N.M. Rashid wrote what is arguably the greatest free verse poem in the Urdu language and a glorious statement to love and creativity. His poem, ‘Hassan Koozagar’ (Hassan the Potter) tells the story of the unrequited love of a master craftsman. Moving from art, artist, and a creator’s relationship with work to love and longing, this four part monologue moves across time, geographies and themes of human life with effortless ease and bejeweled language. Through the poem he addressed Jahanzad, daughter of the world, who he claims to have loved through nine years of separation.

There are many things one can pick from the poem yet we pick two: an eloquent and eerie description of passing time, and his ponderings on love:

“vaqt kyā chiiz hai tū jāntī hai?

vaqt ik aisā patiñgā hai

jo dīvāroñ pe ā.īnoñ pe

paimānoñ pe shīshoñ pe

mire jaam o subū mere taġhāroñ pe

sadā reñgtā hai

reñgte vaqt ke mānind kabhī

laut ke aa.egā hasan kūza-gar-e-soḳhta-jāñ bhī shāyad”

Time

Is the moth crawling,

On the walls, mirrors, cups and glasses

On my jars, pitchers and pans

Like crawling time perhaps,

Hassan the potter will return, his soul burning.

 

And the despondence in his language when he talks of why we love:

“Mere is jhoñpade meñ kuchh bhī nahīñ

khel ik saada mohabbat kā

shab o roz ke is badhte hue khokhle-pan meñ jo kabhī khelte haiñ

kabhī ro lete haiñ mil kar kabhī gā lete haiñ

aur mil kar kabhī hañs lete haiñ

dil ke jiine ke bahāne ke sivā aur nahīñ

harf sarhad haiñ jahāñ-zād ma.ānī sarhad

ishq sarhad hai javānī sarhad

dil ke jiine ke bahāne ke sivā aur nahīñ

dard-e-mahrūmī kī

tanhā.ī kī sarhad bhī kahīñ hai ki nahīñ”

 

In this, my cottage there is nothing

A game of simple love

We play

In the growing hollowness of night and day,

Crying, singing, laughing,

Together,

Just an excuse to keep the heart alive, no more

Love, youth, tears and smiles,

All have limits

(Have then the pain of loss

and isolation, no limit, no end?)

 

And finally, that resounding, universal question:

 

“tamannā kī vus.at kī kis ko ḳhabar hai jahāñ-zād”

Who knows the expanse of desire Jahanzad?

 

Full poem and translation here, read it in the Roman script here and quite possibly its best rendition here.

 

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