Delhi

Lines and love

Sanjiv Saraf, author of Love, Longing, Loss in Urdu Poetry

Sanjiv Saraf, author of Love, Longing, Loss in Urdu Poetry | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

It is not without reason that Urdu is refered to as the ‘language of love’. No other language has so many words to express this emotion — Unsiyat, mohabbat, ishq and junoon. There are also terms to denote the many stages of love — ulfat, qurbat and deevangi. The word mohabbat has its roots in the Arabian word hubba, which means seed. Over the years, poets have used the cadence and the rich rhyme and refrain of the language to express their emotions. But it is not always about man-women love, the verses often celebrate the love for the Supreme.

Comprehensive collection

Sanjiv Saraf, who has been working towards popularising Urdu among the youth through Rekhta Foundation, recently released his book, Love Longing Loss In Urdu Poetry, a comprehensive and insightful collection of Urdu couplets of Meer, Ghalib, Dagh, Momin, Faiz, and several others.

Saraf says sarcasm and irony are essential elements of Urdu poetry. For instance, Na main samjha na aap aaye kahin se, Pasina poochiye apni jabin se (You came from nowhere, nought I know, wipe the sweat off your brow).

Not just an assortment of Urdu ashaar, the couplets, he says, have been woven into a narrative, depicting various shades of romance. “The book is like a guided poetic journey through love, loss and longing.”

Like any good art, Saraf adds, every couplet assumes a different meaning for every reader, depending on how he/she interprets it. Brevity, he says, is another element of Urdu poetry that makes it appealing for the present generation as it can express intense emotions in a few words.

Reaching out to global audience

The couplets have been transcreated into English by Saraf, with the help of eminent historian and bibliophile Donald Peck. “Unlike translation, which is usually verbatim, a transcreation is not literal. I have tried to convey my perception of the couplets.” He has taken Donald’s help to reach out to a global audience. “In addition to English, Spanish and French poetry, I think he is passionate about Urdu poetry too.”

Peck admits the essence of Urdu is extremely difficult to capture in English, partly because English is no longer the creative force it used to be in the 17th Century. However, when the two draw similarities between the melancholic verses of the 19th Century peasant poet, John Clare, and prominent post-classical Urdu poet, Fani Budayuni, it is delightful.

Love, Longing, Loss in Urdu Poetry

Love, Longing, Loss in Urdu Poetry | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

For those who consider Persian poetry superior to Urdu couplets, Saraf quotes Ghalib:

jo ye kahe ke rekhta kyunke ho rashk-e-faarsi

gufta-e-Ghalib ek baar padh ke use suna ke yuun.

(Those who say Urdu poetry should be envy of Persian, Ghalib’s verse should be read out to them)


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Printable version | Jul 29, 2022 12:28:59 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/lines-and-love/article65695784.ece