When I first encountered Urdu in my official work, I sought help. I was an Assistant Collector Under Training and the RA Babu (Revenue Assistant) of the Collectorate was an erudite gentleman whose English was exquisite.He was a product of the famous Allahabad University. Most of the official lingua franca had vestiges of the rich Awadh history woven intricately into it. Especially the revenue and the police records- fundamental to administration.
Later, when I sat down to listen to learned lawyers argue about revenue records as a Judicial Officer, I started asking them directly about words which puzzled me.
‘Kayam Mukami’ hona hai madam- said one learned counsel.
The only Kayam that this Keralite had heard of was in the dish of sambhar- as the astoefida that my mother used to add for taste!
‘What is this kayam business?’ I had asked the counsel politely- and he, used to the eccentricities of Officers who struggle with their language, obliged happily enough. It was the Urdu for Substitution of a name in the place of another ( especially relevant in mutation of land records)
Whew! That was tough for a novice.
When there are traces of Persian, Turkish, Rekhti, Hindustani, Khadi Boli, Braj, Awadhy, Bhojpuri, Bundelkhandi, Urdu, Sanskrit…when all these blow about in the wind, what do you do? You learn to appreciate the loveliness of it all. The great syncretic, eclectic culture that this beautiful mixture produces.
So much so that now I am confident that I can enjoy the nuances ( to a certain extent) of lovely ghazals, with the help of a few translation websites or transliteration works.
Since I am reading SundarKanda of Tulsidasji and trying to understand it, it was delightful to encounter the Urdu poetry on Ramayana by Brij Narain Chakbast (1882-1926): lawyer, freedom fighter and poet par excellence. I found it in a book by Raza Mir entitled ‘ The Taste of Words’: An introduction to Urdu Poetry.
One paragraph from Chakbast’s Ramayan Ka Ek Scene ( In which Ram comes to take leave of Kausalya, his Mother). It is written in the Mussaddas tradition( Usually adopted for the Marsiya form to describe the Battle of Karbala in Islamic history- elegies are written in this style among others)
(Kausalya speaks her mind in anguish…)
Leti kisi faqeer ke ghar mein agar janam
Hota na meri jaan ko samaan ye baham
Dasta na saanp ban ke mujhe shaukat-o-hasham
Tum mere lal, tthe mujhe kis saltanat se kam?
Main khush hoon, phoonk de koi is takht-o-taaj ko
Tum hi nahin, to aag lagaoongy raaj ko
If I were born in a faqir’s home( beggar’s house)
I would not have faced this state of life
The serpent bite of this show and prestige would not have bitten me then
You my beloved son, were you not a Kingdom in yourself?
I would be happy if someone were to burn down this throne and crown
If you are not there, I shall surely burn this kingdom down
And so, the magic of language- in different tongues, we speak the same divine language of emotions- understood by every human being in his or her own way.
I bow to Serendipity again and hum a few lines…as my Ram speaks in lovely Urdu to his mother, calming her down…
Shayad khizaan se shakl ayaan ho bahaar ki
Kucch maslahat Isi mein ho Parwardigaar ki
Perhaps from this Fall( autumn) would a new spring arise
Perhaps it is a divine machination of the Supreme Being