Monday, 4 February 2008

Ghalib - Husn gamze ki kashaakash se chhuutaa mere baad

Remember the Mir we looked at a while back?...The charming ghazal that begins “aa ke sajjaada-nashiin Qais huaa...”? Today, let's study one by Ghalib that uses exactly the same formal structure – i.e. the same radif, qaafiyaa and beh'r. The ghazal in question probably isn't among the most famous in his divaan, but it provides an interesting comparative study between the styles of these two masters.

This sort of 'replication' of structure was actually quite common in classical urdu poetry. In fact, in many formal mushairaas, all the ghazals had to be, perforce, structured on a pre-announced 'sample' line, which, in effect, laid down the beh'r, radif, and qaafiyaa that everyone had to follow in his composition. The idea was presumably to provide a 'level playing field' for the assembled poets to show off their relative poetic craftsmanship...

This ghazal is of interest not only because of the above mentioned comparative sample it provides vis-a-vis Mir, but also because all its shers are devoted, unusually, to a single broad theme – namely, a series of observations (from 'beyond the grave') by the departed Lover. To an extent, of course, this unity of composition is forced by the nature of the radif - 'mere baad'... (and was also largely true of the Mir ghazal we are comparing it with)... but it might also have been deliberate, since a poet of Ghalib's calibre could easily have integrated other themes within the same radif, if he had so willed...

husn gamze kii kashaakash se chuuTaa mere baad
baare aaraam se hai.n ahl-e-jafaa mere baad

हुस्न गमज़े की कशाकश से छूटा मेरे बाद

बारे आराम से हैं अह्ळ-ए-जफ़ा मेरे बाद

Beauty has been freed from the pulls and pressures of (administering) coquettish glances, after me;
The perpetrators of cruelty are finally at ease, after me

A nice sher, which hints at the fact, rarely admitted in the stylised ghazal world, that the constant inflicting of oppressions, which the typecast Beloveds of this make-believe world are almost obliged to indulge in, must be a bit of a strain on them too!

The sher hinges on the implication that all the Beloveds of the world were concentrating their perverse energies on the poor Poet alone, and hence, after his demise, they can all 'hang up their boots' and take a much-deserved break...! The underlying premise being, of course, that there are no other Lovers in the world worthy of their cruelty...

As with most of Ghalib's 'from beyond the grave' shers, this one (and almost every other one in this ghazal) is best read in a 'wry' tone of bitter amusement...

mansab-e-shaftagii ke koii kaabil na rahaa
huii mazuulii-e-andaaz-o-adaa mere baad 

मनसब-ए-शफ्तगी के कोई काबिल न रहा

हुई मज़ूली-ए-अंदाज़-ओ-अदा मेरे बाद

None remained worthy of the office of infatuation
Airs and graces lost their jobs, after me

This sher restates the situation under study, somewhat in the 'officialese' of babudom!

Once the 'post' of the 'infatuated lover' has fallen vacant (due to the death of the Lover), and no other candidates to the job have quite measured up to be appointed to the office, there is little reason for 'andaaz-o-adaa' to be kept on the payroll either – and hence pink slips are duly handed out to them (mazuulii means something like 'dismissal from service')!!
Sweet... if not exactly brilliant!

In mughal times, 'Mansab' actually denoted a slightly more specific term than the generic 'office'... the Mughal military/revenue system was historically organised around the famous 'mansabdaarii' system, supposedly introduced by Akbar, wherein a series of feudal chieftains, called 'mansabs', reigned over delineated parcels of the Emperor's kingdom, and in return were obliged to contribute both in revenue terms as well as militarily to the Emperor...

shama'a bujhtii hai to us mei.n se dhuaa.n uThtaa hai
shola-e-ishq siyaah-posh huaa mere baad 

शमा बुझती है तो उस में से धुआं उठता है

शोला-ए-इश्क सियाह-पोश हुआ मेरे बाद

When a lamp is extinguished, smoke rises from it
the flame of love clothed (itself) in black, after me

This one is slightly more cryptic... and I haven't been able to quite figure out whether the two lines should be read in unison or opposition...or perhaps both?

The basic idea seems simple...when a candle is snuffed out, wisps of smoke waft upward, marking the end of its 'life'... and the poet, personifying the candle-flame as the 'fires of passion', seems to be implying that what actually happens is not that the flame is 'put out', but that it becomes invisible by covering itself in 'black robes' (of mourning) due to the death of the Lover... where the wisps of smoke are seen as the manifestation of these poetic 'black robes'...

The sher would work well as above, and is probably meant to evoke that sense... except that the smoke that rises from a snuffed out candle is usually white, not black... and this chromatic distinction is, in fact, explicitly held to be significant in some other places in Ghalib's own poetry... hence, could the sher be actually implying that his death is somehow even worse than the snuffing out of a lamp? In the sense that, after his demise, the 'flame of passion' doesn't even let out (white) smoke (as lamps usually do, as pointed out in the first line), instead choosing to cloak itself in inky black robes?

Probably there is a bit of both senses being implied here.... and the slight ambiguity probably meant to only add to the sher's appeal.


khuun hai dil khaak mei.n ahvaal-e-butaa.n par yaanii
un ke naakhuun hue mohtaaz-e-hinaa mere baad

खून है दिल ख़ाक में अहवाल-ए-बुतां पर यानी

उन के नाखून हुए मोह्ताज़-ए-हिना मेरे बाद

The heart is killed(/bloodied) in the dust, at the condition of the Idols; for
their nails have become dependent on henna, after me

Brilliant! This is just the sort of thing Ghalib does so well!!

'Butaan', the plural of 'but', is, of course, a generic term to describe the Beloveds of the world. 'Ahwaal' (the plural of 'haal') is literally something like 'state' or 'condition', used here in the sense of the 'well-being' (or otherwise) of a person...

Now look at the totally dazzling word-play. In the first line, the Poet informs us, rather cryptically, that his heart is (being) 'killed', as it lies in the dust... And, apparently, what is causing such fatal anguish to this disembodied heart is the observance of the '(sorry) state of the Beloveds'...

The two questions this raises – why is the poet's heart lying in the dust; and why are the Beloveds suddenly worthy of such sympathy – are both answered in the second line. The radif clarifies that the Poet is dead - and standard ghazal stylisation allows us to understand that his heart is consigned to the dusts because his life has been lost in the wildernesses. And the rest of the second line specifies exactly what it is about the 'state of the Beloveds' that is inspiring such pity in his heart – the fact that these poor Beloveds are now reduced to colouring their nails with henna!

Which makes one ask, of course, what they used for this purpose before the Poet's death? Well, their nails were obviously adorned by the colour of his blood, as they busily gouged out bits of his heart...! And now, bereft of this ghoulish pastime, they are forced to adopt henna as an alternative if they wish to keep their nails aesthetically reddened...

The cleverest aspect of the sher is the word-play involving 'khoon' and 'nakhoon', of course – you would recall that Ghalib had played on this in one of the earlier pieces we looked at too. Which is why, he is careful to specify that it is the nails of the Beloveds which have become dependent on artificial colours now (as opposed to their entire palms, on which henna is usually laid out)... the literal 'blood-less' sense of nakhoon is important to give the sher its punch. And, in the first line, therefore, the khoon could be used not just metaphorically to mean that 'the heart being killed', but also that the heart is literally oozing out blood, as if obligingly inviting these deprived Beloveds to 'dip in' as of yore...!!! [you know how we describe those easily moved to sympathy as 'bleeding hearts'! :-) ]


darkhuur-e-arz nahii.n jauhar-e-bebaad ko jaa
nigaah-e-naaz hai surme se khafaa mere baad

दरखूर-ए-अर्ज़ नहीं जौहर-ए-बेदाद को जा

निगाह-ए-नाज़ है सुरमे से ख़फा मेरे बाद

(There remains) no place worthy of (bestowing) the jewels of oppression
The coquettish glance is annoyed with kohl, after me

Nice! Having polished the art of oppression to such heights of excellence, it must be somewhat off-putting for the poor Beloved to suddenly 'lose' her victim! Where now to show off her skills? No wonder her beguiling eyes are upset with the mascara – which lent them such unintended lethality that the Lover, whom the eyes meant to play around with for a while, like a cat tormenting its prey, actually breathed his last on the very first blow!

hai junuun ahle-e-junuun ke liye aagosh-e-vidaa
chaak hotaa hai girebaan se judaa mere baad 

है जुनून अह्ळ-ए-जुनून के लिए आगोश-ए-विदा

चाक होता है गिरेबान से जुदा मेरे बाद

Madness is, for the crazed folks, (in?) the bosom/embrace of leave-taking

Tearing is separated from the collar, after me

This is an exquisite one... concealing multiple 'barely-hinted-at' layers of imagery within it.

The first line is complex in its interpretative possibilities. Aagosh can mean somebody's bosom, as well as an embrace. And hence aagosh-e-vidaa can mean either a 'farewell embrace' or 'the bosom of departure, of parting'.

When first heard in a mushairaa context (until the explanatory sub-text provided by the second line becomes available), the first line would be understood, by most people, to be saying that for people who are crazed in love, this 'madness' is to be found in the bosom of departure, i.e. such folk 'manifest' their madness by entering the depths of solitude, of wildernesses (which is pretty standard ghazal stylisation, of course). A similar meaning can be gleaned if one reads aagosh as embrace – namely, that the madness of passion lies in 'embracing' departure, in bidding farewell to the world of normalcy...etc.

However, when the brilliant second line is finally revealed, the need to link it backwards with the first line forces the listener to revisit the latter, and discover new possibilities in it. Once one realises that the sher is, like the others in this ghazal, 'describing' the consequences of the Poet's death (due to the compulsions of the radif), it becomes clear that the first line is not just the statement of a 'general' truth, as it seemed on first hearing... instead, what it actually meant to imply is that the 'madness of passion' is, itself, in the act of 'taking leave of' the people who are afflicted with such madness. Meaning that, after the poet, there shall be no more persons who can honestly claim to be beset by the lunacy of love...he would always remain the emblematic symbol of this malady.

And now look more closely at the haunting second line itself... it takes a Ghalib to come up with such an original juxtaposition of words...to actually deconstruct a standard stylisation and lend new meaning to it. As we have seen over and over again previously, the 'chaak-e-girebaan' stylisation is one of the most enduring in the ghazal universe...serving almost as the staple measure of a crazed Lover's suffering. In this clever line, Ghalib quips that chaak, the act of tearing, would be disassociated from girebaan, the collar, after his death. While this is, in effect, merely a restatement of the first line's claim that 'madness' would quit the 'crazed', the fact that chaak-e-girebaan is usually written as a composite expression allows Ghalib to highlight, in typical tongue-in-cheek fashion, how he has managed to, creatively, separate the two terms of this composite in this line! And what lofty poetic vision to see something as abstract as the 'act of tearing' to be divorced - to be 'torn apart' - from the 'object of the tear'...!

And when one associates the two lines together, one is left with a totally haunting sequence of images...that of 'madness' bestowing a 'farewell embrace' on the 'crazed' and (while separating from this embrace), stealing away the essential characteristic of 'tearing-ness' from their collars...!

kaun hotaa hai hariif-e-mai-e-mard-afgan-e-ishq
hai muqarrar lab-e-saaqii mei.n salaa mere baad

कौन होता है हरीफ़-ए-मय-ए-मर्द-अफगन-ए-इश्क

है मुक़र्रर लब-ए-साकी में सला मेरे बाद

Who shall be equal to the man-quelling wine of love?
(the/a) call is repeatedly on the lips of the wine-bearer

Once again, a typically clever sher.

Hareef is a word that can mean anything from a colleague or an associate, to a rival or an enemy. It also admits a different sense – of someone who is impudent or audacious. All these senses are evoked in the first line, which seems to, with a certain rhetorical flourish, ask who (among the claimants to the ardour of love) would dare to down the cup containing the fatal wine of love. [Mard-afgan literally means 'something that would cast away (throw aside) a man']. The second line then goes on to picturise the saaqii, the emblematic 'wine-server' of the ghazal universe, constantly calling out (for clients/customers), after the death of the Poet...implying that the majority of the saaqii's business used to be provided by the Poet while he was still alive.

However, as Ghalib is himself supposed to have famously pointed out, the sher cleverly also allows us to see the entire first line as the actual 'call' that is described (in the second line) as being on the lips of the saaqii – i.e. the first line is not a rhetorical question being asked by the Poet, but the actual words that the saaqii constantly repeats as she goes around looking for worthy successors to the dead poet...!

gham se martaa huu.n ki itnaa nahii.n duniyaa mei.n koii
ki kare taaziiyat-e-mihr-o-wafaa mere baad


ग़म से मरता हूँ कि इतना नहीं दुनिया में कोई

की करे ताज़ीयत-ए-मिह्र-ओ-वफ़ा मेरे बाद

(I) am dying of pain that there isn't even someone in the world

who would grieve/condole (the death of) love and faithfulness, after me

With typical Ghalib-ish cleverness, the sher sets up a 'paradox' – in effect, what is 'killing off' the poet is the very realisation that after him, there would be nobody left to mourn the death of love and faithfulness. There are two senses in which this can be read – that the Poet himself personifies 'love and faithfulness', because of which his death would make it necessary for people to mourn their loss... or that while the poet was alive, he alone used to truly lament the loss of love and faithfulness, and after him this role would no longer be fulfilled by any one.

Ta'aziyat can mean the act of consoling/condoling as well as mourning/lamenting – and both meanings work well in the sher. In the former, 'love and faithfulness' are poetically 'personified', and themselves made worthy of sympathy, of condolence...since their principal connoisseur, the Poet, is dead...and the poet is 'dying of grief' at the thought that there is nobody who can be relied upon to go and console Love and Faithfulness for his own death.

aaye hai bekasii-e-ishq pe ronaa Ghalib
kis ke ghar jaayegaa sailaab-e-balaa mere baad

आये है बेकसी-ए-इश्क पे रोना गा़लिब

किस के घर जायेगा सैलाब-ए-बला मेरे बाद

The loneliness/friendlessness of Love makes one weep, Ghalib
whose house will the flood of calamities visit, after me?

A lovely maqtaa, as usual, by the Master!

The word bekasii unites the common negator be with kas, which can mean 'somebody' or 'anybody'... hence bekasii, which translates to 'lack of somebody', is used to indicate a state of forlorn-ness or friendlessness. 

With that in mind, the first line's lament for bekasii-e-ishq could be implying two different kinds of regrets... the loneliness of Love itself... or the friendlessness of the Lover i.e. the Poet. Both senses work well. 

In the former sense, what the sher is saying, in effect, is that Love shall be rendered friend-less after the demise of the Poet, and hence the 'flood of calamities' (which is, in reality, the very manifestation of love) shall have to hunt around for alternate hosts. The implication being, of course, that while the Poet was alive, there was never any doubt in whose house this flood had taken up permanent residence! 

In the second, more nuanced sense, the Poet is actually lamenting the fact that a Lover (i.e. himself) is without any true friends in the world (probably because the act of falling in love implies a turning away from the real world?). As a result, even if the Poet dies, no great flood of calamities is going to befall anyone in the world! [The second line, in this sense, is 'negatory' in meaning – the kis ke ghar jaayegaa is meant to rhetorically imply that nobody's house would be so visited by the flood of disasters].


4 comments:

Shweta said...

‘…as they busily gouged out bits of his heart...’ God! What pleasure you take in these ghoulish interpretations! And here I was thinking of the poor wretch/es going all pale and bloodless with anguish. But classical shayari never credits the beloved with any proper feeling does it?
Must say this was a very interesting one. Thanks for bringing to light.
But just in this instance I confess I like the Mir better overall; only because there is scope for obvious comparison.

deewaan said...

My, my - squeamish today, aren't we?!! :-)

But yes, that probably was a little too graphic...sorry about that!

Agree entirely with you about Mir having stolen the march on this one slightly... [Mir supporters, please take note - we Ghalib wallahs do give credit when due! But lest you get too uppity, the operative part of that is 'when'!!!]

Shweta said...

Hehehe (we have our lah-di-dah days ;))
And yes! Must lose no occasion to show how rational and unbiased we are, no?

gaurav upadhyay said...

I can't write down how much thankful I am for these translations of yours.Needless to say,they are beautiful.

Thanks a lot..

-Gaurav