Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Shayari from Khushwant Singh's autobiography

"The Dawn", a Pakistani newspaper, has an article that contains a lot of Shayari from Khushwant Singh's autobiography.

Note: I am not endorsing the contents of the entire website. I just liked this article and that's about it.

Entire article posted below:

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Is Khushwant Singh a ‘hypocrite and a liar?’

KHUSHWANT Singh likes to quote from Urdu and Persian poetry in his autobiography, Truth, Love and a Little Malice. He begins with Hakeem Makhmoor in his prologue:

I told no one the story of my life

It was something I had to spend;

I spent it.

He does not give the lines in the original Urdu.

Then in the chapter on Lahore, he gives us these oft-quoted lines:

Paida hua vakeel toa Iblees nay kaha

Allah nay mujhey sahib-i-aulaad kar diya.

I have heard these lines thus:

Paida hooay vakeel toa Shaitan ne kaha

Lo aaj mein bhi sahib-i-aulad ho gaya.

No matter what, Singh has got the second line all mixed up.

In his interview with Tikka Khan, he quotes the general as having given him the following lines:

Shauq-i-tool-o-peych iss zulmat qadeh mein heh agar

Bengalee ki baat sun aur Bengalan kay baal dekh.

He translates them thus:

If you like to add length to a story, put a twist in its tail,

Hear a Bengali talk (endlessly) and gaze upon his woman’s long hair.


Nishan-i-mard-i-momin ba toa goyam

Choon marg aayad, tabassum bar lab-i-ost.

(You ask me about the signs of a man of faith

When death comes to him, he has a smile on his lips).

Iqbal comes next:

Jahaan mein ahle imaan soorat-i-Khurshid jeetay hein

Idhar doobey, udhar nikley; udhar doobey, idhar nikley.

These lines have been quoted so often by so many that they have lost all meaning. They don’t sound even trite now.

Saadi comes in handy, too:

Sana-i-khud bakhud guftan

Na zebad mard-i-daana ra

Choon zan pistan-i-khud malal

Kuja lazzat shavad baqi?

Singh’s translation:

It does not behove a man of wisdom

to use his tongue in praise of himself

What pleasure does a woman beget

If with her own hands she rubs her breasts?

Urdu again: Woh waqt bhi dekha tareekh ki ghariyon ne

Lamhon ne khata ki thi

Sadiyon ne sazaa payee.

(The ages of history have recorded times

When for an error made in a few minutes

Centuries had to pay the price).

Then he advises a certain Pakistani minister how to face the thekedars of Islam:

Mullah, gar asar heh dua mein

Toa masjid hila ke dikha

Gar nahin, toa doa ghoont pi

Aur masjid ko hilta dekh.

(Mullah, if there is power in your prayer,

Let me see you shake the mosque!

If not, take a couple of swigs of liquor

And see the mosque shake on its own).

Khushwant Singh quotes from Ustad Daman, too. But since some of his lines (Khushwant’s, not Daman’s), are suspect, I’ll let them pass.

Iqbal again:

Dhoondta phirta hoon mein aye Iqbal apney aap ko

Aap hi goya musafir, aap hi manzil hoon mein.

(O Iqbal, I go about everywhere looking for myself

As if I was the wayfarer as well as the destination).

An unnamed Urdu poet is then quoted:

Too dil mein toa aata heh

Samajh mein nahin aata

Bas jan gaya teri pehchaan yehi heh

(You come into my heart

But my mind cannot comprehend you

I understand this is the only way to know you).

Shaad Azimabadi comes in next:

Suni haqiqat-i-hasti toa darmian se suni

Na ibtada ki khabar heh, na intiha maloom.

(All we have heard of the story of life is its middle;

We know not its beginning, we know not its end).

Singh says that there is “an amusing saying ascribed to the Sikh trading community once settled in Potohar (now in Pakistan), which was known for its adherence to religious ritual as well as its sharp trading practices:

Jhooth vi asin bolney aan

Ghut vi asin tolney aan;

Par Sacchey Padshah

Tera naa vi asin lainey aan.

(We admit we tell lies

We also give short measures;

But O True King of Kings,

We also take your name).

Iqbal yet again:

Khuda tujhe Kisi toofan sey ashna kar dey

Keh terey behr ki maujon mien iztirab nahin (May God bring a storm in your life.

There is no agitation on the waves of your life’s ocean).

In the end, he ascribes a couple of famous Ghalib lines to Iqbal — Rau mein heh rakhsh-i-umar ...

At his age, I suppose he can plead not guilty to seven murder charges and be happily let off. Misquoting Ustad Daman? I am sure the Ustad would have been the first to laugh the matter off. As for mistaking Ghalib for Iqbal, I have known many others to have done so. But I must give a break to Truth, Love and a Little Malice and see what a friend has to say about Khushwant Singh. A. R. Nagori, the painter, calls me a ‘dear friend’. I am honoured, of course, but the letter he has written to me from Karachi has left me not a little sad.

Referring to my piece on Amrita Sher Gil (Dawn, September 16), Nagori says:

“Amrita Sher Gil died on December 6, 1941” and not in September 1939 as ‘conjectured’. As the conjecture was mine and not Khushwant Singh’s, I stand corrected. I will, however, need further evidence on Gil’s death and not merely a statement.

Then Mr Nagori says Amrita Sher Gil died on the “first floor of the Ganga Ram Mansions next to the Dayal Singh Mansions and behind Fazal Din Chemists on The Mall and not on top of the Fazal Din Building.” Mr Nagori says so because he “used to spend some time at 29, Ganga Ram Mansions facing Amrita’s flat.” I plead guilty again. But, as Mr Nagori will appreciate, all this was rather before my time.

Nagori calls Khushwant Singh a “notorious hypocrite and a liar.”

He writes: “Amrita was, like all genuine artists, straightforward (and) blunt in expression”.

Khushwant Singh says in his autobiography: “Politeness was not one of her virtues, she believed in speaking her mind....” Mr Nagori has said almost the same thing. If anything, he has used a stronger word (‘blunt’) than Mr Singh who merely wrote that she (Amrita) “believed in speaking her mind”.

Telling an untruth at 88, anyhow, is a far more forgivable sin (if sin it can be called at all) than the lie direct spoken deliberately with malicious intent.

So, I’ll say this to my friend A.R. Nagori: I don’t know whether Khushwant Singh is a hypocrite or not, but if he is a liar, he is quite the most delightful liar I’ve ever read. As he says in his prologue:

“My only chance of not being forgotten when I am dead and rotten is to write about things worth reading... I have no pretensions to being a craftsman of letters. Having had to meet deadlines for the last five decades, I did not have the time to wait for inspiration, indulge in witty turns of phrase or polish up what I wrote... All said and done, this autobiography is the child of ageing loins. Do not expect too much from it: some gossip, some titillation, some tearing up of reputations, some amusement — that is the best I can offer (emphasis added).

I ask you now: is it the writing of a hypocrite? If it is, I am one of the original hypocrites.

The only thing I don’t like about Khushwant Singh is that he has willed that he be buried rather than cremated. Just imagine!

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