Humour in classic Urdu poetry

आतिश-ऐ-गम में दिल भुना शायद
देर से बू कबाब की सी है

Aatish-e-gam me dil bhuna shayad
der se boo kabab ki si hai

The heart burnt in the fire of loss
Smells like barbeque.

— Mir Taqi Mir

Classic Urdu poetry flowered in the eighty years of the ascendancy of Lucknow: from 1775 when Asif ud-Daula moved the Awadhi capital from Faizabad and invited poets, architects and artists to the new capital, to 1856 when the East India Company deposed Wazir Ali Shah. Today’s most popular memory of this golden age is in the melancholy ghazal (which always remind me of the soppy country number in The Blues Brothers). The ghazal is a set of couplets called shayari. The shayari, however is a form in itself: often biting and satirical, and often full of sly humour. Here is one from Mir Taqi Mir (I’m afraid I can’t transliterate from Devanagari to the Urdu Nastaliq script).

From the tone of his poetry, it seems that Mir would appreciate the irony in his gravestone being bulldozed to make way for a railroad.

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Author: I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.

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