A Sufi Celebration of Life, Inspired by Urdu
Author’s Note : This series of blogs is, as the byline suggests, a Sufi Celebration of Life, inspired by one of the most beautiful and poetic languages known to the human kind — Urdu. Urdu is a native of Hindustan or undivided India — one of the 22 official languages of India, and the national language of Pakistan. Developed under the influence of Persian and Arabic languages, merged with Sanskrit (and Prakrit) roots; and born post the Muslim invasion of India, as a result of the merger of several absolutely diverse cultures and religions, Urdu is a symbol of the fluidity of our cultures, and how illusory our geographical, social and political boundaries actually are. In times torn by strife, intolerance and violence, Urdu’s roots in cultural solidarity (maligned over the years, but not entirely lost) are more relevant than ever.
This is a Sufi celebration — a celebration of love, humanity and values that seem to be losing their sheen. As a part of A to Z blogging challenge, every day, for the 26 days of April, barring Sundays, I will pick a word from Urdu starting with the alphabet of the day and attempt to weave a piece around it. And since Urdu is a language of the poets and a home for some of the finest poetry/couplets (ghazal, nazm, shayari and so on), these pieces will be riddled with my most favorite (and relevant) pieces of Urdu poetry (don’t worry! there would be appropriate translations).
Come join me on this ride, and together let us celebrate the beauty of life!
Literally translated, this word means ‘a beginning’.
Jo ho aagaaz mein behtar, wo khushi hai badtar
Jiska anjam ho achha, wo musibat achhi
— Daag Dehlvi
That what starts well maybe a happiness that is disagreeable
That what ends well is a trouble far more desirable
Aagaaz, however, is a far more expansive word — it is a concept, an idea that is barely encompassed by words like beginning. Even the word itself, like most Urdu words, is a phonetic joy. It rises like a mild mannered flute and crashes like rhythmic cymbals. It travels from the shallows of your larynx like a soothing wave, gradually rising towards its crescendo, until it hits your epiglottis and then, the harmony slowly dissolves into a pleasant lulling hiss.
It is a beautiful word.
But as I said, it is not just how stunning the word is, it is what it encompasses that makes it worthy of our undivided attention.
Aagaaz is a concept — a powerful symbol of the start of something momentous — a journey, literal or metaphorical, that can change your life.
Aagaaz heralds the beginning of a new cycle, the one that ends into an Anjaam, another beautiful Urdu word that literally means conclusion. Although, conclusion is woefully insufficient to define the sense of lasting finality that Anjaam conveys, tinged with just the right amount Karma. When you arrive at Anjaam of a quest or a journey or a project or an idea, you arrive at the place where you finish what you have started and/or reap what you had sown and/or get what destiny thinks it owes you. The idea of Anjaam is neutral to the idea of good or bad, except that it is dreadfully final.
The dichotomy inherent in the idea of Aagaaz and Anjaam is that every Anjaam, every ending is potentially a point of Aagaaz, a fresh beginning. And in the midst of this seemingly never ending cycle of beginning and end, are the choices and mistakes that define an average human life.
Aagaaz is not just a beginning. It implies and includes action. Aagaaz implies initiative, enterprise. But unlike initiative and enterprise that are requisite but rather dry and clinical success skills; Aagaaz injects a sense of poetry in these ideas. Aagaaz demands action, but it also makes way for the romance, enthusiasm and spirit of an enterprise.
Aagaaz preserves the beauty of an idea, the poetry inherent in every project, creative or otherwise, that we may choose to undertake. The idea of Aagaaz is a lesson in the importance of aesthetics, of romance, of fun, of thrill that is the beginning of anything. In a world that is way too driven by goals to take time out to celebrate great beginnings, Aagaaz is a reminder that no matter what the end goal is, a good start is fundamental. And to relish the beginnings is an art that one must master in order to make the most of the journey ahead.
“Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”
Lewis Carroll, one of the wisest and most wisely understated thinkers of our times, most probably never had anything to do with Urdu. And yet, if there is one instance in English literature that summarizes the idea of Aagaaz and Anjaam, it would be this quote from Alice in Wonderland.
The King’s advice to Alice is a gem we must all painstakingly remember. Because while Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland may be a figment of his brilliant imagination; our own respective realities are no less idiosyncratic, if not entirely as much fun. And one of the most important lessons to remember while we navigate the maze of our lives is to begin at the beginning; surpassing fear, hesitation and doubts; and be aware of the end, and know when to stop. Simple as it sounds, it somehow remains the most elusive, trickiest things to master in our lives.
Aagaaz always arrives with an acknowledgement of the inevitability of Anjaam or the end. And to know that in order to arrive at our desired endings, we need to find the courage to begin is about as important as to know that our time between Aagaaz and Anjaam is limited, and we ought to make the most of it, in every sense of the word.
Ability and a penchant to initiate is the core of all entrepreneurial spirit, innovation, creativity and development. Aagaaz is the seed of all growth, whether personal or universal. It is your very first step and is also inevitably your toughest step in any journey.
It is difficult to start, to commit yourself to a goal, to put away your fears and excuses and just begin. Aagaaz is what takes the most out of you. However, Aagaaz is also the element that drives the end. If you have managed Aagaaz, there is a fair chance that you will manage the Anjaam as well, and hopefully either to your desired ends, or something even better. And that is perhaps the greatest motivator to take up what you have been avoiding; start what has been pending; forget about the next step or the step after that and just focus on Aagaaz.
Start. And start now. Good things are coming. And all they need from you is an Aagaaz!
Maine aaghaz se anjaam-e-safar jaana hai
sab ko do chaar qadam chal ke thahar jaana hai
— Ahmad Faraz
It is my journey and I have to go from start to finish
Everyone else is but a temporary companion; with me for a mile or two, but then they shall all be left behind.
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