A mesmerizing ghazal: Woh jo hum mein tum mein qaraar thaa (वो जो हम में तुम में करार था)

For those of us who listen to Hindi or Urdu Ghazals, there are undoubtedly a few special favorites we can never get tired of listening to. Three months ago, I chanced upon this Ghazal and since then I haven’t been able to take it off my mind. There were two whole weeks when I listened to nothing else but this (that ‘Repeat one’ setting is useful).

The genius of Momin

The Ghazal’s writer is Hakim Momin Khan Momin (1800-1851) who was an Urdu poet par excellence in Delhi. This time period was perhaps the peak of Urdu poetry in India, with poets like Mirza Ghalib and Zauq who are contemporary to Momin. (This was also a time of great political upheaval. Under the last emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar II, the 300 year old Mughal empire was ceding to full British colonial rule of India.)

Perhaps the greatest of them all, Ghalib, truly appreciated the genius of Momin. Legend has it that he offered Momin the authorship of Ghalib’s दीवान (entire poetry collection) in exchange of just one couplet of Momin’s. This couplet is the following enigmatic two lines:

तुम मेरे पास होते हो गोया
जब कोई दूसरा नही होता

tum mere paas hote ho goya
jab koii doosra nahi hota

You are close to me [as if]
when no one else is

The English translation does not capture the many layers of meaning in the verse. Scholars have been trying to interpret the meanings of these two simple lines above for a long time.

Want to listen?

The ghazal has been sung by various singers. Singers in order of my preference for this ghazal are: Ghulam Ali, Begum Akhtar, Usha Uthup, Nayyara Noor. The ghazal has also been sung by Madhurani, Pankaj Udhaas, Abida Parveen, Farida Khanum and Talat Aziz. Each singer brings out the beauty of the ghazal in different ways. I am in love with the Ghulam Ali’s version while I must say that Begum Akhtar’s is also special.
These are some YouTube links you might find interesting (wherever there is a live video of the actual singer, I have embedded the video directly, while for others I have only provided the link to youtube).

  1. Ghulam Ali Live:
  2. Another version by Ghulam Ali
  3. Begum Akhtar. This includes the poem in Urdu and its translation in English (also see my notes below).
  4. Nayyara Noor live:

  5. Also, by Nayyara Noor: with lyrics in Urdu
  6. Farida Khanum
  7. Abida Parveen

I had the youtube links for versions sung by Pankaj Idhaas, Madhu Rani and Chitra Singh as well, but sadly those links are not working any more. If any reader comes across these versions, please let me know.

It is worth pointing out that I have not been able to find any singer who has sung the whole ghazal. Most singers have unfortunately sung no more than half the verses.

The Ghazal

I will write the verses in Devanagari, provide an English Transliteration in semi-ITRANS, as well as make an impossible attempt at an English translation, which will remain necessarily impoverished. Unfortunately, I don’t know the beautiful Urdu script otherwise I would write the verses one by one in Urdu as well. However, the whole poem in Urdu is on Wikipedia.

1 (matla)
वो जो हममे तुममे क़रार था तुम्हें याद हो के ना याद हो
वही यानी वादा निभाः का तुम्हें याद हो के ना याद हो

vo jo humme tumme qaraar thaa, tumhei.n yaad ho ke naa yaad ho
vahi yaani vaada nibhaah kaa tumhei.n yaad ho ke naa yaad ho

[qaraar = स्थिरता, सुकून, stability, steadiness, contentment, understanding, agreement, deal
nibhaah = get along, stay/live together, loyalty]

That steadiness we had between us, you might remember or you might not
That promise of staying together, you might remember or you might not

[The second part of the verse (tumhei.n yaad ho ke naa yaad ho) is repeated at the end of every sher (couplet), and can be translated in many ways: “whether you remember it or not”, or “perhaps you remember or perhaps you don’t” or “you might remember or you might not”. It is also possible that Momin meant a subtly different meaning in the different couplets. The tone seems to be a mixture of regret, taunt, sadness, or even anger.]

कोई बात ऐसी अगर हुई के तुम्हारे जी को बुरी लगी
तो बयाँ से पहले ही भूलना तुम्हें याद हो के न याद हो

koii baat aisii agar huii ke tumhaare jii ko burii lagii
to bayaa.N se pehale hii bhoolna tumhei.n yaad ho ke naa yaad ho

[bayaa.N = speak out
boolna = forgetting, ignoring]

if some thing might happen, that was not to your liking
the forgetting before speaking it out, you might remember or you might not

सुनो ज़िक्र है कई साल का कोई वादा मुझ से था आप का
वो निभाने का तो ज़िक्र क्या तुम्हें याद हो के न याद हो

suno zikr hai kaii saal kaa koii vaadaa mujh se thaa aap ka
vo nibhaane kaa to zikr kyaa tumhei.n yaad ho ke naa yaad ho

[zikr = story, mention]

listen, the story of many years ago, some promise to me you had made
forget the mention of keeping that now, perhaps you remember it or perhaps you don’t

वो नये गिलहे वो शिकायतें वो मज़े-मज़े की हिकायतें
वो हर एक बात पे रूठना तुम्हें याद हो के न याद हो

vo naye gilahe vo shiqaayatei.n vo maze-maze kii hiqaayatein
vo har ek baat pe rooThanaa tumhei.n yaad ho ke naa yaad ho

[gilahe = dissatisfaction, resentment
shiqaayatei.n = complaints
hiqaayatei.n = stories
rooThanaa = to show or behave like being displeased]

those new resentments, those complaints, those light hearted and fun stories
that being displeased at every thing, you might remember or you might not

कभी हम में तुम में भी चाह थी कभी हम से तुम से भी राह थी
कभी हम भी तुम भी थे आश्ना तुम्हें याद हो के न याद हो

kabhii ham mei.n tum mei.n bhii chaah thii kabhii ham se tum se bhii raah thii
kabhii ham bhii tum bhii the aashna tumhei.n yaad ho ke naa yaad ho

[kabhii = once upon a time, some time, at one time
chaah = want
raah = joy
aashna = friend, lover]

some time there was this want in me and in you, some time there was this joy between me and you
some time we were dear friends, you might remember or you might not

हुए इत्तेफ़ाक़ से गर बहम वो वफ़ा जताने को दम-ब-दम
गिला-ए-मलामत-ए-अर्क़बा तुम्हें याद हो के न याद हो

hue ittefaaq se gar baham vo vafaa jataane ko dam-ba-dam
gila-e-malaamat-e-akrabaa tumhei.n yaad ho ke naa yaad ho

[ittefaaq = by chance, for some reason
baham = together
gar = if, when
gila = complaint
vafaa = loyalty
dam-ba-dam = every moment, every breath
malaamat = mildly scolding
akrabaa = very close, near]

if we got together by chance, to express loyalty for every breath
those complaints and rebukes to loved ones, you might remember or you might not

वो जो लुत्फ़ मुझ पे थे बेश्तर वो करम के था मेरे हाल पर
मुझे सब है याद ज़रा-ज़रा तुम्हें याद हो के न याद हो

vo jo lutf mujh pe the beshtar vo qaram ke thaa mere haal par
mujhe sab hai yaad zaraa-zaraa tumhei.n yaad ho ke naa yaad ho

[lutf = मज़े, fun, joy
beshtar = प्रायः,अमूमन, often, always
karam = दया, कृपा, kindness, blessing
zaraa-zaraa = bit by bit, every bit]

those joys that were often on me, that kindness on my being
I remember every bit, whether you remember or not

कभी बैठे सब में जो रू-ब-रू तो इशारतों ही से गुफ़्तगू
वो बयान शौक़ का बरमला तुम्हें याद हो के न याद हो

kabhii baiThe sab mein jo ruubaruu to ishaarato.n hii se guftaguu
vo bayaan shauq kaa baramalaa tumhei.n yaad ho ke naa yaad ho

[sab mein = amongst all ?
ruubaruu = आमने-सामने, in front of each other
isharaat = संकेत, मतलब, sign
guftaguu = बातचीत, conversation
bayaan = speaking out, saying (n.)
shauq = चाह, लगन, liking, interest, desire
baramalaa = खुल्लम-खुल्ला, सामने, openly, in front of each other]

sometime when amongst all, we sat in front of each other, that conversation with only signs
that open expression of interest, you might remember or you might not

की बात मैंने वो कोठे की मेरे दिल से साफ़ उतर गई
तो कहा के जाने मेरी बला तुम्हें याद हो के न याद हो

kii baat maine vo koThe kii mere dil se saaf utar gayii
to kahaa ke jaane merii balaa tumhei.n yaad ho ke naa yaad ho

[koThe = house
balaa = danger, calamity, problem]

when I mentioned the house, my heart said plainly
you said you don’t know or care, you might remember or you might not

वो बिगड़ना वस्ल की रात का वो न मानना किसी बात का
वो नहीं-नहीं की हर आन अदा तुम्हें याद हो के न याद हो

vo biga.Danaa vasl kii raat kaa vo na maananaa kisii baat kaa
vo nahii.n-nahii.n kii har aan adaa tumhei.n yaad ho ke naa yaad ho

[vasl = meeting, union
aan adaa = हाव-भाव, mannerism]

that fighting on the night of the meeting, that not agreeing to any thing
that saying no-no to everything, you might remember or you might not

जिसे आप कहते थे बावफ़ा जिसे आप गिनते थे आश्ना
मैं वही हूँ “मोमिन”-ए-मुब्तला तुम्हें याद हो के न याद हो

jise aap kehte the baavafaa jise aap ginte the aashna
mai.n vahii huun momin-e-mubtalaa tumhei.n yaad ho ke naa yaad ho

[baavafaa = loyal
aashna = यार, दोस्त, dear friend
mubtalaa = ग्रस्त, पीड़ित, आशिक, suffering, being tested]

whom you called loyal, whom you counted as your friend
I am the same suffering Momin, perhaps you remember or perhaps you don’t

Note that different singers have sung the first line of the last couplet differently — Ghulam Ali has as above while Begum Akhtar has “Jise aap ginte the aashna jise aap kehte the baawafaa’. In fact, Ghulam Ali sings the couplet “vo jo lutf ..” later than “kabhii ham mei.n tum mei.n bhii chaah thii…” Further all singers I could find have sung only part of the Ghazal (5 couplets at the most).

Its quite likely that I have made several mistakes in the Devanagari above and will be grateful if you point it out. In general, I will be extremely grateful for any feedback.