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    The itch to learn Urdu is often switched on by a beautiful song wafting through the air. What does ‘tasavvur-e-jaana’ mean in Gulzar’s Dil dhoondta hai? What was Sahir alluding to when he wrote ‘muhafiz khudi ke’ in Jinhe naaz hai? Why did Anand Bakshi use ‘justajoo’ in the same sentence as ‘arzoo’ in Dil-e-nadaan? To an ‘Ek gaon mein ek kisan Raghu thatha’ spouting Tamilian like me it really hurts to be reminded often of how little one knows. So I discovered a way to beat the system.

    I started understanding the shaayar’s lingo through celebrity names. For a start, I chose cricketers.  I figured Wasim is ‘good looking’ and Waqar is ‘dignity’. Javed is ‘bright’, Misbah is ‘lamp’, Azhar is ‘famous’ and Mohsin is ‘attractive’. It all seemed to fit, as actress Reena Roy once flipped for the handsome Mohsin Khan. And come to think of it, Misbah ul Haq is indeed the lone shining light in his current team.

    Then I explored the world of Bollywood. I was curious to know the subtle shades of differences between the Khans. To my pleasant surprise, I discovered that Aamir means ‘civilised’, Shah Rukh is the ‘rook in a chess board’, Salman cues ‘protector’, Saif is ‘sword’, Irrfan is ‘wisdom’ and Imran is ‘prosperity’. How appropriate considering, everyone leans on Salman for protection and everyone expects intelligent stuff from Aamir and Irrfan!

    What about the actresses? Well, Zeenat stands for ‘beauty’, Mumtaz for ‘distinguished’, Nargis for ‘daffodils’, Aalia for ‘exalted’, Shabana for ‘famous’, Tamanna for ‘wish’ and Soha for ‘star’.

    If you’re the type who roots for the offbeat guys, you’d perhaps be thrilled to note that Farhan Akthar is ‘joyful star’, Farrukh Sheikh is ‘happy leader’, Farida Jalal is ‘matchless grandeur’, Iftikhar is ‘proud’ and Tabassum is ‘smiling’. Those who’ve seen Phool khile hain gulshan gulshan in the Doordarshan days will vouch for the last bit.

    For the historically minded, Babar signifies the ‘lion’, Humayun connotes ‘fortunate’, Jehangir is ‘world conqueror’, Shahjahan is the ‘king of the world’, while Aurangzeb translates to ‘adorner of the throne’. Before you go haiyo rabba, let me round off with the poetic Mirza Ghalib. His name simply means ‘victorious prince’.

    -Anantha Narayan

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