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Someone recently asked me what my favourite word in English is and the answer came in a jiffy.

There are some things that you can rattle off from the top of your head or the tip of your tongue without having to spend a second in contemplation. And there are things that flutter off your heart even before you have breathed the question in.

‘Love,’ I said. ‘My favourite word and emotion. It ranks higher than even ‘happiness.’’

Happiness might be the hardest to find, but love is the hardest to fathom.

At no point in life can one claim to know ‘love’ completely in all its different dimensions and capacities to influence human life. As soon as you imagine to have experienced the pinnacle of this finest of human emotions, a new wave sweeps over you, in a format that you never knew existed. It graces you like the Milky Way enhances the night sky, keeping you guessing how far its expanse is, and how deep runs its glow. There is no way love can end and disappear; it merely shifts places, flows from one point to the other, finding new realms to rest and rejuvenate.

‘Love’, in all its majestic manifestations, is what life is essentially about. From the romantic to the mystical to the spiritual, love is all there is to the human story. It is this realization that gave me the potential to interpret romantic songs equally as spiritual odes. I could equate an amorous expression in a film song to a devotional experience. I can now transcribe Gita Govinda as an experience of celestial ecstasy. And if I remember right, it all started with this song ‘Tu is tarah se’ many years ago. Now, whenever I listen to it, it is to this transcendental love, to the all-encompassing entity that reaches a level of the consciousness that this song appeals. To me, it is like an ode to the ‘everything’ that there is, than to one love interest.

Let me take you on a different experience today by urging you to imagine that these lines are being sung not to an object of mortal love, but to the Almighty who pervades everything.

तू इस तरह से मेरी ज़िंदगी में शामिल है

Tu is tarah se meri Zindagi mey shaamil hai

जहाँ भी जाऊँ ये लगता है, तेरी महफ़िल है

Jahan bhi jaaon yeh lagta hai, teri mehfil hai

You are such an intrinsic part of my life that wherever I go, I feel as if there is a carnival celebrating you.

Wherever I look, there is only you. How integral you have become to my existence that I cannot see anything but your festivities around me!

As in romantic love, where the beloved becomes a nonstop experience while asleep or awake, to me these lines denote a presence of the Divine wherever I go, in whatever I see, hear and feel. It is not easy to explain this aspect of human experience. All I can say is the world feels like a jamboree ground when you see the Beloved in every nook and corner, in open and sheltered spaces, and in every place you visit.

ये आसमान ये बादल ये रास्ते ये हवा

Yeh aasman, yeh baadal, yeh raaste, yeh hawa

हर एक चीज़ है अपनी जगह ठिकाने पे

Hare k cheez hai apni jagah, tikhane pe

कई दिनों से शिकायत नहीं ज़माने से

Kai dino se shikaayat nahin zamaane se

ये ज़िंदगी है सफ़र तू सफ़र कि मंज़िल है, जहाँ भी ...

Yeh Zindagi hai safar, tu safar ki manzil hai

The sky, the clouds, these pathways, and this wind

Everything is in its designated place, a place where they were supposed to reach.

I’ve had no complaint against the world for a long time now

Life is a journey and you are its destination.

Every aspect of nature seems to be in its own place as if there could be no other way for them to exist. They have all found their destination, and I too will, when I reach You. When the elements of nature have found their ultimate purpose, wouldn’t I find it too? There is no place for me to go in this journey but to You.

These lines inspire me to think about the perfection with which every single thing in this Universe has been created and put in its right place. It makes me want to capitulate to the ultimate power that knows where to put me, just as it has put the sky and the clouds and the wind. It makes me want to say, over and over again, ‘Unto Thee, my everything. Lead me to my destination as You deem right.’

हर एक फूल किसी याद सा महकता है

Hare ek phool, kisi yaad sa mehakta hai

तेरे खयाल से जागी हुई फ़िज़ाएं हैं

Tere Khayal se jaagi huyi fizaaen hai

ये सब्ज़ पेड़ हैं या प्यार की दुआएं हैं

Yeh sabz ped hai ya pyar ki duaa-en hai

तू पास हो कि नहीं फिर भी तू मुकाबिल है, जहाँ भी

Tu paas hai ho ki nahi phir bhi, tu mukaabil hai

Now, in Your presence every flower smells like a beautiful memory.

It is an ambience created by my thoughts about You.

Are they verdant trees or Love’s blessings?

Whether You are near me or not, it’s clear that You are incomparable. Above everything.

How do these lines convert to a mystical experience, one may wonder. The easiest way to know the Divine is to superimpose Divine Love on every object of material and physical love. Doing that makes even the smallest of mortal sentiments rich and consummate. The lover becomes the Beloved, surpassing the bodily confines.

In the presence of the Beloved, one becomes delusional, not knowing if the flowers that bloom around her are for real or they are figments of imagination rising from her contemplation. Even the beautiful vistas around begin to seem like imposing manifestations of Love. The last line, in particular, where the poet, Nida Fazli, writes ‘whether You are near or far, there is no one quite like You’ puts me in a delirious state. Truly, no one quite like the one we so passionately, unconditionally and endlessly love.

It, however, begs the question – which is this Love in our life?

The next two stanzas are where my interpretation of this song transcends the routine contexts and travels to a realm of mystical contemplation. Stay with me close, in the same vein, to know the profundity I see in them.

तेरे बगैर जहाँ में कोई कमी सी थी

Tere bagair jahan mai koi kami si thi

भटक रही थी जवानी अंधेरी राहों में

Bhatak rahi thi jwani andheru raahon mey

सुकून दिल को मिला आ के तेरी बाहों में

Sukoon dil ko mila aake teri baahon mey

मैं एक खोई हुई मौज हूँ तू साहिल है, जहाँ भी

Mey ek khoyi hui mauj hoon, tu saahil hai

Without You, there was something lacking in this world

My youth was wandering in the dark alleys

I found peace only when I came into Your arms.

I am a lost wave, and You are my shore.

These lines can be considered a true seeker’s confessions. The one who is wandering in search of fulfillment and ultimate happiness will always find something lacking in the absence of the Divine in his life. The only thing that brings us true gratification and comfort is the presence of the Supreme Power. Try as much we may, nothing else will bring us that the peace we all so desperately seek. And when I listen and sing these lines I realize how crucial it is for me to have that singular power in my life to find fulfillment. Where does a wave go but to the shore? Where do I proceed from here but to His presence?

तेरे जमाल से रोशन है कायनात मेरी

Tere Jamaal se roshan hai qayanat meri

मेरी तलाश तेरी दिलकशी रहे बाकी

Meri talaash teri dilkashi rahe baaki

खुदा करे की ये दीवानगी रहे बाकी

Khuda kare ki yeh deewanagi rahe baaki

तेरी वफ़ा ही मेरी हर खुशी का हासिल है, जहाँ भी ...

Teri wafa hi meri har khushi ka haasil hai

My Universe is lit up by your beauty and elegance

May my search for You and Your attraction for me be always there.

By Almighty’s will, may this love’s lunacy remain forever.

Your love and loyalty is the only outcome of my joys.

I am maintaining the mystical thread here.

There have been times when our faith in the Supreme has dwindled even when we know that if there is something that can save us from our worldly woes it is in acknowledging the existence of the Supreme. Yet, we stray, trapped in our illusions and the Supreme loses its sheen in our eyes, and we stop seeking its benevolence.

Reckon, how often this has happened and to how many!

These lines are like a prayer for me wherein I concede that my life and my universe will be drowned in darkness without His grace. And I beseech to Him that my seeking should never cease until I reach my destination, neither should His appeal ever diminish for me. This craziness that drives me towards Him, may it forever remain, so that I find that everlasting happiness someday.

It is impossible for me to not think of the constant presence of an infinite spirit in my life when I listen to this song. It could very well be reflective of a romantic liaison in the movie, but to me it is an embodiment of the highest connection there is between us and Providence. Love, after all, is not a feeling. It is the sum total of existence.

Seen in that sense, it is possible that many songs written as odes to mortal love could easily have Divine connotations and be sung as hymns. Ever thought about it?

Film - Aap To Aise Na The (1980)

Lyricist - Nida Fazli

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