My introduction to Jaun Elia, like countless others, was through social media where some specific couplets and poems of Jaun are widely circulated as the poet of the young heartbroken people, giving voice to their feelings to either express love or to denounce their beloved. This makes Jaun Elia misunderstood – with people having limited exposure to his poetic brilliance, and without being read and without an effort to understand him.
I was inspired by a friend to explore Jaun’s poetry. He would quote a few couplets of Jaun Elia every now and then, like this one on our politics:
گزشتہ عہد گزرنے ہی میں نہیں آتا
یہ حادثہ بھی لکھو معجزوں کے خانے میں
جو رد ہوئے تھے جہاں میں کئی صدی پہلے
وہ لوگ ہم پہ مسلط ہیں اس زمانے میں
And the first reaction would be: “This is not the Jaun Elia that we are used to reading.”
This dissonance caused by realizing that Jaun’s poetry is beyond the realm of the romanticism of our relationships is what made me read him. Jaun was a socialist, an aspect evident from his poetry by raising voice against oppressive forces in the society. Below, I list down a few subjects where I try to examine the social realities of our present-day order through his couplets/verses.
On the COVID-19 crisis
Jaun’s poetry, first and foremost, is a protest against the prevalent order of our society, economy, governance and against the understanding of religion the way it is. For instance, the below couplet which perfectly sums up the crisis caused by COVID-19 pandemic:
مکانوں اور دکانوں پر عجب اک سانحہ گزرا
ضرورت کی ہر اک شے بے ضرورت ہو گئی آخر
Through this couplet, Jaun points at the repeating crisis of capitalism fuelled by excess production and excess consumption. This system functions on the very idea that we need to produce and consume more than before to achieve ‘growth,’ or else it will collapse like it did on many occasions in the past. The result: what was worth more before will be useless during the crisis!
In a rather prophetic manner, Jaun also points at the dilemma we faced as a consequence of the lockdown through the following couplet:
نہ کوئی حال دل تھا اور نہ کوئی حالت جاں تھی
ہمیں اس سے، اسے ہم سے، محبت ہو گئی آخر
The COVID-19 lockdown took a heavy mental toll on everyone while they were being limited in mobility to their homes, to a varying degree around the world. We had never imagined a life with restrictions even to go for a walk or to meet our loved ones. We had never thought of and were not in any condition to cope with that life initially. But since there was no escape and with the human nature of adjusting to every normal, we started to live a life under quarantine and adopted new ways to work and communicate.
On knowledge and inquiry
Jaun believed knowledge to be originating from a curious and questioning nature. For him, the people of wisdom do not look for conformity of their answers but are rather drunk on the quest of inquiry. His brilliance can be best illustrated by the following couplet:
رہے جواب کی آمادگی سے بے سروکار
عجب ہی لوگ تھے سرمستی سوال کے لوگ
On reasoned belief
کیا تھا عہد جب لمحوں میں ہم نے
تو ساری عمر ایفا کیوں کریں ہم
This is Jaun at his very best! We grow up in an environment where we are bombarded by the beliefs and values of people around us including our parents, family members, friends, teachers and so on. This shapes our belief system which, in most cases, takes a rigid form and we resist new knowledge, ideas, beliefs and values. This is where this couplet makes an incision; we shouldn’t live for eternity with what we believed in at a certain moment/stage of life but rather we must be open to accommodate change based on new learning.
To further clarify the subject, our belief/truth should be based on reasoning, and so should parting ways with the same beliefs, and believing in different things. As Jaun says, even our regrets should have logical explanations:
دلیلوں سے اسے قائل کیا تھا
دلیلیں دے کے اب پچھتا رہے ہیں
Jaun cites a lesson from the past:
تاریخ نے قوموں کو دیا ہے یہی پیغام
حق مانگنا توہین ہے، حق چھین لیا جائے
For Jaun, it is insulting to the nation/group to beg for what is rightfully theirs, as they ought to snatch it from those that deny them such rights. This holds true since those in power remain there and amass resources at the expense of those being exploited and deprived of their due share. People should revolt and struggle for a new order and a new social contract which protects their rights.
On loving someone
This one is my personal favourite! The common understanding of romantic love is that we love a specific person, but that is not the case. In fact, we love the idea of a person and the ideal image we make of him/her which we desire. As Nietzsche says, “Ultimately, it is the desire, not the desired, that we love,” and Jaun Elia has put that into a couplet:
اپنا وہم اپنا گماں چاہا گیا
تجھ کو اے جاناں! کہاں چاہا گیا
In another instance Jaun says:
کیا بتاؤں کہ سہ رہا ہوں میں
کرب خود اپنی بے وفائی کا
کیا میں اس کو تری تلاش کہوں؟
دل میں اک شوق ہے جدائی کا