Sahir’s Khoobsoot Mod

I once boarded a bus in New Delhi, it was a very hot evening and as I waited for the bus to start so that a breeze, albiet of hot air, may come in, someone threw in a Hindi evening newspaper through the window. The headline covered the break- up of an alliance between two political parties in Uttar Pradesh. The reporter illustrated the break- up with the following words:

jaisa Ghalib ne kaha hai:

chalo ik baar phir se
ajnaabi ban jaain hum dono

The interesting point in the anecdote is not that the lines from a nazm by Sahir Ludhianvi (‘Khoobsoot Mod’) have been quoted very aptly and appropriately and it seems almost intuitively by the reporter, but also that the authority of Ghalib is invoked to qualify the inclusion of the lines. This is not uncommon, and many a verse from any Tanvir, Dilbagh and Hari is recited under the shady protection of Chacha Ghalib’s benign name.

There is an insighthful post by Sheetal Vyas on this nazm and the discussion there which led me on writing this post and also the one on the relationship between Kabir and Sahir. She points to the similarities between a poem by Michael Drayton and Sahir’s ‘Khoobsorat Mod’.

It is very uncanny that ‘Khoobsoot Mod’- a nazm that is so unique in Urdu poetry should be so similar to an English poem ‘The Parting‘ by a 17th century English poet. Thematically and even idiomatically they are almost identical and the more one reads ‘The Parting’, the more convincingly it seems to have been transcreated by Sahir

See, for example the similarity betwen the following stanzas:

(A) Shake hands for ever, cancel all our vows,
(B) And when we meet at any time again,
(C) Be it not seen in either of our brows
(D) That we one jot of former love retain.

(a) na mai.n tumase koI ummiid rakhuu.n dilanavaazii kii
(b) na tum merii taraf dekho galat a.ndaaz nazaro.n se
(c) na mere dil kii dha.Dakan la.Dakha.Daaye merii baato.n se
(d) na zaahir ho tumhaarii kashm-kash kaa raaz nazaro.n se

Notice the similaries betwen (A) and (a) and the ‘Be it not seen in wither of our brows’ in (b), (c) and (d). Though the two poems seem to go in different directions subsequently:

Now at the last gasp of Love’s latest breath,
When, his pulse failing, Passion speechless lies,
When Faith is kneeling by his bed of death,
And innocence is closing up his eyes,
–Now if thou wouldst, when all have given him over,
From death to life thou might’st him yet recover.

taarruf rog ho jaaye to usako bhuulanaa behatar
taalluk bojh ban jaaye to usako to.Danaa achchhaa
vo afasaanaa jise a.njaam tak laanaa naa ho mumakin – 2
use ek khuubasuurat mo.D dekar chho.Danaa achchhaa
chalo ik baar phir se …

While Sahir speaks of this as a ‘rog’ and gives a twist in a different direction taking the parting to its culimination, I am not sure if Drayton also means the same thing and indicates a ‘return’ when he says:

Now if thou wouldst, when all have given him over,
From death to life thou might’st him yet recover.

Incidentally, ‘Khoobsoorat Mod’ was immortalized in a popular Hindustani movie of the sixties in the voice of Mahendra Kapoor- the poor man’s Rafi and where nevertheless he came closest to emulating the latter.

I still wish that Rafi should have sung it though.

4 thoughts on “Sahir’s Khoobsoot Mod

  1. Bhupinder, as you say, the poems seem to take different directions after a certain point.
    I confess I much prefer Sahir’s ending to Drayton’s which was such a volte face, such a drastic change in mood. After having said categorically,
    ‘Nay, I have done: you get no more of me..’
    to invoke love of quite a different intensity,
    ‘From death to life thou might’st him yet recover’
    I found that a bit jarring. Much prefer..
    Woh afsana jise anjaam tak laanaa naa ho mumakin,
    usey ek khoobsoorat mod dekar chodna achha.

    More honest, more pragmatic, more Sahir.

  2. One can read the poem at multiple levels. At one level is the idea of permanence versus ephemerality of love, as you have indicated. Drayton’s idea is that of permanence, something that refuses to die despite the parting, and returns one day with the same, if not rejuvenated intensity.

    Sahir’s seems to be more ephemeral in a sense, though it also possible that he is conciously trying to reason with the heart (feelings), perhaps consoling even.

    However, one can read it in other ways too.

    There is a degree of unreasoned pessimism in this nazm, almost masquerading as composure based on realism and common sense (‘pragmatic’), that not only justifies but also glorifies inaction and abdication of personal responsibility.

    Otherwise, what is ‘khoobsooat’ in a parting/loss?

    To your observation about Drayton’s being a ‘volte face’, the determining factor is action and will in case of Drayton, in contrast to inaction or lack of will in case of Sahir.

    In contrast to Sahir, Faiz would have challanged, reasoned, advised:

    behtar to yahi hai jaan meri
    jis ja sar dhar ki baazi ho
    vo ishk ki ho yaan jang ki ho
    gar himmat hai to bismillah,
    varna apne aapey main raho

    I guess what still makes Sahir so lovable (“more Sahir”) is the sense of personal precariousness that he conveys. It originated in his own sense of insecurity as a child and he never outgrew it, and which provided the backdrop to the pessimism in his works. Sahir accepts and even glorifies his melancholy, without relapsing into self- pity.

    There is always that bit of a child in everyone of us- sometimes scared, but often precarious and vulnerable, that Sahir is able to arouse- as in this nazm.

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