SHAYARIS: 4/5 THEME: 4/5 WRITING: 4/5 ENTERTAINMENT QUOTIENT: 4/5
Though I’ve read my fair share of poetry collections this year, it is only towards the end of the year that I pick up a collection of poetic musings written in a breezy amalgamation of Hindi and Urdu. Two languages that are known for their natural melody and lyrical vibe.
Having read the author’s debut collection, Ae Zindagi, I knew just what to expect – something good and promising. And keeping that in mind, I started reading Sweta Mandal’s latest collection Zeest-e-Zubaani, a book that speaks of hope, resilience, and much more.
Read on to know more about the book and my experience of reading it.
While the cover is mediocre at best, it is the blurb that appears promising. And while most other books merely explore romantic themes, Sweta’s Zeest-e-Zubaani accepts the ups and downs of life and celebrates it.
From the look of it, it isn’t a never-ending charade spinning rhetoric about an idealistic and perpetually blissful journey, but a practical yet poetic analysis of it. One which tries to capture life in its entire spectrum of joy, sorrow, pain, pleasure, hope, and despair.
To that extent, the blurb appeals to the reader in me, for it also speaks of powerful concepts of self-worth, balance, grief, persistence, and transformation.
What to expect?
In Zeest-e-Zubaani, expect a beautiful collection of poetic musings in a mix of Urdu and Hindi. Expect a short read (under 100 pages). Expect a book that will teach you a thing or two about life, love, pain, and balance.
Of self-love – Most of us mortal beings are unaware of the unbridled joy that envelops us when we eventually fall in love with ourselves. I love how so many of Sweta’s musings are about the need, process, and the resulting joys of self-love.
“Hum nafas ki talaash me nikle the Ghalib…
Zara sa aaine pe nazar padhi to rubaroo bhi ho gaye.”
These elegant reflections talk of moving on, moving ahead, outgrowing the limitations of self, breaking the barriers, and crossing over the boundaries set by others. So that one may reach the zenith, so that one may learn to fly and chase one’s dreams.
So many of these ponderings also talk of heartbreak and the pain of love, and the many lessons learned in love. They speak of the numerous times when the heart warns us, beseeches us to get over false pretensions and professions of love. But at the same time, somewhere deep down, it still clings on to the same old love that it wants to escape.
These ruminations urge you to never let go of your identity and dreams, no matter what the cost. Because, really, who has ever achieved happiness by hiding their aspirations?
Who has ever achieved happiness by sacrificing their dreams at the altar of life?
And for those like me, who are perpetually missing the land of their birth, their roots, their mitti – some of these musings are worth their weight in gold.
“Ghar se door melon chale aaye to ehsaas hua
Alag sa saudade hai us jagah se…
Maano har pal mukhtasar sa beeta ho.”
In these few lines, the longing for home is so intense, so painfully numbing, it seems that while you are stuck, life flies by.
These couplets are not just emotional but also practical and philosophical at the same time. They reflect a sort of wisdom that can only come from experience and pain.
One particular couplet that reflects this is mentioned below.
“Zindagi ka falsafa bhi ajab sa hai sahab…
Marham ki justajoo karte hue zakhm se dillagi kar baithe hain.”
Many couplets also talk about the joy found in solitude. What the millennials refer to as JOMO or Joy of Missing Out. Sweta talks about the same kind of joy that comes after accepting and loving one’s own company.
Another theme that these musings explore is healing. One such couplet that talks about the significance of healing reads something like this.
“Shayad wo toot kar bikhar jana bhi zaroori tha Ghalib…
Vo kya hai na khud ka shifaa karne walon ko koi tabah nahi kar sakta janab.”
While some others talk of death and its tragic permanence. The irreversibility of it and the perpetual source of pain it becomes for those who have lost someone special.
Sweta’s writing is mellifluous and her words lyrical, but the language is such that it requires a basic understanding of Urdu. If you are someone not familiar with Urdu, it would be quite a task to make sense of these rich words overflowing with equally rich elucidations.
As if the writer/poet anticipated this, for the benefit of such readers, including myself, she has conveniently provided the meanings of such enigmatic words at the end of each musing.
The beauty of Sweta’s words is such that you tend to lose yourself in them. But then, you also find yourself in them. And if this doesn’t speak for the writer’s talent, I don’t know what will.
One may read Zeest-e-Zubaani while looking for an escape from the dreary realities of life, but one may also read it when one finds life escaping them.
What could have been better?
I love it when a book that makes use of an Urdu-Hindi language fusion is also written (or printed) in a script I grew up reading, i.e. the Devanagari script. There’s something magical that happens when a book is also read in the script of the same language. And that magic is somewhat reduced when such beautiful writing is communicated through the Roman alphabet.
What do I strongly recommend?
I would recommend slow reading this beauty, understanding the meaning of each word, and then pondering upon it, until the very essence of these couplets engulfs your entire being with love and warmth.
Who would the book appeal to?
The book will especially appeal to those who have a penchant for words, those gentle souls who seek comfort in words, who seek love and assurance, who seek their haven in poetry and art, because a beautiful heaven is exactly what this book offers.
Even for those readers who look for perspective and outlook, Zeest-e-Zubaani has a lot to offer. It doesn’t shy from the ugly realities of life. For what is life, if not a journey rife with joy as well as pain. And if and when we learn to accept sorrows as part and parcel of it, life becomes much easier.
As a parting note, the author offers yet another heartfelt musing.
“Ateet se pare…
Mustaqbil ki ore…
Beech ka jo kuch taalaab sa darmiyaan ban jaaye…
Usi ka naam zindagi hai sahab.”
Can’t wait to read it? Buy your copy of Zeest-e-Zubaani using the link below.