as hers, unlike her flabby arms that she always hides underneath long sleeved dresses.

The skinny armed lass would like to flaunt her skinny arms, but she is part of a culture that forbids her from bearing her arms.

She turns around to see the women who just walked in after her, her skin unblemished has a glow. Wondering in that instant, how delightful it must be to have skin so clear unlike her skin riddled with acne.

The clear skinned woman has always been the ‘darker’ one in her family. Not fair enough among the other light complexioned women around her.

The dusky skinned women looks at the curly haired woman, pondering on whether she should get her hair curled, all fizzy and bouncy during her next visit to the salon! It may look as lovely as they look on that women standing in the corner, she thinks.


On beauty: transient, coveted, yearned and misintepreted, my choice is a poem by the master of Urdu poetry, Allama Iqbal.

By Iqbal


Khuda se husn ne ek roz yeh sawaal kiya
jahan mein kyu na mujhe tu ne laa-zawaal kiya
Mila jawaab ki tasveer khana hai duniya
Shab-e-daraaz adam ka fasaana hai duniya
Hue hai rang-e-Taghaiyyur se jab namood uss ki
Wahi haseen hai haqeekat zawaal jis ki
Kahin kareeb tha yeh guftagu qamar ne suni
Falak pe aam hue akhtar-e-seher ne suni
Seher ne taare se sun kar sunayi shabnam ko
Falak ki baat bataa di zameen ke mahram ko
Bhar aaye phool ke aanson payaam-e-shabnam se
Kalee ka nanha sa dil khoon ho gaya gham se
Chaman se rota hua mausam-e-bahaar gaya
Shabaab sair ko aaya tha sogvaar gaya.


Beauty’s Essence
By Khushwant Singh

To the creator did beauty one day complain
Why did you make me of that which wanes
The world is like a hall of mirrors answered He
A tale told to pass the long night of eternity
With the clay and hues of change was it made
And it is the essence of beauty that it must decay
The moon overheard for she was not far
The news spread spread in the skies to the morning star
The star said it to the dawn, dawn to the dew extended
The secret of the heavens thus to the earth descended
The flower was heavy with tears at what the dew had said
The buds little heart burst with grief and bled
Spring fled the garden in loud lament
Youth that had come to sport in sorrow went.

The magic of Iqbal’s world can never be captured in any translation, just like the essence of beauty. The ‘Allamah’ title bestowed on him denotes the greatness of this poet, philosopher and magician of words.

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it found me

In the dusty bookshelf of a rare old bookshop, while looking for books on baking, Italian cooking, quick-prep dinner recipes and Jamie Oliver food porn, the most beautifully illustrated book of Rumi poetry lay waiting for me.

Maybe it found me.
Or I was ready to find it.

In a home store filled with soft towels, out of fashion shoes, peach colored scarves, stainless steel spoons and lavender-aloe vera shampoos, I found the indigo dress that fits perfect.

May be it found me.
Or I was ready to find it.

Among the dozens of poems written on love: requited, unrequited, young, innocent or simply benign, I found the one that would be perfect as an epitaph, to be read at the loss of a confidante.

May be it found me.
Or I was ready to find it.

I looked very hard for a poem to capture this week’s rendering, anything that captured adulthood, independence, sacrifice, struggle; I found the one on food.

May be it found me.
Or I was ready to find it.

I have flipped the pages of this book of poems by the great masters many times before.  There is one that I never read beyond the first line,  moving to the next and then the next.  Today I found it perfect, resonating with what I feel today.

It found me.
Today, I was ready to let it find me.


Sitaroan ke Aage By Iqbal


Tu Shaahi ha parvaaz hai kaam tera
tere samney aasmaan aur bhi hai
Isee roz-o-shab mein ulajhkar na reh ja
ki terey zameen-o-makaan aur bhee hai
Sitaaroan se aage jahaan aur bhi hai
abhee ishq ke imtehaan aur bhee hai

Translation by Khushwant Singh

You are a falcon, it is in your nature to fly
For you there are skies beyond this sky
Don’t let the web of dawns and dusks enmesh you
for you have other lives, other goals to pursue
Beyond these stars are worlds yet to unearth
there are more trials of love to test your worth