Tag Archives: inspiration


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.


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


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. 


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…

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….



The madman, his eyes gleaming and bloodshot, his muscles tense, sweat streaming down his face drives into the crowd. This haunting image is seen on screens, hundreds and hundreds of miles away almost instantly.

Misery is not just surrounding us, it reaches us instantly on our screens through news channels, apps and alerts.

Closer home, I walk into a room made cozy with warm lights, burning incense sticks and soft Sufi songs playing in background. It is Sunday evening meeting of like-mined people who want to listen to the words of Rumi.

As I find a spot in the corner of the room, my eyes wander to the crowd gathered there. I started absorbing the faces, the colors, some smiles I return, some eyes I avert.

Just as we all wait for it to start I realize that among the 50 odd people gathered in that room, 47 of them are between 20 and 35 years of age. The logical mind says that the event was publicized on FB, and isn’t that the demographic that uses the social media more prominently.

The less skeptical part of the mind wants to believe in the power of the many souls gathered in that room, seeking wisdom from an ancient mystic, poet and philosopher. And comes to the conclusion that as we move more into the fast paced future, the more will we  move inward, looking and searching for answers as we engage with new questions and toy with deeper ideas.


A Touchstone: used to test the purity of gold and silver by the streak left on the stone when rubbed by the metal.
It is a term also used when referring to something that is used to make judgments about the quality of other things.

During our quest, when seeking answers, we are looking for our touchstone, for the wisdom imparted by teachers, mentors, confidantes and guides.

I find comfort in the thought that for every stone that has slipped through the cracks while looking for answers and found his touchstone in religious fanaticism, radical ideologies or violent dogmatism, are many other, like those 47 others in that room, around the world who choose to look for words of inspiration, drawn towards all-encompassing love, and a touchstone in the words of old masters, like Rumi.

In His words, this weeks poem.

The Quest for Reality

from The Masnavi Book II

Everyone seeks joy in this world,

And on account of the hope comes fire.
The old and the young are ever gold seekers,
And they know not the difference,

the gold from the tin,

for the common of the heart cannot see so well,
The good from the bad, the cheap from the pure.

If you have your own touchstone,

then all will be well,

But those who have none should seek one who does,
Seek one who knows the difference,
All others will lead you astray.
Don’t follow cry of riches to be,
Don’t trek to the spot where the promise is made,
For there all you’ll find

are the wolves and the lions,

And the day will be spent,

life lost, and the road far off.

Find the Work of your Life, and the Worker too,
For both exist as one—-this is you.
Discover vocation, creation

and joy will come like clairvoyance,

When blindness is gone before.