Tag Archives: shabana


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….




I have always wondered about companionship in a somewhat cynical way. Most relationships for me are like diving in to dark waters wondering what lies beneath. The fast paced times we live in, with the added thrill of ‘smart phones’, calendars and reminders, there is additional pressure on the thin strings that hold our relationships. And yet we believe in soul mates, shed a tear when estranged lovers unite or when unrequited love dies a slow death.

Polpular cinema, books with iconic characters and songs that tug on our heart strings, make us believe in that someone who will be our Albatross.

Very few animal and bird species mate for life, among these, the Albatross birds meet, court and form bonds that result in many offsprings, year after year, until one of the pair dies. Ironically ‘albatross’ is also metaphorically used to mean a psychological burden that feels like a curse.

My poem for this week, is by Javed Akhtar written for his companion, bringing out the fast paced times we live in and the feeling of going back home to that one person who knows without being told, understands us without having to say it and is always there.  To happy glorified endings…….


yeh aaye din ke hungame
yeh jab dekho safar karna
yahan jaana-wahan jaana
isse milna usse milna
hamare saare lamhe
aise lagte hai
ke jese train ke chalne se pehle
railway stationoan par
jaldi-jaldi apne dabbe dhundhate
koye musafir ho
jinhe kabh saans bhi lene ki mohlat hai

Kabhi lagta hai
tumko mujhese mujhko tumse milne ka
khyal aaye
kahan itni bhi fursat hai

magar jab sangdil duniya mera dil tordhti hai toh
koi ummeed chalte chalte
jab muh mordhti hai toh
kabhi koi khushi ka phool
jab is dil mein khilta hai
kabhi jab mujhko apne zehen se
koi khayal inaam milta hai
kabhi jo ek tamanna puri hone se
yeh dil khali sa hota hai
kabhi jab dard aa kar akhoan par mooti pirota hai
toh yeh ehsaas hota hai
khushi ho, gham ho, herat ho,
koi jasba ho
isme jab kahi ek moordh aaye toh
wahan palbhar ko
saari duniya piche chuth jaati hai
wahan palbhar ko
yeh katputli jesi zindagi ki
doori-doori tooth jati hai
mujhe us moordh par
bas ek tumhari hi zarurat hai
magar yeh zindagi ki khoobsurat ek hakikat hai
ki meri raah mein jab aisa koi moordh aaya hai
toh har us moordh par main ne
tumhe HUMRAH paya hai


These everyday upheavals
Traveling every other day
Going here, going there
Meeting this person, meeting that person
All our moments
they feel like
before the train leaves
at railway stations
hustling and busting looking for our compartments
we are but travelers
without a moment to spare even to breathe

Sometimes it feels
you and me should meet
such thought should occur to us
But we have time for such thoughts

when the heartless world breaks my heart
some hope walking towards me
turns its face away
when the flowers of happiness
blossom in my heart
whenever i receive from my mind
a thought as a gift
when a desire is fulfilled
and my heart fills with contentment
when pain comes and threads my eyes with tears
a feeling encapsulates me-
whether happiness, sadness or shock
or any other feeling
if there ever comes a crossroad
at that moment in time
the entire world gets left behind.
At that moment in time
this puppet like life
its threads break away
At that crossroad
you are all that I need
And this is the beautiful truth about life
that whenever in my path this crossroad has come
at very one of those crossroads
I have found you as my COMPANION.