On Eid, spotting the moon — and infinite sorrow in Parveen Shakir's poetry
The beloved might be alone and waiting for her on this Chand Raat too.
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Eid-ul-fitr is an annual festival celebrated by Muslims upon the conclusion of a month of fasting. It signifies joy, happiness and festivity. In fact, the word “Eid” literally means “a joyous day”. While it might seem improbable that one writes of sorrow, misery, despair and grief while expressing one’s emotions on a day of celebrations, a number of Urdu poets have incorporated the metaphors surrounding this festival to express melancholy, heartache and longing.
Though there are several poets who have tried to express their agony by employing Eid and related words as metaphors, in my opinion, Parveen Shakir stands out.
No need to explain the sheer pain and anguish that Parveen conveys while incorporating the often considered joyous event of moon sighting. Photo: Reuters
Parveen is one of the most celebrated Urdu poets from the later half of the last century and arguably the most influential woman Urdu poet. Her poems were full of emotions of a girl longing for her beloved, often separated after a brief affair.
In one of her poems “Chand Raat” (Moon Night), Shakir has depicted beautifully the sorrow of girl who is longing for her separated lover. For this, she has used the metaphors from the rituals exclusive to Eid. “Chand Raat” is a term commonly used for the night before Eid. It is on the sighting of moon for the new lunar month that the celebration of Eid depends. In a way, this moment is of paramount importance as it is this event which starts a chain of celebrations leading to Eid.
In this poem, Parveen Shakir writes:
- ga.e baras kī iid kā din kyā achchhā thā
- chāñd ko dekh ke us kā chehra dekhā thā
- (Last year, the day of Eid was magnificent,
- I looked at his face after sighting the moon)
- fazā meñ 'keats' ke lahje kī narmāhaT thī
- mausam apne rañg meñ 'faiz' kā misra thā
- (the air was filled with the tenderness of Keats’ tenor
- the weather had all the colours of the poetry of Faiz)
- duā ke be-āvāz ulūhī lamhoñ meñ
- vo lamha bhī kitnā dilkash lamha thā
- (Amid the the divine moments of silent prayer
- that moment was so very alluring...)
- haath uThā kar jab ā.ankhoñ hī ā.ankhoñ meñ
- us ne mujh ko apne rab se māñgā thā
- (With hands raised in prayer; through his eyes,
- He asked his God for me)
- phir mere chehre ko hāthoñ meñ le kar
- kitne pyaar se merā māthā chūmā thaa!
- (He held my face in his hands,
- And kissed my forehead with ceaseless love)
Shakir, through her words, depicts the scenery and emotions of the last “Chand Raat”. And from here she comes to the present Eid and writes further:
- hava! kuchh aaj ki shab ka bhi ahval suna
- kya vo apni chhat par aaj akela thaa?
- (O breeze! Tell something about today’s affair...
- Was he alone today at his roof?)
- ya koi mere jaisi saath thi aur us ne
- chañd ko dekh ke us ka chehra dekha thaa?
- (Or, was someone like me by his side...
- did he look at her face upon sighting the moon?)
No need to explain the sheer pain and anguish that Parveen conveys while incorporating the often considered joyous event of moon sighting.
On the one hand, she shows that for her, Eid is incomplete without the look of her lover after the sighting of the moon while on the other, she is trying to convince herself that, perhaps, he might be alone and waiting for her on this Eid too.
It is worth mentioning that she is among the many Urdu poets who saw Eid as a day of mourning for the beloved. Eighteenth century Urdu poet Nazeer Akbarabadi wrote:
- kyuuñ kar lageñ na dil meñ mere hasratoñ ke tiir
- din iid ke bhi mujh se hua vo kanara-gir
- is dard ko vo samjhe jo ho ishq ka asiir
- jis iid meñ ki yaar se milna na ho 'nazir'
- us ke upar to haif hai aur sad-hazar aah
- (Why shouldn’t arrows of desires penetrate my heart
- On Eid, she remained aloof
- Only a lover can understand my pain
- On Eid, when the beloved doesn’t meet
- With thousands of moans I pity this day!)