April 09, 2023
Mohammad Afzal’s Bikat Kahani is a Barahmasa poem and a high-quality instance of unselfconscious cultural and linguistic pluralism; artistic resistance to the linguistic hegemony of Farsi and Arabic within the Mughal court docket; an intentional tribute paid to the numerous North Indian vernacular bolis/dialects spoken by peculiar individuals in 16th and seventeenth century Hindustan.
Earlier than the Urdu-Hindi linguistic divisiveness was institutionalised within the nineteenth century, inclusion of phrases from the multi-linguistic custom of the subcontinent was frequent in widespread poetry. That is evident from Bikat Kahani’s liberal use of Farsi, Khariboli, Avadhi, Brij Bhasha and even Punjabi.
Languages weren’t used as divisive politico-religious weapons earlier than the appearance of British rule in India. Hindi was not simply spoken by Hindus, and Urdu was not the unique language of Muslims. The lingua franca of North India was Hindustani — a composite language which, in response to Indian writer and Urdu-language poet Shamsur Rehman Faruqi, was spoken by all North Indians, Hindus and Muslims, and had nothing to do with faith. Faruqi writes[L1] : “We frequently are inclined to overlook that the language we now name Urdu was, in olden occasions, additionally referred to as Hindvi, Hindi, Dehlvi, Gujri, Dakhani, and Rekhta. The British coined completely different names for this language we now name Hindi-Urdu, comparable to Hindoostanic, Indostan and Hindoostanee… the phrase Urdu was used for the primary time solely round 1780. It’s apparent that earlier than the final quarter of the 18th century, Urdu was not the identify of the language we now name Urdu…”
Maulvi Afzal’s Barahmasa
Through the months of Covid lockdown, I spent many lazy afternoons studying poetry. The privilege of slowness, quietude and idleness made savouring poetry doable. One of many longish poems I learn was Maulvi Mohammad Afzal’s Bikat Kahani — a love poem divided into 12 sections, consisting of rhyming couplets, written within the Barahmasa custom of Hindustani poetry. Completely nonetheless, jewel-like raindrops poised on the branches outdoors my window, the air enveloped in velvety monsoon greyness, whereas I learn Bikat Kahani. Why was I studying it? Does the center want a cause to learn poetry?
Nonetheless, the rationale grew to become clear to me after I completed studying the poem: I have to write about Maulvi Afzal. Not so extremely regarded throughout his life, Maulvi Afzal wrote within the voice of a craving female lover, not like the Urdu ghazal custom the place the lover is all the time male. He fell in love with a Hindu girl, and adopted her to Mathura, a metropolis in Uttar Pradesh thought of to be the birthplace of Lord Krishna.With a view to keep close to her, he gave up deen-o-dunya (social standing and creed), and have become an assistant to the top priest of a temple. Maulvi Afzal wrote in Emperor Akbar’s time, who himself was not averse to such errant romantic alliances. The political did certainly affect the private.
Linguistic Variety in Bikat Kahani
‘Bikat’ is a Hindustani phrase that means troublesome or perilous, just like the journey Maulvi Afzal undertook on the trail of affection. In his verses, he seamlessly mixes Farsi with Brij Bhasha/ Avadhi, Khari Boli and Punjabi. A number of couplets are written completely in Farsi or Khari Boli, whereas there are some couplets half in Farsi, half in Khari Boli, which is paying homage to Amir Khusro’s poetry. A couple of examples of Afzal’s linguistic range:
Arre zalim! Na darri khauf rabb ka
Qayamat nazd hai, kar fikr tab ka
Dara kr az darun-e-dard-mandaan
Ke mi-sozad ze aatish sang-sandaan
O merciless one! Have you ever no concern of God
Have you ever no concern of the Day of Judgment
Concern the flaming (coronary heart) of grief-stricken lovers
It might probably scorch the toughest stone-like hearts
This linguistic range in Bikat Kahani is liberating like love. It threatens to undo the restrictions imposed by monolingualism and challenges the hegemony of imposed languages. In keeping with a Nationwide Geographic report[L2] , linguistic range is on its strategy to extinction. By the tip of the century, greater than half the 7,000 languages spoken on planet Earth will grow to be extinct.
What can we do to embrace and promote linguistic range? I grew up talking Bengali and Urdu. I now deliberately communicate Urdu and I exploit extra Hindustani phrases. I’m additionally attempting to study Farsi and Sindhi. I grew up in Sindh however I used to be not taught Sindhi at school!
A brief record of issues to embrace so as to promote a multilingual tradition:
- Begin small: learn Bikat Kahani in Urdu should you can (on rekhta.org).
- Purpose to grow to be bilingual, if not multilingual.
- Write bilingual prose and poetry.
- Educate your youngsters to talk a regional language apart from English and Urdu.
- Translate literature from different regional languages (apart from Urdu) into your mom tongue.
- Make mates throughout completely different linguistic teams.
- Incorporate phrases from regional languages in your speech and writing.
Why must you attempt to do all this? Due to the looming menace of linguistic purism. Bear in mind, languages don’t have anything to do with non secular identification.
Maulvi Afzal’s Bikat Kahani is an ode to ordinariness, smallness and ease versus the Farsi-embellished Urdu poetry that dominated the city literary circles of sixteenth century North India. The spontaneity of Afzal’s couplets and the seamless mixing of many tongues makes Bikat Kahani a scrumptious linguistic fusion fare. In our linguistically purist occasions, Bikat Kahani is a tasty anomaly. Afzal explores longing and want from the angle of a virhani (a lady separated from her lover). Whereas up to date writers hesitate to include phrases into Urdu from Hindi, Sindhi, Balochi, Pashto, Punjabi, Siraiki and so forth, Afzal borrowed freely from the languages round him.
Why don’t we do the identical? Many people whose mom tongue is Urdu, hardly know different native languages properly sufficient to borrow phrases from them. Slender-minded nationalistic notions (Urdu is the declared language of Pakistan’s Muslims) and linguistic purism (Hindi is the language of Hindus) dissuades such linguistic borrowing. If in any respect up to date Urdu writers borrow, they have a tendency to borrow largely from English.
Love within the time of consumerism
True lovers make unhealthy customers. “Residing merely makes loving easy,” wrote bell hooks, an African American feminist writer-activist I revere. In contrast, dwelling materialistically makes loving more durable. Love by itself is an all-consuming state in order that there’s little motivation left to hanker for a lot else. We now have satisfied ourselves that real love is at greatest unattainable or at worst not price attaining, that it resides solely in folktales, fairytales and love poetry. Love isn’t one thing you should buy though the market would persuade you possibly can. The relentless brainwashing to assuage the necessity for love with materials issues is the curse of our occasions.
However the 16th-century scholar-lover-poet Maulvi Afzal moved to a distinct metropolis merely to be near his beloved. Afzal’s poetry embodies his life and his longings.
Spiritual Variety in Bikat Kahani
Maulvi Afzal would in all probability have been tried for blasphemy in our occasions. He ends the Barahmasa by overtly declaring like to be superior to all different types of worldly identities. Certainly, he says even when lovers want to vary their faith to safe the beloved’s love, they shouldn’t hesitate. Afzal concludes with the next recommendation:
Khamosh Afzal azeen mushkil kahani
Kasu ne hudd is dukh ki na jani
Ba yaad-e-dilruba khushal me baash
Gahe Afzal, gahe Gopal me baash
Be silent, Afzal, in regards to the trials of affection
No lover is aware of the tip of this struggling
Stay with recollections of the enchanting beloved
Generally as Afzal, typically as Gopal
Afzal’s barahmasa was widespread studying in his time, redolent of an period when love alone was a lover’s most severe enterprise. It’s of no significance whether or not you reside as Afzal or a Gopal, so long as you reside desirous about your loved one.
Bikat Kahani’s eroticism, its unabashed pining, expresses the longings of a female lover who, unable to bear the pangs of separation month after month, pleads along with her sakhis, holy males, pundits and even spell-workers to plan spells to lure the lover again, and to the crows and pigeons to hold her missives to her lover, urging him to return:
Likhyun patian ay kaag le jaa
Saloney sanware sundar piya pa
Piya bin sejri nagan bhaee re
Hansan khelan ki sagri sudh gayee re
Sabhi sakhiyan piya sang sukh karat hain
Haman si paapyan nit dukh bharat hain
Fly away, O crow, with these missives of mine
Fly away to the land of that bewitching beloved
With out whom my mattress strikes me as a serpent
Misplaced are my senses, my laughter, my playfulness
All my mates discover pleasure with their lovers
Solely sinners like me are forlorn and endure
Cultural range in Bikat Kahani
Walah Daghastani’s 1747 tazkira (biography of poets) mentions that Maulvi Afzal took on the identify Gopal (one other identify for Lord Krishna, the legendary lover of Radha) when he grew to become a mandir’s pujari in Mathura. For years he remained the top priest’s disciple. Earlier than the priest died, he designated Afzal as the top priest of the temple. A few years later, when Afzal’s beloved visited the temple, he instructed her who he was. She was overcome by his long-standing devotion and agreed to marry him despite the fact that they have been each fairly aged by then.
Hatred has predictable outcomes. Hatred divides, love unites, hatred segregates, separates, retains us servile and fearful, and in a state of mutual mistrust. Love is the antidote to all this, however love can be a menace for the established order. Love is an unsettling state exactly as a result of love threatens to topple the hierarchical socio-political-religious order.
Certainly, love unchecked might result in anarchy.
Nighat Majid is a contract contributor. All info and data are the only accountability of the author