Friday, December 03, 2010

A RED ROSE

My neighbours in the hostel in Jabalpur were Devendra Kumar Sharma from Pilibhit and Brajesh Kumar Sinha from Gaya. Though from different states, they knew each other for a long time, from their BITS, Pilani days. While Sharma was vocal and conservative, Sinha was affable and soft-spoken. Sharma did not, at least in the initial days, like the idea of a South Indian ‘who cannot even speak Hindi’ treated me with a hint of disdain. Sinha said he was delighted to have me for a neighbour.

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Why was he interested in befriending me? To say that Sinha had leftist leanings would be an understatement. He was quite closely associated with The Movement. It was because of this interest in The Movement that he found me worthy of being cultivated. Not that I was a fellow-traveller. Sinha found ‘a free Malayalam tutor’ in me and perceived an opportunity to learn my mother tongue and be able to communicate with his compatriots in Kerala, like he did with those in Bengal by learning Bengali from a classmate in BITS.

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Sinha was a fast learner. In a week’s time, he had mastered the alphabet. In less than a month, he could read copies of the Mathrubhoomi weekly and the Yuktivaadi monthly I used to subscribe to. His knowledge of Bengali helped, because it shares a lot of words of Sanskrit origin, with Malayalam. By the end of the ten months we were together, he could read and understand Malayalam articles and short stories without my help. (Jayanarayanan and K P Nirmal kumar were his favourite authors.) He never made an attempt to write in Malayalam. ‘The curly characters in the alphabet of your language are the limit – they’re beyond me,’ he’d say.

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It was in reciprocation of sorts that Sinha clued me in on the nuances of the sher-shaayri. My familiarity with the language certainly helped, but it also demonstrated how little Hindi we learn in schools and colleges, how rudimentary our knowledge of this form of literature is.

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With its own imagery, notations, style and cadences, shers conjure up an interesting world for you to savour. Sher is a beautiful way of saying something – anything from the mundane to the sublime. Love, they say, is difficult to express, but sher can express love in a way nothing else can.

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jab bhi khayaal aaya to aapka aaya
aankein band kee to khwaab aapka aaya
socha yaad kar lun khudaa ko pal do pal
par honth khule to naam aapka aaya

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(In my waking moments, all I thought of was you/Whenever I dreamt, it was of you,/I thought I’d pray to the God for a while/But it was your name that came to my lips.)

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A deftly crafted sher tugs at some chord close to your heart and stirs our deep emotions.

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tadap kar dekho kisee kee chah mein,

pataa chale pyar kyaa hotaa hai
mil jaaye har koi yun hi rahon mein,

to kaise pataa chale intazaar kyaa hotaa hai

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(Only if you pine in your desire for someone/Will you know what love is./If you meet someone by chance on the road/How would you know what waiting is.)

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Unenviable is the plight of the one whose beloved does not know the intensity of his feelings.

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na thi jisko humare pyar ki kadar
ittefaq se usiko chah rahe the hum
aur usi diye ne jalaye humare haath
jisko hawa se bacha rahe the hum

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(The one I was in love with/Knew not how deep my passion was/The very flame I was protecting from the winds/Was the one that scalded my hands.)

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Heartbreak which is, paradoxically, even more difficult to express, is the theme of innumerable shers. The pain of a heart break has been beautifully moulded into words in shers by many a shaayar.

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log apna banake chhod dete hai,
rishte gairon se jod lete hai,
hum to ek phool bhi na tod sake,
log to dil bhi tod dete hai.

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Some make you theirs and desert you/To make friends with certain others/I can’t even pluck a flower/But some think not much of breaking a heart.)

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dhokhaa diyaa thaa jab usne mujhe,
zindagi se mein naaraaz tha,
phir sochaa unhen dil se nikaal dun,
dekhaa to woh kambakth dil bhi unke paas thaa

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(When she walked out on me/I was angry with the whole world/Then I thought I’d throw her out of my mind/But discovered the blasted thing was with her!)

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lehron mein doobte rahey, kinara na mila,
tujhse bichhad ke fir koi doojaa na milaa,
kuch log thodi der ke liye achey lage,
magar hum jiske ho sakey koi waisaa na milaa

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(Tossed by the waves, I reached no shore/After you left me, none else I could love/Some looked okay for a while/But none was like the one I’d lost my heart to.)

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It is not unusual for the shaayar to turn philosophical.

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zindagi kyaa kyaa rang dikhaati hai
kabhi hansaati hai to kabhi rulaati hai
is zindagi ka bharosaa mat karnaa yaaro
jo kuchh deti hai wo chhin bhi leti hai

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The games that Life plays!/It smiles at times and at times it makes you cry./Don’t depend on this Life, friends,/For she takes away what she gives.)
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Shers would be replete with words like pyaar, hawa, chehra, narmi, taareef, nafrat, bewafaa, zindagi etc. The staple raw material of the shaayar is the repertoire of words that rhyme with these – like deedaar, dawa, sehra,garmi, shareef, ulfat, khafaa, bandagi etc respectively. (It was perhaps a shaayar -wannabe who translated 'sweat-equity' in the Kochi IPL context as 'haseena ka paseena'.)

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But then I digress: I was suddenly transported to the sher mode. Cutting back to Jabalpur, my stint with Telephones was short-lived. As a result, I lost touch with my friends in due course. After a lot of effort, I could track down Sharma working in a telephone exchange somewhere in the foothills of the Himalayas, but Sinha, I was told, had left Telephones around the same time I did to re-join The Movement and was killed in an encounter.

2 comments:

Balachandran V said...

I have never seen a more apt title - 'A Red Rose', though you have given the reader a bouquet of red roses! Each of the 'shers' was a crimson red rose, dripping with heart's blood! It is quite comforting to know there have always been sentimental romantics worse than oneself.

I will cherish each of the shers; and the portrait of your friend, Mr.Sinha. And I am slightly envious of Sharmaji that he lives in 'the foothills of Himalayas'!

Thanks for brightening up a dull, cloudy, rainy Sunday morning!

anilkurup said...

"The very flame I was protecting from the winds/Was the one that scalded my hands".

Reminds me of some haunting urudu couplets I chanced to hear.

I guess each of the"sher" will be cherished.