All the sorrow of the world, in one song


He had grown up listening to the song. On late nights, when he and his parents returned from his grandmother’s house at the other end of the city. The driver drove, the brother sat next to the driver, and he and his parents were at the back. He did not understand all the words but the words had a delicacy and rhythm that settled in his soul. Amid the high beam headlights of the cars outside, the streetlights, and the mild traffic, the blurred darkness of the desolate city passed him by, as the singer’s deeply felt voice spoke of the beauties of the beloved and the loss of love.


Do not ask me, my love, for the love that was once ours. The world was luminous because you were in it. Your face was spring itself. And your eyes contained the world. Don’t ask me, my love, for the love that was once ours.

The woman’s voice, the lament, the sorrow that is also deeply beautiful – all this complemented the passing visages of the dark, crowded city on those nights. It was a song that contained the sorrow of the whole world.

As he grew older, he read the words of the song and this time, understood all of them. This time, he relished the song not only for the musical quality of the words but for their thoughtful and anguished meanings. He got to know the poet – Faiz Ahmed Faiz – better. This was one of Faiz’s best poems, a classic in the history of the Urdu culture of the subcontinent, and also of the peoples’ struggles led by the Left movements.

And he realised that nobody could have sung it like Noor Jahan. After listening to her rendition, Faiz himself had been so touched that he stopped reciting the poem. When requested to recite it, he would tell people, “I have dedicated this poem to Noor Jahan. Now, you can hear it only from her.”

Today, 20 years after those dark night journeys across the city, he saw the song filmed in a deliciously delicate, vintage-like quality. It struck a deep chord in him and he played it again and again. The amorous and joyful ways of the actress and the old-style ambiance drew him into the song. An army General left his large house to join his colleagues very far away for the impending military take over of his country. His wife and son came to the porch to say goodbye. A truck full of soldiers stood in front of his grand car. He left, looking both determined and worried, and we saw his still young and beautiful wife standing at the porch, looking faraway at the cars going, with both intense longing and determination in her eyes. It was another moment when the personal and the historical had met, just like they did in a truly heart-breaking way in Faiz’s poems.

He watched the video again and again, hoping that one day the heights of artistic beauty that he was watching would also be his.

~ by tdcatss on July 11, 2014.

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