My heart is in a million pieces this morning. Breaking down over a poem I have heard so many times before.
The ghazal, Aaj Jaane Ki Zid Na Karo, is something most Pakistanis have grown up hearing. And most often, it is the version sung by the legendary Farida Khanum we are familiar with. It’s a lover’s plea, beautifully written by Fayyaz Hashmi, asking their beloved to not leave and to stay with them, in this moment. Khanum’s performance of it is considered a classic, the only version worth hearing.
But today, I heard it differently. Today, I heard a different love through these words. Today, Coke Studio Pakistan released a recent performance of this song done by Farida Khanum herself. Her voice now is much older, raspier, and has a entire lifetime of experience wrapped into it. And that voice reminds me of my Nani. Reminds me of my elders. Reminds me that my parents, whether I like it or not, are aging.
The opening lines are simple. (Along with a rough translation because no amount of translation will ever capture its beauty in Urdu):
آج جانے کی ضد نہ کرو
aaj jaane ki zidd nah karo
Don’t insist on departing tonight
یونہی پہلو میں بیٹھے رہو
yoonhi pahlu men baiṭhe raho
Stay right here by my side
It is a simple request. It is a request my Nani had made of me when I was a child. It is a request my mother and father make of me every time I’m on the phone with them. “Don’t leave just yet, talk to me. Stay here.”
But I leave.
We all do. We leave thinking we’ll have time. That they’ll have time. That this moment will always be here to come back to, and we can talk then. We can spend time with them then.
The second stanza opens with these lines:
تم ہی سوچو ذرا کیوں نہ روکیں تمہیں
tum hi socho zara kyoon nah roken tumhen
See, I can’t but help begging you to stay
جان جاتی ہے جب اٹھ کے جاتے ہو تم
jaan jaati hai jab uṭh ke jaate ho tum
When you get up to leave, life itself ebbs away
A romantic notion, no doubt. One every ballad, every sonnet, every love story is based on. But today, I heard my mother’s voice, when she tells me that when she’s not with me, my siblings or her grandchildren, her heart hurts a little. Today, I heard the reason why my father asks me why I don’t talk to him more often. Today, I understood what my Nani wanted from her grandchildren.
This poem remains to me a lover’s lament. But that of an unconditional lover. And the only unconditional love that I know to exist in this world is that of a parent’s for their child. That of a grandparent’s for their child’s child.
I will not insist again. Not today.