“Baba” he called me, as he always does, while I was reading and asked me who the singer is of the gazal that I had introduced him to couple of years ago. He recollected the matlaa of the gazal as:
tumhaarey shehar ka mausam badaa suhaana lagey,
main ek shaam churaa loon agar buraa na lagey.
“Munni Begum,” I answered and a smile slipped out. The reason for the smile was the gazal being in my mind over the last few days.
I had entered the city late in the evening few days ago and as I was entering the city seeing a necklace of streetlights decorating the evening I had recollected the same gazal remembering someone who lives in that city. On the last evening, of this trip, in the city he asked me about the gazal and I smiled like a lover whose inner thoughts had been caught by a friend.
Playing the song of Munni Begum on his laptop, switching on a fancy speaker which illuminates while giving wings to music, he asked what other gazals I would like to listen. I requested him to play, “woh jo hum mein tum mein qaraar tha,” and “aye muhobbat terey anjaam pey rona aaya,” by Begum Akthar.
He queued the gazals on the player and asked, listening to Munni Begum, why I wanted to listen to these gazals in particular. I smiled again a smile which left a bitter sweet taste on the lips. Those were, I told him, the last songs that someone had sent me during our long long correspondence which became a story in itself.
Listening to my recollection of a distant past that still echoes in my heart endlessly he said, “kaafi sahi laDki lagti hai. kaun ending ko bhi itna romantic karta hai. sahi hai.” I smiled again and the smile left a bitter sweet taste yet again as Begum Akthar followed Munni Begum to sing, “tumhey yaad ho kay na yaad ho.”
Did she remember anything from the past? I had sent a text which revealed that I was in the city she now lives in. There was no response, as expected. I had invited her to come meet. She dint, as expected.
kabhi hum mein tum mein bhi chaah thi kabhi hum sey tum sey bhi raah thi,
kabhi hum bhi tum bhi tey aashnaa tumhein yaad ho kay na yaad ho.
“phir kya hua?” he asked. “kuch nahi,” I said and added, “kaash kuch hota.”
aye muhobbat terey anjaam pey rona aaya
jaaney kyun aaj terey naam pey rona aaya.
There was mist in the eyes. I had controlled myself all through the trip but the last evening became difficult because hope was dying every time and love wasnt.
youn toh har shaam ummeedon mein guzar jaati hai,
aaj kuch baat jo shaam pey rona aayaa.
How beautifully she had worded her interpretation of these gazals, which I now wanted to sing to her again.
That night he took me around the city on his scooter. Lonely roads, yellow street lights, cool breeze. I sat behind singing the same gazals that we heard back that evening. Tears took flight from my eyes. As I wiped them I wished the tears that held the fingers of the breeze wrote poetry in air which she would be able to read sometime while passing through that road some day in that city after I have left as my invisible letter remembering everything that once was and of so many things that still remain within me.
tumhaarey bas mein agar ho toh bhool jaao humein,
tujhey bhulaaney mein shaayad humein zamaana lagey.
We went to the beach and stood there as some unknown people were bursting crackers, a run through to the festival of lights. I saw my shadow scattered on the sand because of multiple lights. With no original and multiples around me I wondered what the truth is, like I wondered several times with only written correspondences between us, “does she exist in real?” recollecting the lines by Sylvia Plath, “I think I made you up in my head,” and singing the lines from Bombay Velvet, “merey har ek armaan sey zyaada chaahey rey tujh ko piyaa, kaisey karoon yakeen tu hai dilbar na koi veham piya, bharoopiyaa haseen kusoor kiya beharoopiyaa.”
“samandar zara peechey chalaa gaya hai shaayad,” he said as I stared at the waves running forth and backwards. “shaayad,” I said and looked for traces of waves on the shore which made it evident that the sea had retracted.
kuch iss adaaa sey mujh sey tu bewafaayi kar,
kay terey baad mujhey koi bewafaa na lagey.
The problem to get over someone is when there bewafaayi. It is just bad timing. Such endings feel like the sea that has retracted on some night and will come forward some day again. It always leaves behind an ambiguity such as “tumhey yaad ho kay na yaad ho,” which refuses to end, no matter how many times you tell yourself that it is a matter of the past and that the same wave never comes back to the shore.
You just live with some hope, the same love and the same songs and yes, the same bitter sweet smile on your lips.