The Aandhi-Mausam of Longing – by Shailja Chandra

A reluctant afternoon of 1991, one major design assignment, hostel room and the much-loved cassette of Aandhi-Mausam unspooling bygone time, spaces, silences…

Some trees swaying like sufi dervish and clouds turning into shades of ebony. The pitter-patter of rain, trying in vain to douse the vibrant red flames of Gulmohar of the rear lane…

And this song performing an alchemy…

तेरे बिना ज़िन्दगी से कोई शिकवा तो नहीं

तेरे बिना ज़िन्दगी भी लेकिन ज़िन्दगी तो नहीं

My relationship with his words began springing since adolescent years. Gulzar. The name was synonymous with a rare elegance and eloquence of emotions, senses, sensibilities and sensations, which I wasn’t yet fully initiated to, but always fiercely drawn to.

That afternoon the raw poignancy of ‘तेरे बिना ज़िन्दगी से‘ landed in me with intensity. The kind that germinates in the mix-soil of a deep sense of loss and undying sense of belonging – nourished by the salty waters of eyes.

जी में आता है, तेरे दामन में, सर छुपा के हम

रोते रहें, रोते रहें

तेरी भी आँखों में, आंसुओं की नमीं तो नहीं

In this song, with uncomplicated words portraying intricate emotions and the highly awaited lines of Sanjeev Kumar and ‘Sir’ Suchitra Sen, Gulzar weaves a rich tapestry of pain and separation, like a skilful Julaaha of Libaas of relationships.

A rich tapestry with a fine needle of belongingness and girah of differences. With a strand of powerlessness and a thread of total surrender. With a stitch of desire for ever-lasting togetherness, and a cross-stitch of fragility of it all…

And carefully embroidered atop the tapestry is one silverwhite moon – the cosmic custodian of one wish: Grant eternity to this lone night of togetherness.

तुम जो कह दो तो आज की रात, चाँद डूबेगा नहीं

रात को रोक लो

रात की बात है, और ज़िन्दगी बाक़ी तो नहीं

In a rare poetic feat, Gulzar makes the tremors of poignancy to reverberate against the temporal walls of the loss when he writes ‘वैसे तो अमावस पन्द्रह दिन की होती है, लेकिन इस बार…बहुत लम्बी थी’….’नौ बरस लम्बी थी ना?’

Many lost moons of nine-eternal-years and this realisation find home that a spectrum of emotions and virtues inherently exists within us. Belonging to a Commonwealth of humanity, these lie dormant, subterranean in us until such times when we are compelled to access our soul.

Although one of the most elemental needs of humans, the journey of self-understanding is a sudden and subtle event. The catalysts are provided by life in the form of rich and shattering, breathtaking and heartbreaking experiences. All this sublimates, purifies and makes us human.

Equally compelling and vital to our journey of self-understanding are those artists that demand access to our heart and souls.

Through their virtuous reflections and imagery, such artists can create the birthplace for the inception of many undiscovered, dormant emotions. In true tradition of art and as described by Tolstoy, we are ‘infected by the feelings which the author has felt.’[1]

The emotion of Longing too is eternally in us. Longing not for a particular place, person or period, but just the pure anatomy of it. Dormant. That afternoon, I was ‘infected’, initiated to it.

That day, via ‘तेरे बिना ज़िन्दगी से’, I experienced some dominant manifestations of Longing – a sense of hollowness, wretchedness. In coming years, the Aarti of this song would unveil more subtler undertones also. That a sense of incompleteness can linger despite dreams and decisions deriving their destination. That a sense of mooring can exist despite the brokenness, and that a sense of bonding can exist despite the separation. That Longing is truly belonging.

It is the extraordinary brilliance of Gulzar’s character portrayal that the song reverberates in the infinite, unfathomable gap between the possibilities chosen and the possibilities that remain unfulfilled as a corollary. And the eternal Longing that remains suspended in between.

‘तेरे बिना ज़िन्दगी भी लेकिन ज़िन्दगी तो नहीं’…yet the everyday workings of the world continue. The emotional authenticity and contemporary shades of Gulzar’s character portrayal are rare and set him apart from many poets and lyricists.

The wet afternoon will be one momentous memory of such ongoing ‘infections’ as Gulzar’s elegant portrayals of emotions continue to become a sacred part of my emotional repertoire.

That was IIT Roorkee, Girls hostel, 1991. I was Nineteen.

Some decades later, I am barely breathing in Boskiyana! In a time and space that holds limited proximity to that afternoon.

वक़्त आता सुनाई देता है.’ I am about to enter his Library. 11:30 AM, 22/11/12. The sun is hiding behind his chair. I am awash in his rays, touching his feet for the first time.

The interview runs over the prescribed one hour as we voyage along the lanes of Literature, Life and Language over a heavenly cup of tea.[2] All this seems blurry like a dream, but the vintage tears of तेरे बिना ज़िन्दगी are still flowing in me like juvenile blood.

The emotional panorama of relationships continue to be the centrepiece of many of his iconic poems, stories and cinema, and we continue to be in awe of his powerful, multi-dimensional lens that bring out the finest undertones of emotions with unimaginable clarity and perceptivity. How does he portray such subtleties of emotions, relationships?

“कहीं न कहीं आपका observation हैं , कहीं आपका experience है, लेकिन आप शामिल ज़रूर हैं उस creativity में जो आपने लिखा है.” he shares this and more…

In another song of relationships and separation – ‘थोड़ी सी बेवफाई’ the emotional elegance of his portrayal of these universal conundrums remains unequaled: Why do we uphold our egos with fervour and loyalty (बड़ी वफ़ा से निभाई तुमने, हमारी थोड़ी सी बेवफाई), and why does revival of waning relations prove to be challenging?

Or how delicately these three coexist – the ego, the hope, and the Longing that never ages? Consider these lines:

उन्हें ये ज़िद थी के हम बुलाते, हमें ये उम्मीद वो पुकारें

है नाम होटों पे अब भी लेकिन, आवाज़ में पड़ गयी दरारें

Few writers can zoom into and pan around our inner-worlds, and pierce through the dense yet delicate layers of our vast emotional landscape. And even lesser have the craft to convert the unheard-unseen-untouched to an imagery of Collective exaltation or Collective despair. The kind that ‘नौ बरस लम्बी थी ना’ and ‘एक सौ सोलह चाँद की रातें, एक तुम्हारे काँधे का तिल’ evoke and many other such iconic moments that we forever remain in awe of. The kind that can ‘infect’[1].

Sitting with him in his library is entrancing but I’m conscious of my immense privilege to hear his invaluable insights into the creative process behind such timeless portrayals.

Without over-analysing and in an uncomplicated yet instantly enchanting manner, he explains the creative significance of having deep sentience and sensibility for cultivating rich emotive insights to perceive the unfamiliar inner-world of others: ”…आप जितने relations मे ख़ुद गुज़रते हैं, उनकी layers उसके बाहर भी हैं। अगर मैने तलाक़ नहीं दिया बीवी को, तो मेरी बहन को जो तलाक़ देके चला गया क्या वो महसूस नहीं हुआ मुझे? तो कोई ज़रूरी नहीं कि आप ये कहें कि साहब आपने तलाक़ पर कैसे लिख लिया, आपने तो तलाक़ दिया ही नहीं बीवी को। हैना. आपके रिश्तों की तहें आपके चारों तरफ बिखरी हुई हैं। आपकी अपनी sensibilities हैं, और आपकी अपनी sensitivities हैं, की आप दूसरों को कितना महसूस कर सकते हैं।”

In the preface of ‘कुछ और नज़्में’, he has written the following that can be seen as an extension of the above: “…हर लम्हा, हर इंसान अपनी तरह खोलकर देखता है इसलिए मैंने उन लम्हों पर कोई मुहर नहीं लगाई, कोई नाम नहीं दिया। लेकिन इतना ज़रूर है कि उन लम्हों को मैंने बिल्कुल इसी तरह महसूस किया है जिस तरह कहने की कोशिश की है और बग़ैर महसूस किए कभी कुछ नहीं कहा।”[2]

Whether it is in poetry, cinema, lyrics, scripts, or dialogues, and whether it is a feminine voice or masculine, Gulzar’s work on relationships exudes sanctity of emotions that is rare, and that elegantly and simultaneously carries both these vital elements of literature: an intimate quality and a universal resonance that ennobles every emotion.

As he shares in the interview, his unique sensibilities and sensitivities power the extraordinary ‘antennas’ that allow him to conscientiously and forthrightly capture the countless shades of emotions, from even beyond the girth of his personal experiences.

These antennas are further powered by a deep enchantment of the enigma called human beings. His voice is infectiously raw and rich with this enchantment:”..और वो human beings को महसूस करना, it’s such a lovely species. The human beings – such a wonderful species. आप किसी एक – एक इंसान को खोल के देखना शुरू कीजिये, करोड़ों उसके अंदर से layers मिलेगी. है ना. एक शख्स, अकेला पूरी कायनात है, पूरी universe है।”

On that soggy afternoon when the song had initiated me to Longing, was I was becoming part of the cosmos in us that we innately long for?

‘एक शख्स, अकेला पूरी कायनात है’ will resonate in me like the sonorous sound of rain, blending with the heartrending melody of तेरे बिना ज़िन्दगी से.

Glossary and References

Author would like to acknowledge Pavan Jha (A Film and Music critic and official contact for the Official FB Page of Gulzar) for providing valuable feedback. Thank you!

[1]‘If only the spectators or auditors are infected by the feelings which the author has felt, it is art’, Tolstoy

[2] Previously known as University of Roorkee

[3] Youtube link to the interview <>

[4]A few years later in another interview with Loksatta, Gulzar talks about the creative process of birthing the moment when a reader becomes a willing beholder of the beauty in words – that subtle process of imbuing authenticity and veracity in words that can truly ‘infect’. Coming soon in an article…

[5] Kuch aur Nazmein, Ta-aaruf.



Excerpts taken from Part 2 on artist’s reflection on their work – Shailja Chandra in conversation with Gulzar:

Full Interview:

About the Author

Shailja Chandra

Shailja Chandra is a writer and a radio commentator from Sydney. An architect by qualification and a Sustainable Building consultant by occupation, Shailja is a scholar of life - a perennial student of literature, philosophy, and various forms of fine and performing art. Through the Indian radio segment of East Side Radio FM89.7 Sydney, she actively engages with the Indian-Australian community on various matters relevant to India and Australia, including issues of social, environmental, cultural and political importance, on human nature, and life in general. Shailja is currently writing her first book on Gulzar’s reflections on ten timeless preoccupations of human mind.

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