Dard — Of Heartbreaks, Heartaches and Empathy
A Sufi Celebration of Life, Inspired by Urdu
Tu Kabhi Dard, Kabhi Shola, Kabhi Shabnam Hai,
Tujhko Kis Naam Se Ae Jeest Pukara Jaye
— Saahir Hoshiyarpuri
Sometimes you are pain; sometimes a fireball; sometimes the mild dew
What name, O Life, should we give thou!
The previous article in this series focused on romance. Perhaps there is a poetic irony in the fact that the next article in this series happens to be about Dard.
Literally translated, Dard means pain. As a matter of fact, so common is this word in Hindi parlance that a lot of people don’t even realize that it is actually an Urdu word, not Hindi.
Dard as a word has a great appeal. Perhaps because phonetically and linguistically, it is so simple, so easy to include in normal, day to day conversations and yet so widely applicable.
From an excruciating migraine to a terrible heartbreak; from a stubbed toe to an insurmountable personal loss; from stomach ache to heartache; there is an entire Universe of human experience encapsulated within a single syllable that is Dard.
Dard means pain. But that is not all that it means. Over the years, poets have used the idea of Dard as a gateway into the romanticized world of lovelorn bleeding hearts, immortalized by the intensity of their Dard — a heartache so soul rending, it ruined them in every sense of the word.
The funny thing is, it is not uncommon to find a wealth of (admittedly cheesy) poems and songs that are dedicated to the exact opposite — the idea of Meetha Dard (or sweet agony), often without the benefit of the sweetened prefix.
The dichotomy of Dard lies in the fact that it does not need synonyms to convey different meanings. And hence Dard-e-Dil (literally heartache; Dil=Heart) is equally applicable to the girl pining to talk to her crush, as it is applicable to the guy who has been dumped by the person he thought was the love of his life.
The possibilities with the idea of Dard are endless, as are the permutations. And the poets have never been shy of exploring and expanding this territory of endless Dard.
And so we have Dard-e Dil (heartache), Dard-e Jigar (Liver-ache, because as far as Urdu is concerned, liver seems to play about as important a role in the matter of hearts as the heart itself), Dard-e-Mohabbat (Agony of Love), Dard-e Judai (Pain of separation/distance), Dard-e-Talkhi (Troubled by trenchancy); and on at least one memorable occasion, Dard-e Disco (for the life of me, I have no idea what was that supposed to mean. Pain at the disco?!)
It’s evident versatility, however, is not the only reason behind its enduring appeal. An important reason yes, but not the only one.
The fact is tragedies have always had an appeal, a romance that happy ideas rarely command. A tragic hero is literature’s most abused device for a reason. We all love a little Dard.
It is not that we are all designed to be sadomasochists. It is just that Dard has romance, and intrigue, and heroics, and it makes for great social media tag lines. We treat happiness as a rare privilege and tragedies as the only lasting truth of life. It is how we are conditioned; it is what we have been made to believe. (I have dealt with this idea in detail in a different piece here).
When it comes to fiction, the appeal inherent in the idea of Dard becomes even more pronounced. Because in fiction, it is enough of a lie to accord us deniability, has enough drama to help us escape our miseries and enough reality to keep us hooked, and make us relate to a figment of someone else’s imagination.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with it. Fiction sometimes is our best device to cope with reality.
The truth is most of us treat or learn to treat Dard as an annoying house guest. Undesirable but inevitable. It is heartbreaking, but it is not entirely wrong.
The only trouble is that we sometimes get so sucked in the story of Dard in our lives, either as romance or an inevitability, that we forget that Dard too is transient. For all its endurance and appeal, in time, Dard fades. Maybe it never goes away, maybe it does — it depends on where you are standing on the infinite spectrum of Dard — but it does fade. Like the echo of a melody slowly dissolving away; of a scream gradually dying out; of a sob slowly descending into silence.
The dichotomy of Dard, the fact that it does not distinguish between a pining lover and a broken heart, is a gentle reminder to us all that ultimately it is all about perspective. There is no denying the impact; the ache; the truth of Dard. But there is also no denying the fact that there are few, if any, setbacks in life that cannot be overcome; and virtually no Dard that cannot be managed. All you need to do is to remember that the whole idea of Dard is dependent on the context; on how you process it as a thought. And so long as you can process it right, there is nothing stopping your Dard from taking a different, more positive meaning.
Dard is the shared truth of all human existence. Which is perhaps why an empathizer is called Humdard, or a sharer of pain in Urdu. It is a beautiful, beautiful lesson in empathy — a call for us to realize that we are all in this together. And perhaps the best way to celebrate the romance of Dard is to imbibe the idea of Humdard and share someone else’s pain. It is a message, an idea that needs to be transmitted far and wide; urging every single human to embrace their humanity and take on the role of Humdard.
And that perhaps is the best context we can offer to Dard.
Bada Hai Dard Ka Rishta, Ye Dil Gareeb Sahi,
Tumhare Naam Pe Aayenge Gumgusar Chale
— Faiz Ahmad Faiz
Heart’s Bonds are powerful, this heart itself maybe poor and weak
At the mere sound of your name, empathizers and well-wishers will come pouring in