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Main toh hamesha kehta hoon ki Tagore daadi (beard) ke saath paida nahin hue the. … He’s my first Guru. Baaki bangali aur bangalan toh baad mein mile

– Gulzar

Today is the birth anniversary of Gulzar Saab. Today is the first anniversary of my blog. Today, I want to talk about something special. Today, I want to talk about the day Gulzar Saab introduced me to Rabindranath Tagore.

Despite, being in Tagore House in my brief KV days, I was illiterate in Tagore’s work; well except for our National Anthem, ‘Jan Gan Man’ and ‘Where the mind is without fear’ (Poem from Geetanjali, verse that got him Nobel Prize).

That day, Gulzar Saab changed that.

It happened last month. It was a perfect monsoon evening- drizzle not shower. It was the perfect location- in front of Marine Drive. At an event, Gulzar Saab was to recite poems of Tagore translated in Urdu by him. But before that he decided to make me acquainted with Tagore first. It made sense, I needed some intellectual bandwidth to critically appreciate the work of one master, translated and recited by the other.

Here are the excerpts of the talk followed by the verse:

Gulzar On How Tagore Changed The Course Of His Life

Mera ek bandhan hai Tagore ke saath. That happened at a turning point in my life, when I was a school boy. Main jab Delhi mein partition ke baad,  jab sota tha ek dukaan mein, toh usmein ek bulb jala kar jasoosi novels padta tha. Thrillers, tilasmi, chaar aane mein kitab milti thi. Deta tha library wala. Ek hafte mein chaar aane mein jitna pad sakte ho pado. Thrillers raat ki raat khatam ho jaati thi. Main phir pahunch jata tha uske paas. Tang aa gaya tha woh mujhse. Ek baar jhunjhala kar usne uppar shelf se ek kitaab nikali,

“Bas yahi hai. Pad lo. Hafte mein kitni kitabein milengi tumhe? Aur woh bhi chaar aane mein!”

That was Tagore’s work translated in Urdu, his poetry & that made all the changes in my life. Starting from my selection of books. Bas woh bha gayi dil ko. Can you imagine ki a refugee who has come from the other side of the border, ek din shelf se use ek kitab milegi and that will change his life!

Pehle toh maine socha kya thama diya. Uske baad mein bahane karta gaya, sab kuch kiya, jab tak woh bhool nahin gaya uss kitaab ko. That was the first book I stole.

Tagore’s my first Guru, baaki Bangali aur Bangalan toh baad mein mile.

Gulzar’s version of a Tagore’s Poem- O Shayar!

In this poem Tagore is asking himself:

O Shayar ! Shaam sir pe aa gayi hai

Tumhare baal pakne lage hain

Now Gulzar uses an Urdu word ‘aakbat’ instead of ‘parlok’. Parlok means ‘after death’ and akbat means ‘beyond’. I find this choice very apt. I thought I should tell you in advance, so that you can relish it the way I  did.

O Shayar! Shaam sir pe aa gayi hai,

Tumhare baal pakne lage hain,

Kabhi tanhai mein jab baithate ho,

Sada aati nahin kya Aakbat ki?

Can’t you hear the call from beyond?

Hui hai shaam,  Shayar ne kaha,

Main sun raha hoon.

Tagore raises a question and then he himself answers it:

Hui hai shaam, Shayar ne kaha,

Main sun raha hoon.

Achanak aaj bhi koi,

Aawaz de de toh?

Agar mujhe ho chuki hai der toh kya?

Kahin do nuakool jungle kinaare

aaj bhi aakar mile…

Any two young hearts, if they meet…

Aur unki do khamosh aankhein,

Maang hi le mujhse koi bol,

Toh?

Kaho, phir kaun unke mann ki baatein

saaz ki dhar pe rakhega?

Agar baitha kinare pe main aakbat sochon

Hui hai shaam main sun raha hoon

Sitara shaam ka gum gaya hai

Bujh rahi hai chita jo nadi pe jal rahi hai

At this point Gulzar insisted that I pay attention to the imagery created by Tagore

Arey! jungle mein peela chaand nikala hai,

Sunai de raha hai,

lomdi ka bolna.

Musafir koi iss raat mein aakar,

Sune andheron ki sargoshiyan toh,

Batao kaun uske kaanon mein

phoonkega aakar,

yeh saare raaz jeene ke?

Agar main zindagi se tod doon rishtey,

Abhi band kar doon darwaaze.

Mere pakne lage hai baal

par un par nazar kyon hai?

Mohalle ke jawano aur buzurgon mein,

Sabhi ki umar ka hum umar hoon main.

I wish someday, I could reach this point when I become ‘hum umar’ to everyone.

Kisi ke chehre par maasom si hansi hai

Koi hasta hai aankhon ki kanakhiyon se

Koi aansoo chalak jaate hain aankhon se

Kahin aanso sukha deta hai mann hi mein

Sabhi ab tak mujhe aawaz dete hain

Here Tagore is saying that all these are calling out for me. I write for all of them. For the one who’s smiling, for the one who’s filled with tears.

Mujhe fursat kahan ki main aakbat sochon?

Gar pak rahe hain mere baal,

To mere baal pakne do.

Mere baal pakne do.

After finishing his recital, Gulzar Saab said,

“Main hamesha se kehta hoon ki Tagore koi daadi ke saath paida nahi hue the. Unke bachanpan se lekar jawani tak ke, budape ke, saare phases unki shayari mein nazar aate hain.”

As Gulzar turns 80 today, I thought it will be the best poem to reflect on this phase of his life. A poem belonging to a book that change his life 70 years back. A poem coming from his first Guru. A poem which perhaps will resonate most with his silver hair. There isn’t a better poem to read today. Is there?

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