Monday, October 10, 2011

Woh khat ke purze (Marasim)

I've been thinking about writing this post since forever. Will finally finish it today as my (inadequate and delayed) tribute to the Late Jagjit Singh (February 8, 1941- October 10, 2011). Though I had never been much of his fan, I do honour and respect him for almost single-handedly keeping ghazals alive in India for so many years; and introducing at least 2 generations of Indians to nazms and ghazals. And like so many others, I have listened to, loved and hummed his songs since I was a kid.
Trivia: The famous Lifebuoy jingle from our childhood "Tandurusti ki raksha karta hai Lifebuoy" was sung by Jagjit Singh. :)
This particular ghazal is part of the music album 'Marasim' (meaning relationship, rishta) - composed and sung by Jagjit Singh, written by Gulzar. Putting it very crudely, in this ghazal, a person (let's say a guy, for the sake of consistency in the remaining post) is talking about his observation of his lover's behaviour after their breakup. The ghazal itself is anything but crude, though.

Since it will be a gross injustice to the beauty behind these words if I translate them literally, I'll try to go into the thought (or what I think is the thought) behind each couplet. In green is my interpretation, while blue is the literal translation of the couplet.

Lyrics, and translation
Wo khat ke purze uda raha tha
Hawaaon ka rukh dikha raha tha

[[Letters are often some of most precious keepsakes in any relationship. By tearing them up and throwing them, one is not only making clear one's intention of ending this relationship, but showing that it has lost all its meaning to them. 'Hawaaon ka rukh dikhana' is used metaphorically to mean 'show the way things are going to be'.
Literal meaning: She was showing me the direction of the wind, by tearing my letters to pieces, and throwing them in the air.]]

Kuchh aur bhi ho gaya numaaya
Main apna likha mita raha tha

[[Sometimes, when a relationship goes bad, we go back and try to relive as to what might have gone wrong. At times, we realize just how wrong the whole thing was, and that it's better to forget it and begin the rest of our with a clean slate. At such times, it becomes obvious that it's time to move on.
Literal meaning: Something else also begin apparent, since I find myself erasing what I had written earlier.
Numaya = apparent, obvious]]

Usi ka imaan badal gaya hai
Kabhi jo mera khuda raha tha

[[How would you feel if for as long as you can remember you have had some conviction, some belief and something or some event makes it go off in pieces? How would you feel if you loved and trusted a person with all that you have, and one day that person turns out to be someone completely different from what you thought he was? Would it ever be possible to hold on to your own faith/beliefs after that?
Literal meaning: The person who used to be my God, has now changed her religion.]]

Wo ek din ek ajnabi ko
Meri kahaani suna raha tha

[[There are secrets to any love story, that are intensely personal, to the point of being sacred. To discuss your ex-lover with a stranger means you're letting a third person in on that relationship's solemn secrets, thus invading its sanctity.
Literal meaning: She was telling my story to a stranger the other day.]]

Wo umr kam kar raha tha meri
Main saal apne badha raha tha

[[Honestly, I'm quite confused about this couplet, but will share what I think, which is -
While she (my ex) was trying to belittle me and the time we spent together; I thought it was the best thing that happened to me, and the most meaningful period of my life - I was attaching more and more significance to that time. 
Literal meaning: She was decreasing years from age, while I was adding them on.]]


  1. I'm saddened to the core by the passing away of one of the greatest epitome of Ghazals. Ghazal and Jagjit Ji are synonyms. His voice generated the kind of comfort even a well aged whiskey on a Sunday afternoon can't match. And when he is rendering a Gulzar penned nazm, phir to kehna hi kya. Very humbled to see this post. And for last couplet, can you still elaborate a bit for me in hindi [in comments itself]. I would be very thankful to you. This last couplet is something that never went down my system till date. Gulzar saahab meri naa-samajh si samajh se bahut upar likh gaye iss baar. :)

  2. whether you believe it or not but aaj mujhe yahi line sabse pahle yaad aayi jab maine Jagjit Singh ji ke baare me suna
    "Usi ka imaan badal gaya hai
    Kabhi jo mera khuda raha tha"

    Also, i don't know what was in Gulzar's mind while writing the last couplet, but i really loved your interpretation.


  3. @Rahul
    translated in Hindi, it would read "जहां वो मेरी और मेरे साथ बिताये वक़्त की अहमियत कम करने में लगी हुई थी, मैं समझता था कि वो मेरी ज़िन्दगी के सबसे खूबसूरत पल थे; और मैं उस वक़्त के साथ और ज्यादा अहमियत जोड़ता जा रहा था"

    thanks :)

  4. My understanding of Last two lines...
    "Wo doosro k saath khush hoke meri umra kam kar rahi thi.. Par mai uske gham me apni umra ko aur lamba kar raha tha" as in time seems longer when u r sad...
    But since this interpretation s very rude, even i never believed Gulzar could have meant it like that..

  5. @Anonymous:
    But I think this translation does make a lot of sense. Thanks for this perspective! :)

  6. I am felling in love with this blog (Gulzar101)!!

    Nice interpretation but my interpretation would be different.


  7. @Bhav:
    thanks :)
    what would be ur interpretation? do share!

  8. Its difficult to find your interpretations of Gulzar saab wrong(for the lack of better word)..But here i do digress. But because its your blog, i would only differ if permitted.

  9. Posting without permission still, First one is on semantics, 'Things will be' should rather be 'The way things have become'. The
    relationship finished a while back, just that the other person has not yet accepted. Gulzar Saab's metaphor using 'behti hawa' implies that.

    Kuch aur bhi ho gaya numaya, typical Gulzar saab. Trying to erase has only made me realise how 'unerasable' it is. Not moved on, rather coming back again to revisit, just like 'phir wahin laut ke
    jaana hoga, yaar ne kaisi rihai di hai.

    usi ka imaan- Again its not about other person but the poet himself. The idealistic notions he held, betrayed him. He couldnt keep the purity of the relationship, he so believed once he could.

    woh ek din ek ajnabi- The poet somehow finds it curious that he is being mentioned after all these years. Curious still that what she could have been describing intensely years ago is now just a

    'kahani'. The poet is just trying to figure out this new identity(demoted) in his lover. Nothing about secrets. In fact secrets are there when intensity is high..

    woh umar- yes your interpretation is dead on. Second one could be, Gulzar's wit in play. You can never deny that, the more difficult he gets, more the answer lies to finding it in his wit, rather than pathos. An everyday thought of a birthday or aging, just viewed from different perspectives, of two people now in different dimensions.

    1. Wow, I really love your interpretation. Some of the lines become so much more beautiful after understanding them.

      Especially love your interpretation of 'Kuchh aur bhi ho gaya numaaya'. It makes so much more sense :)

      Also like the on about 'Usi ka imaan'. Sort of like 'Ek dil se dosti thi, wo huzoor bhi kamine' or 'Kisko pata tha pehlu mein rakha dil aisa paaji bhi hoga'

      As for 'Wo ek din ek' - I think that both of the interpretations fit alright. In any case, any of Gulzar's lines can be understood in their own way by everyone.

      I love the line you used 'the more difficult he gets, more the answer lies to finding it in his wit, rather than pathos'. So true!

      Thanks a lot for spending time on writing this comment. Means a lot to me! :)

  10. Kuch aur 'hee' ho gaya numaya. not 'Bhee' :) meaning you can easily make out now.

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  12. कुछ जवाबों के तलाश में
    चले हैं उन रंग बिरंगे फूलों के गुलिस्तां को पीछे छोड़ के
    इस बीहड़ और बंजर रेगिस्तां में ये मेरा पहला कदम है
    जितनी सख्त ज़मीं उतना ही सख्त आसमां …
    आब-ओ-हवा भी ऐसी की दम घुटता है ,
    बड़ी मशक्कत है यंहा जीने के लिए
    फिर भी एक उम्मीद है की कंही तो दरिया मिलेगा
    न कोई मुहाफ़िज़ है न कोई दोस्त,
    यंहा खुदी से रंजिश है और खुदी के दुश्मन हैं
    जज्बातों और एहसासों के बाज़ार में खरीदने लायक कुछ नहीं मिलता,
    खुद की सारी गिरह खोल रहा हूँ मैं ...अब देखो कितना दूर जा पाता हूँ
    मेरी कोशिश यही है की खुद से चल रही इस जद्द-ओ-जेहेद के बाद
    अपने को पा सकूँ,
    चाहता हूँ मेरे इर्द-गिर्द इन उडते हुए सवालों को मुट्ठी में कैद करना
    और छोड़ दूंगा हवा में उड़ने के लिए उन बातों को
    जो मुझे किसी से कभी कहनी न पडे
    आज़ादी के मक्सद से निकला हूँ घर की दीवार लाँघ के
    अब तो जिद्द है की खुद से आज़ाद हो कर ही घर लौटूंगा
    तब तक यूँ ही चलता रहेगा ये कारवां
    इसी रेगिस्तां में ...

  13. जगजीत सिंह हम सभी के बीच में सिर्फ याद नहीं एहसास बनकर मौजूद हैं... ग़ज़ल और उर्दू जैसे अभिन्न थे, परन्तु जगजीत जी ने ग़ज़ल हिंदी में लिखकर, ग़ज़ल के एक नए रूप से परिचय कराया और हर युवा के दिल को छू लिया...

    आज उनकी जन्मतिथि पर मैं उन्हें सच्चे दिल से श्रद्धांजलि देते हुए यही कहना चाहूँगा कि प्रेम की भावना को उन्होंने जिस पवित्रता और समर्पण से जोड़ा है और पाश्य संस्कृति से प्रभावित युवाओं को वफादारी का मतलब सिखाया है वो अत्यंत सराहनीय है...

  14. Kanupriya & couldbeanyname both interpretations are spot on in their own terms. Gulzar saab is a player with words and understanding them gives deeper & greater meaning. Thanks a lot for making one of my favorite Gazal alive for me...
    Sai Ram

  15. I couldn't agree more, Urs WithoutWax Sai!


  16. Awesome song
    i used to listen to Marasim when i was in school.
    Way way better than crap bollywood music .

  17. Hi Kanupriya,

    I am so glad to find your blog. Just googled 'gulzar poetry' and found u on first place. Translations n interpretatikns are really awesomely done by you. Thank you so much for this impressive work.

    I hope its not too late to add for another interpretation for the last two lines of the ghazal. As one can see the lines that are written in the whole ghazal are with the increasing intensity of saadness. So the last lines should be of extremely sad end like death.
    woh umr kam kar raha tha meri can mean she was cheating on me by so many lies ( as we say in hindi kisiki jhoothi kasam khane se uski umr kam ho hati hai) and when I realised it I was so heartbroken that I was waiting for death. This can fit for main saal apne badha raha tha...
    what do u think?

    1. Indeed it could mean that.... his words can be interpreted in so many ways :)

  18. Good Post. Such post should be bookmarked so that we can easily retreive it from the database. Good job. Keep it out Awesome web! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere? A theme like yours with a few simple adjustements would really make my web songs pk jump out.
    Please let me know where you got your design. Thank you

    1. Thanks! I made the background myself. In MS Paint.

  19. hi Kanupriya,

    You are indeed doing a great service to the fans of Gulzar saab's poetry by adding your interpretations. Especially so for me who finds it's difficult to understand Urdu words. Love this blog :-)

    I have listened to this one so may times since the album was published. Right from the beginning, I always understood the last couplet as below:

    Wo umr kam kar raha tha meri
    - Now that she has left me, the life (or the essence of life) has gone down.

    Main saal apne badha raha tha
    - all that remains is the years in my life which seem longer and longer.

    This also reminds me of the quote:
    In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.

  20. Wow ... So many biggies have given their thoughts. Guys ... Great job.
    BTW... My interpretation of last 2 lines (may be totally wrong)
    Woh umr kam kar raga tha meri, main saal apne badha raha tha.
    I used to feel much younger when I was with her and that happiness is making me live longer.

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  23. I think one of the comments hinted at this possible interpretation, but there is scope for elaboration, so here I am. The last she'r of the ghazal is about the marasim (relationship) between the Creator and the poet: The God reduces your age as you proceed with the count! As you very well know, the most shers in a ghazal are usually discrete, standalone entities, so every she'r may not yield a romantic gloss. Thanks a lot, your blog is a gift to old-poetry lovers like us, and I promise, I will check your translation fisrt, if I have to use Gulzar's lines. Shukriya.

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  25. Thanks for the interpretation of this lovely ghazal. Just wanted to add that to me both the protagonists, the one responsible for the betrayal and the one who has been betrayed... in this case the narrator, appear to be male . So the ghazal is probably about a friendship between two guys gone wrong rather than a love affair between a man and a woman gone wrong. The reason for thinking so is that the first line .. which describes the one who has betrayed speaks about a male (uda raha tha) and the last line which describes the narrator also speaks about a male ( badha raha tha ). I may be wrong , but that's my take.


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