Urdu poetry reflects troubled and precautionary pandemic times

New Delhi: Unlock 1.0 has unleashed a slew of cases all over the country. Many celebrities and companies are using the advertisements to ask people to stay home. Though not only does Urdu poetry advise people to stay home, but it also captures the angst of social distancing and the overall pandemic.

Be it contemporary poets or the recent ones, the Rekhta Foundation — the organization which promotes Urdu, runs online repository of Urdu poetry through its website Rekhta.org, and organizes a three day annual festival Jashn-e-Rekhta — has compiled evocative and relevant lines in a video. That too, not just to entertain, but to extol the virtues of staying home during this pandemic.

It aptly begins with Bashir Badr’s lines that only rub salt on the wounds of handshake-less and hug-free prevalence of personal interactions.

Koi haat bhi na milayega

Jo gale miloge tapaak (excitement) se

Yeh naye mizaaj ka shehr hai

Zara faasle si mila karo

No one will shake hands

When embracing someone with excitement

Keep this new etiquette in mind

Maintain distance while meeting

Although Badr’s verses are ones of precaution, Jaun Eliya’s reek of doom and gloom as anyone could be a carrier of the corona virus. That too, because the slightest contact could result in transmission.

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Ab nahin koi baat khatre ki

Ab sabhi ko sabhi se khatra hai

There is no need to fear danger

Everyone is now dangerous for each other

Etibar Sajid’s excellent words would probably be interpreted as him lamenting the physical as well as emotional distance of two acquaintances living in the city. However, corona has turned even those who harbor no ill-will towards each other into strangers.

Ek hi shehr mein rehna hai magar milna nahin

Dekhte hai yeh aziyat bhi gawara kar ke

Living in the same city, yet we do not meed

Yet we will have to live with this torture

Plus, the dreary and ghost-town like pall of gloom casted over cities could not be better symbolized with these Ishaaq Virdag gems below.

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Bazaar hai khamosh to galiyon pe hai sakta

Ab sheher mein tanhai ka dar bol raha hai

The marketplace is silent and so are the alleys

Now the city’s fear of loneliness is speaking

Those sedentary, introverted folks for whom dressing to impress before various occasions was not a common affair, social distancing and the lockdown has not changed much. Although those missing such gatherings can take solace via the evergreen Nasir Kazmi’s verbiage.

Kapde badal kar baal bana kar, kahaan chale ho kiske liye

Raat bhot kaali hai Nasir ghar mein raho to behtar hai

Where are you off to with the fancy hair do and clothes

The night is no longer young Nasir, better to stay at home

If any poets really bring out the despondency of these corona-ridden times, it is the those who are currently living in them. Rather than directly attributing deaths to coronavirus, instead the human itself is a personification for this dangerous, life threatening disease. For Idrees Babar, that which is taking many lives is granted life-like qualities.

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Tension se marega

Na corone se marega

Ek shakhs tere paas na hone se marega

Ab to mashkil hai kisi aur ka hona mere dost

To mujhe aise hua, jaise corona mere dost

One won’t die from tension

Nor from corona

But only from the one who is near

Now it is difficult for me to be someone else’s friend

You happened to just stumble upon me, just like corona

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