Day 3

What happens when a group of invaders thunders across thousands of miles from one end of a vast and varied continent to another? Perchance, they find a land so beautiful that they decide never to return to that corner of the earth that was once their home? Could it also happen that there are multiple cultural encounters, not so much a clash of civilisations as a happy splash, a gurgle, a gush, a sweep and a swirl?
This was the 10th centruy. Wave upon wave of people was moving from Turkey and from central Asia towards the Indian sub-continent. Some were travellers, some traders. But not all came in peace. They spoke a language called chagtai, a variant of Turkic. On reaching South Asia, and on choosing to settle the land they had ostensibly come to conquer, the "invaders" found themselves using Faarsi (or Persian) which had been, for some centuries, the language of the royal courts. The local populace, however, did not speak Faarsi. It spoke "khari boli'', an older dialect, a direct ancestor of Hindi.
And thus was born the need for a language which would bridge the gap: that language would be Urdu.
More of that in the days to come...
Today's word is the one which makes the world go 'round: "pyaar", or love. It begins with the character or harf "pe" (pronounced as ''pay")

And now for a few lines from a poem written by that king of metaphysics, Ali Sardar Jafri:
Tuu mujhe itne pyaar se mat dekh
teri palko.n ki narm chhao.n mein
dhuup bhi chandni-si lagati hai
aur mujhe kitni duur jana hai
ret hai garm, paan.v ke chhale
yuu.n damakte hain jaise angaare
pyaar ki nazar rahe, na rahe

kaun dashte-wafaa mein jaata hai
tere dil ko khabar rahe na rahe
tuu mujhe itne pyaar se mat dekh.

Gentle reader, I tried, believe me, I tried to translate this lovely little poem from Urdu to English. But there's a delicacy of expression which completely resists migration from one tongue to another. How does one explain in English what it means for an Indian to be scorched in the heat of struggle, and then to find succour in the cool, starlit shade of his beloved's eyelashes? That which sounds evocative in Urdu sounds contrived and synethetic in English. So I'm just going to leave well alone, and state that this is a poem where the man tells his woman to let him get on with his battles....

Day 2

Urdu is la language with many mothers. It is based on a north Indian dialect called ''khari boli'' (to which Hindi also owes its origin) and was nurtured lovingly under the combined influences of Faarsi, Arabic and Turkish. It is written in the nastaliq calligraphy style which also borrows heavily from the Persian-Arabic styles.  

How did this come to happen? I shall tell you that in my next post.

Today's word "baarish", which means rain, comes from the letter "be'' (pronounced ''bay"). 

The word "baarish" reminds me of a couplet written by my beloved Ahmed Faraz: 
Warnaa ab talak yuu.n tha khwaahisho.n ki baarish mein
ya toh tuut ke roya ya ghazal_saraaii ki! 
Trans: Thus was the situation when hope rained
That I would either weep uncontrollably, or compose verses!

Day 1: the beginning

~ Beginning ~

The idea for this blog came from the 100 Days Project initiated by the wonderful people behind 100 Days 2011. The central theme is one hundred days of creativity, at the rate of a piece a day. This is a wonderful community of creative minds and I hope I shall be able to make valuable addition to it. 

I picked on Urdu for several reasons. One, it is a wonderful language (and you'll be hearing many paeans to its glory from me in the coming days); two, it has a wonderful script called the ''nastaliq", which is great to practice; and three, I will get to photograph and share what I learned and wrote in this wonderful language with so many people.
Hence, the title of this post - the beginning.
Urdu is one of my country India's 22 official languages. It has a rich history of which I shall post tidbits by and by in the coming days. In its formal register, it is called "The Language of the Exalted Camp", referring to the imperial courts of the Mughal emperors. It is a language of grace, of courtliness, of politeness and propriety. Its grammar constructs are formal, and often grand. Its subtle polish has had a long and wonderful impact on the literary and poetic sensibilities of the Indian subcontinent.
But more on Urdu a little later.

Here is my first word, in the first alphabet of the Urdu script: alif. The word I've chosen is ''aah'' which means ''sigh''.
Here is a couplet in Urdu written by the legendary poet, Mirza Ghalib with the word ''aah'' in it:
aah ko chahiye ik umr asar hone tak

kaun jeeta hai teri zulf k sar hone tak
(A sigh needs more than a lifetime to turn into hope realised/ how long can one live 'ere your tresses turn?)