Kaifi


Many years before I knew anything about poets or Urdu shayari, there was a song I loved and watched over and over whenever it played on Chitrahaar.

Tum inta joh muskura rahe ho….was simply haunting, clinging on to you even after it ended. In the voice of the iconic ghazal singer Jagjit Singh, the song was part of a movie far ahead of its time, Arth. It featured Shabana Azmi, daughter of the grand duke of Urdu Shaayari, Kaifi Azmi.

shab-kaifi

Over the last 4 years there have been many evenings spent scrolling through his collection of ghazals and poems. Whenever I wanted to write about powerful emotions, I knew there was a poem waiting for me in his works. Whether it was calling upon women to rise up in Aurat, or  citizens called upon to rebel in Jagaava, the depths of Kaifi Azmi’s voice brimming with fire took centre stage.

Unlike Gulzar and Javed Akhtar, his poetry is not simple often laden with those rich ancient urdu words that aren’t commonly used. He was a man from a different era, born on this day in 1919. Never thought as a poet by his family, he struggled to prove his mettle, even after becoming part of the Bollywood fraternity. His belief system deeply rooted in communism, seeped into his life and his works.

His poems pull at your strings, make you question your beliefs and demand that you take action. These passionate poems are alternated by deeply romantic renditions too. He describes love is so many forms, his love for the ocean or samandar immediately takes you the shoreline in Mumbai, as does Savere Savere to those early morning sunrises that paint the sky in magnificent hues. He often spoke of death too, like in these lines,

Maut lehrati thi sau shakloon main
Maine ghabra ke har shakal ko khuda maan liya

leaving-the-land

I have been fortunate to listen, see and observe poets such as Javed Akhtar and Gulzar I  person. I never had the same fortune with Kaifi Azmi, which has left so much to imagination. The life and times he operated in are so different from where I stand today. His struggles and accomplishments happened in the 5o’s, a time I always want to teleport myself to, simply to experience the upheavals, struggles as well as the immense creativity that existed in those times.

But a man who knew him closely  and celebrated him is Javed Akhtar and we can try and get to know this icon a little more through this poem, written by him for Kaifi Azumi… Ajeeb Aadmi Tha Woh. 

Transliteration

Ajeeb Aadmi Tha Woh
mohabbaton ka geet thaa,
bagavaton ka raag thaa,
kabhi woh sirf phool thaa,
kabhi woh sirf aag thaa…

ajeeb aadmi tha woh…
woh muflison se kahta thaa ke din badal bhi sakte hain,
woh jaaberon se kahta thaa tumhaare sar pe sone ke jo taaj hain, kabhi pighal bhi sakte hain,
woh bandishon se kahta thaa main tumko tod sakta hun,
Sahulaton se kahta thaa main tumko chhodh sakta hun,
hawaon se woh kahta thaa main tumko mod sakta hun,
woh khwaab se yeh kahta thaa, ki tujhko sach karunga main,
woh aarzoo se kahta thaa, main tera humsafar hun, tere saath hi chalunga main,
tu chaahe jitni door bhi banaa le apni manzilein, kabhi nahin thakunga main.

woh zindagi se kahta thaa ke tujhko main sajaoongaa,
tu mujhse chaand maang le, main chaand le ke aaungaa!!

woh aadmi se kahta thaa ke aadmi se pyar kar,
ujad rahi hai yeh zameen, kuch iska ab singhaar  kar

ajeeb aadmi tha woh…

woh zindagi ke saare gham, tamaam dukh, har ek sitam se kehta tha
main tum se jeet jaaunga,
ki tumko toh mitaa hi dega ek roz aadmi,
bhula hi dega yeh jahan.
meri alag hai daastaan
woh aankhein jin mein khwaab hain,
woh dil hain, jinmein aarzu hain,
woh baazoo jinmein hai sakat!
woh hont jin pe harf hain,

rahunga inke darmayan,
ke jab main beet jaaunga …

ajeeb aadmi tha woh…

Translation
Again, I didnt find translation by any translator online or within the books I possess. So here is my translation of this amazing poem.

Strange man he was
He was the song of love
He was the melody of rebellion
At times he was just a flower
At times just fire.

Strange man he was
To the downtrodden he would assure that times change,
To the tyrants he reminded that crowns they wear, can one day simply melt,
To restrictions he would let know that they can be broken
To comforts he said that he can give them up also,
He would apprise the winds that he can change their course,
He would tell his dreams that he would make them come true,
He would comfort desires, that he was their companion, with them each step of the way,
That no matter how far the destination, he would never tire.

To life itself he promised to celebrate it,
You ask for the moon and I will bring it to you!!

He asked mankind to love mankind
The earth is going barren he said, he asked man to adorn it.
Strange man he was

To every grief, every distress, every suffering he said
I will overcome you
And that one day mankind will annihilate you,
Forget that you even existed.
Those eyes where dreams reside,
The heart that has desires,
Those arms that bear strength
Those lips on which words sit

I will stay in between them
When I have departed.

Strange man he was!

Now we know where to find Kaifi Azmi…….

Here is the song….

Crickets


Sitting at my desk, the wind carries with it the humdrum of life outside. 

The chaotic little shrieks of children playing just after school hours reminds me of my happy childhood where I played for long hours outside, till my mother came calling for dinner.

The incessant blaring horns signal a traffic jam somewhere in the lanes behind home, leading me to imagine the frustrated looks and words exchanged by those caught in its midst.

This week late at night, as I sat at my desk furiously working the laptop while the energy outside started to mellow down, the slow chirp of crickets filtered in through my window transporting me to another time.

I have always wondered what made their sounds grow louder and louder and then fall way low, before they began the ritual again?  Often finding myself mimic their chorus or try and break their rhythm.

The chirp of crickets reminds me of late nights in the outdoors, camping under the stars, surrounded by darkness, with only their sound for company.

But what it reminds me of the most is this tree that lay on the road that led to my art classes. It was a massive tree that I think housed hundreds of them or so I imagined back then.

The sound of crickets terrified me then, so much so, that this memory lies etched in mind from 30 years ago.

You see, I was convinced that when I walked under that tree, these loud, invisible creatures would all at once sweep down and attack me. So there I was, all of 8, standing at the edge where its branches started, holding  my breath, gritting my teeth, clenching my fist, ready to make a dash to the other side where the tree ended.  

bush-katydid-2x

Looking back, I am sure the crickets wondered why this little human increased her pace so furiously when walking under that tree.

This continued for the entire summer till art classes thankfully concluded and I no longer had to make that all too stressful walk under the tree.

What does their sound remind you of? Do you have memory associated with it?

Or any memory that gets ignited by a particular sound?

Do share if you do.

This week’s s poem by Gulzar again, about that tree…..his tree. Like so many trees, either lost to development or time.

treelined4

Mod pe dekha hai?

By Gulzar

Mod pe dekha hai wo boodha-sa ek ped kabhi ?
Mera waqif hai, bahut salon se mein use jaanata hoon

Jab mein chhota tha to ik aam udaane ke liye
Parli deewar se kandhon pe chadha tha uske
Jaane dukhti huee kis shaakh se jaa paanv lagaa
Dhaad se phenk diya tha muje neeche usne
Meine khunnas main bahut phenke the pathar us par

Meri shaadi pe mujhe yaad hai shaakhein dekar
Meri vedi ka hawan garm kiya tha usne
Aur jab haamla thi ‘Biba’ to dopahar main har din
Meri biwi ki taraf kairiyan phenki thi isi ne
Waqt ke saath sabhi phool, sabhi patti gaye

Tab bhi jal jaata tha jab Munne se kehti ‘Biba’
‘Haan,usi ped se aaya hai tu, Ped ka phal hai’
Ab bhi jal jaata hoon. jab mod se gujarte mein kabhi
Khaanskar kehta hai, ‘Kyo, Sar ke sabhi baal gaye?’

‘Subah se kaat rahe hain woh Kameti wale
Mod tak jaane ki himmat nahin hoti mujhko’

The Tree at The Corner

Translation by Pavan K Verma

Have you seen at the corner that ageing tree?
It is an acquaintance I have known for years.

When I was small, I had climbed on to its shoulders
From the adjacent wall to steal a mango
My feet touched on of its branches that was hurting
It threw me down with a thud
Angry, I threw many stones at it.

At my wedding I remember it gave its branches
To warm the fire of the havan
And when Biba was pregnant, it threw every afternoon
its raw mangoes at my wife
With time all its leaves and flowers disappeared
I would be jealous when Biba told the baby:
“You have come from that tree, you are his fruit”
Even today I feel angry when, as I pass the turning, he coughs
And says, ” Have you lost your hair”

Today since morning, the municipal authorities are cutting it to pieces
I do not have the courage to go up to the corner.

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