Saqi, April 1946

One of the most interesting covers I came upon while browsing through the British Library’s Endangered Archives project is the April 1946 issue of Saqi. The issue is the Urdu journal’s special humour edition. The illustration is signed by Sobha Singh, the artist best known for his paintings of Sikh gurus (several Saqi covers are signed by him).

Saqi April 1946. From the Endangered Archives Project, British Library

Saqi April 1946. From the Endangered Archives Project, British Library

On the top left are the opening lines of “Wataniyat” (Patriotism), a poem by Allama Iqbal published in the 1924 collection Bang-e-Dara (The Call of the Bell). They are found on a number of the Saqi covers. For some reason, however, the last few words are changed from (what I think is) the original poem (online, with a rough translation here), from the antonymous “lutf-o-sitam” to the synonymous “lutf-o-karam”. (Hover over for definitions.)

اسدورميں مے اور ہے جام اور ہے جم اور

ساقي نے بنا کي روشِ لطف وکرم/ستماور

Is daur mein mai aur hai, jaam aur hai, jam aur,
Saqi ne bina kii rawish-e-lutf-o-karam/sitam aur.

This round, the wine is not wine, the cup not a cup, the crowd more than a crowd.
The Saqi has set in motion new modes of pleasure and generosity/oppression.

All definitions from Platts Dictionary.

Published: August 15, 2015

Etymoetry — Champa


Published: June 29, 2015

Protected: Beva (بیوہ) (बेवा) (Widow) – Chapter III

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Published: December 4, 2014

Protected: Beva (بیوہ) (बेवा) (Widow) – Chapter IV

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Protected: Beva (بیوہ) (बेवा) (Widow) – Chapter I

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Protected: Beva (بیوہ) (बेवा) (Widow) – Chapter II

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Published: July 5, 2014

Rain words

Compiled from John T Platt’s Dictionary of Urdu, Classical Hindi and English.

āb-i-bārān (m) Rain-water.
abr-i-āẕur (m) A cloud without rain.
abr-i-ʻālamgīr (m) Rain clouds which cover a large extent of country.
abr-i-qibla (m) Clouds which come from the direction of the qibla; clouds heavily charged with rain.
idrār (m) Lit. ‘Causing milk, urine, &c. to flow copiously’; involuntary or copious discharge of urine, diabetes; hard rain; munificence.
akāl vr̤ishṭi (f) Untimely rain.
ālā (adj; f.-ī), Wet, damp moist, saturated (especially with rain).
amī (f) Water of life, nectar; water, rain.
āhar (m) Reservoir for collecting rain-water for irrigation, pond;—pile of cakes of cowdung in a furnace, fuel made of cowdung.
ايت ईति īti (f) Any calamity of the season (as drought, excessive rain, noxious insects, &c.).
باران bārān (m) Rain; rainy season.
باراني bārānī (adj) Depending or rain; (f) Land depending on rain, unirrigated land (in contradistinction to ćāhī); a woollen coat or cloak to protect one from the rain, overcoat, water-proof…
bārānī khet  (m) A field the irrigation of which is dependent on rain.
بارش bārish (f) Rain.
بارندگي bārandagī (f) Rain, raining.
بارنده bāranda (adj & m) Raining;—that which rains or showers.
برس बरस baras(m) Year;—raining, rain.
برسات बरसात barsāt (f) Rainy season, the rains (the third season, of the six, from the fifteenth of Ásārh to the fifteenth of Bhādoṅ); rain (in general).
برساتي बरसाती barsātī (adj) Relating to rain, rainy; belonging to the rainy season;—s.f. What is sown or produced in the rains; clothing or covering for the rainy season, or against rain; water-proof; apron of a carriage; portico;—name of a disorder in horses, the farcy (which usually breaks out in the rainy season).
برسانا बरसाना barsānā (caus. of barasnā) (vt) To cause to rain; to shower down, pour down; to scatter, sprinkle; to winnow.
برساو बरसाऊ barsāʼū (adj) Raining; pertaining to rain, pluvious, rainy; ready to rain, threatening rain.
برستا बरस्ता barastā (m) Rain.
برسن बरसन barsan,  برسنا बरसना barasnā or बरिसना barisnā (m) Raining; rain:
barsan-hār (adj) Raining; rainy; about to rain, threatening rain
برسنا बरसना barasnā (vn) To rain, be wet; to fall like rain, fall in showers, be poured or showered down; to be showered, shed, scattered; to shed or cast forth beams (of light), to sparkle, glow; to burst, discharge (as a boil); to be winnowed, be sifted (as grain).
برش बर्ष barsh, बरष barash (m) Rain.
barsh- (or barash-) kāl (m) The rainy season.
barsh- (or barash-) kālī (adj) Pertaining to the rains, of the rainy.
برشا बर्षा barshā (f) Rain; the rainy season.
barshā-bindu (m) Rain-drop.
barshā-r̤itu, barshā-r̤itu kāl (m) The rainy season.
بشٿي बिष्टी bishṭī (f) Rain.
بوچهار बौछार baućhār, بوچهاڙ बौछाड़ baućhāṛ (m) Wind and rain, driving rain, heavy shower of rain; drift, spray: baućhāṛ karnā, To shower, pelt down (rain); to raise a spray.
بوند बूंद būṅd (f) Drop; drop of rain.
بوندا बूंदा būṅdā (m) A large drop.
būṅdā-tāi dī (f) Small and interrupted dropping of rain; drizzle; distillation, filtration.
بوندي बूंदी būṅdī (dim. of būṅdā), (f) Small drop; small rain, rain-drops; droppings; a kind of sweetmeat like drops; comfits.
بهرن भरण bharan (f) Heavy shower of rain.
bīr-bahuṭṭī, bīr-bahūṭī, bīr-bahoṭī (f) The red-velvet insect, the scarlet or lady-fly, Buccella carniola (commonly called the “rain-insect,” as it makes its appearance when the first rains have fallen: it is covered with a downy exterior resembling velvet, and of a scarlet colour:—syn. indra-badhu).
پانی पानी pānī (m) Water (syn. jal); rain-water, rain.
pānī paṛnā (vn) To rain.
پاوس पावस pāwas, पाऊस pāʼūs, पाउस pāʼus (m) The rainy season; rain.
paṭ-par, paṭ-paṛ (adj & m) Level, flat; bare of trees, &c.; a bare plain, a desert waste; moist land caked by sunshine after rain or a flood.
paṭ-ā-paṭ, paṭ-paṭ (m) Continuous sound of beating, or of falling rain, &c.
پٿيرا पटेरा paṭerā  (m) The plant Cyperus hexastachyus communis; the reed or flag Cyperus papyrus; a long coarse grass (used as fodder for elephants, and made into mats, and rain-cloaks or hoods for the poorer classes).
پربرشن प्रबर्पण pra-barshaṇ (m) Raining, causing to rain.
پرجنيه पर्जन्य parjanya (m) A rain-cloud, thunder-cloud; rain; the god of rain.
پرچها पर्छा parćhā, pharćhā (part) Cleared up (as the sky after rain).
پسلا पसला pasalā, paslā A shower, torrent of rain.
pan-badrā (m) Rain and sunshine.
pan-kāl, paniyā-kāl (m) Scarcity of water, drought;—famine caused by excess of rain.
pan-mār (m) Soil submerged by floods and rendered unfit for cultivation; low lands where water lodges; a crop ruined through excess of rain.
پهڙپهڙ फड़फड़ phaṛphaṛ (f) Flapping (of wings); fluttering (of a flag); crackling (of stiff paper); pattering (of rain, &c.); rattling (of musketry), &c.
پهڙپهڙانا फड़फड़ाना phaṛphaṛānā (vn) To shake, shiver, to move with convulsive motion, to struggle, to be agitated; to flap (the wings), to flutter, to wave, to twinkle; to crackle (as stiff paper, &c.); to patter (as rain); to rattle (as musketry).
پهوار फुवार phuwār, फुआर phuʼār, پهونوار फूंवार phūṇwār (f) Small fine rain, drizzle; mist, fog; small spot or drop:—phuʼār paṛnā, (vn) Small drops of rain to fall; to drizzle
پهونہي फूंही phūṅhī, پهونئي फूंई phūṅʼī (f) Small rain, drizzle.
paimāna-é-bārish (m) A rain-gauge.
ترشح tarashshǒḥ (m) Sweating, exuding, exudation; dropping, dripping, distilling; sprinkling, small rain, drizzle;—adj. Manifest, apparent:—tarashshǒḥ honā, v.n. To drizzle (=phuʼiyāṅ paṛnā);—to be apparent, to appear, seem.
ترنت तरन्त tarant (m) The ocean; a heavy shower, a torrent of rain; a fog.
taṛāke-kā (adj, f. ī) Pelting (as rain); violent (as a storm); intense (as cold, &c.); noisy, bustling, brisk (as a business); loud, gaudy; brilliant, splendid, magnificent.
تشار तुषार tushār (adj & m) Cold, frigid, frosty; dewy;—cold, frost, ice, snow, hail; mist, dew, thin rain, fog, blight;—a crop that ripens in the cold season.
ٿپ टप ṭap (m) Covering, cover, the upper part or fly (of a tent); the hood (of a carriage, &c.); sound of dropping (as of rain, &c.); dropping, patter, drop (of rain, &c.).
ṭap-ā-ṭap, ṭap-ṭap (adv) With a sound like that of a dropping liquid; drop-drop, patter-patter; in continuous drops, in a shower (as rain, tears, bullets, &c.); one after another, continuously, successively.
ٿپکا टपका ṭapkā (m) Continuous dropping, dripping; a drop (of rain, &c., cf. ṭipkā); fruit falling when ripe (particularly mangoes), a windfall
ṭapkā-ṭapkī (f) Continuous dropping, dripping, trickle; a continuous dropping or falling off (as of fruit, or customers, or of men or animals under epidemic or murrain)
ٿمٿم टिमटिम ṭim-ṭim (m) Soft or gentle rain, drizzle; a soft sound; a sound.
ٿوٿنا टूटना ṭūṭnā to fall in torrents (as rain), be poured forth, be rained or showered copiously.
ṭūṭ-ke girnā (vn) To fall in torrents (as rain, &c.)
جوهڙ जूहड़ jūhaṛ, जोहड़ johaṛ (m) A pit or tank (not made of masonry) in which rain-water, &c. collects; a pond, inundated land.
جهارا झारा jhārā (m) A kind of sieve; Drizzling rain, drizzle (syn. jhaṛī; jhīsī).
جهاڙ झाड़ jhāṛ (f) Sweeping, cleaning, &c. (see jhāṛ-nā); a purge; a shower, continuous and heavy rain, downpour.
jhāṛ bāṅdhnā (vn) To shower, to pour down, to rain without ceasing.
جهالا झाला jhālā (cf. jhārā), s.m. Local rain, rain which falls on one spot and not on another close to it.
جهپاس झपास jhapās (f) A sharp shower; driving rain (see jhaṭās)
جهپٿا झपट्टा jhapaṭṭā vehemence, violence, fury (as of fever, wind, rain, or fire)
جهٿاس झटास jhaṭās (f) Squall, driving rain; gust
جهجها झज्झा jhajjhā, झझा jhajhā (f) A violent gust with rain, a squall, &c.; see jhanjhā.
جهڙ झड़ jhaṛ (f) A falling, fall (of leaves, &c., e.g. pat-jhaṛ); a shower, downpour, heavy or continuous rain jhaṛ-ā-jhaṛ, adv. In showers; heavily, incessantly, continuously (raining):—jhaṛ-batās, s.f. A storm of wind and rain, a squall.
جهڙي झड़ी jhaṛī (f) Continued rain, showers; pickings, perquisites:—jhaṛī lagnā, v.n. To rain continually.
جهکورا झकोरा jhakorā झिकोरा jhikorā (m) Waving, shaking, agitation (of a tree, &c., by the wind): gust, blast (of wind), current (of air); a squall, a heavy shower, driving rain; a large wave; a shove, push, impulse, drive.
جهکورنا झकोरना jhakornā (vt) To shake, to put in motion; to drive or beat (as wind or rain); cf. jhakolnā.
جهماکا झमाका jhamākā (m) Beating rain, a heavy shower; crash (as of breaking glass, &c.);—quickness, celerity, haste, dash, &c. (=jhapākā, q.v.).
جهم جهم झमझम jham-jham (m & adv) The sound of heavy rain; dashing, beating (of rain), steady downpour;—heavily and continuously (raining).
جهنجها झञ्झा jhanjhā (f) Wind, wind and heavy rain, a squall, gale, hurricane;—a clang or sharp clanking sound, jingling, rattling:—jhanjhānil (jhanjhā+anil), s.m. Violent wind and rain, a high wind in the rainy season, a typhoon, or the sort of tempest frequent during the south-west monsoon:—jhanjhā-vāt, s.m. Wind with rain, a storm, squall.
جهوسا झूसा jhūsā (m) Fine rain, misle, drizzle (=jhīsī).
جهوسي झूसी jhūsī (f) Fine rain, misle, drizzle (=jhīsī).
جهيسي झीसी jhīsī (f) Mist-like rain, misle, drizzle, shower.
چاتك चातक ćātak (m) The pied cuckoo, Cuculus melanoleucus (syn. papīhā, living, according to the legend, only upon rain-drops).
چمربرهے चमर बर्हे ćamar-barhe (lit. ‘That which increases the ćamar or ćambal,’ q.v.), s.m. pl. (dialec.), The rain which falls about twelve days after the end of the cold season, winter rains.
چوکا चोका ćokā (adj) (prov.)=ćokhā, q.v.:—ćokā-bāg, s.m. Seed sown immediately after a fall of rain.
چهاج छाज ćhāj ćhājoṅ meṅh barasnā or paṛnā, Rain to fall in torrents.
چهمچهم छमछम ćham-ćham (f) Sound of heavy rain; tinkle, jingle (of small bells, anklets, &c.), tinkle-tinkle.
چهمچمانا छमछमाना ćhamćhamānā (v) To sound (as falling rain); to tinkle, jingle.
چهينٿا छींटा ćhīṅṭā (m) Shot, spot, splash, &c. (=ćhīṅṭ); a sprinkle, a slight shower (of rain);
دڙيڙا दड़ेड़ा daṛeṛā (m) Impetuosity, violent attack; hard or pelting rain.
دهار धार dhār (m) lit. ‘Supporting, support’; a hollow tree inserted in the mouth of a well (in the Tarāʼī) to keep it from falling in;—a sudden shower, a sprinkling of rain;—end
دهارا धारा dhārā (f) A line of descending fluid, a stream, current (of water, or of a river, &c.), a channel, a water-course; a torrent; a flood; a hard shower (of rain)
dhārāsār (m) A heavy shower; a large drop (of rain)
دهوندهوکار धूंधूकार dhūṅdhū-kārs.دهوندهونکار धूंधूंकार dhūṅ-dhūṅ-kār (m) Heavy rain obscuring the whole heaven; gloomy or cloudy weather, clouds; gloominess, cloudiness, obscurity; desolateness; vaporization; evaporation; waste;—name of a game;—adv Heavily (raining, so as to obscure the sky).
رحمت raḥmat (for A. رحمة, inf. n. of رحم ‘to have mercy’) (f) Mercy, compassion, pity (=raḥm); divine mercy or favour, pardon, forgiveness; a gift of the divine mercy, a blessing from on high; rain
رم جهم रिम झिम rim-jhim (onomat.), adv. With a pattering sound, patter-patter (as rain).
sāwan-bhādoṅ, (m) Sunshine and rain
sāwan-kī jhaṛī (f)  The constant showers of Sāwan
سبل sabal (m) Falling rain (before it reaches the ground)
سرکي सिरकी sirkī s.f. Reed-grass, the upper joint of Saccharum procerum (see sarkanḍā); a inat made of this reed (used as a covering to keep off rain).
سناٿا सन्नाटा sannāṭā (m) Loud or violent sound, rumbling noise, clatter (made by wind and rain or hail, &c. at a distance), howling (of the wind), roaring, roar (of waves, or a conflagration, &c.); violent blast or gust; a dashing or driving (of rain, &c.); ringing, whizzing, whiz (of bullets, &c.)
سوات स्वात swāt swāt-būṅd or swāt (f) A drop of rain which, falling into a shell when the moon is in the fifteenth lunar mansion, becomes (according to popular belief) a pearl
sūkhe dhānoṅ pānī paṛnā  lit. ‘Rain to fall on dry rice-fields’; rain to fall opportunely; to get new life, to be revived
سيکر सीकर sīkar (m) Fine rain, drizzle
شيکر शीकर śīkar (m) Fine rain, drizzle; rain driven by wind; spray; mist; a drop of rain or water
طل t̤all (inf. n. of طلّ ‘to rain small rain,’ &c.), (f) Drizzle; dew; mist.
طوفان t̤ūfān (v.n. fr. طوف ‘to surround, go round, envelop,’ &c.), (m) A violent storm of wind and rain, a tempest, typhoon; a flood, deluge, inundation; the universal deluge; a flood or torrent (of obloquy, &c.); t̤ūfān-t̤arāzī, s.f. Deluge-making
غدير g̠adīr (v.n. fr. غدر; see g̠adr) (adj) Unfaithful, treacherous, deceitful, not to be trusted;—(f) A pool of water left by a torrent (and liable to fail); a place in which rain-water stagnates.
faiẓ baḵẖsh (adj) Bestowing favours or bounties, bountiful, beneficent, &c.; fertilizing (rain, &c.)
قطر qat̤r (m) Dropping (of water); falling in drops;—drops; rain.
kaṛāhī ćāṭnā To lick the pot (it is a superstition among Indian women that licking the pot brings about the ill-luck of a fall of rain on the wedding procession of the person given to this habit; hence, on the occurrence of such a contretemps the women abuse the bridegroom for having licked the pot)
kanyā-vāṇī (f) Rain that falls when the sun is in Virgo, September rain.
کهار खार khār (m) Rough or rugged ground; ground cut up by rain
کهوکهي खूखी khūkhī (f) A small insect that appears in wheat and barley after heavy rain and produces a red blight.
کهوئی खोई khoʼī (f) A hood-form covering of leaves, &c. to shade plantlets, &c.); a kind of hood (worn as a protection against rain); clothes folded up and put on the head (as a defence against rain, &c.).
gadhā-gadhī-kā biyāh (m) ‘Ass’s wedding,’ symbolized by sunshine and rain (cf. the English ‘fox’s wedding’)
ganda-bahār (f) Rain which falls in the cold weather
گولا गोला golā-dhār barasnā (vn) To rain a pelting rain, to rain in torrents
گهار घार ghār (m) Land worn away by running water; a ravine; clay soil in low situations (where rain-water lies for a time).
گهونگي घूंगी ghūṅgī, or घोंगी ghoṅgī (f) The tying the end of a blanket in a knot and so placing it on the head as a protection against rain; a hooded cloak or covering;—a cloth folded up and put on the head (as a defence against the rain);
لباده labāda (m) A cloak for rain; a quilted cloak; wrapper; great-coat; pelisse.
مزروع mazrūʻ (part) Sown; tilled, cultivated; under cultivation;—(m) A sown field;—seed-produce that is watered by the rain.
مسل मुसल musal long, heavy, wooden pestle used in clearing rice from the husk musal-dhār, (m) ‘The bearer of the club,’ an epithet of Baladev;—ʻclub-stream,’ very heavy rain:—musal-dhār barasnā, To rain very heavily. mūslā-dhār, s.m. ‘Club-stream’; heavy, or pelting, rain;—mūslā-dhār barasnā, To rain very heavily, or in torrents
مطير mat̤īr (vn. fr. مطر ‘to descend with rapidity;—to rain,’ &c.), (adj) Raining; dropping; rained on.
موچا मोचा moćā crops beaten down by wind and rain.
مہاوٿ महावट mahāwaṭ = H مہاوٿهہ महावठ mahāwaṭh (m) Rain which falls in the month of Māgh (Jan.-Feb.), winter-rain.
ميگهہ मेघ megha, vulg. megh (m) A cloud;—rain (i.q. meṅh);—name of a rāg or musical mode, appropriated to the rainy season, and last watch of the night before the dawn of day (said to have proceeded from the head of Brahmā, or from the sky);
megh-rāg (m) The musical scale megh, q.v. (it is supposed capable of bringing down rain from heaven):—megh-rūpī, adj. In the form of clouds; cloud-like; resounding, or thunder-ing; black and threatening:—megh-kāl, s.m. ‘Cloud-time’; the rainy season, the rains
megh-nād (m) ‘Cloud-noise,’ rumbling or thundering of clouds; sound of rain; thunder;—an epithet of Varuṇ, and of a son of his, and of a son of Rāvaṇ
مينہہ मेंह meṅh, and (corr.) मींह mīṅh (m) Rain; a shower:—meṅh ānā, v.n. Rain to come, or to threaten:—meṅh barasnā, or meṅh paṛnā, v.n. Rain to fall; to rain:—meṅh ćhūṭnā, v.n. To rain hard.
نمچی नमुचि na-mući and H. नमुची na-mućī, (m) Name of a demon slain by Indra and the Aśvins (lit. ‘not loosing the heavenly waters,’ i.e. confining the clouds and preventing the flow of rain):—na-mući-sūdan, s.m. ‘The destroyer of Namući,’ an epithet of Indra.
naw-jal, or nau-jal (m) The rain of the rainy season
نوڐ निविड niviḍ (adj) Without spaces or interstices; close, contiguous; thick, gross, dense, impervious (as a forest, or darkness, &c.);—coarse;—heavy, hard (as rain, &c.); sound (sleep)
نيسان naisān (m) Name of the seventh Syrian month (corresponding to the Persian Farwardīn, and the Hindī Baisākh, April-May):—abr-ě-naisān, or abr-ě-naisānī, s.m. ‘The vernal cloud,’ spring showers;—the rain which falls while the moon is in the mansion svāti (and which is beheved to produce pearls if it fall into shells, and venom if it drop into the mouth of serpents;—cf. swāt-būṅd).
وپريت विपरीत viparīt (f) Adverse circumstances; mischief; rain.
ورش वर्ष varsha, vulg. varsh, and H. वरष warash or warsh (m) Rain, raining; a shower of rain; sprinkling, effusion;—the rainy season;—a cloud;—a year (see the pop. form baras)
varshāvasān (m) ‘The close of the rains,’ the autumnal season, autumn:—varshāyut (˚sha+ay˚)
ورشا वर्षा varshā (f.) rain, a shower:—varshā-r̤itu, or varshā-kāl, s.m. The season of the rains:—varshā-vindu, s.m. A drop of rain, rain-drop.
ورشٿ वृष्टि vr̤ishṭi (f) Rain; a shower:—vr̤ishṭi-kāl, s.m. The rainy season (syn. barsāt).
ورشن वर्षण varshaṇ, (m) The falling of rain, raining; rain.


Published: May 25, 2014

Naqsh faryaadi (نقش فریادی) (नक़्श फ़रयादी))

Ghalib – I ♦


Against which artwork’s colour does the copy complain?
For each picture’s face is a paper covering, plain.

Of the hard soul’s digging — loneliness — ask not!
Like Farhad, carving canals for cream through rough terrain.

Witness for yourself passion’s unfettered zeal:
The scimitar blade drawn out, free from scabbard’s restraint.

Intellect: cast your nets of attention as wide as you will,
Meaning is phoenix-like in my discourse’s domain.

I, Ghalib, may be captured, but in captivity, aflame;
I’ve seen that nought but singed locks are the links of my chains.

نقش فریادی ہےکس کی شوخئ تحریر کا

کاغذی ہے پیرہن ہر پیکرِ تصویرکا


کاوکاوِ سخت جانی ہائے تنہائ۔ نہ پُوچھ

صبح کرنا شام کا۔ لانا ہجُوئےشیرکا


جذبۂ بےاختیارِ شوق دیکھا چاہیے

سینئہ شمشیر سے باہر ہے۔ دم شمشیر کا


آگہی۔ دامِ شنیدن جس قدر چاہے بچھائے

مُدّعا عنقا ہے۔ اپنے علَمِ تقریرکا


بس کہ ہوں غالؔب اسیریمیں بھی آتش زیرِپا

مُوئے آتش دیرہ ہے حلقہ میری زنجیر کا

Definitions from Platts’ dictionary.
Ghazal I on Frances Pritchett’s Ghalib page.

Published: December 23, 2013

Full Moon Night (پورے چاند کہ رات) (पूरे चांद कि रात)

By Krishan Chander ♦


It was the month of April. The branches of the almond trees were laden with flowers and, despite an icy nip in the air, a mild trace of spring had arrived. In the velvety doob grass beneath the lofty peaks above, bits of snow were visible, blooming here and there like white flowers. By the next month, these white blossoms would be absorbed into the grass, and the grass would turn a deep, dark green. On the branches of the almond trees, raw green almonds would flash like topaz gems. And the mist would gradually recede from the azure mountain faces. Across the bridge over the lake, the familiar baaing of sheep, kicking up the dust of the footpath. Then, all summer long, under those tall and lofty peaks, the shepherds would sing as they sheared the sheep of their thick, heavy wool, fattened all through the winter.

However it was now the month of April. The new leaves had not yet burst forth on the peaks [/tung trees]. An icy veil still hung over the mountains. The heart of the footpath didn’t yet hum with the sounds of sheep. Simal Lake was not yet brightened by lamp-like lotuses. The lake’s dark green waters kept concealed within its breast a thousand splendours, which with the onset of spring would suddenly ripple across its surface like laughter, innocent and pure. Buds were just starting to glint in the branches of the almond trees on both sides of the bridge. It was April, on the last dawn of winter, when the heralds of spring, the almond blossoms, awaken and send their petals swimming on the waters of the lake: sweet little boats that dance on the water’s surface and tremble in anticipation of the arrival of spring.

I had come via the forest side of the bridge, and I had been waiting a long time for her. The third watch of the day was over. Evening had fallen – the houseboats going to Wular Lake passed under the stony arches of the bridge. And now they appeared on the horizon like paper boats, delicate and insubstantial. The crimson colour of the evening crept from one side of the sky to the other, slowly changing from crimson to kohl and from kohl to pitch black — until the footpath, too, lay in repose, in the shelter of the line of almond trees. And then, out of the dead stillness of the night, the first star suddenly shone forth, like some traveler’s song. The chill in the air sharpened and its icy touch numbed my nostrils.

The moon rose.

And then she came.

Walking quickly – running – down the slope of the footpath. She came right up to me, and stopped. She spoke softly:


She was breathing fast; her breath would stop, then race again. She touched my shoulder, with her fingers, then put her head there. And the dense disheveled jungle of her dark black hair went tumbling down to the depths of my soul.

I’ve been waiting for you since the evening,” I said.

“Now night has fallen,” she said, laughing, “and a very good night, it is”. She put her delicate, tender little hand on my other shoulder and, like the branch of an almond tree heavy with flowers, she bowed and collapsed, as if into slumber, on my shoulder.

She was silent for a long time. For a long time, I was silent. Then, she laughed of her own accord, she said “My father came with me up to the turn on the footpath, because I had said that I felt scared. I’m supposed to sleep over at my friend Rajjo’s house today. Well, not sleep, actually, stay awake. All of us girls are going to stay up singing songs to celebrate the first almond blossoms… And the thing is, I was preparing to come here since the late afternoon. But I had to dehusk the rice… and this set of clothes was washed yesterday and today it wasn’t dry. I dried it over a fire, and mummy had gone to the jungle to collect wood, and she hadn’t come back yet. And until she came back… how could I bring these ears of corn, these dried apricots and wild apricots for you? Look at all I’ve brought for you! Oh, you’re truly in a temper. I’m here–look at me. It’s a full moon night. Let’s untie that boat moored at the shore and take a spin on the lake.”

She looked into my eyes. Hers were now lost in love and consternation, and I saw that they reflected the moon. And the moon was telling me, “Go, untie the boat and set out on the lake’s waters. Tonight it is the delightful festival of the yellow almond blossoms. Tonight she’s kept all of them – her girlfriends, her father, her baby sister, her big brothers [/brother] – in the dark, because tonight is a full moon night. The cool white almond blossoms are like handfuls of snow, strewn in every direction, and the songs of Kashmir are swelling like milk in the breast [“the songs of Kashmir are ringing in its valley like milk surging through a mother’s breasts” – Jai Ratan, tr]. And you’ve imagined her wearing that seven-string rope of pearls around her neck.” I put a scarlet, seven-string necklace around her neck and said, “You will stay awake all of tonight. The first night of the Kashmiri spring. Tonight, the songs of Kashmir will blossom from your throat just like the saffron flowers [crocuses] bloom on moonlit nights. Here, wear these seven scarlet strings.”

The moon witnessed all this, peeping out from her troubled eyes, then suddenly, from some tree somewhere, a nightingale struck up a melody. The lamps started flashing from the boats, and the low sound of singing rose up through the trees from the hamlet. The singing, the children’s chirping voices, the heavy voices of men, a strain of crying babies; the subtle taste of soft, salty fish, rice and kohlrabi leaves in the air; the full moon night with all its spring-bringing, youthful force… my anger melted away. “Come, let’s go onto the lake,” I said, taking her hand in mine.

We crossed the bridge and left the footpath. The line of almond trees and the low ground came to an end. Now we were walking alongside the banks of the lake. Frogs croaked in the undergrowth. The rough noises of the frogs and crickets and the bands [rushes?] turned into a sweet melody, a symphonic lullaby. Stationed in the middle of the lake, which was drifting off to sleep, was a moonlit boat. It was still, quiet; as if it had been waiting here for a thousand years for love. Waiting here for the love between she and me; waiting for you and your lover’s smiles; waiting for one person’s dream of another’s desire. Like a maiden’s body, expectant of the blessed touch of love, it had been waiting for the beautifully pure full moon night.

The boat was tied to an apricot tree that grew on the very edge of the lake. The ground was quite soft here. From the shelter of the moonlit leaves, the boat came clinking along and the frogs sang a little more slowly. The sound of the lake water repeatedly kissing the shore lapped our ears again and again. I put my hands on her waist and pulled her hard against my chest. The lake kissed the shore again and again. I kissed her eyes first, and a thousand lotuses blossomed on the the lake’s surface. Then I kissed her face and at once light gusts of a soft breeze rose up and started singing [sadaha] songs. After that, I kissed her lips, and the sound of praying rose up from thousands of temples, mosques and churches, and the flowers of the ground and the stars of the sky and the drifting clouds in the air started dancing all together. Then I kissed her chin and then the curls and coils of hair at her neck. The lamp-like lotuses opened and closed, like buds. And the singing, rose up, then grew slower; the dancing/swaying abated and came to a stop. Now there was just the sound of those frogs. Just the lake’s soft relentless kisses, and someone in a tight embrace, sighing convulsively.

I carefully untied the boat and she sat in it. Taking the oar, I rowed the craft to the middle of the lake, where the boat came to a stop by itself, drifting neither here nor there. I picked up the paddle and put it in the boat. She opened her bag, took out some wild apricots and gave them to me, then started eating some herself.

The wild apricots were dry, and sweet-and-sour.

“These are from last spring,” she said.

I kept eating them, and looking at her.

“Last spring,” she added slowly, “when you weren’t here.”

Last spring. I wasn’t here, and the wild apricot trees were full of flowers. At the slightest movement of a branch, these flowers would break off and scatter like pearls on the surface of the ground. Last spring, I wasn’t here but the wild apricot trees were fit to burst with flowers and full of green apricots – hard, sour apricots that are eaten with salt and spices, causing the tongue to tingle and the nose to start running. Still, they would be eaten. Last spring, I wasn’t here when the green apricots turned yellow and golden and red. When the red buds swayed joyfully on every branch, and innocent, sparkling eyes, filling with delight, would watch them sway and start to dance. Last spring, I wasn’t here when beautiful hands collected these red apricots. When beautiful lips sucked their fresh juice. The apricots were set out on the roofs of homes to dry. One spring would pass and another would be just arriving by the time I came to take pleasure in their delicious taste.

After eating these wild apricots we ate the dried khubani apricots. At first, these do not seem very sweet, but as they dissolve in the saliva, they fill the mouth with flavours of honey and sugar.

“These are very soft and very sweet,” I said.

She broke a pit with her teeth, took out the apricot kernel and gave it to me. “Eat.”

The seed was sweet, like an almond.

“I’ve never eaten apricots like this,” I said.

“These are from a tree in our courtyard. There’s just one apricot tree at our place, but the apricots it gets are so big, red and sweet that, that I can’t even describe it! All my girlfriends gather together when the apricots ripen. And when they feed someone apricots they say… ‘last spring…’”

Last spring, I thought, when I wasn’t here, but the apricot tree was standing in the courtyard just the same. Last spring, when the tree filled with tender leaves, then, hanging amongst them, a few green, tapered apricot fruit, their seeds newly created. These unripe fruit made a good chutney to go with the afternoon meal. Last spring, I wasn’t here and the apricots bore their stones. And the colour of the fruit began to turn light golden. Inside the pits, the soft seeds surpassed even the green almonds in taste. Last spring, I wasn’t here, but those red, red apricots were — as comely of complexion as the maidens of Kashmir, and just as juicy. Glimpses of them would be visible through the swaying of the thick green leaves and then the girls, rejoicing, would start dancing in the courtyard. Her little brother climbs the tree and plucks apricots; he throws them down to his sister’s friends. How sweet were these juice-filled apricots of last spring. When I was not here…

The apricots were finished and she took out an ear of corn. It had a fragrant, earthy perfume. The golden roasted corn had crunchy kernels, clear and transparent with a lustre like burnt pearls, and was incredibly sweet in taste.

“These are ears of sweet corn [misri makai],” she said.

“Amazingly sugary,” I replied, while biting the cob.

“It’s saved from the last harvest,” she said, “hidden inside the house, out of sight of mother’s watchful eye.”

Eating the corn from one side, I left some rows of kernels, then she ate from the same place and left some rows for me. We both ate from the same cob in this fashion. I thought how sweet these ears of sweet corn were. This corn from the last harvest, when I, however, was not here. When your father plowed the fields; when he hoed and sowed; and when the clouds gave rain. Out of the earth grew little shoots of many shades of green, which you weeded. Then the plants grew big and sprouted little heads on top. They began to wave in the wind and you would go to look at those green ears of corn. I wasn’t there, but kernels were forming within those ears. Kernels full of milk, with skin so thin that the slightest touch of a fingernail would cause the milk to come out. The earth nourished such tender, vulnerable cobs and then the juice matured and the corn became strong and hearty, firm and ripe. Nothing would happen to it now if you put your nail to it – it’s more likely your fingernail would break. The corn silk, at first yellow, now turned golden, then finally dusky and dark. The ears of corn turned brown, like the colour of the land. I hadn’t come then. But threshing floors were set up in the fields and the oxen walked on them and separated the kernels from the corn. And you sang songs of love with your friends, and set aside a few cobs, roasted them and hid them away. I wasn’t here, but this earth was; there was this creation, there were love songs, there was corn, roasted on the fire. But I wasn’t here.

I looked at her, with happiness. “Now, on the full moon night, it’s as if every matter has been resolved,” I said. “Last night wasn’t complete, but tonight is.”

She put the ear of corn to my mouth. The warm salty touch of her lips was still on it. “Shall I kiss you?” I asked.

“Shh! The boat will sink,” she said.

“So what do we do?”

“Let it sink,” she said.


That full moon night still has a hold over me. I’m about 70 years old now, but that full moon night still sparkles in my memory, as if it were just yesterday. I couldn’t ever have loved anyone so purely. She, too, could not have loved like that again. It was something else, that magic, which brought us together on a full moon night and left us in such at state that afterwards she didn’t return home but came away with me that very night. We spent five or six days lost in love, dallying and wandering about here and there like children: on the edge of the jungle, by rivers and streams, in the shade of the walnut trees, forgetting the world and everything in it.

I bought a smallish house on the lake shore and we moved into it. After about a month, I went to Srinagar, telling her I’d be back on the third day after my departure. When I returned, I saw her, deep in an intimate conversation with some young fellow. They were eating from the same dish, putting morsels of food into each other’s mouths. They were laughing. I saw them, but they didn’t see me – they were so wrapped up in their happiness that they didn’t notice me there.

This must be last spring’s lover, I realized, or the one from the spring before that. When I wasn’t here. In how many springs to come will love, like a promiscuous woman, lose control, strip naked and start to dance? Today, the autumn that follows every spring has come to your house, I thought. Now what work do you have here? With these thoughts in mind, I left in that state, without meeting them. And I never again met my first spring.

Now, after forty-eight years, I have returned. My sons are with me; my wife is dead. But my sons’ wives and their children are with me, and our travels have brought us all to the shores of Simal Lake, and it is the month of April. Late afternoon has turned to evening and I have been standing by the side of the bridge, looking at the line of almond trees for a long time. The clusters of white buds are waving in the cool breeze. There is no [?] sound of familiar footsteps on the dust of the footpath. A pretty girl, a little bag clutched in her hand, scurries across the bridge and my heart skips a beat. On the far side, from amongst the trees, a woman calls to her husband to come for dinner. The birds have been making a racket; they suddenly flutter their feathers in the dense branches of the trees and then, all at once, fall silent. That must be some boatman singing. His humming floats away toward the horizon.

I cross the bridge and walk ahead; my sons, their wives and their children behind me in their own separate groups. Here the line of trees comes to an end, and the low ground too. I am at the edge of the lake. This is the apricot tree, but how big it has become! But the boat – this is a boat, but is it the same boat? Up ahead is the house. That house of my first spring, my love of the full moon night.

There is light in the house and the sounds of children; someone starts singing in a deep voice. An old woman shrilly shuts him up. I consider. It has been half a century since I have seen this house. There is such confusion on seeing it. But I did buy it, after all; in truth, I am even now its owner. Seeing it has indeed presented a dilemma. I go inside the house.

A couple of cute children. A young woman, serving food into a plate for her husband. She sees me and falters. Two boys are fighting; they fall silent in surprise. The old woman stops short, mid-scold. She comes right up to me. “Who are you?”

I say, “This is my house”.

“Right, right, it’s your father’s house,” she says sarcastically.

“No. Not my father’s, it’s mine. It’s been some 48 years since I bought it. Now, well, I’ve just come to see it, just like that. I haven’t come to kick you people out. This house, well, treat it is as your own. I’m just here…” having said this much, I start to turn back. The old woman’s fingers clench tightly into a fist. She takes a breath, inhaling sharply. “So it’s you,” she said. “Now, after so many years… how could anyone recognize…?”

She stands frozen in silence for a long time. I stand in the courtyard below, quietly gazing at her. Then she laughs of her own accord. “Come,” she says, “I’ll introduce you to my household… See, this is my eldest son. This one is younger than him, this is the older one’s wife. This is my eldest grandson – say hello, son. My granddaughter… This is my husband, shh, don’t wake him. He’s had a fever since the day before. Let him sleep…”

Then she asks, “What can I offer you?”

I notice, hanging from a peg on the wall, ears of corn: roasted, transparent golden kernels with the lustre of pearls.

We both smile.

“Most of my teeth have fallen out,” she says. “The ones I do have don’t really work.”

“I’m in the same condition,” I say.  “I can’t eat corn.”

Seeing me go into the house, my family members have also come inside. There is now rather a bustle. Very quickly, the children start mingling with each other.

Gradually, the two of us drift outside. Slowly, we walk to the edge of the lake.

“I waited for you for six years,” she says. “Why didn’t you come back that day?”

“I came,” I say. “But I saw you with some other young man, so I left again.”

“What are you saying?”

“Yes… you were sharing a meal with him. From one plate. He was putting morsels of food into your mouth and you into his.”

She is silent. Then she begins to laugh loudly.

“What happened?” I ask, suprised.

“Arrey, that was my brother!”

Then she starts laughing even harder. “He had come to meet me. You were also supposed to come that day. He was about to leave – I stopped him so that he could meet you. And then you never showed up.”

Suddenly, she is serious. “I waited for you — six years. After you left, God gave me a son. Your son. But after a year, he too died. For four more years, I watched for your return. But you didn’t come and I got married.”

Two children come outside. Lost in their own game, the boy is feeding the girl an ear of corn.

“That’s my grandson,” she says.

“That’s my granddaughter…”

They run far away along the banks of the lake, two beautiful picture albums of life. We watch them for a long while. She comes and stands next to me and says, “I’m glad that you’ve come today. I’ve made my whole life now. I have seen all its happiness and sadness. My home is prospering. And today you have come too, and I don’t feel the slightest sorrow.”

“That is just how I feel,” I say. “I used to think I would never again meet you in life. So, for so many years, I never returned here. But now that I have come I don’t feel even the slightest bit bad.”

We are both silent. The playful children return to us. She picks up my granddaughter, I her grandson. She kisses my granddaughter, I kiss her grandson, and we look at each other with happiness. The moon is shining in her eyes and it’s saying, in delighted surprise, “A person dies, but not life itself. Spring comes to an end. But then another spring comes along. Many little loves also finish off. But life’s great, true love is established forever. Neither of you were here last spring; you both witnessed this spring; but you won’t be here in the next one. But life will still be there, and love too, and beauty, and innocence, and grace.”

The children want to play with each other and climb down from our laps. They run to the apricot tree, where the boat is tied.

“Is that the same tree?” I ask.

“No,” she smiles, “it’s a different one.”

Translated from Urdu, from Azaadi Ke Baad: Urdu Afsaane.

Published: April 25, 2013