Saturday, January 21, 2017

From the Land of Tartary

This piece was written for Sangeet Ke Sitare, a music group on Facebook, for the theme - “Songs from films whose titles contain names of cities/states/countries, etc.”

If I were Lord of Tartary,
Myself, and me alone,
My bed should be of ivory,
Of beaten gold my throne;
And in my court should peacocks flaunt,
And in my forests tigers haunt,
And in my pools great fishes slant
Their fins athwart the sun.

That was Walter de la Mare imagining the luxuries in the land of Tartary, the vast region in the middle ages stretching from the Caspian Sea in the west to the Pacific in the east.

Famous for its musk, references to Tartary abound the world of Urdu and Persian poetry as well. And while talking of musk, a reference to the deer (aahu, ghazaal) and the beloved’s fragrant hair cannot be far behind. Nasikh wrote:

ज़ुल्फ़-ए-जानाँ में नहीं कोई दिल-ए-वहशी असीर
ये अजब तातार है जो एक भी आहू नहीं

The Last Mughal equated the curls of the fragrant tresses to the navel (the source of musk in a deer), while bringing in a reference to Tartary…

नाफ़-ए-ग़ज़ाल-ए-चीं है कि है नाफ़ा-ए-ततार
क्यूँकर कहूँ कि है गिरह-ए-ज़ुल्फ़ नाफ़-ए-ज़ुल्फ़
(नाफ़ = navel, ग़ज़ाल = deer, नाफ़ा = musk-bag)

And a similar reference can be found in the Deewan-e-Ghalib as well…

जिस जा नसीम शान:कश-ए-ज़ुल्फ़-ए-यार है
नाफ़ा दिमाग़-ए-आहू-ए-दश्त-ए-ततार है

(When flies in the breeze her curly hair
The musk of Tatar you smell everywhere)
…. Source: Ghalib: The Indian Beloved by Khalid Hameed Shaida

Of course, Hindi films were also not untouched as thieves and beauties from the mysterious land made their way to the Indian screens at least three times.

One such instance is this…. Tatar Ka Chor

Nigaahon Mein Base Aise – Tatar Ka Chor (1955) – Asha Bhosle – Khayyam – Prem Dhawan

And, Tatar Ki Haseena

Ho Gayi Tumse Mohabbat–Tatar Ki Haseena (1968)–Suman Kalyanpur–S. Kishan–Aslam Allahabadi