Friday, December 09, 2005

3. Was Saqi a Guy or a Girl?

The Saqi (pron. saaqi): was actually a boy in his early teens who served drinks at the caravan-sarai (the desert 'caravan-park'). Sometimes he was seduced by travel-weary merchants, parted from their wives for long periods. The original Saqi, of course, was Hermes, the cup-bearer of the gods, who too couldn't resist his boyish charms. The presence of Saqi listed in the dramatis personae associated with Persian, Turkish and Urdu literary culture implies a pederastic side to the once male-dominated literary scene. Because pronouns in Persian and Urdu do not denote gender, it was possible to put a ghazal 'into purdah' or hide the true meaning of a line or reference behind 'the veil'. Thus ghazal couplets often invoke Saqi who by now had taken on metaphoric or mythological status starting from ancient Persian times:

"O Saqi, bring the wine and let me confide in you a secret
About the ever-revolving planets and about the new moon." - Hafiz

Later, much later, the Saqi changed gender in Urdu poetry and became a sensuous girl, with twitching eye and hips. The hookah-bearer of medieval times too bore this name, which also gave birth to the English corruption sarki and saki for someone who tried to act sarcastic. The most famous Saki was Henri Munro, who wrote his delicious surprise-ending stories under that name during the World War II.


Blogger israr said...

Really a rich information about the "Saqi" for those who think saqi a girl,as befor few minutes,me too.
Thanks a lot,and congratulations.
Israr Qureshi

11:04 AM  

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