Urdu: Masculine reference to unambiguously feminine referent

Discussion in 'Indo-Iranian Languages' started by Dib, Jan 23, 2014.

  1. Dib Senior Member

    Bengali (India)
    Split from the jinn-parii thread:

    This seems to imply to me that under some conditions, masculine reference is/was used in (poetic) Urdu for unambiguously feminine referents. Is that so? How does it work exactly? Can you, please, share some examples?
  2. marrish

    marrish Senior Member

    اُردو Urdu
    I cannot recall such an occurrence at the moment and I'd say that neither the verse in another thread nor this Faylasoof SaaHib's statement implies this kind of usage.
  3. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    Dib Jii, whilst there are likely to be people in this forum who have knowledge about this literary matter, the best place to seek answer to your questions is an Urdu poetry group called alt.language.urdu.poetry. Once you get in, you should be able to search for threads/posts concerning this use of masculine gender.
  4. Alfaaz Senior Member

    This thread contains a brief discussion on the tradition, which was labelled by Faylasoof SaaHib as "stupid and immensely silly convention". Cilquiestsuens SaaHib replied to this brilliantly by highlighting the room for various interpretations allowed by this convention!
    This could probably be another example of such usage.
  5. marrish

    marrish Senior Member

    اُردو Urdu
    I read this two times but couldn't find any masculine reference to unambiguously feminine referent. Would you please elaborate?
  6. Dib Senior Member

    Bengali (India)

    ... maiN to mar kar bhii merii jaan tujhe chaahuuN gaa
    tuu milaa hai to yeh ahsaas huaa hai mujhe...

    A male poet referring to his lover in masculine, of course, assuming that it is not a genuinely homoerotic referrence.
  7. marrish

    marrish Senior Member

    اُردو Urdu
    Yes, you're right! Thanks, it was perhaps so obvious to me that I couldn't spot it!

    EDIT: However, excluding ''merii jaan'' which can be used for both sexes, there is no unambiguously feminine referent.
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2014
  8. Dib Senior Member

    Bengali (India)
    Thank you everybody for your help.

    QP-jii, thanks for the information about alt.language.urdu.poetry. I did find a 15 years old thread - "Guncha-e-nashagufta" that talks a bit about it.
    Alfaaz-jii, thanks for the links. :)
    Marrish-jii: Welcome. :)
  9. mundiya Senior Member

    Hindi, English, Punjabi
    The Urdu scholar CM Naim says use of masculine gender has to do with the conventions of Persian poetry:

    "As is well known, much of the early ghazal poetry written in the Deccan differs dramatically from the later ghazals of both the Deccan and North India. The difference lies not only in their language, which shows a prevalence of regional, dialectal forms, but more essentially in the treatment of the main theme of the ghazal, i.e. the theme of love. In the dakini ghazal, love is always heterosexual; it is expressed in a female voice directed toward a male beloved, addressed as sajan, pitam,etc., or a male voice directed toward an unmistakably feminine beloved. This was contrary to the common practice in Persian poetry -- where the sex of the beloved is either ambiguous or obviously male -- and quite in accord with indigenous, Indian literary traditions. [...]"
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2014
  10. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    You are most welcome. I think this pithy explanation by Professor Frances Prichett covers all aspects of the use of male gender.

  11. Alfaaz Senior Member

    Some background information: Others could probably verify whether this is correct or not, but it is said that Pakistani film actor Darpan had requested the poet (Qateel Shifaaii) to write a piece that he (Darpan) could dedicate to his wife (actress Nayyar Sultana). This poem was produced and picturized on both of them in the film Azmat (1973). As you might already know, it became perhaps one of the most famous works of everyone involved.
    In addition to the part mentioned by Dib SaaHib, there is also the following (which wasn't included in the film version - written approximately two years later):

    تیری ہر چاپ سے جلتے ہیں خیالوں میں چراغ
    جب بھی تو آئے جگاتا ہوا جادو آئے
    تجھکو چھو لوں تو پھر اے جان تمنا مجھکو
    دیر تک اپنے بدن سے تیری خوشبو آئے
    تو بہاروں کا ہے عنوان تجھے چاہوں گا
  12. Dib Senior Member

    Bengali (India)
    Thanks again, everybody!
  13. Faylasoof Senior Member

    Plato's Republic
    English (UK) & Urdu (Luckhnow), Hindi
    janaab Alfaaz SaaHib, many are unaware that this was indeed a convention in Urdu - and some might still follow it - and the explanation I gave still stands.

    The use of masculine gender doesn't mean the poet is always referring to God! In fact, much of this kind of poetry is not necessarily directed to God though one may wish to interpret it that way and in some case it would be either ridiculous or even blasphemous to imagine so because the poetry is homoerotic!
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2014
  14. Faylasoof Senior Member

    Plato's Republic
    English (UK) & Urdu (Luckhnow), Hindi
    Thank you mundiya jii! BTW, CM Naim's argument is not new and may not even be correct. This argument was cited by others who preceded him and they too have been critiqued! The problem is this. In the Persian language pronouns (sing. and plural) and verbal forms etc. are entirely gender-free, unlike, say, Urdu. So the suggestion that a borrowing of this idea took place into Urdu from an a language that is essentially gender-free (apart from natural genders) doesn't really make sense. It seems that Urdu speakers thinking of Persian poetry are imposing a gender which is almost all the time ambiguous. The suggestion of the "obviously male" beloved in Persian poetry doesn't really make sense unless in very specific cases where some indication is made of this.

    BTW, homoerotic poetry cannot be entirely ruled out in either (northern) Urdu or Persian poetry and we have very good and clear examples of this in Arabic poetry (Abu Nuwas [ ابو نواس‎ abuu nuwaas ] is a very good example) from which the Persian and in turn the Urdu poetic traditions derive. But in Urdu, this (homoeroticism) was never meant to be so and in Persian essentially the lack of gender overall means the gender of the beloved is always ambiguous for reasons already mentioned.
  15. Qureshpor Senior Member

    Punjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    I have also noticed this in songs from "Hindi" films. Here is one example. I'll add more as and when I hear other examples.

    Film: baat ek raat kii
    Singer: Hemant Kumar
    Poet: Majrooh Sultanpuri

    nah tum hameN jaano
    nah ham tumheN jaaneN
    magar lagtaa hai kuchh aisaa
    meraa ham-dam mil gayaa

    Another example...
    Film: haNste zaxm
    Singer: Mohammed Rafi
    Poet: Kaifi Azami

    tum jo mil ga'e ho
    to yih lagtaa hai
    kih jahaaN mil gayaa
    Last edited: May 10, 2014

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