Anwar Jalalpuri, the poet who translated the Bhagvad Gita into Urdu verse, breathed his last on January 2, 2018 after a brain stroke.

I remember the bard not just because of my love for Urdu and the insightful couplets that he penned in the language, but also because of my love for Krishna and the beautiful Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb of our wondrous country.

Anwar Jalalpuri translated the 701 shlokas of Gita, spanning across 18 chapters into 1761 ash’aar or two-line couplets. Jalalpuri, not only kept the beauty of the Gita intact but in awami Urdu or Hindustani which is easier to grasp by the common man; he enhanced the surreal character of the text. He was also a renowned naazim or convenor of many popular mushairas including the legendary Shankar-Shad Mushaira that he conducted in December 2017 which earlier used to be conducted by Malikzaada Manzoor Ahmad.

There couldn’t have been a better choice than Anwar Jalalpuri to take charge of a mushaira that spreads the message of peace and love through the kalaam of poets from both sides of the border and where the exchanges are not meant to kill but to win the hearts of the other.

Anwar Jalalpuri's poetry exudes a simplicity which makes it even more endearing. A nouveau learner of Urdu would be able to relish his kalaam without flipping pages of an Urdu dictionary. My Godfather, Rajeev Lochan once said, "simplicity is the most difficult thing to achieve." This surely holds true for Jalapuri too when he wrote :

tum apne s?mne k? bhii? se ho kar guzar jaao
ki aage vaale to hargiz na tum ko r?sta deñge

( Meander your way ahead of the crowd
For the ones in front of you won't make way for you)

jal?.e haiñ diye to phir hav?oñ par nazar rakkho
ye jhoñke ek pal meñ sab char??hoñ ko bujh? deñge

(If you’ve lit up the lamps, then keep a watch on winds,
These gusts would extinguish all flames in a moment)

Some of his couplets also echo the transient nature of this life and one is bound to reflect on the reason of his love for Gita, through which Krishna tells the importance of being attached, yet detached from the world. A notion, that is reflected throughout the Quran too when it talks about the World and the Hereafter and striking a balance between the Deen-o-Duniya.

qay?m-g?h na ko? na ko? ghar mer?
azal se t?-ba-abad sirf ik safar mer?

(Neither a shelter nor do I have a home
From the Beginning till Eternity is my journey )

At a time when the world is laden with ethnocentricity, hatred and bigotry, Anwar Jalalpuri’s pen illuminates with Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb which is so unique to India and lends the country its syncretic culture and values.

Jalalpuri’s seminal work remains his translation of the Gita in Urdu verse titled Urdu shayari mein Gita. Krishna and his sermons to Arjun, compiled as the Bhagvad Gita has inspired many Urdu poets like Hasrat Mohani and the last king of Awadh, Wajid Ali Shah ‘Akhtar’ to name a few. The latter wrote Darya-i-Ta’ashuq and Bahr-i-Ishq and adapted them for the stage where the king himself used to play Krishna.

The more recent translations of the Gita by Hasan-ud-din Ahmed in 1945 titled 'Naghma-e-Uluhiat' in 1945 and which remains one of the most revered Urdu translation of the sacred text. However, it was Jalalpuri's translation that gave a lyrical and easy to understand flavour to the text.

It was indeed his labour of love. He wanted to do his research on the Gita as a scholar and even got enrolled into the Awadh University of Faizabad in 1982 for his Ph.D, but due to the expansive nature of the research and some personal obligations he couldn’t continue. But as he mentioned in an interview, the fikr-o-falsafa (concern and philosophy) of the Gita kept lurking in his mind and it took him 35 years to complete his dream project.

Though my love for Krishna and Gita dates back to a long time before Anwar Jalalpuri came out with Urdu shayari mein Gita; I must admit that my love for the golden words of Krishna has multiplied manifold after reading the Urdu verses. For example the verses 11-14 from Chapter 2 read as follows:

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???????????????????? ??????????????? ????? |
??????????????? ??????????? ???????: || 11||

?hr? bhagav?n uv?cha
a?hochy?n-anva?hochas-tva? prajñ?-v?d?n?h cha bh??hase
gat?s?n-agat?s?n?h-cha n?nu?hochanti pa??it??

(The Supreme Lord said: While you speak words of wisdom, you are mourning for that which is not worthy of grief. The wise lament neither for the living, nor for the dead.)

? ???????? ???? ???? ? ???? ???? ??????? |
? ??? ? ????????: ????? ????: ???? || 12||

na tvev?ha? j?tu n?sa? na tva? neme jan?dhip??
na chaiva na bhavi?hy?ma? sarve vayamata? param

(Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.)

???????????????? ???? ?????? ????? ??? |
??? ??????????????????????????? ? ??????? || 13||

dehino ’smin yath? dehe kaum?ra? yauvana? jar?
tath? deh?ntara-pr?ptir dh?ras tatra na muhyati

(Just as the embodied soul continuously passes from childhood to youth to old age, similarly, at the time of death, the soul passes into another body. The wise are not deluded by this.)

????????????????? ??????? ????????????: ???: |
?????????????????????????????????? ???? || 14||

m?tr?-spar?h?s tu kaunteya ?h?to?h?a-sukha-du?kha-d??
?gam?p?yino ’nity?s tans-titik?hasva bh?rata

(O son of Kunti! The contact between the senses and the sense objects gives rise to fleeting perceptions of happiness and distress. These are non-permanent, and come and go like the winter and summer seasons. O descendent of Bharat! One must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed,.)

Anwar Jalalpuri in his seamless style using simple Hindustani keeps the essence of the above verses alive while translating as:

Udhar Krishn, Arjun se hain Hum kalaam,
Sunaate hain ruhaaniyat ka payaam,
Wo kehte hain Arjun se, Ae Sogvaar,
Tu gham odh leta hai kyun baar-baar?
Teri baat toh gyaan wali nahin,
Kahin se ye sammaan wali nahin,
Jo gyaani hain, jeene par marte nahin,
Kabhi Maut se who darte nahin,
Woh kehte hain ye zindagi kuch nahin,
Ki Unke liye, maut bhi kuch nahin,
Ye Mit’ti ki kaaya haqeeqat nahin,
Badan ki yahan koi qeemat nahin.

Anwar Jalalpuri was awarded the Yash Bharti Award for his translation of the Gita . It was his firm belief in the secular, socialist and democratic nature of the Indian constitution and the soil of this country that on many occasions he was urged to make a point that tehzeebein or cultures don't clash rather wahshatein or barbarism clashes with each other. In today's times, his words appear to be of a soothsayer's and one is bound to reflect on his cohplet:

Na tera hai na mera hai yeh Hindostan sabka hai
Nahin samjhi gayi eh baat to nuqsan sabka hai

(Neither yours nor mine this Hindustan is everyone’s
If this is not understood the loss will be everyone’s)

Anwar Jalalpuri is no more but his words shall echo and inspire generations to realise the value of love and compassion and probably see that whether it’s the Gita or the Quran, or it’s you or me, we’re all a reflection of our Creator.

Tum pyaar ki saugaat liye ghar se toh niklo
Raaste mein tumhe koi bhi dushman na milega

(Atleast step out of the house carrying the gift of love,
You won’t find any enemy on your way.)