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Zindagi Jab Bhi (Umraojaan)

Falling in love is nothing if not mystical.

I mean, isn’t it one way of experiencing the highest state of consciousness with our heart, mind and body? The most precious emotion that goes beyond the realm of reason? I have yet to meet someone who hasn’t felt the flutter of love ever in their life. It’s inconceivable to me that people can walk this earth without drenching in the rain at least once.

Why did God put a heart in us? To beat in tandem with another heart. Pumping blood is just an add-on function.

What alters love from a feeling to a palpable reality is the expression of it. What’s love if we don’t profess it? What’s the use of harbouring intense feelings of ardour if it is not articulated? Enter poetry to fulfill this purpose, and in the specific context of this Khayaal series, think ghazals.

When the ripples of emotion that sweep over two people in love are converted to impassioned poetry, love assumes a sublime aspect that transcends the ordinary. It stops being a mere attraction between two mortal bodies and becomes a hymn to which the spirit capitulates unconditionally.

A ghazal taps into the faint, impalpable dimensions of romantic love and intoxicates us with its quintessence. A secret tryst between two lovers can be converted to a glorious portrait of love and longing when accompanied by a ghazal on the screen. It would make even the most unromantic heart long for a tender touch and a stolen glance.

ज़िन्दगी जब भी तेरी बज़्म में लाती है हमें ये ज़मीं चाँद से बेहतर नज़र आती है हमें

(Whenever life brings me to this grand congregation of your presence, I find the earth more beautiful than even the moon.)

Note how the male lover is telling his beloved that he didn’t come to her by his own volition. ‘Life brings me to you. It leads me to your dreamy company’ as if it is in their destiny to be there together. As if the Universe had it all planned for them. What a tender pointer to the power of serendipity in those lines!

ज़िन्दगी जब भी तेरी बज़्म में लाती है हमें..

Between earth and the moon, the latter has always stolen the limelight in poetry and literature. Drab earth. Desirable moon. The moon is traditionally described as the epitome of all beauty, all right, but in the company of the beloved, it is the earth that wins the contest in the lover's eyes.

ये ज़मीं चाँद से बेहतर नज़र आती है हमें

The earth is embellished by the presence of the beloved. What significance does the celestial body have in such circumstances, after all?

And now consider how the poet has delineated the beguiling impact of the beloved’s presence on the man’s heart when he writes,

सुर्ख फूलों से महक उठती हैं दिल की राहें दिन ढले यूँ तेरी आवाज़ बुलाती है हमें

I need to allow myself the luxury of some deep contemplation to annotate these exceedingly beautiful lines replete with imagery.

We must keep the beloved’s presence constant in our mind as we listen to this ghazal and follow its lyrics.

(The pathways of my heart are redolent with the fragrance of red blooms (roses, perhaps). It is through these fragrant lanes laid out by my impassioned heart that I walk to reach you whenever your sweet voice beckons me at sundown.)

I am so tempted to call sundown as nighttime.

Nighttime somehow adds to the intimacy and frenzy of their clandestine meeting. And also because there is a mention of the night in the lines that follow -

याद तेरी कभी दस्तक, कभी सरगोशी से रात के पिछले पहर रोज़ जगाती है हमें

(Your memories knock on my heart, sometimes with urgency and at other times as a whisper, breaking my sleep, night after night in its latter half.)

The pangs of separation and thoughts about our love become potent in the night, don’t they? Sometimes they come rapidly, shaking us out of our sleep, rattling our consciousness, and sometimes, the thoughts merely whisper in our ears. Either way, the night is spent in the fluid realm of the beloved’s memories. Longing gets magnified in those hours even as sleep eludes.

But then, it’s not just the tender thoughts of the beloved that robs the sleep of the lover. It is also this creepy, niggling worry –

हर मुलाक़ात का अंजाम जुदाई क्यूँ है अब तो हर वक़्त यही बात सताती है हमें

(Why? Why should the eventuality of every meeting be separation? Why should every union culminate in parting ways? I am deeply tormented by this constant thought now.)

There is the unconstrained joy of anticipation in life, of meeting, of uniting, of giving yourself to the other completely. But with the joy also comes the sneaky fear of losing it all in another instant. What a paradox it is that the moment of communion that gives us a high is also the moment that devastates us with the prospect of parting with time! How sinister it is that our delights and desires are sabotaged by our fears!

I need to take a few seconds now to absorb the poignancy of this couplet. The desperation I feel in my bones as the bitter truth sinks in is reaching my eyes and threatening to spill over.

It is a rhetorical question, one that has no definite answer. And the absence of an answer frustrates the lover who is uttering it to his beloved just as it frustrates the listener. The vicarious pain and fear of loss gets overwhelming here.

Yet, the lover reiterates, just as we all may -

it is in these moments when life leads me to you through the scented pathways of my lovelorn heart that I exist. It is in your bewitching presence that I find fulfillment.

ज़िन्दगी जब भी तेरी बज़्म में लाती है हमें

ये ज़मीं चाँद से बेहतर नज़र आती है हमें

How simple yet so mesmerizing, this ode to the beloved!

Now, listen in with the lyrics in mind.

Film - Umraojaan (1981)

Lyricist - Shahryar

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