by Chris Mooney-Singh
- (pronounced saaqi): A male character, usually a young boy; the
beloved, the bar-tender, the cup-bearer, a page of the court who comes and
pours the wine during a mehfil. The presence of Saqi listed in the dramatis
personae associated with Urdu and Persian literary culture implies a
homosexual tendency in the once male-dominated traditional literary scene.
Ghazal couplets often invoke Saqi who has taken on metaphoric or
mythological status starting from ancient Persian times.
- a comic use of the ghazal form, also known as mazaahiyaa or
mazaakiyaa shaayari. It is a highly popular form of light verse in Urdu
- (pron: mishra) a line of a couplet or a longer verse is called a misra. In a
couplet, the first line is called misra-e-oolaa and the second line is
- (pron: shey-r): a couplet. Each couplet represents a single idea and is
complete in itself. The plural of sher is ashaar.
- Beher (or bahar)
- (pron: be-hair) poetic metre. Both lines of a sher (couplet) have to be of
the same 'beher' or 'metre'. Also, all the couplets (ashaar) of a ghazal
must use the same metre. There are 19 different metres that are used in Urdu
poetry. In simple terms, they are divided into three categories - short,
medium and long. In addition, despite his good efforts in widening awareness
of the strict ghazal form in English, Agha Shahid Ali stopped short of
introducing metre as an integral part of traditional ghazal pratice which
weakened his case for writing the 'pure ghazal' compared with free verse
- (pron. mai-hafil) using a very light 'a') an informal soiree, an
'art-party' most commonly held in a home. The word 'mehfil' has a deep
metaphorical resonance in Urdu literary culture and is often referred to as
a place where the poet sees from across the room the 'love-object' who may
have been (traditionally) a veiled woman. Most likely, she would have been a
member of the host's family. Talking casually with a woman in this situation
would have been socially unacceptable, thus there is always an air of
mystery and romantic excitement about a mehfil. Another common kind of
mehfil would have been held in a courtesan's house. Mehfil is a broader term
than 'mushaira': a symposium or gathering of poets where they are invited to
recite their poems.
- (pron: w or v+ah!) 'wow, wonderful, great, excellent!' Those listening
ghazals at a 'mehfil' or more formally a 'mushaira' don't clap in
appreciation, but answer with a chorus of wah-wah! wah-wah! This can happen
after the rendition of any particularly appreciated couplet (sher). Clapping
is regarded at a rather crude mood-breaker. They can also respond with kya
baad hai! Hindi or Urdu for 'What about that!' meaning 'There's no words to
describe it!' another term of praise or appreciation. It should be noted
that the audience interact more during a ghazal gathering than is common
during the contemporary English-language poetry reading (except for a poetry
slam perhaps). The audience can also request for the couplet to be repeated
at that moment, so all can savour it again. This is one of the most charming
qualities I have observed at gatherings.
- (ghazal+kar) - one who writes ghazals.
a word meaning 'love' or often 'the object of love'; a personified form equivalent to 'eros'; ishq is a term originating from Sufi mysticism. From my understanding, one's ishq may be equated with the 'higher self',
pir (pron: peer), guru, icon or idealized form used for devotional meditation. It
is said that those experiencing a high inner state may visualize their
ishq like a shadow mirroring their every action. They can converse with
it, can be instructed by it and eventually the ishq merges with the lower
self, and thus lover and beloved become One, a consciousness in divine
union. ishq in literary usage has different levels of meaning depending on
context. In my poem bearing the term as a radif, Ishq is referred to as a
place somewhere on the Silk Road. Of course, there is no actual hamlet or
village (to my knowledge). It is simply a way of creating a metaphorical way
of discussing the tradition of ishq referred to in traditional ghazals and
Indo-Persian literary culture.
- Sanskrit term for a small or personal Hindu altar; the act of devotional worship, ie doing puja.