The purpose of this article is to guide people, like me, into initiation and subsequent progression in the beautiful world of Urdu Ghazal and Shayari. When I say people ‘Like me’, I limit the boundary to those who would not encounter any other mode of introduction to this field other than listening to Ghazals and when I say ‘progression into’ I mean that there is a natural course which one would take and there are no set rules. Just as one flows with the torrid stream and there is no style of swimming that can be practiced other than to give up to the force of water and flow with it.
My affliction with Ghazal and eventually Urdu poetry started around twelve years back. I would like to categorize these twelve years into three distinct stages of progression or enamor:
• Enamor to Light Ghazals a la Ghalib (simple) and quintessential ‘dil dhoonthdhta hap phir wahi fursat ke raat din’
• Enamor to Classical Ghazals a la Ghalib/Meer (elemental ) and quintessential ‘ Patta Patta Boota Boota haal hamara jaane hai’
• Enamor to Ustad Mehdi Hasan a la Ghalib/Meer/Faraz/Jigar and quintessential ‘Ranjish hee sahi, dil he dukhane ke liye aa’
‘Dil dhoondhta hai phir wahi fursat ke raat din’ (My heart longs for those days & night of laziness):
It is said that a Ghazal is made up of three attributes: Alfaaz (Words), Saaz (Music) and Aawaz (Voice/Melody). In this phase ‘Aawaz’ is the most prominent attribute followed by ‘Saaz’ and ‘Alfaaz’. This phase starts with listening to Jagjit Singh and would last for around four years. Here one would love the slow and melodious voice of Jagjit. There would not be any need to learn the Urdu language as Jagjit Singh’s Ghazals are mostly in Hindi with few embedded Urdu words. The meaning of these Urdu words could be easily Googled. My suggestion is that one should maintain a diary of these collected words. By the end of second year or beginning of third year one would start searching for Ghalib’s Shayari on net. Most probable reason for this would be enchantment with album ‘Mirza Ghalib’ sung by Jagjit Singh. This would lead to discovery of various Forums and Websites dedicated to Ghazals and Shayari. To all the passersby from this phase, Ghalib would become one of the most prolific and the greatest Urdu poet. This according to me is the only permanent characteristic of this phase which cut across all other phases though I am sure there would be challengers to Ghalib at different stages of progression. In this phase one would also get acquainted to singers like Begum Akhtar, Ghulam Ali, Mehdi Hasan but still Jagjit would remain the epitome of Ghazal singing.
‘ Patta Patta Boota Boota haal hamara jaane hai ‘ ( Every leaf and every shoot in the garden is aware of my misfortune):
When frequency of listening to Ghulam Ali becomes more than Jagjit Singh then one can assume that he has progressed into the next phase. This phase should also last for around four years. The inclination would be more towards classical Ghazal listening. In this stage ‘Aawaz’ would lose it prominence to ‘Saaz’ but ‘Alfaaz’ would still be the least prominent attribute. Ghulam Ali would become favorite singer to the passersby to this phase and they would be enchanted by his voice modulation. One would still respect Jagjit Singh but would find his rendition plain & monotonous. Passersby would get introduced to poet ‘Meer’ most probably through the Ghazal ‘Patta Patta Butta Butta haal hamara Jaane hai’ sung by Ghulam Ali. ‘Patta Patta’ , ‘Aawargi’ and ‘Chupke Chupke’ would be the favorite Ghazals of this phase . Passersby might also get introduced to poets like ‘Faraz’, ‘Momin’ and ‘Zafar’ but they would not be considered anywhere in the league of ‘Ghalib’ who by now would have grown on them and would be in his elemental best. They would start loving the philosophical and cynical Ghalib over the romantic one. One would search for Ghalib’s sher on net and would try to find meaning of many chaste Urdu (Persian) words. By this time the diary of Urdu words which was started in earlier phase would have around 200 to 300 Urdu words. An urge to read Ghazals in its original script will seed in. If this urge is not subsiding I would suggest passersby to buy elementary Urdu learning book. There are websites available which teaches Urdu scripts. It would take around a month to learn alphabets and read simple words. The end of this stage is marked by continuous listening of Mehdi hasan and his over shadowing other Ghazal singers
Ranjish hi sahi, dil hee dukhaane ke liye aa (let it be for enmity, come even if it is to hurt me)
The beginning of this phase is marked by the realization that most singers try to imitate the nonpareil Ustaad Khan Sahib ‘Mehdi Hasan’. Passersby to this phase would start getting introduced, one by one, to Mehdi Hasan’s Ghazals. I say one by one because it is not possible to listen to Mehdi Hasan’s Ghazals one after another for the reason that most of his Ghazals are gem in itself and each one will engulf you for some time. So it would be that one would listen to same Ghazals many a time in a day and for many days to come. Most probably it would start with ‘Ranjish hee sahi’ written by Ahmad Faraz. Mehdi Hasan has this ability to make ‘Alfaaz’ as prominent as ‘Saaz’ and ‘Aawaz’ ; such is the power of his rendition. One would encounter many poets like ‘Faraz’, ‘Adeeb’, ‘Jigar’ etc in this phase. This phase is also marked by a dilemma of one-upmanship of ‘Ghalib’ and ‘Meer’. Many passersby would solve this by giving equal importance to both. In this phase ‘Alfaaz’ would also become independent of ‘Saaz’ and ‘Aawaz’. One would simply like to read Urdu Ghazals irrespective of whether it is rendition as song or not.
I am in the fourth year of this phase and by now I have a fair knowledge of Urdu words and with an hour of revision of alphabets I can read Urdu sentences. I have read famous Ghazals of at least dozens of prominent Urdu Shayars and I totally agree with Lata Mangeshkar when she says that ‘Mother Saraswati’ resides in the voice of Khan Sahib Mehdi Hasan. For me he is the god of Ghazal.
P.S.: In a job interview an interviewer asked me to write a small article on how I got interested into Urdu poetry and Ghazals and hence the genesis of this article.