Book Reviews

Husn-e-Ghazal - Beauty of the Ghazal by Elizabeth Kurian 'Mona'

Urdu, I firmly believe, is one of the most beautiful languages in this universe. The language has an inborn musicality to it. When spoken, it is so pleasing to the ear and when written, it is such a delight to read! Urdu as a language is filled with so much tehzeeb (culture) that anything written or spoken in it automatically evokes respect, awe and wah! For the uninitiated, here’s what ghazal means in simple terms:

  • Ghazal is a poetic form consisting of couplets (ash’aar) with a rhyme and a refrain, with each line sharing the same metre.
  • The couplets are linked through a rhyme scheme with a rhyming word (qaafia) and refrain (radeef) established in both lines of the first couplet and continued in the 2nd line of each
    following pair of lines.
  • It is a short lyric poem comprising a series of about 5 to 15 couplets, each of which stands independently on its own as a poetic thought, much like the Hindi Doha. It does not have a
    heading as themes vary.
  • The tone of the ghazal is figurative and can be aptly quoted in various situations.
  • The metre of Urdu ghazal generally follow the Arabic-Persian poetic patterns·
  • Ghazal themes in the early times usually included love and longing, either romantic desire for a mortal beloved, or a spiritual longing for communion with a higher power (Sufi). Modern day ghazals include contemporary topics or issues too.
  • The closing signature couplet of a Ghazal often has the poet’s name or pen name, called Takkallus.

Husn-e-Ghazal’- Beauty of the ghazal’ – by the multi-lingual and multi-talented poet and writer Elizabeth Kurian ‘Mona’ is a unique poetry book in which every ghazal is presented in the Hindi and English scripts (instead of the Urdu script), accompanied by an apt English translation that appears along side each couplet (Sher). This facilitates not only great ease of reading but also enhances the reading pleasure.

The English translations do not strictly conform to the mono-rhyme (Qafia) or refrain (Radif) patterns that are an integral part of Urdu couplets. However, they hugely aid in:

i) A better understanding and appreciation of the original for a person well versed in both Urdu and English OR

ii) Sheer poetic reading pleasure and understanding of the original’s theme for those who do not know Urdu. For those who know and appreciate the Urdu language but can not read or write the script, having couplets in Hindi is a big boon. Poet ‘Mona’ has thus, taken the message of her Urdu ghazals to a wide cross section of readers. Can one think of a better way of serving the cause of Urdu poetry?

The poet has also added 5 of her exclusive English ghazals to the collection that amply showcase her command over the medium of Ghazal and the English language.

Mona’s ‘Husn-e-Ghazal’ has in all 33 ghazals with the couplets (ash’aar) in them ranging from 6 to 14 besides the 5 English Ghazals..

Each of the 33 ghazals has a unique refrain word (Radif) around which the couplets have been composed. For example, the first ghazal has the refrain word ghazal throughout and the ash’aar have been composed on the theme of ghazal! Sample these beautiful ash’aar (couplets) on ‘ghazal’ :

Ye dhule aasmaa.n par dhanak rang hai
Saat rango.n ki jaadoogari hai ghazal

It is a rainbow in the clear sky
A seven-hued magic is ghazal

Saath dene radeef aage aage chali
Qafiyo.n ko jo le kar chali hai ghazal
Refrain leads the way for guidance
Coyly follow rhymes of the ghazal

Bhaaye “Mona” na kyu.n uski ek ek ada
Woh hasee.n hai, bahut chulbuli hai ghazal

Are not its traits adorable ‘Mona’
So lovely and lively is the ghazal

The refrain word of some of the ghazals have been translated into English ranging from ‘aaj’ today), ‘aansu’ (tears), ‘rafta rafta’ (gradually), ‘zindagi’ (life), ‘phir bhi’ (even then), ‘baaqi’(remains), ‘koee’ (someone), ‘miTTi (dust), 'bahut’ (many) and so on. Mona has beautifully woven couplets (ash’aar) on each of these refrains on a variety of subjects that demonstrate her keen observation of the happenings around her, with love, separation and other emotions too forming part of the various thematic couplets. The best part is, read individually too,the couplets are complete and very enjoyable, which is a uniqueaspect of Urdu ghazals

Here are some classic Shero-Shayari of poet ‘Mona’ with the themes changing but the refrain remaining the same:

Baat hai sood-o-ziyaa. n ki har taraf
Khul gaya rishto.n ka yu.n bazaar aaj

Gain and loss is reckoned everywhere
Relationships are open markets today

Nafrato.n ki saazisho.n ko toD kar
Amn laana ho gaya darkaar aaj

To challenge the conspiracies of hatred
Essential is it to usher in peace today

Dil se nikle aah, lab se wahwa
Khoob hai.n “Mona” tere ash’aar aaj

From hearts arise sighs, from lips praise,
Magical are ‘Mona’ your verses today

(Ghazal No. 2)

Gumraahiyo.n ke moD pe laati hai baarha
Thokar lagaa ke raah dikhaati hai zindagi

Life often leads us to paths astray
First it shoves, then shows the way

Aati hai dhoom dhaam se dharti ki god me.n
Daaman bina kahe hi chhuDaati hai zindagi

With great pomp Life enters this world
But leaves it without uttering a word

Kya hoga aage aage hai “Mona” kise khabar
Qisto.n me.n hi kahaani sunaati hai zindagi

‘Mona’ who knows what future holds
Life’s epic episode by episode unfolds

(Ghazal No. 14)

It can be seen from the above couplets that while the refrain is the same throughout a ghazal, the theme of each couplet (Sher) varies in such a way that each of them becomes a stand-alone couplet – a unique feature of Urdu ghazal, that Mona has brilliantly presented in ghazal after ghazal. All topics of human interest have found their way into ‘Husn-e-Ghazal’ including humour and satire that come across so well in one particular ghazal titled ‘Mumbaiya Ghazal’(‘Mumbai Style Ghazal’) that Mona has composed in the famous Mumbaiya lingo:

Jab se apun Mumbai aayela hai
Achhi bhaashaa sab bhoolela hai
Ever since we have come to Mumbai
To good language we bid goodbye

Flat apun to banaayela ooncha
Phir bhi saDko.n par jiyela hai
We build skyscraper apartments
But lead our lives on footpaths

Garmi me.n milta nai paani waani
Baarish me.n ghar bhi Dubela hai
Summers deprive us of water
Monsoons flood our shelter

Tenshun kuchh nai lene ka ‘Mona’
Oopar waale pe sab choDela hai
‘Mona’, don’t worry, be happy
Just leave all to the Almighty

(Ghazal no. 18)

Some of the translated ghazals do not exactly conform to the Qafia-Radif norm, but do have a rhyming pattern that is interesting.Here are some couplets (ash’aar) in this pattern:

Aaj ka insaan bhi kitna baDaa naadaan hai
Apni barbaadi ka khud karta sadaa saamaan hai

So naïve are human beings today
To their own ruin they find a way

Bekhabar hai mukhtassar si umr ke maqsad se woh
Usko lambi umr paane ka magar armaan hai

Unaware of life’s goal is humanity
Yet its aspirations are for longevity

Koi Hindu ho ke Muslim ho ke Sikh, Isai ho
Ab to bas paisa hi sab ka deen hai, eemaan hai

Whether a Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian
Now money is everyone’s faith and religion

Shiddat-e-gham me.n bhi ‘Mona’ muskuraaye jaa sada
Ab to teri muskuraahaT hi teri pehchaan hai
Smile on ‘Mona’, amidst intense misery
Your smile now is indeed your identity

(Ghazal No. 22)

Mona’s command over the Urdu and English languages is commendable, as the couplets have a smooth flow and sag nowhere. For its sheer thematic variety, ‘Husn-e-Ghazal’ is a laudable effort. Here are some snippets from Mona’s five English ghazals that adorn the end pages of the book:

Challenges are the journey’s milestones
Success comes to those who dare in life

Friends and foes come not with labels
Of mistaking them, beware in life

(English Ghazal No. 1)

I crave not for gold, silver nor mansions
I only wish your heart’s domain is mine

Poesy is my passion, my refuge
Muse pens poems, ‘Mona’, refrain is mine.

(English Ghazal No. 4)

Here are five reasons why I would strongly recommend ‘Husn-e-Ghazal – Beauty of the ghazal’ as a must-read:

  1. The poet-translator Mona’s succinct preface titled ‘Ghazal ke Parwano ke liye’- Pages 17-20 in Hindi, and ‘For Ghazal Lovers’ – Pages 21-27 in English, provides not only a history of ghazal and its nuances but also valuable insights into what all has gone into her ‘Husn-e-Ghazal’ to make it easily readable and understood by the readers.
  2. For the uninitiated into the Ghazal genre of Urdu poetry, ‘Husn-e-Ghazal’ by Elizabeth Kurian ‘Mona’ is the best starting point, as it presents the Urdu ghazals in Hindi and English for better and convenient reading along with an English translation for better understanding and appreciation.
  3. Besides, on pages 28-34 (Ghazal me.n Bahre.n), Mona has explained the metric pattern of each of the 33 ghazals that provide further understanding of not only her ghazals but also a great learning on the ghazal genre itself.
  4. The ghazals themselves make for a highly enjoyable read with no high-faulting language and yet with interesting word plays.
  5. The sincerity of poet Mona to provide understanding and appreciation of ghazal comes across throughout the book.

The attractive book cover tastefully designed by Sushil Thapa and the excellent quality of printing further enhance the value and visual appeal of the book.

Husn-e-Ghazal’- Beauty of the ghazal’ is Mona’s eighth book of poetry including English/Hindi /Urdu / translations. It includes ghazals from her award winning Urdu anthology Kahkashaan.

In short, the book not only holds a mirror to the genius and sheer poetic talent of Elizabeth Kurian ‘Mona’ but also serves as a primer to Urdughazal for the avid readers as well as connoiseurs. All I can say is, Wah wah, Mona!

Go grab a copy of ‘Husn-e-Ghazal - Beauty of the ghazal’ today and revel in the highly enjoyable and delectable fare of Shero-Shayari laid out by Elizabeth Kurian ‘Mona’.

Book Information: Husn-e-Ghazal- Beauty of the ghazal by Elizabeth Kurian ‘Mona’
No. of Pages: 143, Hard bound
ISBN 978-93-5073-480-3
Price: Rs. 200/-
Educational Publishing House New Delhi
Author’s Contact No. & e-mail id for placing an order for the book: 09849183498,


More by :  Padmaja Iyengar-Paddy

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Views: 3471      Comments: 3

Comment Thank you very much Ramarao Sir for your encuraging feedback. Thanks Kulbir, for always supporting me.

Padmaja Iyengar
17-Apr-2015 11:18 AM

Comment Padmaja,

Commendable book review - my gratitude.

13-Apr-2015 11:07 AM

Comment a very good piece of writing, helpful to those who do not much about gazals
all the best

v v b rama rao
04-Apr-2015 00:17 AM

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