Comparisons of asha’ar: Leaving the beloved’s street

Comparing two shers of different poets is an ancient art, and anyone who gets into appreciating the subtle nuances of life and existence portrayed in ghazals, is drawn into this activity as well.

One of the earliest examples that came to my notice is from the work of the titans Mir Taqi Mir and Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib only. I suppose it is appropriate.

Mir, in his ghazal ‘Dekh to dil ki jaan se uthta hai’, says:

Yun uthe aah us gali se ham
Jaise koi jahaan se uthta hai

Several years later, penning the inestimably intricately-crafted ‘Hazaaron khwaaishen aisi ki har khwaaish pe dam nikle’, the ‘Chacha’, with his customary verve and panache, wrote:

Nikalna khuld se adam ka sunte aaye hai lekin
Bahut be-abru hokar tere kuche se ham nikle

Appreciate the difference. Both are talking about the same thing – their egress from the street the beloved lives on but one takes himself up from the earth, while for the other, it is a bumpy landing on it.  Mir leaves in a daze and feels as he has ascended from this world, while Chacha laments his ignominous ejection from the same place, and recalls Adam’s descent to earth after his expulsion from Paradise ….. well the Garden of Eden to be exact for purists, but it is worth remembering that the word paradise entered English from the French paradis, from the Latin paradisus, derived from the Greek parádeisos (παράδεισος), and ultimately from an Old Eastern Iranian pairi.daêza – the literal meaning of which is “walled (enclosure)”.  From there it moves into Hebrew as pardes – appearing in the Song of Solomon 4:13, Ecclesiastes 2:5 and Nehemiah 2:8. In those contexts it could be interpreted as a park, a garden or an orchard. In the 3rd-1st century BCE Septuagint, Greek parádeisos was used to translate both Hebrew pardes and Hebrew gan (garden): it is from this usage that the use of paradise to refer to the Garden of Eden derives. This usage also appears in Arabic firdaus.

However, with this etymological digression to satisfy linguist purists, I return to my comparitive study. I was planning to confine my effort to these two shers but as it happens, as I began writing this post, a  third one – dealing with a similar sentiment – came into my mind. It is so very surprising not to matter symptomatic of the various sections our brains operate according to that I had never associated this often-heard sher with this topic but I will make amends forthwith.

This is from Faiz Ahmed Faiz‘s famous ghazal ‘Gulon mein rang bhare, baad-e-naubahaar chale’. In the maqta, he observes:

Maqaam ‘Faiz’ koi raah mein jacha hi nahi
Jo kuu-e-yaar se nikle to suu-e-daar chale

There is no heaven for Faiz sahab, a committed leftist, to ascend to or be thrown out of.  For him, the way out from the beloved’s street leads straight to the scaffold, with no distractions or other places worth visiting on the way.

As can be expected, Faiz, in his typical manner,  injects a political connotation in some of his most moving and emotional love poetry – as can be evinced in the scenes of suffering and tragedy right in the middle of  ‘Mujh se pehli si mohabbat mere mehboob na maang….’ 

But then that is a poet’s prerogative.


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