Chaand — Of The Moon, The Glory, The Melancholy And Life
A Sufi Celebration of Life, Inspired by Urdu
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Chaand Ke Saath Kai Dard Puraane Nikle
Kitne Gham The Jo Tere Gham Ke Bahane Nikle
— Amjad Islam Amjad
As the moon rose in the sky, many old heartaches came to the fore
Uncountable sorrows came alive, hidden beneath the excuse of the sorrow of my longing for you
I know there is a whole list of recommendations and suggestions that I have to work through in this series. And I will. I promise.
But first, let’s talk about the one idea that I have been dying to write about, one of my all time favorite words, and which should have been there under ‘C’ but missed out narrowly to Chashm-e-Baddoor.
Oh so narrowly.
It is the single most fascinating muse that seems to be a permanent fixture in most Urdu poets’ repertoire; the one idea that is larger, much larger than the astral entity it stands for.
In this case, that is saying something.
Literally translated, Chaand means the Moon. That white little globe of light that follows our planet around like a lovesick beau; a satellite, or so the scientists would have us believe or a long lost relative(Chanda Mama or Uncle Moon, as the kids in this part of the World call it) if you want to believe Grandma’s favorite fairy tale.
Chaand is that Moon. But it is also so much more. So, so much more.
Chaand is the metaphor extraordinaire, a stand-in for so many ideas, it should be having a raging identity crisis.
But it doesn’t. Instead, it swells and soars and somehow manages to encompass every idea, every emotion, every feeling, every longing, every desire, every ambition, every passion, every love, every loss, every appreciation, every scorn, every heartache, every pain, that lights up in the eyes of its beholder.
No wonder, Urdu poets managed to find Chaand in the face of their beloved as easily as they found its shredded pieces in the cruelty of this world.
Kal Chaudhvi Ki Raat Thi, Shab Bhar Raha Charcha Tera
Kuchne Kaha Wo Chaand Hai, Kuchne Kaha Chehra Tera
— Ibne Insha
It was a full moon night, and the night echoed with conversations about you
Some said it was the moon, some said it was your visage
Chaand is the Moon that we reach for when we are chasing material and spiritual success. But, somehow, that Moon never becomes the Chaand that is the cold fire that consumes and destroys its lover from within.
Kisne Chaukhat Pe Chaand Rakha Tha
Humko Thokar Wahan Lagi Kaise
Who left the Moon at this doorstep
How did we stumble upon it here
Chaand is the Moon that kids believe is the land of the fairies. But the Moon never becomes Chaand, the metaphorical fairy that love struck eyes think their beloved is.
Ek tahni pe chaand tika tha
Main ye samjha tum baithe ho
— Bashir Badr
The moon rested next to a branch
And I thought, it was you sitting there
As an aside, I have always found the above lines from a famous Jagjit Singh ghazal unintentionally funny. Goya (meaning : as if) the beloved in question is in the habit of climbing trees and sitting on the branches. Unless of course, the beloved in question is a literal monkey.
Jokes aside, Mujhse bichad ke khush rehte, the ghazal written by Bashir Badr from which the above lines have been taken is a beautiful masterpiece, unintentional hilarity of isolated lines notwithstanding. It also goes on to show how fundamental context is, and how easy it is to twist words into meanings they were never intended to convey.
Anyway, back to Chaand.
Chaand stands for beauty. For ambition. For desire. For love’s purity. And it’s cold, smoldering passion.
Chaand stands for heartbreaks, and the mockery of love that only a distant, heartless, undeserving beloved can spare.
Chaand stands for the zenith of ambitions and dreams. It also stands for the illusions that are a mockery of our dreams — right there, but always beyond reach.
Chaand stands for dreams that are within our clasp, and the ones that are just beyond the reach of our fingertips. Chaand is the exhilaration of getting your most treasured wish. Chaand is the despair of losing something cherished.
Chaand is love and loss. But above all, Chaand is longing. An intense, consuming longing.
Perhaps, that is why, the Indian folklore tells us stories about Chakor, a nocturnal bird that supposedly spends its entire lifetime staring at Chaand, and dies pining for it.
No wonder, Chaand is the muse to beat all muses.
It is fascinating how easily Chaand reconciles all the negatives with all the positives. It symbolizes beauty. But it also symbolizes the scars that mar that very beauty. Science would tell us that those supposed ‘scars’ are actually craters. But that will not stop us from finding the shapes of rabbits and old ladies in them. And it will also not stop the poets from gently chiding the Chaand to not dream of becoming like their beloved. The beloved after all is perfect and pure and flawless. But Chaand has its scars.
One is forced to wonder if the poets got it wrong. And whether the romance of some elusive perfection is better than the romance of those tangible scars.
Us Ke Chehre Ki Chamak Ke Samne Saada Laga
Asman Pe Chaand Puura Tha Magar Aadha Laga
— Iftikhar Naseem
Compared to the luster of my beloved’s beauty, the Moon seemed pale
It was a full Moon, and yet it felt dim like a half
It is a metaphorical delight. To have something so enthralling, so completely beautiful like Chaand be marred and have flaws. It is as if the Universe encoded a message into Chaand’s very existence. A message that resonates with every poet’s heart.
Chaand is perhaps one of the most beautiful creation in the entire existence. And yet, even Chaand is not without its flaws.
If there ever was a lesson we all needed to learn, that probably would be it.
Perhaps, it is those flaws, those little imperfections that make Chaand’s appeal so enduring. Chaand’s flaws are what make it interesting, unique and forever fascinating. Chaand’ scars are where most fairlytales lives; and Chaand’s scars are where most love stories echo, both tragic and happy.
Kabhi To Ki Hogi Suraj Ne Chand Se Mohabbat, Tabhi To Chand Mein Daag Hai,
Mumkin Hai Ki Chand Ne Ki Hogi Bewafai, Tabhi To Suraj Mein Aag Hai
Perhaps the Sun was in love with the Moon once, therefore the Moon still bears the scars
Perhaps the Moon had betrayed the Sun, therefore the Sun is consumed by the flames
Chaand’s scars are what make it human, what make it relatable, what make it the absolute, perfect metaphor for all human existence.
Chaand is a reminder to us all that chasing perfection is futile. Perfection is not what this Universe desires; perfection is not the Universe’s intent. The Universe revels in the little flaws, in those undulations, in struggles and mistakes that define us. It revels in the imperfections, those little scars that make us who we are, that make us unique, that make us beautiful with just the right amount of dynamic in the mix.
A pristine, flawless Chaand would still be gorgeous. Perhaps even more than what it is now. But would it still be interesting? Would it still convey the stories that are whispered through the generations? Would it still be as poetic?
Chaand is a symbol of co-existence; a symbol of the idea that it is the scars that give beauty its meaning; that it is the loss that defines the idea of love; and that it is the tragedies that make fairy tales so important.
Chaand is where good and evil, ugly and pretty, tragedy and happiness, love and loss, all come together in a perfect harmony. The waxing and waning Chaand is perhaps the best, Universe supplied metaphor for the cycle of life. Chaand is bitter-sweet in motion. And the fun part is, you get to adjust the bitter-sweet as per your taste, at least in so far as the outlook and attitude is concerned.
So much like life.
Chaand is a reminder that if we really and truly want to bask in the glory of our life, its riches and our unique selves, we ought to embrace our flaws, our mistakes, our undulations, our little scars, all the times when we were down and out and all the tragedies and losses. Because without them, it may be perfect, but it will not be the Chaand.
Chaand is what our life would be, if we made the best of it. Not a bad deal, all things considered.
Mujhe Ye Zid Hai Kabhi Chand Ko Asiir Karun
So Ab Ke Jhiil Mein Ik Dayra Banana Hai
— Shahbaz Khwaja
It is my obstinate wish that I imprison the moon
So this time, I have to draw a circle on the lake
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