its not about legends …


Last night again, one of the Pakistani TV stations played one of the great renditions of Abida Parveen,

ڈھو نڈو گے اگر ملکوں، ملکوں

and I never thought I would be so disappointed. The original style was par excellence and here in this one, she had used a totally different style, different “raaga “ and turned it into a mere vocal exercise – all simplicity, feel and that haunting resonance gone! Just like what Rahat Ali did to Nusrat Fateh Ali’s تم اک گورکھ دھندا ھو

But one can forgive Rahat because he was never an original artist – just there to nit-pick Nusrat, the great legend. But Abida Parveen? She is also considered a living legend in ghazal singing. She should have remained faithful to the original rendition, the first one where she gives all… deep down from her soul.

If I am not mixing it up with some other event, it was 2005 – 6 that I – just by chance – landed on some Pakistani TV station and heard Abida Parveen singing this ghazal. It was like I was struck by some thunder bolt.. I just sat there, mesmerized, not moving, not blinking and only God knows how I was breathing. Long after it finished, I was still sitting in the same position, lost somewhere in memory marshes; brought back by “whats wrong? Why are you crying baby”

Yes. I was crying and I didn’t know.

That was the impact of those words and that voice.

I got stuck with the ghazal but there was one couplet that was like a non stop tap tapping on my mind and causing a disturbing, distracting rude ripple in this otherwise smooth flowing of music, mood and mantra. The couplet was / is

میں حیرت و حسرت کا مارا خاموش کھڑا ھوں ساحل پر

دریاۓ محبت کہتا ھے، آ کچھ بھی نھیں پایاب ھیں ھم

Why the river of love is saying that there is no need for hessitation because it is not deep – I know the meanings of ‘ payab ‘ but still I checked the meanings in dictionary کم گہر ا

is what payaab means ، it said. I checked it with a friend. Nothing new. Same apparent explaination.

I left it at that.

A few years passed and I sent it to Naim sahab. Now keep in mind that I respect him, love him, think that there is none more honest, more sound and original in his opinions – a total no nonsense person. I am in awe of him and sometimes totally nervous communictating with him. Really, Talking to him I always feel like I am a total jahil. Once he threatened “ … one couplet in bad taste and we will have a fight ..”So talking to him is like treading a most fearsome, slippery path. There is a fear of slipping, tripping and falling down. And when this happens, then there is no hope left for any retribution.. Totally gone. But I still put my courage in both my hands and offered him this couplet.

Nope. Nothing. He said the same thing.

I stoped and left it at that. Though I had this suspicion that the great master had something else on his mind.

I couldn,t let it go altogether. Every now and then a time would come when I would feel the need to pry open the poet’s mind and the association of ideas that made the poet go against the set meaning of dariyaiay mohabat – I know I will keep wondering from time to time.

What is it that is so ellusive? Its there and not there and still there!. I turn this couplet in simple phrase.

میں حیرت اور حسرت کا مارا ھوا، ساحل پر خاموش کھڑا ھوں اور

دریاۓ محبت مجھے یہ کہہ کر بلا رھا ھے کہ وہ کم گہرا ھے، پایاب ھے

اور میں اس میں اتر سکتا ھوں

This literal meaning is fine but my point is dariyaiy mohabat is never meant to be payaab. It is meant to be deep. Where ever in Urdu lit, anyone mentioned mohabat, tried to explain it, always called it deep, gehra, with depth, doonga (now this one is a Punjabi word but I am only giving an example 🙂

Given the option to the poet to say what and how he wants to put forth his thoghts, the couplet would become mere exercise، a “ qafiya pemaaii “ Poets have a thing called “poetic license” that gives a lot of lee way to them ; and if this is what it is then Abida Parveen also can sing in whatever style she chooses to and spoil it.






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