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Thursday, October 03, 2013

Ghazal maestro Pankaj Udhas, live in concert

Monita Soni

By Monita Soni, MD

Last Friday, I attended a Pankaj Udhas concert in Madison, Alabama with friends. For a die-hard romantic from India to listen to a live recital of this exotic Persian/Urdu poetry is a dream come true! My girlfriend was excited but her husband feigned disinterest. They are quite a devoted couple (to each other so to speak).

I was looking forward to the evening because I love the delicate weave of Urdu poetry. My dad educated me to this finesse at an early age. Pankaj Udhas was in great form!  He has a mellifluous voice akin to chilled wine or cold frothy sweet lassi on a hot summer afternoon in India. There’s one requirement: to partake of this treat one must be still. It took sometime for my companions to settle down. Our seating arrangement was askew. To avoid her talking over me to another lady, I switched seats with my friend but only to be placed next to her husband. As I garnered attention to the performance, he complained about flowerpots obstructing his view. Since the artist was singing, I just leaned forward into the music.

He sang “Sharaab cheez he aisi hai na chhodi jai…I was transported back in time to our living room where dad and his friends held “shairi mehfils.” Images of my dad’s Urdu books flashed in my eyes. I could never decipher the artistic calligraphy but thanks to dad’s oration, I still recognize a few famous couplets and was on nodding familiarity with renowned poets like Mirza Ghalib (Dil hii to hai na sang-o-Khisht dard se bhar na aaye kyuun…Roenge ham hazaar baar koii hamen sataaye kyuun…), Zafar, Faiz, and Muhammad Iqbal.

By now, Padam Shree Pankaj held our Alabama audience in the palm of his hand. Tum jo hasti ho…” from his new album ‘Sentimental” was well received. When he sang “Chitthi aayee hai”, I was completely oblivious to my surroundings. Floating with musical notes of a high-class orchestra, my breath was wrapped around a haunting bansuri.

Tabla drums echoed a pining yearning tempo of the vocalist as he reminded us of insurmountable distances separating us from our loved ones. In that moment we were far away, so far away from home and yet trapped in our aching heart. Too bad, I had to blot my eyes to prevent mascara-streaked cheeks for photos with the artist. If there were no cameras it would have been wonderful to cry my heart out.

I was very thankful for this special encounter with a master craftsman. Ever since my evenings are filled with ghazals. Their bittersweet tango of love “physical and metaphysical” is real, so in tune with our ephemeral existence.

Some of my all time favorite ghazals are:

Mehendi Hassan’s “Rafta rafta woh meri hasti ka  saman ho gaye.. Jagjit Singh’s: Tum itna jo muskura rahe ho… and Yeh daulat bhee le lo… Ghulam Ali Khan’s Chupke chupke raat din… Ghazal’s resonate Sufi poems Rumi and Hafiz like this one:  The Subject Tonight is Love

The subject tonight is Love

And for tomorrow night as well,

As a matter of fact

I know of no better topic

For us to discuss

Until we all


 To my relief and amusement my friend had stopped talking and was

 casting surreptitious glances (over me) at her husband as the ghazal “

 Chandi jaisa rang hai tera, sone jaise baal…” He was singing. I guess

 we all had a wonderful evening!

Monita Soni, MD -- A pathologist in Huntsville, Alabama, diagnosing cancer in her day job. Reading and writing poetry is a passion that splashes her literally with a sparkling abundance. She is inspired by great twentieth century poets (Robert Frost, Keats, Browning and Tagore) and ancient Sufi poet like Hafiz, Rumi and Faiz. Her writing style weaves eastern and western cultures. You can hear her commentaries on WLRH Sundial Writer's corner.

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