On reading this book one finds that if the reign of Bahadur Shah Zafar signified the time of disintegration and disappearance of the Mughal empire, it was a golden period of Urdu poetry which flowered due to the efforts of a galaxy of poets like Ghalib, Zauq, Momin, Shefta and Azurda. Though not as talented as Ghalib or Zauq, Bahadur Shah Zafar did try his hands at various genres of Urdu poetry, like ghazal, rubai, qita, mukhammas, musaddas, dua, sehra, shahr ashob, as also doha, bhajan, and geet which belonged specifically to the domain of Hindi literature.
This book is a compilation of poetry by those poets who were Bahadur Shah'scontemporaries, where Zafar was the symbol of the great war of Indian Independence and suffered incarceration due to the rebellion by the Indians. Sundered from his family and friends, Zafar had to suffer exile and die in the alien city of Rangoon. Much of his poetry is a long lament of loss and suffering, both personal and general. Some of his verse has become an imperishable part of our literary heritage.
The author has not only presented the Urdu original in Persian script but also the transliteration and translation of the major poems written by these creative persons. Who would not be moved by Zafar'splaintive cry during his imprisonment by the British in Burma (Myanmar), where he wrote:
Na kisi ki aankh ka nur hun,
na kisi ke dil ka qarar hun,
jo kisi ke kam na aa sake,
main woh musht-e-ghubar hun.
(I am not the apple of anyone'seyes, nor the joy of any heart; a handful of useless dust, no purpose I discharge).
Another famous poem by him is:
Lagta nahin hai ji mera ujre dyaar mein,
kis ki bani hai aalam-e-na paidar mein?
(I feel ill at ease in this wasted health, who is this ephemeral world has ever found relief ?)
His lesser-read poems are no less admirable than the previous two as seen from the lines given below:
Gham-e-dil kise kahoon
koi bhi ghamkhwaar nahin, gham-e-furqat ke siwa,
aur agar poochhe koi qaabil-e-izhaar,
nahin chupke rahta hai bhala
(Whom to tell my tale of woe, none would sympathise, except the severe grief inside, my sorrowful tale besides, is unfit for telling; silence is advised.)
Sheikh Mohammed Ibrahim Zauq was Bahadur Shah Zafar'spoetic mentor. Zafar'scourt was the centre of literary meets and mushairas, which attracted all the leading poets of the time, including Zauq and Ghalib. He was a writer par excellence of qasida, but lacked the philosophic depth of Ghalib'spoetry and Momin'sdeft handling of romantic love. A sample of two of his poems follows:
Laai hyat aae, qaza le chali, chale
apni khushi na aae, na apni khushi chale.
ho umr-e-Khizar bhi tau
ho maalum waqt-e-marg
hum kya rahe yahan,
abhi aae, abhi chale
(Commissioned by life we come, commanded by death we go without our will we came, without our will we go. Even if given Khizar'slife we will but complain, a while ago have we came, in another while we go).
Another poem is:
Azizo! Isko na gharial ki sada samjho
yeh umr-e-rafta ki
apni sada-e-pa samjho
(Consider it not, my friend, just the ticking of the clock, you can hear in this sound the sound of life'sfootfalls).
Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib lived in times of social and political unrest when the Mughal power had all but collapsed due to British rule. His poetry covered a vast canvas and he wrote 235 ghazals, in Urdu containing 1,818 verses, which made him the most quotable of all Urdu poets. Specimens of his poems are given below:
Yeh na thi hamaari kismat ke wisaal-e-yaar hota
agar aur jeete rahte, yehi intezaar hota
(To have met my friend was not my fate a longer life would only have meant a longer wait).
Another of his poems is:
Phir mujhe deedar-e-tar yaad aaya
dil jigar tishna-e-faryaad aaya.
Dam liya tha na qayaamat ne hamooz
phir tira waqt-e-safar yaad aaya
(I again recall those tearful eyes my heart and guts surge up in cries. The doom had hardly turned its tide that your farewell scene revived).
Momin Khan Momin was another of the great poets of Delhi during Zafar'srule. His poetry was based on love?real and earthy?of which he had a rich personal experience. His ghazals became famous for delicacy of thought, flight of imagination and sincerity of sentiment. He said,
Aate hi tere chal diye sab warna yaar ka
kaisa hajum tha dil-e-hasrat faza ke saath
(Your arrival has sent them scurrying, otherwise there was a swarm of despair around my yearning heart).
An interesting aspect of the ghazals is that the translations have been done in rhymed verse so as to retain the flavour of the original. Here is a book meant essentially for lovers of Urdu poetry or any other poetry.
(Sterling Paperbacks, A-59 Okhla Industrial Area, Phase-II, New Delhi-110 020.)