An Urduwala's Poetic Response to 4 Greatest Love Letters Ever Written

An Urduwala’s Poetic Response to 4 Greatest Love Letters Ever Written : The Ultimate Ode to Love

Valentine’s Day is around the corner and in search for some magical words, I sent a personal selection of 4 most romantic love letters written by famous artists & authors to an effervescent champion of Urdu literature – Dr. Saif Mahmood – for some playful and love filled Jugalbandi.

‘Jugalbandi’ as you may know, is a duet performance when two soloists of different traditions engage in a playful competition and respond to each other on equal footing.

In this case, Saif chose sentimental verses of Faiz, Jaun Elia, Amjad Islam & Parveen Shakir (accompanied with translation) in response to letters written by Cash, Hemingway, Lafayette and Beethoven.

The magic which follows will make even the most hardened cynics give love another chance. For the rest of us – a throbbing heart is all that we’ll be left with at the end of these words.

Shakir’s couplet in response to Beethoven’s letter to his ‘Immortal Love’ 

Even in bed my ideas yearn towards you, my Immortal Beloved, here and there joyfully, then again sadly, awaiting from Fate, whether it will listen to us. I can only live, either altogether with you or not at all. 

Of your beloved


Ever thine. Ever mine. Ever ours

 — Beethoven

Is shart pe kheloongi piya pyaar ki baazi, 

Jeetoo’n toh tujhe paaoo’n, haaroo’n toh piya teri

 — Parveen Shakir

On this condition will I play the game of love, 

If I win, I get you ; if I lose, I am yours

Elia’s response to an extract from Hemingway’s letter to Marlene Dietrich

“I can’t say how every time I ever put my arms around you I felt that I was home. Nor too many things. But we were always cheerful and jokers together.

 — Hemingway

Apne sabhi giley baja, par hai ye hi ki dilruba !

Mera-tera ma’amla, ishq ke bas ka tha nahin

 — Jaun Elia

All our grievances apart, the fact of the matter is this

This relationship of ours, was far beyond love

Amjad Islam Amjad’s response to Marquis de Lafayette letter to his Wife, Madame de Lafayette

“I am in such haste that I know not what I write, but I do know that I love you more tenderly than ever, that the pain of this separation was necessary to convince me how very dear you are to me, and that I would give at this moment half my existence for the pleasure of embracing you again, and telling you with my own lips how well I love you.”

Chehre pe mere zulf ko phailaao kisi din, 

kya roz garajte ho, baras jaao kisi din

Raazon ki tarah utro mere dil mein kisi shab

dastak pe mere haath ki khul jaao kisi din

Pedon ki tarah husn ki baarish mein naha loon

baadal ki tarah jhoom ke ghir aao kisi din

Khushboo ki tarah guzro mere dil ki gali se

phoolon ki tarah mujh pe bikhar jaao kisi din

Guzrein jo mere ghar se toh ruk jaayen sitaare

iss tarha meri raat ko chamkaao kisi din

Main apni har ek saans usi raat ko de doon

sar rakh ke mere seene pe so jaao kisi din

– Amjad Islam Amjad

On my face, let your hair loose some day

What’s with this daily thunder, like rain, pour yourself on me someday

Like secrets, go down my heart some night

On the knock of my hand, open yourself someday

Like trees, let me bathe in the shower of beauty

Like clouds, sway and enfold me someday

Like fragrance, pass through the lanes of my heart

Like flowers, spread yourself on me someday

If they cross my house, they should stop

In this way, make my night shine someday

Faiz Ahmed Faiz in response to Cash’s letter to his ‘princess’

We get old and get used to each other. We think alike. We read each others minds. We know what the other wants without asking. Sometimes we irritate each other a little bit. Maybe sometimes take each other for granted.

But once in awhile, like today, I meditate on it and realise how lucky I am to share my life with the greatest woman I ever met. You still fascinate and inspire me. You influence me for the better. You’re the object of my desire, the #1 Earthly reason for my existence. I love you very much.

Happy Birthday Princess.


Tum jo na aaye thay toh har cheez vohi thim ke jo hai

aasmaa’n hadd-e-nazar, rahguzar rahguzar, sheesha-e-mai, sheesha-e-mai

Aur ab – sheesha-e-mai, rahguzar, rang-e-falak

rang hai dil ka mere, ‘khoon-e-jigar hone tak’

surmayi rang kabhi, sa’at-e-bezaar ka rang

zard patton ka, khas-o-khaar ka rang

surkh phoolon ka, dehekte hue gulzaar ka rang

zehar ka rang, lahu rang, shab-e-taar ka rang

Aasman, rahguzar, sheesha-e-mai

koi bheega hua daaman, koi dukhti hui rag

koi har-lehza badalta hua aaina hai

Ab jo aaye ho toh thehro ki koi rang, koi rutt, koi shai ek jagah par thehre

phir se ik baar har ik cheez vohi ho, ke jo hai

aasmaa’n hadd-e-nazar, rahguzar rahguzar, sheesha-e-mai, sheesha-e-mai

 — Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Before you came everything was just what it is

the sky, as far as you could see, the road just a road, the wineglass just a wineglass

And now, the wineglass, the road, the colour of sky 

are colours of my heart, ‘till it oozes blood’

Somewhere, the colour of jasmine, the colour of the joy of meeting

The colour of autumn leaves, and of straws and thorns

The colour of red flowers, and of the blooming garden

The colour of poison, of blood, of the dark night

The sky, the road, the wineglass

As if a drenched veil, a raw nerve, an ever-changing mirror

Now that you have come, stay

So that some colour, some season, some thing, stays still

and, once again, everything becomes just what it is

the sky, as far as you could see, the road just a road, the wineglass just a wineglass

Selection of Urdu Verses and their impromptu translation by Dr. Saif Mahmood


An Advocate of the Supreme Court of India holding a doctorate in Comparative Constitutional Law, Saif Mahmood is a New Delhi-based literary personality, Urdu poetry, literature and culture expert, commentator, critic, translator and rights activist. He speaks and writes on diverse issues, ranging from law to literature and is associated with a number of academic, legal, professional, and literary organisations around the world. Founder of South Asian Alliance for Literature, Art & Culture (SAALARC), he recalls most of Ghalib, Iqbal, and Faiz by heart. He is well-known in India and abroad for enthralling audiences with his passionate recitations, especially of such progressive poets as Faiz, Majaz, Sahir and Jaun Elia. Saif is a frequent face in literary events and television discussions and regularly speaks on varied platforms the world over. His translations of Urdu works into English have appeared in several of prestigious publications. He is currently working on his book on the classical Urdu poets of Delhi being published by Speaking Tiger Books.

Published by

Chanda Chaudhary

Aesthete. Storyteller. Wanderer. Chanda is a lover of design, craftsmanship and individualistic style. She’s best known for hosting long champagne lunches filled with stories and tales of adventure, living life on her own terms and making the ordinary, extraordinary. She lives and works in Goa, India.

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