Sunday, 29 April 2007

Faiz - Gulon mein rang bhare

Continuing with Faiz... another 'sweet' ghazal, often sung. The radif 'Chale' can, depending on construction, be used in the Indicative mood (as a declaratory statement), as well as in the subjunctive (expressing a wish) mood, leading to a delicious ambiguity in some of the shers.

gulo.n mei.n rang bhare, baad-e-naubahaar chale
chale bhii aao ki gulshan kaa karobaar chale

गुलों मे रंग भरे, बाद-ए-नौबहार चले
चले भी आओ कि गुलशन का कारोबार चले

"let the blooms fill with colour, let the first zephyr of spring flow
do come over, so the garden can get on with its daily business"

A plea directed at the Beloved, obviously.

A straightforward sher, the beauty of it lies in the way the first line, at first, sounds like the expression of a simple wish - may colour fill the flowers, etc. - the 'normal' sort of wish you would expect a poet to make. It is only when the second line hits you (and in the typical oral tradition of urdu poetry, this would happen after numerous repetitions of the first line, while the suspense builds up) that you realise that what the first line seemed to be wishing for is, in fact, nothing more than the 'day-to-day business' (कारोबार) of a garden, and what the poet actually desires is for is for the Beloved to come over to the garden, so that its 'normal activities' can 'proceed normally'!

It is only then that the actual compliment implied - that
in the absence of the Beloved, things are 'held in abeyance' in the garden - becomes clear!

SO much more romantic than simply telling the Beloved that she brings colour and freshness into his life, isn't it?

qafas udaas hai yaaro.n sabaa se kuchh to kaho

kahii.n to bahr-e-khudaa aaj zikr-e-yaar chale

कफ़स उदास है यारों सबा से कुछ तो कहो
कहीं तो बह्र-ए-खुदा आज ज़िक्र-ए-यार चले

"Gloom reigns in the cage, my friends; do say something to the breeze
somewhere, for God's sake, (there must be) discussion about the Beloved today!"

We return to the familiar 'kafas-gulshan' stylisation of a bird caged away from its garden (by implication, the lover separated from his Beloved).

"The cage is sad", he says, implying that the inhabitant of the cage (the poet himself) is dejected... and as a 'remedy' to his sorrow, he urges his friends to make a request the breeze - that it should seek out a location where the Beloved is being discussed. The implication being that his imprisonment would become bearable, if he could even enjoy a breeze that comes from such a place, and hence has picked up strains of this conversation along the way. Definitely hyperbole, but nice!

'bahr' is a Persian preposition, conveying a sense of 'on account of', or 'for the sake of'. Bahr-e-Khudaa would translate almost literally as the exclamatory 'for God's sake!'

kabhii to subh tere kunj-e-lab se ho aaghaaz
kabhii to shab sar-e-kaakul se mushqbaar chale

कभी तो सुब्ह तेरे कुन्ज--लब से हो आगाज़
कभी तो शब् सर--काकुल से मुश्कबार चले

"(at least once) let the dawn commence from the corner of your mouth
(at least once) let the night be rendered fragrant by your curled tresses"

'i wish there was at least some occasion when the morning was "set into motion" or "inaugurated" by the corner of your mouth' is how the first line literally reads.

To be woken up by a morning kiss from the Beloved seems almost too much to ask for, in the general scheme of things in the Ghazal universe! If wishes were horses...!

baDaa hai dard kaa rishtaa, ye dil gariib sahii

tumhaare naam pe aayenge ghamgusaar chale

बड़ा है दर्द का रिश्ता, ये दिल गरीब सही
तुम्हारे नाम पे आएंगे गमगुसार चले

"the ties of pain run deep; poor as this heart is
comfort-givers will come along, thanks to your name"

What a beautiful sher! I've read some truly ridiculous interpretations of this one on the internet, though!

In effect, the sher wears a sadly sarcastic note - the poet informing the Beloved about the deep fraternity that exists among those who have suffered the pain of her unfaithfulness... hence, even though his impecunious heart has little to offer to anyone, the mere spreading of the word that his pain is caused by the Beloved will cause (similarly suffering souls) to rush to his comfort!

There is a slight poetic rearranging of words in the second line which makes this (otherwise simple) meaning a little difficult to catch - the 'aayenge' is actually to be read after the final 'chale' as 'chale aayenge' (or 'will come over').

जो हम पे गुजरी सो गुजरी मगर शब्-ए-हिजरां
हमारे अश्क तेरी आकबत संवार चले

"i may have endured whatever i endured, but (on the) night of separation!
my tears left your future course adorned"

The implication (probably) being that (publicity about) the poet's copious tears during the night of separation would tend to further enhance the fame of the Beloved.

In an alternative reading, the sher is addressed to the 'shab-e-hijraan' itself - and the poet says that his tears would adorn the future of the (henceforth
famous) 'night of separation'!

In either interpretation, it is sweet.

हुज़ूर-ए-यार हुई दफ्तर-ए-जूनून की तलब
गिरह मे लेके गरेबां के तार-तार चले

"The Court of the Beloved (conveyed) the desire for (seeing) the 'documentation of infatuation'
(Tied) in a knot (I carried) the tatters of (my) collar"


There is such delicious abjectness here... The Beloved's Court commands that the 'case file' proving the (poet's) infatuation be produced before it; the poet carries a small pouch containingthe knotted remains of his collar, which he has (in the time-honoured 'chak-e-garebaan' stylisation of Urdu poetry) torn to bits in amorous frenzy.

'Daftar' is now used colloquially to mean 'office', but originally stood for a 'file' or 'folder' containing official papers, such as a legal brief. In Indian Government offices, there are still some persons nominally employed as 'daftaris' who are supposed to file papers and diarise their movement (although they usually just hang about eating peanuts and chewing paan!). The French word 'bureau' (now meaning office) has a similar etymology, i believe. So does the word 'budget' which originally stood for a bag containing official papers.

maqaam koi Faiz raah mei.n jachaa hi nahii.n

jo kuu-e-yaar se nikle to suu-e-daar chale

मकाम कोई फैज़ राह मे जचा ही नही
जो कू-ए-यार से निकले तो सू-ए-दार चले

"no location/station en route caught the fancy, Faiz
after quitting the Beloved's lane, (I) walked on (directly) towards the gallows"

Another beautiful Maqta by Faiz...

Apart from the Beloved's lane, the poet has little interest in setting up abode anywhere; banishment from that privileged neighbourhood is as good as a sentence of death!

The lovely internal rhythm of the final line deserves special savouring!

Saturday, 28 April 2007

Faiz - bahut milaa na milaa zindagi se

A rather sweet and short one by Faiz, with two or three absolute gems! It is also notable because it was the last Ghazal Faiz wrote - in 1984, shortly before his death.

bahut milaa na milaa zindagii se gham kyaa hai
mataa-e-dard baham hai to besh-o-kam kyaa hai

बहुत मिला ना मिला ज़िंदगी से गम क्या है
मता-ए-दर्द बहम है तो बेश-ओ-कम क्या है

"whether (one) received a lot or not, what grudge is there against life?
when the 'treasures of pain' are gathered, what is 'more' or 'less'?"

A beautiful choice of words, with the 'baham' and 'kam' symphony in the second line being particularly easy on the tongue.

'Mataa-e-dard' or 'valuables/treasures/assets of pain' is all that one can accumulate from life, in any case... so why hold any grudges whether life gives generously of them, or doesn't!

ham ek umr se vaaqif hai.n ab na samjhaao
ke lutf kyaa hai mere meherbaan sitam kyaa hai

हम एक उम्र से वाकिफ हैं अब ना समझाओ
के लुत्फ़ क्या है मेरे मेहरबान सितम क्या है

"I've known it for ages, don't now (try to) explain
what is pleasure, my saviour, (and) what is pain(oppression)"

This one drips with delightful sarcasm! For ages, the Lover has been suffering at the hands of the Beloved, and now she has the effrontry to explain that what she is inflicting is not pain but pleasure?!! The 'my saviour' is probably the sweetest cut!

kare na jag mei.n alaav to sher kis maksad
kare na shahar mei.n jal-thal to chashm-e-nam kyaa hai

करे ना जग मे अलाव तो शेर किस मकसद
करे ना शहर मे जल-थल तो चश्म-ए-नम क्या है

"if it doesn't create a blaze in the world, what's the point of a sher?
if it doesn't create a flood in the town, what's a wet eye?"

A good sher should warm, perhaps even burn down (alaav is literally something like 'bonfire') the world. And tears are true only when copious enough to overwhelm the drainage system! Typical ghazal hyperbole, but sweetly said nonetheless!

ajal ke haath koii aa rahaa hai parvaana
na jaane aaj ki fehrist mei.n raqam kyaa hai

अजल के हाथ कोई आ रहा है परवाना
ना जाने आज की फेहरिस्त मे रकम क्या है

"another moth is coming (falling) in the hands of death
who knows what the takings in today's account are"


Right through the night, every night, the poor moths helplessly fall prey to the attractions of the candle (the classic shamaa-paravaanaa stylisation), immolating themselves, one after the other, in their fatal devotion. And the heartless shamaa is seen to be ghoulishly maintaining a count of the number of her victims over the night!

with शमा = Beloved, and परवाने = her admirers (including the poet), the biting bitterness of the second line really hits you!

sajaao bazm ghazal gaao jaam taaza karo
bahut sahii gham-e-getii sharaab kam kyaa hai

सजाओ बज़्म ग़ज़ल गाओ जाम ताज़ा करो
बहुत सही गम-ए-गेती शराब कम क्या है

"organise a soiree, sing a ghazal, refill the glasses
the sorrows of the world may be manifold, (but) the wine isn't in short supply (either)!"

A prize-winner, this one!!

No matter how numerous the world's sorrows (गम-ए-गेती) may be, there's little cause for worry as long as there's enough wine flowing!!

'Bahut' and 'kam' are also used metaphorically to mean 'powerful' and 'weak' - which gives a different nuance to the second line - 'the sorrows of life may be oppressive indeed, but is wine any less powerful (as a means to bear them)?!'

lihaaz mei.n koii kuchh duur saath chaltaa hai
varnaa dahar mei.n ab khijr ka bharam kyaa hai

लिहाज़ मे कोई कुछ दूर साथ चलता है
वरना दहर मे अब खिज्र का भरम क्या है

"(Only) out of courtesy does someone accompany (one) for some distance
otherwise, in the world today, what illusion is there of Khizr ?"

This is a nice sher, but one needs to be familiar with the Koranic episode of 'Moses and Khizr' to follow it.

The legendary Khizr is supposed to have been a wandering saint, blessed with immortality and infinite wisdom. From the little i know of the story, Allah once tells Moses that he will find a travel-companion even wiser than himself (i.e. wiser than Moses) who would impart him wisdom. Hence Moses seeks out and finds Khizr, and then the two take a journey together, during which Khizr gives Moses some 'lessons' by carrying out a series of seemingly irrational/immoral/cruel actions, and then explaining to the puzzled Moses the reasons behind these actions...

With that in mind, the above sher points out, in a disillusioned manner, that in today's world, nobody has any illusions (or any wish) of finding a Khizr for their spiritual guidance. Hence if someone accompanies you for a while, it is purely out of courtesy - not because they hope to learn from your company, or because they have any great regard for you!

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Faiz - aaye kuchh abr

aaye kuchh abr kuchh sharaab aaye
uske baad aaye jo azaab aaye

आये कुछ अब्र कुछ शराब आये
उसके बाद आये जो अज़ाब आये

"let the clouds come, let the wine come
after that, let whatever troubles come!"

Give the poet the intoxication of the monsoons, and the aid of wine - after that he can handle anything a cruel fate throws at him!

Westerners might find it difficult to understand the way urdu/hindi poetry attaches a 'positive' imagery to clouds (abr, ghataa, bahaar) - occidental idiom tends to associate clouds largely with difficulty and privation... you probably have to live through a north-indian summer to appreciate that rain can actually awaken joy and romance!

baam-e-miinaa se mahtaab utre
dast-e-saaqi mei.n aaftaab aaye

बाम-ए-मीना से माहताब उतरे
दस्त-ए-साकी मे आफताब आये

"let the moon descend along the roof of the wine-pitcher
let the sun arrive in the hand of the wine-server (saaki)"

This is pure magic! It requires a poetic devotion to booze to see the moon's reflection in the wine pitcher and imagine it having climbed down the neck of the vessel.... or to see the sun in the sparkling fire-water being doled out by the saaqi!!

har rag-e-khuun mei.n phir charagaa.n ho
saamne phir vo be-naqaab aaye

हर रग-ए-ख़ून में फिर चरागाँ हो
सामने फिर वो बेनकाब आये

"let sparks [run] in every vein again
let her come before [me] unveiled again"

A little more pedestrian, this. Sparks would fly through his bloodstream if her veil dropped... wonder if he would go into spontaneous combustion if she were to start disrobing!

umr ke har varq pe dil ko nazar
terii mehr-o-vafaa ke baab aaye

उम्र के हर वर्क पे दिल को नज़र
तेरी मेहर-ओ-वफ़ा के बाब आये

"on every page of time, the heart perceived
the chapter-headings (rubrics) of your kindnesses and loyalties"

Her kindness and faithfulness runs like a header on every page of the poet's life-history? Somewhat un-ghazal like, if so!

kar rahaa thaa gham-e-jahaa.n kaa hisaab
aaj tum yaad be-hisaab aaye

कर रहा था गम-ए-जहाँ का हिसाब
आज तुम याद बेहिसाब आये

"[I] was counting the sorrows of the world
you came to mind immeasurably today!"

This one is beautiful, but just can't be translated properly!

The 'punch' in the sher is the clever word play with हिसाब and बेहिसाब . 'behisaab' - literally, 'unaccountable' - is used colloquially to indicate anything in great measure. In this case, the (somewhat tragic) point the poet is trying to make is that when he sits down to 'count the sorrows', the beloved keeps coming to his mind, since it is she who is responsible for all the sorrows (at least, all his sorrow).

But the word-play [as I 'count' my pains, you come 'uncountably' to mind] makes this more than a heavy-hearted observation - and gives it a sweetly mocking touch!

na gayii tere gham kii sardaarii
dil mei.n yuu.n roz inquilaab aaye

ना गयी तेरे गम की सरदारी
दिल मे यूँ रोज़ इन्कलाब आये

"the reign of your pain could not be dislodged
though there were mutinies everyday in the heart"

I love this one!

So strongly entrenched is the 'dictatorship' of the beloved over the poet's heart, that it manages to frustrate all attempts at mutiny!

Once again, the translation falls short. 'Inquilaab' is such a powerful word - 'revolution', 'mutiny', 'rebellion', etc. don't quite capture its full essence. [An Inquilaab is aimed at complete overthrow of established order - and aims at something apocalyptic like the 'red dawn'!]. So when Faiz casually says that there was an Inquilaab everyday in the heart, it makes for a deliciously 'over the top' metaphor... more so when one notes the contemptuous ease with which the (otherwise uninterested) Beloved is able to render ineffectual the poet's attempts to break out of her thrall !

jal uThe bazm-e-ghair ke dar-o-baam
jab bhii ham khaanamaa.n-kharaab aaye

जल उठे बज़्म-ए-ग़ैर के दर-ओ-बाम
जब भी हम खानमां-ख़राब आये

"The walls and doors of the other's salon burst into flames
whenever we, the wretched ones, arrived"

Not quite clear what this one is all about.

'Gair' (which literally means 'other' or 'someone unaquainted') is one of the many words used in the stylised vocabulory of the ghazal world to refer to the poet's 'rival' - the one who competes with the poet for the Beloved's affections. Quite naturally, a lot of poetic ink is spilt in reviling this character.

I think the sher is evoking a situation where the (wretched) poet is invited to a get-together organised by the 'gair', and, upon reaching there, finds that the Beloved is also in attendance - which causes him such envious 'heartburn' that (metaphorically) the gair's house itself catches fire!

In the Ghazal world, the Beloved is quite frequently cursed for gracing the 'bazm-e-gair' (because she never deigns to honour the Poet's abode with her presence) so Faiz probably assumed that the implied context would be caught by the listeners.

is tarah apnii khamoshii guunjii
goyaa har simt se jawaab aaye

इस तरह अपनी खामोशी गूंजी
गोया हर सिम्त से जवाब आये

"in such a way did my silence resound
[it was] as if replies came back (echoed) from every direction"

Once again, this is quite untranslatable, although it does have a haunting sort of beauty that comes out even in translation... how can 'silence' resound or echo? And what 'replies' can there be to a 'silent' question...? The words are so 'indefinitely' evocative that everyone would probably find some personal way to interpret this...

Faiz thii raah sar-basar manzil
ham jahaa.n pahunche kaamyaab aaye

'फैज़' थी राह सर-बसर मंज़िल
हम जहाँ पहुंचे कामयाब आये

"Faiz, the path [itself] was wholly [my] destination
[Hence] wherever i reached, i reached successful"

I find this brilliant! Like almost all Faiz maqtas, of course...

The poet declares that the route itself was where he set out to get to. So - almost by definition - he is bound to have made a success of his journey, even if he made no progress at all!!

There is a DEEP philosophy - of sorts - lurking behind those words!

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Faiz - Ab vahi harf-e-junoon

A nice one by faiz, in classic ghazal form। The extremely commonplace 'radif' (refrain), i.e. 'thahree hai' admits of such varied meanings (both literal and idiomatic) that the shers are able to dip and swoop across an entire gamut of moods and emotions। In common usage, 'thaharnaa' could stand for many different acts - stopping, pausing, arriving, being contained, becoming, the very act of being, lingering, becoming established, etc. Faiz uses most of these senses beautifully in this...

ab vahii harf-e-junoon sab kii zubaa.n Thahrii hai
jo bhii chal niklii hai vo baat kahaa.n Thahrii hai

अब वही हर्फ़-ए-जुनून सब की जुबां ठहरी है
जो भी चल निकली है वो बात कहाँ ठहरी है

'Now that same frenzied word has settled on (reached) every tongue
once it has started off, when has a news/rumour ever stopped (spreading)?'

The 'mood' of this couplet remains a little difficult to pin down... but it has an undefinable beauty in urdu which just doesn't come out in English, unfortunately.

In its most literal interpretation, the comment seems to be on the difficulty of keeping (love's?) secrets from the public eye... 'once these things come out, where do they stop? Look, the word has now reached every mouth!'.

But since 'baat' is such a 'generic' word (there is no exact English equivalent, although the French 'parole' or 'chose' is an almost equivalent construct), the sher could mean almost anything else... after all, we do use 'baat' colloquially to mean something like 'issue' or 'matter' (in the sense of 'kya baat hai?' or 'what's the matter?'). So, the second line could be saying something like 'once something takes off, does it ever stop easily?' And so the comment could be not only on one's inability to stop 'news' or 'secrets' from spreading in a frenzied manner, but one's inability to keep ANYTHING under control, once it 'sets off'...

aaj tak sheikh ke ikraam me jo shay thii haraam
ab vahii dushman-e-diin raahat-e-jaan Thahrii hai

आज तक शैख़ के इकराम मे जो शय थी हराम
अब वही दुश्मन-ए-दीन राहत-ए-जान ठहरी है

What was, until today, condemnable in the code of the preacher
now, that very foe-of-faith has become the comfort of [my] life

In classic ghazal imagery, this would clearly be a delightful celebration of the bottle! The way drink can become the basis of (a doomed lover's) survival, whatever religious (Islamic) instruction might preach about the shamefulness of the addiction...

The sher could also apply to idol-worship or 'but parasti' [बुत-परस्ती], which is how devotion to the beloved is often metaphorically described in the ghazal world. Once again, बुत परस्ती is something that faith (and hence the 'Code of the Preacher') condemns as being completely un-Islamic, but the poet can't do without praying at the feet of this particular 'but'!

hai khabar garm ki phirtaa hai gurezaa.n naaseh
guftaguu aaj sar-e-kuu-e-butaa.n Thahrii hai

है खबर गर्म की फिरता है गुरेज़ां नासेह
गुफ्तगू आज सर-ए-कू-ए-बुतां ठहरी है

the hot news is that the advisor is running about in (attempt to) escape/depart
the discussion/conversation has stopped today in the lane of the beloved

a slightly tricky one, this.

a lot of opprobrium in the ghazal universe is directed against the 'naaseh' or advisor - someone (presumably a friend) who tries to counsel the lover/poet against his (obviously pointless) infatuation for the (unfaithful) Beloved. Because his advice is so patently sensible and irrefutable, the poet takes a sort of perverse pleasure in discomfiting and running down the well-meaning naaseh.

In this particular sher, i think there is a very specific scenario being evoked - one where the advisor has been walking alongside the poet, somewhat lost in doling out his usual words of advice, until he suddenly finds that they have reached the middle of the Beloved's lane (because the poet's feet lead him naturally that way)! At which point, the advisor fumbles about in his haste to get away from there! But why? Is he apprehensive about being unwelcome in the Beloved's neighbourhood (because of his constant criticism of her)?? Or, more deliciously, could it be that he is himself not entirely unknown in the lane of the Beloved, and is afraid of that fact being discovered by the poet??!!! If this was a Ghalib ghazal, the latter interpretation would almost certainly be the one intended, although Faiz tends to be less 'viciously naughty' in these respects. However, the ironical (or deliberately theatrical) way the sher begins 'hai khabar garm' does suggest that that is what Faiz wanted to insinuate...!

hai vahii aariz-e-lailaa vahii shiiriyan kaa dahan
nigaah-e-shauq ghaDii bhar ko yahaa.n Thahrii hai

है वही आरिज़-ए-लैला वही शीरियन का दहन
निगाह-ए-शौक़ घड़ी भर को यहाँ ठहरी है

It is those same cheeks of Laila, those same lips of Shireen
[on which] pleasure's eyes have momentarily paused

An 'over the top' way of praising the charms of his particular beloved? [that her cheeks and lips can be classed with those of the legendary beauties of the ages...] Or is it a bemused commentary on the 'sameness' of all beauty, despite its abiding ability to command the interest of the viewer, at least in passing...?

vasl kii shab thii to kis darjaa subak gujrii thii
hijr kii shab hai to kyaa sakht-garaa.n Thahrii hai

वस्ल की शब् थी तो किस दर्जा सुबक गुजरी थी
हिज्र की शब् है तो क्या सख्त-गराँ ठहरी है
when it was the night of [our] union, how smoothly/delicately it had passed
when it is the night of separation, how hard and heavy it lingers

Happy times do always seem to fly past, compared to the more difficult ones! But a lover is certainly justified in belabouring the point that the night spent in the Beloved's company had seemed to just slip by (smoothly), whereas this, the long night of separation, seems to hang heavily around him, all tough-skinned and clinging!

bikhrii ek baar to haath aai kab mauj-e-shamiim
dil se niklii hai to kab lab pe fugaa.n Thahrii hai

बिखरी एक बार तो हाथ आई कब मौज-ए-शमीम
दिल से निकली है तो कब लब पे फुगां ठहरी है
once scattered, has the wave of fragrant breeze ever come in one's hand?
once emerged from the heart, has the cry of pain ever paused on the lips?

A little trite, perhaps - the simile is somewhat too obvious.

A fragrant zephyr can't be 'caught' in the hand once it begins to flow... the poet draws a parallel to justify his inability (and those of other tortured souls like himself) to contain their cries of pains (fugaan's) by saying that 'once they leave the heart, who has ever been able to stop them from crossing the lips'... it could also be a way of claiming that the 'cries of pain' of lovers are actually rather like fragrant breezes (because they come out as poetry?)

dast-e-sayyaad bhii aajiz hai kaf-e-gulchii.n bhii
buu-e-gul Thahrii na bul-bul kii zabaa.n Thahrii hai

दस्त-ए-सय्याद भी आजिज़ है कफ-ए-गुल्चीं भी
बू-ए-गुल ठहरी ना बुल-बुल की जबां ठहरी है

The hand of the hunter is frustrated, as is the palm of the flower-picker
neither the fragrance of the flowers has stayed (in the palm) nor the voice of the nightingale (in the hand)


Try as they may, neither the hunter nor the flower picker can 'hold on' to the most precious possessions of those whom they rob of their lives and existence...

आजिज़ is a much more evocative word (often used colloquially too) than 'frustrated'... it is better captured in exasperated expressions like 'i am sick of trying to do this'... and creates a more gloating sense of the poet's enjoyment at the lack of success of the hunter and flower-picker, for whom the poet obviously (and justifiably) feels little sympathy!

aate aate yuu.n hi dam bhar ko rukii hogii bahaar
jaate jaate yuu.n hi pal bhar to khizaa.n Thahrii hai

आते आते यूँ ही दम भर को रुकी होगी बहार
जाते जाते यूँ ही पल भर को खिज़ां ठहरी है

While arriving, the spring must probably just have stopped for a breath
while leaving, autumn has just paused for a moment

Very nice. The sort of 'desperately' optimistic comment that only serves to highlight the hopelessness of the (poet's) situation. While there is little sign of the coming of spring, the poet bravely predicts that it has probably just 'paused for a breath' on its way in, and that autumn is probably just about to leave, and has only stopped momentarily on the way out!!

ham ne jo tarj-e-fugaa.n kii hai qafas mei.n ijaad
'Faiz' gulshan mei.n vo tarz-e-bayaa.n Thahrii hai

हम ने जो तर्ज़-ए-फुगां की है कफ़स मे इजाद
'फैज़' गुलशन मे वो तर्ज़-ए-बयां ठहरी है

the 'style of lament' that we invented in the cage
(out) in the garden, oh faiz, it has become a 'style of discourse'

the way Faiz ends his poems (both ghazals and nazms) is in itself enough to justify his two nobel prize nominations! Isn't this one an absolute beauty??

He evokes the stylised imagery of birds caged away from their garden (the कफ़स-गुलशन scenario) that recurs again and again in the ghazal world, and makes one of these birds (perhaps one freshly escaped from the cage after a long spell of imprisonment) inform another one (who is still trapped within) that the words (bird-songs?) they had 'invented' to bemoan their (shared) confinement have become a common 'mode of speech' (public anthems?) out in the garden!! A poet's way of taking pride in the fact that the 'prison of pain' in which he lives, gives his words the sort of pathos and appeal that makes others (who don't even share the same pain) adopt his style (of speech) for common usage.

This ghazal appeared in Faiz's work dast-e-sabaa, which was written while he was a prisoner of conscience.  As with much of his work, therefore, this sher has a more dramatic - and daringly political - interpretation: That even by clapping him in irons, his oppressors cannot prevent his words providing grist to the mills of revolutionary protest outside...

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Faiz - bahaar aai to jaise

bahaar aayii to jaise ek baar
lauT aaye hai.n phir adam se
vo khwaab saare, shabaab saare
jo tere honTo.n pe mar miTe the
jo miT ke har baar phir jiye the
nikhar gaye.n hai.n gulaab saare
jo terii yaado.n se mushkbuu hai.n
jo tere ushhaak kaa lahuu hai.n

ubal paDe hai.n azaab saare
malaal-e-ahwaal-e-dostaa.n bhii
khumaar-e-aagosh-e-mahvashaa.n bhii
gubaar-e-khaatir ke baab saare
tere hamaare
sawaal saare, jawaab saare

bahaar aayii to khul gaye hai.n
naye sire se hisaab saare

बहार आई तो जैसे एक बार
लौट आये हैं फिर अदम से
वो ख़्वाब सारे, शबाब सारे
जो तेरे होंटों पे मर मिटे थे
जो मिट के हर बार फिर जिए थे
निखर गएँ हैं गुलाब सारे
जो तेरी यादों से मुश्क्बू हैं
जो तेरे उश्शाक का लहू हैं

उबल पड़े हैं अज़ाब सारे
मलाल-ए-अहवाल-ए-दोस्तां भी
खुमार-ए-आगोश-ए-महवशां भी
गुबार-ए-खातिर के बाब सारे
तेरे हमारे
सवाल सारे, जवाब सारे

बहार आई तो खुल गए हैं
नए सिरे से हिसाब सारे

With the coming of spring, once again
it's like they have returned from non-existence
all those thoughts, all that youthfulness
which had sacrificed themselves upon your lips
which had always sprung up again after their sacrifice

All those roses have bloomed again
which are fragrant with memories of you
(and) which are the life-blood of your lover

All those agonies are ebullient again
the regret at the condition of friends too
the intoxication of the beloved's embrace too
All those subjects, in the dust-clouds of memory

All those questions, all those answers
yours and mine

With the coming of spring
all the accounts are open afresh

Beautiful! And so typically Faiz!!

The second half is particularly haunting. And the closing verse is an entire poem in itself!... 'With the coming of spring, all the account books (previously settled and closed) are open again' - and all that life-wrenching give-and-take, all that pain of separation and union, it is all again on the table, to be negotiated afresh!

And when it is all settled and agreed, the closure would last... only until the next spring!

There is this delightfully fatalistic sense of acceptance of the 'inevitability of repitition' which reigns throughout the poem.

Thursday, 19 April 2007

Ghalib - Dil-e-nadaan tujhe

One of Ghalib's most celebrated works, it is notable for the (un-Ghalib like?) colloquial simplicity of many of its shers. The refrain क्या है permits Ghalib to make masterly use of his typical इन्शाईयाह style (the use of non-refutable statements, usually in interrogative or subjunctive mood) by making a series of interrogative exclamations, which consciously wear an air of studied, almost mocking, naivete.

--नादान तुझे हुआ क्या है
आख़िर इस दर्द कि दवा क्या है

"o silly heart, what's happened to you?
what medicine, after all, is there for this pain?"

हम हैं मुश्ताक और वो बेज़ार
या इलाही ये माजरा क्या है

"I am full of ardour, and (yet) she (remains) displeased
dear god,what is this going on?"

मैं भी मुँह मे ज़बान रखता हूँ
काश पूछो कि मुद्दा क्या है

"i too have a tongue in my mouth
if only you'd ask what the issue/intent is"

जब कि तुझ बिन नही कोई मौजूद
फिर ये हंगामा खुदा क्या है

" when nobody but you is present (exists)
what, dear god, is this din?"

This outstanding couplet begins a 'set' of four related shers (an occasionally-permitted break from the otherwise mandatory independence of shers in the strict ghazal form), which quite clearly seem to be addressed to the celestial (as opposed to an earthly) beloved.

With an endearingly confused air (or, equally possibly, with delightfully naughty sarcasm), the poet asks the almighty that if He is the only true entity in creation [in keeping with the Sufi belief that God exists in solitary splendour in the universe, everything else being illusory], then why is there such a (captivating) commotion of sights, sounds and experiences all around the poet, which holds him fascinated. He then goes on, in the next three shers, to substantiate this point by listing some of the things which, in his opinion, pose a fairly credible challenge to the exclusive existence of the almighty!

ये परी चेहरा लोग कैसे हैं
गमज़ा--इष्वा--अदा क्या है

"how are these fairy-faced people (here)?
these sidelong glances, this coquetry, these graces, what is (all) this?"

Once again, either an honestly innocent desire for clarification, or a deliberately needling challenge to the creator... 'you say you are the only one, but look at these fascinating creatures, at their compelling wiles - for something that doesn't exist, they seem pretty powerful!'

शिकन--ज़ुल्फ़--अम्बारी क्यों है
निगाह--चश्म--सुर्मा-सा क्या है

"why is the curl in the fragrant tresses there?
glances from kajol-lined eyes, what are these?"

More of the same ... that heart-stopping curl in the tangled tresses of the beloved, not to mention a glance from her smouldering eyes, surely deserves an equal stature in the existential scheme of things as the (monotonously invisible) Creator...!

सब्ज़ा--गुल कहाँ से आये हैं
अब्र क्या चीज़ है हवा क्या है

"where have leaves and blooms come from?
what sort of thing is a cloud, what is the breeze?"

It is probably a telling comment on Ghalib's priorities that the more 'natural' contenders to challenge God's claim to exclusive existence, i.e. clouds, wind, vegetation, etc., are cited after the beloved's angel-faced coquetry or the inveigling locks of her hair!

हमको उनसे वफ़ा की है उम्मीद
जो नहीं जानते वफ़ा क्या है

"I (live in) hope of faithfullness from someone
who doesn't (even) know what faithfullness is"

So intensely trite, that it actually DOES achieve a sort of a stark beauty in its hopelessness...

हाँ भला कर तेरा भला होगा
और दरवेश की सदा क्या है

"do good to others, and good will be done to you
what else does the (saintly) beggar preach?"

a gem! While it has almost nothing to say in itself (except the tritest of moral platitudes), the sher evokes a delicious situational context where the poet is opportunistically drawing the Beloved's attention to the (typical) calls of a wandering mendicant, and pointing out that 'even the darvesh is telling you to be nice to me, for that is the only way you will receive rewards in life'... the implication being that she she should give generously of her charms, to the (schemingly?) abject poet!

जान तुम पर निसार करता हूँ
मैं नहीं जानता दुआ क्या है

"i offer my life to you
i don't know what benedictions are"

Once again, a seemingly trite statement, but sweet if seen in a context where the poet is trying to defend himself against a charge of lack of social graces (of the sort that are shown by timely transmission of good wishes etc.) by an annoyed Beloved.

मैंने माना कि कुछ नहीं ग़ालिब
मुफ़्त हाथ आये तो बुरा क्या

"granted that Ghalib is nothing special
but if you get him free, how is it a bad deal?!"

Finally, the sort of self-confident, almost arrogant, modesty that only someone who knows himself to be at the pinnacle of his art can sport. Ghalib, more than anybody else, knew well that in popular as well as critical esteem, he was very very far from being 'nothing special'. Hence this maqta must have got an especially explosive round of applause when first heard in a mushaiira context!

Saturday, 14 April 2007

Ghalib - bas ki dushwaar hai har kaam ka aasaan honaa

Bas ki dushwaar hai har kaam kaa aasaan honaa
aadmii ko bhii mayassar nahii.n insaa.n honaa

बस कि दुशवार है हर काम का आसान होना
आदमी को भी मयस्सर नही इन्सान होना

"While it is difficult for every task to become easy (achievable)
(Why, ) even men do not (always) succeed in becoming human"

Depending on the interpretations of 'bas ki' the sher can have slightly varying meanings, all quite nice ones. If it is taken as 'while' or 'although', the sher seems to ask a (mocking? lamenting?) question like "while it is admittedly difficult for every task to be easy, is man even condemned to fail at becoming human?' Alternately, 'bas ki' could mean something like 'it is just', in the sense that we nowadays say 'period!' after a declaration to say that 'that is just how it is'. In that sense, the sher could me merely a declaratory statement like "it is just too difficult (impossible) for every task to be easy. Why, men do not even manage to become human!"

Giriyaa chaahe hai kharaabii mere kaashaane kii
dar-o-diiwaar se Tapke hai bayaabaa.n honaa

गिरिया चाहे है खराबी मेरे काशाने की
दर ओ दीवार से टपके है बयाबान होना

tears (weeping) wish the ruin of my humble abode
(the process of becoming) desolate drips from my doors and walls

Normally regarded as one of Ghalib's better ones, i believe, although a little abstruse in its symbolism. In its most common interpretations, the notion of 'dripping' (tapakna) is used to draw a simile between tears and, possibly, leaking of rain-water (due to the poor state of the house). The (slightly forced?) simile that is only implied here is that 'just as the (tear-like) dripping waters are in process of delivering my humble house to a state of desolateness, so are my tears aiming to finish me off.' It is the way Ghalib says that 'बयाबान होना' is dripping from his walls, i.e., the 'process of becoming desolate' is what is dripping, that renders this sher so hauntingly 'untouchable' and sets it apart.

waa-e-diiwaanagii-e-shauq ki har dam mujhko
aap jaanaa udhar aur aap hii hairaa.n honaa

वा-ए-दीवानगी-ए-शौक़ कि हर दम मुझको
आप जाना उधर और आप ही हैरान होना

such is the madness of my love (infatuation) that every time
i myself go there, and (yet) myself am surprised/thwarted (by the unmovingness of the beloved?)

वा - ए - दीवानगी is an ironical exclamation of the sort 'oh, well done, madness!' In his typical style, Ghalib congratulates his infatuation, which forces him to constantly return to the Beloved's doorstep.

The 'proof' of madness is, of course, that upon reaching there, the poet is astonished/thwarted (हैरान can mean both). If he is astonished at finding himself at the Beloved's door, that would be madness indeed, and would underline that the poet makes this journey completely 'under the influence' without even realising where his feet are leading him. Alternatively, it could be the charms of the Beloved that leave him surprised, which would still be a little crazy, because it is those very charms, of course, which had led the poet there in the first place.

हैरान is also used in the sense of 'thwarted' or 'hassled', in which case his 'madness' would be in constantly returning to a Beloved who refuses to respond to his ardour (which, of course, is the the constant state of affairs in Ghalib's universe!).

Such a wealth of lovely meanings!!

jalwaa az-bas ki takaajaa-e-nigaah kartaa hai
jauhar-e-aaiinaa bhii chaahe hai mizgaa.n honaa

जलवा अज़-बस-कि तकाजा ए निगाह करता है
जौहर ए आइना भी चाहे है मिज़गा होना

To such an extent does (her) radiance demand (i.e. attract) observation
Even the streaks on the mirror (created due to polishing) wish to become eyelashes (and thus the mirror itself, an eye)

Needs little by way of explanation, this one. The only point of interest being, probably, the unusual visualisation of (suitably curved) polish streaks on the mirror as eyelashes! The overall idea seems a little trite though - her beauty draws out stares of admiration from everyone, even from the normally eyeless objects that are fortunate enough to find her unveiled in front of them. Ho-hum!

ishrat-e-qatlgaah-e-ahl-e-tamannaa mat puuchh
iid-e-nazzaaraa hai shamshiir kaa uriyaa honaa

इश्रत-ए-क़त्लगाह-ए-अहल-ए-तमन्ना मत पूछ
ईद-ए-नज़ार्रा है शमशीर का उरिया होना
"ask not about the festivity (that reigns) over the abattoir of the desirous ones!
(even) the baring of the sword is like sighting the Eid's moon (there)"
'the abattoir of lovers' or the metaphorical place where lovers go to be slaughtered, wears a look of constant festivity, as those destined to come under the knife look forward to being liberated from their pain shortly. And when the curved blade finally is bared (and flashes as it is raised), to the lovers the sight is like the (much awaited) Eid's moon (the thin crescent that needs to be sighted for the Eid festivities to be declared open). Once again, the overall poetic idea (of hopeless lovers looking forward to oblivion) isn't too original, but the likening of a flashing sword to a crescent moon certainly is unusual enough to warrant attention.

le gaye khaak me ham daagh-e-tamanna-e-nishaat
tuu ho aur aap ba-sad-rang-e-gulistaa.n honaa

ले गए ख़ाक मे हम दाग-ए-तमन्ना-ए-निशात
तू हो और आप बा-सद-रंग-ए-गुलिस्तां होना
"i have taken into dust (buried) the wound of my longing for happiness
(may) you remain, and yourself (become) a garden of hundred colours"
The metaphorical burying of the lover's (bleeding) wounded heart into the earth, and that, in turn, providing fertile ground for the 'blooming' of the Beloved, evokes the lover's belief that his hapless end (while longing the unmoving Beloved's affections) will only help to spread the fame and radiance of the Beloved further. But he seems strangely contented, even comforted, by that thought, and wishes her on...

ishrat-e-paaraa-e-dil zakhm-e-tamannaa khaanaa
lazzat-e-riish-e-jigar gark-e-namakdaa.n honaa

इश्रत-ए-पारा-ए-दिल ज़ख्म-ए-तमन्ना खाना
लज्ज़त-ए-रीश-ए-जिगर गर्क-ए-नमक्दां होना
"celebration for a piece of heart is to receive the wound of desire
enjoyment for a piece of liver is to drown (itself) in the salt dish"
This one is somewhat amusing, though in a ghoulish way. Just as a piece of liver becomes delicious (and thus, metaphorically, gratifies its sense of taste) by dipping itself in the salt dish (a process which must, by definition as well as by popular idiom, be unbearably painful) similarly, the lover's heart celebrates the receipt of its 'wounds of desire'. 'Lazzat' (literally enjoyment/gratification) is often used for pleasures of the tongue, so the salt-dish plunge of the piece of liver makes for a fitting simile - for the 'taste' that the lover's heart has acquired for the wounds inflicted by his unrequited ardour.

kii mere qatl ke baad usne jafaa se taubaa
haye us jod-pashemaa.n kaa pashemaa.n honaa

की मेरे क़त्ल के बाद उसने जफ़ा से तौबा
हाय उस जोद-पशेमां का पशेमां होना
"after my death she renounced all cruelty
oh how wonderful, the shame of that easily-shamed one!"
Totally delightful, and requires no explanation! Probably the best one in the ghazal.


haif us chaar girah kapRe kii kismat Ghalib
jis kii kismat mei.n ho aashiq ka girebaa.n honaa

हैफ उस चार गिरह कपड़े की किस्मत ग़ालिब
जिस की किस्मत मे हो आशिक़ का गिरेबां होना

"alas, the fate (cutting) of that quarter-yard of cloth, Ghalib
whose fate is to be(come) the collar of a lover"
Evokes the oft-repeated ghazal imagery whereby the despairing lover is going to tear out his collar (चक-ए-गिरेबान), in a crazed attempt to soothe the pain in his heart. The most commented aspect of this sher is the alternate, much less common, usage of 'kismat' - which can mean something like 'the measured cutting of cloth by a tailor, in order to make a specific garment'. Immediately, the double-use of 'kismat' springs from being merely poetic repitition, to the sort of brilliance that only Ghalib could have come up with!