Dabistan-e-Lakhnau ke kuch namoone #8: Ameer Meenai

Munshi Ameer Ahmed Ameer Meenai is one of the leading lights of the school. Of the family of the famous seer Shah Mina, whose tomb in Lucknow is a notable pilgrimage site, Ameer sahab was not a poet but a noted lexicographer too.  In 1884, Nawab Kalb-i-Ali Khan of Rampur and Sir Alfred Comyn Lyall – an ICS officer who had held many high posts such as Chief Commissioner of Oudh and Lieutenant Governor of the NWFP – asked him to compile a comprehensive Urdu dictionary on the lines of English dictionaries. ‘Namoona-i-Ameer-ul-Lughaat’ or a sample of his proposed Urdu dictionary came out in 1886. After getting a go-ahead, he published the first volume of the lughaat in 1891 and the second in 1892, of the words beginning with ‘alif’.

His plan was to compile a dictionary that explained words and their different shades of meanings with illustrative quotations from well-known authors. Though he had compiled the entire dictionary, the publishing of the remaining volumes remained a dream due to financial constrains and his ill health. The Nawab had died and Lyall had returned to England by then. The published volumes could not sell and Ameer Meenai was heavily indebted due to the huge expenses of running an office and the salaries of the supporting staff. Ameer remained constantly ill and the proverbial last straw was the outbreak of a massive fire in his Rampur house in 1899 that devoured rare reference books and Ameer’s own unpublished works. Ameer died the following year.

The ghazal that follows is one of his best known, due to the sensitive way it has been rendered by Jagjit Singh.

Sarakti jaye hai rukh se naqaab aahista-aahista
Nikalta aa raha hai aftaab aahista-aahista

Jawaan hone lage jab wo to ham se kar liyaa parda
Hayaa yak laKht aai aur hui shabaab aahista-aahista

Shab-e-furkat ka jaaga hun farishton ab to sone do
Kabhi fursat mein kar lena hisaab aahista-aahista

Sawaal-e-vasl par un ko udu ka khauf hai itna
Dabe honthon se dete hain jawaab aahista-aahista

Hamaare aur tumhaare pyar mein bas farq hai itna
Idhar to jaldi jaldi hai udhar aahista-aahista

Wo bedardi se sarka de ‘Ameer’ aur main kahoon un se
Huzoor aahista-aahista janaab aahista-aahista

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