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As an ode to the beautiful language that we celebrate on this blog, here are some of our favorite Urdu shers (couplets) that work wonderfully in different situations and occasions and capture the essence of the moment and the emotion in their words. It doesn’t cease to amaze us as to how two lines can capture the vast essence of a complex thought or emotion, or provide an appropriate explanation or description of a minute thought, all with rhymes and metering intact, in the two lines. This could only come from the soulful spirit of the Urdu zabaan.

Below is a personal compilation – please feel free to replace them with any of your favorites and do share them with us too.

On the anxiety of waiting
Koi mere dil se pooche, tere teer-e-neemkash ko
Yeh khalish kahan se hoti, jo jigar ke paar hota
– Mirza Ghalib

Literal translation:
Someone take notice of the state of my heart, because of this half-drawn arrow (aimed at me) from you
I wouldn’t be so anxious, if the arrow has been released (instead of keeping me at the edge of the seat)

On life’s give and takes
Duniya na jeet paao to, haaron na khud ko tum
Thodi bahut to zehen mein, naraazgi rahein
– Nida Fazli

Literal translation:
If you cannot win over the world, still don’t lose yourself yet,
A little bit anger (being upset) should remain within everyone

On the inherent nature of things
Kuchh toh hai baat ke tehreeron mein taaseer nahi
Jhootein fankaar nahi hai to qalam jhoote hai
– Ayaz Jhanswi

Literal translation:
Something is definitely amiss that the inherent effect (weight/power) in the lines is missing
If the poet has been honest, then the writings of his pen, must be dishonest

On difficult conversations
Ranj Ki Jab Guftagu Hone Lagi
Aap Se Tum, Tum Se Tu Hone Lagi
– Daagh Dehlvi

Literal translation:
When we started speaking about grief and sorrow (Ranj – grief, sadness; Guftagu – conversation)
The tone of the conversation deteriorated further and further

On ups and downs
Gulshan ki faqat phoolon se nahin kaaton se bhi zeenat hoti hai,
jeene ke liye is duniya mein gham ki bhi zaroorat hoti hai.
– Saba Afghani

Literal translation:
The beauty of a garden lies not only in its flowers, but also in the thorns
To live in this world, it is necessary to suffer pain as well

On betrayal
Vaada kar gaye the who paanchve din ka
Kisi se sun liya hoga, zindagi chaar dino ki hai

Literal translation:
He had promised he would return on the fifth day,
He must have heard from someone that life is four days long
(colloquially it is said that life made of four segments (childhood, youth, adult, old age), just like a day has four parts (morning, afternoon, evening, night)

On intoxication
There are, of course, many shers on this theme. Here is a favorite:

Tishnaa Nazarein Mili Shokh Nazaron Se Jab, Mai Barasne Lagi Jaam Bharne Lagaa
Saaqiyaa Aaj Teri Zaroorat Nahin, Bin Piye Bin Pilaaye Khumaar Aa Gayaa

– Roshan Nadan

Literal translation:
When my eyes filled with longing and desire met your attractive daring look, Wine started flowing, Goblets began to get filled
O bartender, I don’t need you to pour a drink today, Even without drinking, I feel intoxicated

On determination
Gubare-raah ko le jao aasmano tak
Ye azam-walon ka tohfa hai aasmano ke liye
– Allama Iqbal

Literal translation:
Take the dust of the streets that have risen from our stormy procession, to the skies
This is the gift of determined souls, for the skies above

On the end of relationships
Ta’aruf rog ho jaye to iska bhoolna behtar
Ta’aluq bojh bun jaye to iska todna achha
Woh afsaana jisse anjaam tak laana na ho mumkin
Usse ek khoobsurat mod de kar chodna achha
– Sahir Ludhianvi

Literal translation:
If acquaintanceship becomes trouble-some, then it is better to forget
If friendship becomes burdensome, then better pay the dest
That tale which cannot be brought to its natural culmination
‘Tis better to leave it at a beautiful turning point and move on (without regrets)