Urdu poetry has a tradition of banter, either across two teams or in a larger gathering, where each participant takes turns to present their two line response to the previous verse.. the person with the lamp placed in front of them is ‘it’ and must speak. If they cannot create something of their own, on the spot, then they can quote another’s poems. Many poets would prepare to seem to have create such verses impromptu.

The tradition is one of sawaal – jawaab, of question and answer, with the response, in turn becoming a question to the group

One such exchange, recently on twitter, with a friend:


Aaj Hai Apnii Bulandii Par Tujhe Kitna Naaz //

Isii Zameen Se Yaad Rakh, Hai Aasmaan Nikla”

Mera jawaab

Bulandi par naaz karein badal bhi, gubaar bhi

Do boond paani, aur yeh bulandi phaani


Dil se dhadkan, Khuun se azm-e-safar le jaayegaa //

waqt ik din chiin kar saare hunar le jaayegaa”

Mera jawaab

Waqt ka kya, kab aaya kabgaya;

Tareekh se chheen ke koi hamaara kal legaya


Meharbaan ho ke bulaa lo mujhe chaaho jis waqt,

main gayaa waqt nahiin huun ke phir aa bhii na sakuun” (Ghalib)

Mera jawaab

Bulate bulaate bol sookh jaayenge

Meherbaan vohi jo bin bulaaye aayenge;

Waqt na dekh na eedon ke chaand

Tamanna ko takalluf mein na baandh


ho chukaa aish kaa jalsaa to mujhe khat bhejaa //

aap kii tarah se mehmaan bulaaye koii”

Mera jawaab

Jalse ke mehmaan to ja chale kab ke

Voh Khat ke intezaar mein sulagte kab the…

And so it goes on..

But, as with all good Urdu poetry, multiple interpretations are possible. Since this friend is very knowledgeable in foreign policy, defence, internal security and bilateral relations – and I have a more than passing interest in geopolitics, it might be interesting to read the exchange again in the light of India’s foreign policy triumphs and debacles, and its ambitions over the past two decades and more…