na kisi ki aankh ka noor huN, na kisi ke dil ka qaraar huN

jo kisi ke kaam na aa sakay, maiN woh ek musht-e-Ghubaar huN

--'Muztar' Khairabadi (1862-1927)

Here's an impromptu translation...

I'm not the light of someone's eye nor can I bring solace to anyone's heart

I'm a worthless fistful of dust (musht-e-Ghubaar)

Iftikhar Hussain, 'Muztar' Khairabadi, poet and lyricist Javed Akhtar's grandfather and poet Jan Nisar Akhthar's father, was the grandson of the renowned poet and thinker, Fazl-e-Haq Khairabadi. He adopted the taKhallus or poetic name of 'muztar' meaning the restless or anxious. Muztar's contribution to the body of Urdu poetry was not widely known outside the esoteric circles of Urdu letters. It is only in recent years, thanks to contemporary research, supplemented by pervasive use of the internet that the poet's greatness and the subtlety of thought and expression which permeates his Ghazals, in a sense, has been rediscovered.

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The couplet mentioned here has wrongly been attributed to the last Moghul emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar mainly because it was immortalised in a song evocatively sung by Mohammed Rafi, in the film Lal Quila (1960) based on the turbulent times of the poet-emperor. In the film, an aged Bahadur Shah Zafar is seen reciting this Ghazal descriptive of his plight.

However, contrary to popular perception, the poignant shair cited here, and the Ghazal in question, was penned by Muztar Khairabadi. The two lines of the shair are self-explanatory and portray the poet's lonely state in touching and plaintive figurative expressions. The metaphor of musht-e-Ghubaar (fistful of dust) is a powerful one, evocative of the ephemeral nature of human existence.

The maqta or final couplet (revised in the film version) states:

na maiN 'muztar' un ka habeeb huN, na maiN 'muztar' un ka raqeeb huN

jo bigaD gaya woh naseeb huN, jo ujaD gaya woh dayaar huN

Loosely translated it would mean...

I am no one's friend 'Muztar' nor am I anyone's rival

I'm someone whose fortune has been ruined, a wasteland

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