Tonight I write about love, but the old kind of love. That kind of love that used to exist in an era sans mobile phones or any other form of instantaneous communication. All that existed was the written (in the form of letters) or the spoken word. A time when one might wait for weeks in agony for a written reply to a letter to one's beloved, and it is in that period of waiting that one's resolve to love would grow stronger. Alas those days are behind us!
I stumbled on a nazm (poem) written in Urdu by one of India's foremost proponents of the country's progressive literary movements that found its origins in the bounds of imperial India - Sardar Jafri. Jafri's "Tum Nahin Aaye The Jab" has captivated my imagination ever since I heard it recited.
Tum nahin aaye the jab, tab bhi to maujud the tum
Aankh mein noor ki aur dil mein lahu ki surat
Dard ki lau ki tarha, pyaar ki khushbu ki tarha...
Tum nahin aaye the jab, tab bhi to tum aaye the
Raat ki seene mein mehtab ke khanjar ki tarha
Subah ke haath mein khurshid ke sagar ki tarha
Shaakh-e-khoon, rang-e-tamanna mein gul-e-taar ki tarah
Tum nahi aaoge jab, tab bhi to tum aaoge
Yaad ki tarah, dhadakte hue dil ki soorat
Gham ke paimana-e-sarshaar ko chhalkate hue...
My own translation:
When you did not arrive, you were still here,
As the light of my eyes and the gushing blood in my heart
As the pangs of my sorrow, as the fragrance of my love...
When you did not arrive, you had in fact arrived
Like the lunar crescent in the bosom of my night
Like the sun-filled cup held by this morning's hands.
Like the first moist buds on a bloodied branch
When you won't arrive, you will have nevertheless arrived
As an everlasting memory, as my beating heart
Spilling over my sorrow-filled glass.
Jafri's poem elicits a sense of yearning, that I shudder to think, my generation has lost in this world. We are immersed in a complex labyrinth of constant communication, bombarded with instant messages and saddled with expectations of equally instant replies to those messages. Love happens over the internet nowadays; people fall in and out of love in seconds. It all happens in real time.
You see, we no longer have the luxury of judaai (separation) from our loved ones, because we know that those we love are always available at the touch of a button. Yet, my contention is that without separation, we fail to appreciate the bliss of re-union (visaal in Urdu) that only appears after an attack from the tentacles of departure (ravaangi). And it is that period of separation, when you shut off from your beloved, that serves, I think, as a robust platform for nurturing love. For it is in that measure of temporal stillness that one realises when your loved one is not there, she is nevertheless there in forms so eloquently expressed by Jafri. The simple truth is that when we switch off our screens and gaze into the night sky, the twinkling stars or the peeping moon from behind the clouds reminds us of all those notions of imagery that we are so programmed to associate with love. Lo - you need not look as far as into the night sky, for listening to your heart beat will remind you of the one for whom it so beats.
"Shab-e-tanhai mein lutf-o-mulaqaat ka rang..."
- On a night of solitude, too is there the beauty of a rendezvous.
We owe ourselves a chance to self-assess and introspect within ourselves, to connect with and feel the emotions of longing and yearning for our loved ones - so that when we are engulfed by all that time we so value with our lovers we are the best possible versions of ourselves. For it is at that moment that we taste how sweet this nectar of union (dildaari) is, of which we were momentarily deprived during our solitude.
True love, after all, should not be as fickle as an emoji.