A bewitching evening with Gulzar

kitabein jhaankti hain band almaari ke sheeshon se
bari hasrat se takti hain
maheeno ab mulakatein nahi hoti

jo shaamein inki suhbat main kata karti thein, ab aksar
guzar jaati hain computer ke pardon par
badi bechain rahti hain kitabein

inhe ab neend mein chalne ki aadat ho gayi hai
koi safha palatta hoon to ik siski nikalti hai
kayi lafzon ke maani gir bhi parte hain
jo rishte woh sunaatee thein woh saare udhre udhre hain

aur woh jo kitaabon mein, mila karte the sookhe phool
kitne maangne, giraane, uthaane ke bahaane rishte bante the
na jaane unka kya hoga?

woh shaayad ab nahi honge!

He opened the evening with this very simple and yet fascinating poem, which made every book-lover in the audience think “That’s exactly what I feel but he puts it so well.”

The eloquence in simple words is the strength of Gulzar’s poetry and lyrics, I have always thought. He somehow magically weaves the simplest of words together and mixes them with unimaginable similes, and hence, the most alluring poems are born.

Of the few poems he recited from his book “Selected Poems” and soon-to-be-published “Neglected Poems,” most became instant favorites. The one that reminded me of my summer of 1989…

Loo se jhulasi dilli ki dopahar meM aksar
chaarpaaii bunane wala jab
gha.nTa ghar waale nukka.d se, kaan pe haath rakh kar
ik haa.nk lagata tha – ‘chaar paaii. banwaa lo…’
khakha ki tatyo.n me.n soye log andaza lagaa lete the.. de.dh bajaa hai..
do bajate bajate jaamun wala gujarega
‘jaamun.. thande.. kaale jaamun’

Or those that brought tears in my eyes –

Budhiya Re, Tere saath to maine
Jeene ki har shah baanTi hai

Dana-Pani, KapaDa-latta, Neende.n aur Jagaraate saare
Aulaado.n ke janane se basane ta,k aur bichhaDanae tak
Umra ka har hissa baanTa hai

tere saath judaai baanTi, rooth, sulah, tanhaai bhi
saari kaarastaaniya.n baanTi, jhooth bhi, sach bhi

Mere dard sahe hai.n tune
Teri saari peeDe.n mere poro.n se hokar gujari hai.n

Saath jiye hai.n,
saath mare.n
ye kaise mumkin ho sakataa hai

dono.n me se ek ko ik din,
dooje ko shamshaan pe chhod ke
Tanha waapas lauTana hoga

Budhiya re!

or the epic of the night – Meghna, which is unpublished at the moment. In this short and very personal poem he describes his feelings as he watched his beloved daughter struggling through labour.

Gulzar recited his poems, and then his friend and translator Pavan Verma recited the same from his translated book in English. While it is impossible to capture the delightful words, sounds, and ideas used by Gulzar, Verma seemed to have an in-depth understanding of his poems. I only wish, his translation was not so literal. Some words are beautiful only in a certain language.

Towards the end of the evening, Gulzar read a few of his translations of Pavan Verma’s sonnets . I’d be lying if I said I enjoyed the original sonnets much, but their translation by Gulzar appeared more lyrical and engaging than the originals. Such is the power Gulzar has over words.

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