Holi, Choli and Men’s Folly: How India’s Finest Urdu Poets, Male, Obsessed Over Women’s Clothes Leave a comment

The Romanticised Aanchal and Voyeurism

The aanchal, especially the udta hua aanchal (the billowing veil) that both conceals and reveals tantalising glimpses, that is at once a sign of modesty and a source of much speculation as to what lies behind, is the subject of profuse amounts of Urdu poetry. Even a liberal, feminist poet such as Ali Sardar Jafri falls back on the old, romantic trope of the aanchal and the mystique of its falling:

Apne udte hue aanchal ko na rah rah ke sambhaal
Husn ke parcham-e-zar-taar ko lahraane de

Don’t constantly fix your billowing veil
Let the gold-threaded pennant of beauty flutter

The aanchal is invoked, time and again, for the spreading night or the clouds that cover the moon as also for something pure that has now been soiled (maila aanchal) or poverty and want (phata aanchal). Then there’s also maa ka aanchal, evocative of shelter, warmth, safety, nurturing. Mushafi Ghulam Hamdani speaks of the allure of the female form beneath the outer raiments:

Yuun hai dalak badan ki us pairahan ki tah men
Surḳhi badan ki jaise chhalke badan ki tah men

Such is the lithe body beneath the folds of the dress
Like the red glow of the body gleaming from below

Then there’s the ultimate male fantasy embodied in this sher by Akbar Hameedi:

Libaas men hai vo tarz-e-tapaak-e-aaraaish
Jo ang chaahe chhupaanaa jhalak jhalak jaae

Her clothes have such a style embellishment
The parts she wishes to hide glimmers ‘n glimpses

And this by Jan Nisar Akhtar:

Maanaa ki rang rang tiraa pairahan bhi hai
Par is mein kuchh karishma-e-aks-e-badan bhi hai

Agreed that your colourful attire adds to your allure
But the magic of your body’s reflection, too, adds to it

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