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Write Angle — The door at life’s end

Death changes life. It helps put life in perspective. He who has taken a breath shall doubtlessly taste death too. Little wonder, then, that death has been a recurring motif for poets and authors alike.

Indeed, many have indeed made a living from writing about death. The redoubtable Ghalib wistfully talking of a “Shab-e-Visal”, evening of union, found in morning the equivalent of death. He wrote, “Gham-e-hasti ka ‘Asad’ kis se ho juz marg ilaaj, shama har rang mein jalti hai seher hone tak.” (The sorrow of existence, ‘Asad’, what is its cure but death / The lamp burns in every colour until the morning comes.)

Then there was Mir Taqi Mir, who famously inspired Gulzar’s song “Patta patta buta buta”. Mir talked of love, alluring yet unrequited. When he did not talk of love, he talked of sorrow, of defeat, of death. He had experienced sorrow. He had seen life. “Baad marne ke meri qabr pe aaya woh ‘Mir’, Yaad aai mere Isa ko dawa mere baad”, he wrote. (O Mir, she came to my grave after I died, my God came to my aid after I died.) Mir’s words were seldom hard but almost always hard-hitting. Often, death was merely an unavoidable inevitability, not the easy resort of the loser.

The best celebration of death probably comes from the pen of Fani Badayuni, the second most celebrated son of the sleepy Awadh town, after the much lauded Shakeel Badayuni, who was regarded as one of the most distinguished lyricists till his death in 1970. Widely regarded as a poet of pathos, Fani made a living out of melancholy. “Zindagi bhi to pasheman hai yahan laake mujhe, Dhoondti koi heela mere mar jaane ka”, he wrote. (Life must be sorry too for bringing me to this pass / Looking for some reason for me to die.)

Of course, he famously turned the notion of positive living upside down with a couplet, “Zindagi naam hai mar mar ke jiye jaane ka.” (Life is but a name for dying every day.) The poet of gloom and doom wrote, “Woh Khud fareb-e-jamaal hai jo nazar thi jalwa-e-yaar par, Mujhe ab bahaar se kya Gharz, ke meri Khizaa hai bahaar par”. (My eyes are incapable of seeing the face of beautiful deceit / What do I have to do with spring for my desolation is complete.)

Fani’s most famous shot, however, remains “Jii dhundta hai ghar koi dono jahan se door” (The heart longs for a home, away from this world and the next.) It is similar to Jaan Nisar Akhtar’s “Ae dil mujhe aesi jagah le chal” (O heart, take me to such a place) used in the film “Arzoo”. Yes, death has been a constant companion for many Urdu poets and authors.

Not that those in other languages have remained untouched. Notably Shakespeare, the greatest of them all. Death was a recurring motif too for him. Whether as simple as a casket or a mere allusion as in Macbeth’s “life’s but walking shadow….” Or the “sleep of death” of Hamlet. Indeed, he talks of the mystery of death when he writes, “Ay, but to die and go we know not where…”

Nobody, not Shakespeare, not even our own Ghalib or Fani, has grasped the secret of delight and pain – why does the morning smile and night weep? What to talk of life, death. The last word though comes from Gulzar who has often regarded death as a door which opens, a person walks in and the door shuts behind him, never to open again. In the light and shade of life, this is man’s only role. Waiting from night to morn, from morn somehow to night. Only for a door to open, a life to shut.


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Printable version | Sep 22, 2021 9:52:31 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/write-angle-the-door-at-lifes-end/article3002536.ece

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