My introduction to Daag Dehlvi was through Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy, in which 'Daag' is the affectionate nickname of one of the more likable characters. The book is peppered with translations of Daag's shers and ghazals. After I read the book I was on the look-out for ghazal albums featuring Daag's work. I was quite excited when I found one Ghazal by Daag in Abida Parveen's Ghazal ka Safar album:
Le chala jaan meri rooth ke jaana tera
Aise jaane se to beheter tha na aana tera
Tu khuda to nahi ae naaseh-naadan mera, (naaseh: adviser)
Kya khata kii jo kaha maine na maana tera
'Daag' ko yuun vo mitate hain, yeh farmaate hain,
Tu badal daal hua naam puraana tera.
Don't leave me quite like this sweetheart,
Do you want me to wish that you had rather not come?
You are not God, O naive adviser of mine,
But my mistake. When you spoke I should have listened.
She wipes 'Daag' away like she would wipe away a stain,
'Change your name' She says, 'I will soon be bored with you'
Daag's USP seems to be his simplicity. Not much wit, no mystique, no bitterness, no complaint, no cleverness, no irony, no sarcasm. Just simplicity. Daag's ghazals ooze a placid contentment - the kind you would feel if you lay with your face to the sun on a mild winter morning (Or, like I used to in college, in the only-way-out incandescent warmth of a 100 watt bulb on a chill rainy night).
Ghalib's shers might make you sit up and listen to each word and in the end rush a sharp thrill run up your spine or bring goose-bumps to your forearms; Daag's shers will make you sway your head to the gentle melody and in the end might make you nod your head in approval or bring a smile to your lips.
Here's another super amazing Ghazal I found in an album by Iqbal Bano (If you find two ghazals too much to take in one day, read this tomorrow, but do read it.):
Na ravaa kahiye na sazaa kahiye
kahiye kahiye mujhe bura kahiye
(Can't figure out meaning of the first line though the intent of the sher seems clear)
Vo mujhe katl kar ke kahate hain
Maanata hi na thaa ye kya kahiye
She sighs after she has done killing me,
"Bugger never listened, what can I do!"
Aagayi aap ko masihaa-ii,
Marne waalon ko marhaba kahiye ("Marhaba!" = "Well done!")
Hosh udane lage rakibon ke (rakib = rival)
'Daag' ko aur bewafa kahiye