Wednesday, January 21, 2009

ASAD - 51

Originally posted on in 1995

During the last fifty episodes, I have received numerous mails regarding good books on Shayari. Here is an attempt to give some good sources. These books will not only make you appreciate GHazal, but they are of a great help, even while understanding difficult lyrics. From these books, you can also trace the origin of many songs, as I have done in the articles related to Lyrics Plagiarism. Read on.

I cannot read Urdu :-( ! So I am talking about books only in Hindi and English script. Almost all the books give meaning of the difficult words as well as some biographical notes. And very important - these books (in Hindi script) are unbelievably inexpensive !! The English versions are relatively costlier.

Perhaps this is exactly what you want. So read on !

I am from Bombay, but I know about the shops in Delhi only! This info. is mainly due to Guri !! I have been to these shops.

a) The Sri Ram Centre near Mandi House has a small bookshop, and has a few books on Shayari. Worth visiting.

b) The Triveni auditorium, again near Mandi House has a book shop. One can find a lot of books on Shayari, Hindi Poetry. Must visit.

c) In CP there are a few shops which sell Shayari/Kavita stuff. But you have to hunt and you have to have luck.

d) Urdu Ghar and GHalib Institute near New Delhi Railway Station. These are closed on Saturdays and Sundays. So I have not yet managed to enter inside. :-(

1. Deewan-e-Ghalib

There are many many compilations of this. Naturally ! It's perhaps the "best-seller" of Urdu Shayari. All the compilations are based on the original by GHalib himself. There are compilations explaining EACH sher in detail, in the price range of Rs 500/-. There are inexpensive ones too. The one I have is by Ali Sardar Jafferey, and costs only Rs 35/-. It's a paperback version in Hindi, by Raajkamal publications. Printing is excellent. Meaning for all the difficult words is present. A superb book, except that the introduction to GHalib's Poetry is as complicated as the Poetry itself :-) . Go for it.

2. Deewan-e-Mir

I know of just one. Again by Ali Sardar Jafferey, in Hindi paperback version costing Rs 35/- by the same Raajkamal publications. It's based on many sources. He also gives very interesting facts about the real Shers by Mir. There seem to be many Shers which are not by Mir, but are still credited to him. Majrooh Sultanpuri has helped him in compiling this. A very nice introduction has been written. Meaning for all the difficult words is present. In all, again a must.

3. Urdu Ke Lokapriya Shayar

This is a series of books by Prakash Pandit. Each book contains representatives of all types of poetry (Nazm, GHazal, Rubaai) by one popular Shayar. Not all the work of the Shayar can be found here, but his choice for selection is fairly good. All the books contain some biographical notes. Printing is OK. While giving the meaning, some words have got omitted. The paperback versions cost Rs. 20/- each and the hardbound versions cost Rs. 35/- each. Some of the prominent Shayars in this series are Sahir Ludhiyanavi, Shakeel Badayuni, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Firaq Gorakhpuri, Zauk, Iqbal, Hafeez Jalandhari, Zafar etc. All these are worth buying. It is from such books, you can trace origins of some film songs. eg. Sahir's book will give you the original versions of many songs like "kabhi-kabhi", "taajmehal" etc.

4. TalKHiyaaN

This is Sahir's first book and he shot to fame overnight with it ! It's a must buy, but quite difficult to obtain. I yet to have a copy for myself. There have been 11 editions of this, and it has been translated into 14 different languages, including some European languages too !! You can find a lot of his film songs in this book.

5. Other books

There are a lot of compilations by Prakash Pandit, like Shers grouped by certain themes or featuring one poem by all the great Shayars. These are neither great nor bad. There are some books in English too. Here the GHazal is presented in English script, sometimes alongwith Hindi or Urdu script and English translation is given. I personally do not like these translations at all. But the discussions given in the books can be interesting. My recommendation is - have a close look at the book and only then buy - if you are sure that you will like it.

6. Dictionary

With all these books, you will benefit a lot by having a dictionary with you. There are again many. From Urdu to Hindi or Urdu to English. Some give the words in Urdu script, some in Hindi and some in Roman script. From my experience these are difficult to find. The one I have is from Urdu to Marathi, and is published by Maharashtra State Govt. No idea, how to obtain it. There is one interesting 'Lughat' (transliterated dictionary) from Urdu to English, which also gives a few hundred Shers at the beginning. I saw it in a shop in CP, but did not buy, due to the price. (Rs 400/-)

But the top position goes to .........

7. Aaina-e-GHazal

This is a real treasure ! It gives meanings of the most commonly found difficult words in Urdu Shayari. It's NOT a dictionary in the normal sense of the word. But the words are arranged according to the Hindi Alphabet. The complete book is in Hindi and English script. It's written by Dr.Vinay Vaikar (a medical Dr by profession) and the late Dr. Zarina Sani ( a Shaira herself).

Some salient features of this book are.

(i) Meaning of over 7000 words.
(ii) Meaning of each word is given in 3 languages. Hindi, Marathi and English, thereby making the meaning really clear.
(iii) With each word there is one great Sher, to emphasize the meaning ! There are over 6000 unique Shers. This makes it a great collection of Shers too ! Most of the Shers, in this series have been taken from this book alone.
(iv) There is a superb essay at the end "GHazal Kya Hai" . The definition of Ghazal present in the FAQ is due to this. The essay of course has much more than just definition.
(v) There is an alphabetical index for the word-begining. This makes the search fast. ie. it's given at the begining at which page words beginning with 'ka', 'kaa', 'ki' etc. are.
(vi) I have the very first edition. In the later editions, I believe, sketches of famous
Shayars are also given.
(vii) Excellent printing, binding and paper quality.
(viii) I bought it only for Rs. 75/- !!! This was more than a decade ago. The current price is around Rs. 250/-. Still very affordable.
(ix) Jagjit and Chitra Singh have given a warm review and introduction at the begining.

Isn't all this very attractive ? If you buy this book, you will thank me for the rest of your life :-)

One problem you might face is the difficulty level of the Shers. Not all are easy, in fact the average level is quite high. But this is not a bug, rather a feature ! Remember that each Sher is a classic.

I do not know if this book is available in Delhi. But it should not be difficult to obtain it from Bambay/Pune/Nagpur. The publication is Amit Prakashan from Nagpur. So if you know anybody from Nagpur, you can request him/her to get a copy for you.


That's all for this unusually long article in this series. But Prince and Saitsh can perhaps reward me by putting this info in FAQ :-)

Since I must present a Sher, here is one, which is relevant to this discussion of books. It explains how Mir compiled his "deewaan".

ranj-o-gham = dukh-dard
deewaan = compilation of Shayari

ham ko shaa'ir na kaho, 'Mir', ki saahib ham ne
kitane ranj-o-gham jamaa kiye, to ik deewaan kiya !
- Mir Taqi Mir

I hope this amazing Sher sufficiently rewards you for taking the trouble to read such a long post. :-)

- Abhay.
ASAD _also_ stands for "A Sher A Day" !

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