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New Year 2022: Expression of Mixed Feelings During 'Saal-e-nau' in Urdu Poetry

The range of mixed emotions during the new year has found ample expression in Urdu poetry down the ages.

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This year, the second in a row, with night curfews in place, news of rising numbers of COVID-positive cases and the threat of a looming ‘third wave’, a dampener has been thrown on the season of festivities that had gradually begun to unfurl.

As always, the close of the old year and the dawn of the new one evokes mixed feelings in the human heart. There was a time when nights were bedecked like brides, there was chatter at parties and the tinkle of glasses and the laughter of strangers – the Urdu poets noted all this and more.

Saal-e nau or naya saal, the New Year, has always been viewed with hope and hopelessness, anticipation and indifference, eagerness and apathy, enthusiasm and cynicism, optimism and pessimism, anger and joy, and everything in between.

And this range of emotions has found ample expression in Urdu poetry down the ages. From a profusion of Urdu nazms, a great many bearing the same title of ‘Naya Saal’, here’s a sampler…

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Ali Sardar Jafri heralds the dawn of a new day that carries the promise of better days:

Purane saal ki thithuri hui parchhaiyan simtiin

Naye din ka naya suraj ufuq par uthtāa aata hai

The shivering shadows of the old year shrink

As the new sun of the new day rises on the horizon

Harking back to a time when people sent cards and called each other on landlines, Jafri writes:

Ye kis ne phone pe dii saal-e-nau ki tahniyat mujh ko

Tamanna raqs karti hai taḳhayyul gungunata hai

Who is it who has greeted me on the telephone for the new year

Desire dances within me and my imagination hums with joy

An unknown poet strikes an optimistic note when he writes:

Naye saal mein pichhlii nafrat bhulaa dein

Chalo apni duniya ko jannat bana dein

Let us forget old hatreds in the New year

Come, let us turn our world into paradise

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Just as in ‘Naya Calendar’, Shabnam Rumani says:

Phir naye saal ka matlab humein samjhati hai

Janwary sabz dupatte mein chali aati hai

Once again it explains the meaning of the New Year

January comes wearing a green dupatta

Turning the stereotype of newness and hope that the first month of the calendar signifies, Ameer Qazalbash says:

Yakum Janwary hai naya saal hai

December mein puchhunga kya haal hai

It is the 1st of January, it is the New Year

I will ask you in December how you are

In a world that is unchanging in its misery and exploitation, the New Year steals upon us carrying promises it will never keep, declares Akhtar Payami:

Tuut jaaenge mah-o-saal ke phaile huwe jaal

Phir naya saal dabe paanv chalaa aataa hai

The wide open nets of months and years will break

Once again the New Year comes soft footed upon us

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With his tongue firmly in his cheek, Hasan Alvi writes:

Washington DC mein cherry ke darakhton par

Naye saal ke khwaab ugaaye jaaenge

On the cherry trees in Washington DC

The dreams of New Years will be grown

Parvin Shakir, the eternal romantic, wonders in this sher brimful with a delicate irony:

Kaun jaane ki naye saal mein tu kis ko padhe

Tera meaar badaltaa hai nisaabon ki tarah

Who knows who you will read in the New Year

Your standard changes like the syllabus of schools

Ibne Insha writes:

Ik saal gaya ik saal naya hai aane ko

Par waqt ka ab bhi hosh nahin diwane ko

A year has gone past a new one is about to come

But the poor mad man has no sense of time still

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Taking a quip at Mirza Ghalib who had declared that a Brahmin has prophesied that the coming year will be a good one, Ahmad Faraz says:

Na shab-o-roz hi badle hain na haal achchha hai

Kis barhaman ne kaha tha ki ye saal achchha hai

Neither the days and nights have changed nor is our situation better

Who is the Brahmin who had said that this would be a good year

Taking the high road of Marxism, Sahir Ludhianvi paints a grim picture of the dawn of a new day in the new year that is no different from any other for the poor in his nazm Subh-e Nau-roz (‘Morning of the New Year’).

The gaiety and festivity of the urban rich is contrasted with the rural poor, with the daughter of a poor peasant in particular, and the poet seems to be almost shaming those who can bring themselves to partake of the festivities when there is such a stark disbalance among the haves and the have-nots:

Phuut padin mashriq se kirnein

Haal bana maazi ka fasana

Gunja mustaqbil ka tarana

Bheje hain ahbab ne tohfe

Atey padey hain mez ke kone

Dulhan bani hui hain rahein

Jashn manao sal-e-nau ke

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A similar sentiment is expressed by Aitbar Sajid, who questions the futility of extending greetings in the New Year when the change of a calendar does not herald the change in one’s fortunes:

Kisi ko saal-e-nau ki kya mubarakbad di jaaye

Calendar ke badalne se muqaddar kab badalta hai

Why offer congratulations for the New Year to any one

Destinies don’t change with the change in calendars

Makhdoom Mohiuddin, the poet from Hyderabad and fiery progressive, too, is mocking the hollow gaiety of the New Year in his nazm entitled ‘Naya Saal’:

Karodon baras ki purani

Kuhan-sal duniya

Ye duniya bhi kya masḳhari hai

Naye saal ki shaal odhe

Ba-sad-tanz hum sab se ye kah rahi hai

Ki main to ''nayi'' huun

Hansi aa rahi hai

These ancient world

Old by crores of years

What jester this world this

Wearing the shawl of a new year

With much irony it is telling us

I am new

I want to laugh

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Faiz Ludhiavu too is almost challenging the New Year in the following manner:

Tu naya hai to dikha subh nayi shaam nayi

Warna in aankhon ne dekhe hain naye saal kai

If you are new show us a new morn and a new eve

Or else these eyes of mine have seen many a new year

There are others, however, who welcome the new year, who see it as an occasion to mollify the angry and the hurt, forget old sorrows, such as this nazm by Jauhar Rahmani:

Naye saal ki yuun ḳhushi hum manaen

Ki ruthe huon ko gale se lagaen

Let us celebrate the New Year in such a way

That we embrace those who are angry with us

Speaking for myself, I draw solace from Faiz Ahmad Faiz in these bleak times:

Humne dil mein saja liye gulshan

Jab baharon ne berukhi ki hai

Zehar se dho liye hain honth apne

Lutf-e-saaqi ne jab kami ki hai

I have bedecked my heart with gardens

When the seasons of spring have shown indifference

I have rinsed my mouth with poison

When the kindness of the cup-bearer has been sparing

(Dr Rakhshanda Jalil is a writer, translator and literary historian. She writes on literature, culture and society. She runs Hindustani Awaaz, an organisation devoted to the popularisation of Urdu literature. She tweets at @RakhshandaJalil. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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