(English) The Extravagant Love-Pain Poems of Meena Kumari

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Today is the birthday of Meena Kumari – legendary movie star, actor, poet and queer icon.

From Pakeezah to Dil Apna Aur Preet Parayi to Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam, she gave love-pain a luminous, queen-sized portrayal. Her work affirmed the emotional experience of so many of those who were not part of the mainstream story of acceptable love as encased in heterosexual, married coupledom. In films she played women who dared to love differently, and love persistently, sometimes with self-destruction that bordered on assertion- a role mostly allowed to Devdas and Pyaasa type male lovers. In life, these figures spoke for all those whose love, families, social structures and gender or sexual identities, did not accommodate.

This was an experience present in her poems as well – an appetite for ishq and desire which was an appetite to be oneself to live a big life, sieved and relished through loss and pain. The impossibility of love here though was not about defeatism but really, a kind of social commentary.

Here is a small taste of her poems.

NAZM

Sach

Yeh Tulsi kaisi shan’t hai

Aur Kashmi ki jheele’n

Ki skis tarah uthal-puthal ho jati hain

Aur Allah!

Mai’n!

NARM ANDHERA

Dil ko kaise samjhayen ki ra’t guarzarne wali hai

Bas ra’t ki ba’t hi sari hair aur ra’t guzarne wali hai

Ukje di ke beganon’n mein

Dil bhatka-bhatka rahta hai

Chundhiane wali raushni jab

Is sa’m ko bhi sawnla degi

Dhundhaka ankh churaye jab

Tab ra’t ka narm andhera bhi

Ik aas sanbhak ke baithega

Lautega dil jo thaka hara

Waise hi akela bechara

Is ek akele dil ko ham phir kaise-kaise bahlayen

Ki ra’t ki baat hi sari hai

Aur ra’t guzarne wali hai

Bas ra’t guzarne wali hai

GHAZAL

Tukde- Tukde Din Beeta Dhajji- Dhajji Raat Meile.

Jiska Jitna Aanchal Thaa Utani He Saugat Meili

Rimjhim-Rimjhim Bundon Men Jahaar Bhie Hain Amrit Bhee,

Ankhen hansdi, dil roya, yeh acchi barasaat mili

Jab Chaha Dil Ko Samajhe, Hasane Ki Awaze Suni

Jaise Koi Kahta Ho, Le Phir Tujhko Maat Milie.

Maate’n kaisi ghate’n kya, chalt’e rahna aath pahar

Dil-sa sathi jab paya, bechaini bhi sath mili

Honoto taka ate aate, jane’e kitne’e roob bhare

Jalit-buhtu ankhon mein, saad

You can listen to Meena Kumari recite this poem in her own voice in this video

AAKHRI KHWAISH                                                                       

Ye dil ke dharakne ki a’waz – yeh san’nata

Yeh ra’t, yeh tanhai

Yeh doobte taro’n ki

Khamosh ghazal khani

Yeh waqt ki palkon par

Soti hui veerani.

Jazbate muhabbat ki

Yeh a’khri angrai

Bajti hui har janib

Yeh maut ki shehnai

Sab tumko bulate hain

Pal bhar ko tum aa jao

Band hoti hui meri a’nkhon mein

Muhabbat ka ek khwab saja jao.

You can read more of her poems in Meena Kumari the Poet: A Life Beyond Cinema by Noorul Hasan

You can read more about her in Meena Kumari: The Classic Biography by Vinod Mehta 

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