Monday, 31 March 2008

Ghalib - Phir mujhe diidaa-e-tar yaad aayaa

Let's return to Ghalib today. One of his all-time classics, full of typical ghalibian word-play and brilliance.

phir mujhe diida-e-tar yaad aayaa
dil jigar-tishnaa-e-fariyaad aayaa

फिर मुझे दीदा-ए-तर याद आया
दिल जिगर-तिष्ना-ए-फरियाद आया

I again remembered the wet eye
(as) the heart became thirsty-livered of lament

A very nice way to set off a magical ghazal. The chief charm of the sher comes from the play on the words involving 'wet' eyes, and 'thirsty’ liver, combined with the idiomatic expression 'jigar-tishnaa honaa' ('to be ardently desirous').
The whole thing hinges on the oft-repeated principle of ghazal physiology we've looked at earlier - wherein the Lover's liver (jigar) functions as a manufacturing plant for blood, while the heart constantly spills it out through the eyes in the form of blood-tears.

The sher evokes a situation where the liver seems to have reached the end of its manufacturing capacities, because of which the eyes are falling dry. While the heart, discontentedly, wants to continue its tearful laments. But the idiomatic expression used to signify this desire of the heart, namely, 'jigar-tishnaa-e-faryaad' itself links up beautifully with the physiological situation evoked in the sher - for a liver that has run out of blood is truly 'thirsty' in a metaphorical sense too, isn't it?

dam liyaa thaa na qayaamat ne hanuuz
phir teraa waqt-e-safar yaad aayaa

दम लिया था ना क़यामत ने हनूज़
फिर तेरा वक़्त-ए-सफर याद आया

The apocalypse had barely paused (for a moment)
(that) I again remembered the moment of your departure!

Ha! Typical over-the-top hyperbole of the ghazal world, but sweetly said nevertheless.
‘Hanooz’ means something like ‘still’ or ‘yet’, hence the first line translates approximately to ‘qayaamat hadn’t even paused for a breath yet’. And the second line cutely adds that even in that infinitesimal moment when doom was merely on the verge of taking a breather, the poet’s mind flitted back to the moment when the Beloved had taken her leave. A departure that might have been the very cause of the apocalypse, of course (and hence, reconsideration of which would have the effect of setting off a fresh qayaamat!) Or alternatively, a departure that, for the poet, represents a much greater cataclysm than doomsday itself – the latter presenting little more than a tedious distraction from the constant brooding over the former – because of which the apocalypse is put out of the mind as soon as it halts, even momentarily.

saadagiihaa-e-tamannaa yaanii
phir vo nairang-e-nazar yaad aayaa

सादगीहा-ए-तमन्ना यानी
फिर वो नैरंग-ए-नज़र याद आया

The simplicities of desire - that is,
that deception of sight again came to mind!

The first line constitutes a sort of wry, bemused exclamation – something like “oh, look at the naïveté of longing!” The poet’s bemusement is occasioned by the fact that he is unable to keep his mind off the Beloved , despite the fact that her accessibility is nothing more than an inveigling mirage (‘nairang’ means a deliberately created illusion, a sleight of hand, or a wily deceit). As in the previous sher, the punch-word of this one is, of course, the ‘phir’ of the second line – indicating the persistently recurring nature of the Beloved’s chimeric memory.
This is a rare Ghalib sher that doesn’t attempt to do much – simply presents a starkly lovable picture of the enduring dilemma of unrequited love.

ujr-e-vaamaandagii ai hasrat-e-dil
naalaa kartaa thaa jigar yaad aayaa

उज्र-ए-वामान्दगी ऐ हसरत-ए-दिल
नाला करता था जिगर याद आया

Excuse of lethargy, o desire of the heart,
(I) was lamenting (when I) remembered (/thought about) the liver

Put slightly more obliquely here, but it is the same liver-heart physiology that is evoked again in this sher.
In the first line, the poet offers his excuses to the longing in his heart, for the apparent show of lethargy on his part. And then goes on to explain that he was energetically engaged in weeping (as his unrequited desires expect him to do), but has stopped because he suddenly realized how much of a strain all this tear-shedding must be on the poor jigar, as it struggles to keep pace!

zindagii yuu.n bhii guzar hii jaatii
kyuu.n teraa raah-guzar yaad aayaa

ज़िंदगी यूँ भी गुज़र ही जाती
क्यूं तेरा राह-गुज़र याद आया

Life would have passed itself even otherwise (somehow)
Why did (I have to) think of your pathway?

What a beautiful sher that is! With such a hauntingly simple and colloquial touch does Ghalib capture the futility of a lifetime spent hounding the Beloved’s lane in vain. At the end of such a life, all the poet can do is observe with rueful self-disgust – ‘what a waste of time this has been! And it isn’t even as though I couldn’t have somehow got through life, if I hadn’t wasted it in hanging about her street!’
It is in the slight sense of doubt that one perceives in that last claim (captured eloquently in the ‘hii’ of the first line) that I find the greatest beauty of this sher. The poet has a vague kind of confidence that there must have been other (more worthwhile) ways to spend his life, but he doesn’t seem entirely sure what these could have been…since he himself, of course, hasn’t really done anything else in his life than hang around the beloved’s neighbourhood! And one gets the sense that if offered a second shot at life, he would still fail to find any worthwhile alternative pursuit!
In terms of its sound effects, it is the conjunction of the guzar of the first line with the raah-guzar of the second, which makes for the sher’s unique symphony.

aah vo jurrat-e-fariyaad kahaa.n
dil se tang aa ke jigar yaad aayaa

आह वो जुर्रत-ए-फरियाद कहाँ
दिल से तंग आ के जिगर याद आया

Oh, where is that capacity of lament (now)?!
Fed up with the heart, (I) remembered the liver!

This lovely sher can almost be seen as a ‘sequel’ to the first one of the ghazal. It once again evokes the dil-jigar physiological disjunction – but by this time, the liver has already kicked the bucket. And the heart, with its supply line cut off, is obviously incapable of much by way of lament (jurrat is literally ‘courage’ or ‘daring’). And the poet, desirous of lament but disgusted with the lethargy of his heart, nostalgically recalls the time when the liver was still alive…!

phir tere kuuche ko jaataa hai khayaal
dil-e-gham gashtaa magar yaad aayaa

फिर तेरे कूचे को जाता है ख़याल
दिल-ए-गम गश्ता मगर याद आया

The thought again goes towards your lane
However/Perhaps, (I) remembered the lost heart

Sweet! Most of the earlier shers in the ghazal had stressed how the Poet is unable to keep his mind off the Beloved. This one inserts a qualification – while the thoughts do regularly set off for the Beloved’s lane, the Poet tends to hold them back at the last moment, because he remembers that it was in that very treacherous locality that his (still-untraceable) heart had gone missing!

This isn't the only interpretation, though.  We tend to use magar only in the sense of ‘but’ or ‘however’ in everyday speech. However, the word is also used in Persian to mean something like ‘probably’ or ‘possibly’. And hence the sher could also have a meaning quite contrary to the one above – i.e., it may be because the poet remembers his mislaid heart that the thoughts are sent to the Beloved’s street – as a sort of search-party!

koi viiraanii sii viiraanii hai
dasht ko dekh ke ghar yaad aayaa
कोई वीरानी सी वीरानी है
दश्त को देख के घर याद आया

This is some desolate desolateness! / Is there any (truly) desolate desolateness?!
On seeing the desert (I) remembered (my) house!

This one is quite delightful! The first line is rich – it allows itself to be read in a variety of senses, each bestowing a different nuance, mood and meaning to the second.

In the first possible reading, the first line is an exclamation of emphasis – a sort of “Wow! This is what one should call true desolateness!!” And the second line substantiates this by evoking a situation where the desert reminds the poet of his own house – truly such a world would be very desolate indeed, since desolateness is pervasive here!

In an alternative reading, the first line expresses a sort of sheepish acknowledgement – “Oh, OK – This is how desolate true desolateness is!” - the idea being that before seeing the desert, the protagonist was wallowing in pity and considering his own house as the epitome of desolateness. However, when he finally does encounter the true desert, he ‘remembers his house’ i.e. returns tamely to it, much chastened! 

In yet another reading, the first line can be read as an expression of disdain – “Pooh! This is what they call desolateness?!” – the idea being that the Poet recalls his house as being much more desolate than what he is being shown now…

kyaa hii rijwaan se laRaaii hogii
ghar teraa khuld mei.n agar yaad aayaa

क्या ही रिजवान से लड़ाई होगी
घर तेरा खुल्द मे अगर याद आया

What a fight there will be with Rizwan
If, in paradise, your house comes to mind

Rizwan is, in Islamic mythology, the keeper of a garden in paradise. The sher seems to evoke a hypothetical situation where the poet, on remembering the Beloved’s house while he is in heaven, would compare Rizvan’s garden unfavourably with it. Which would, naturally, be resented by Rizwan, leading to an exchange of words.

However, another more subtle nuance also can be pulled from the sher – where ‘yaad aayaa’ is taken (like so often in this ghazal) to idiomatically mean the process of setting off for some place. In this sense, even when he is in paradise, the Poet might want to return to the Beloved’s house, which would, of course, lead to a bit of a tussle at the gates of paradise, as Rizwan tries to restrain the departing Poet!

Mai.n ne majnuu.n pe laRakpan mei.n Asad
sang uThaayaa thaa ki sar yaad aayaa

मैंने मजनूँ पे लड़कपन में असद
संग उठाया था कि सर याद आया
Asad, I had, in childishness, picked up a stone (to throw) on Majnoon,
When I remembered (my own) head!

Majnoon, the crazed protagonist of Nizami’s legendary romance, was often troubled by gangs of misguided stone-throwing boys, who wanted to mock him for his lunacy. The poet hints that he too, childishly, had picked up a stone to cast it in this fashion on majnoon, when a thought of his own head’s well-being came to him. The idea being, of course, to evoke that oft-evoked convergence of identities between majnoon and the Poet. Because of which a stone hurled at Majnoon would have ended up wounding the Poet’s own head.


Shweta said...

Urdu shayari in its best traditional avatar and the most aggravating! This solipsistic obsession with one’s own suffering and the complete ‘but’ification of the beloved. But considering that the unfortunate but/beloved is just standing in lieu for a Nirgun divinity, her role is but to suffer the deprivation of true attention/personality and an equal right to feeling.
But I say! What a wonderfully thorough person you are! A piece of poetry becomes such a palpable thing in your hands. And in a way few people are able to avoid, you lose none of its soul.

deewaan said...

Aah, the whimsical ways of the But/Beloved clan! First they will mercilessly fascinate their worshippers into a state of trembling stupefaction, and then complain about feeling neglected when the hapless victims withdraw to lick their wounds! :-)
Jest apart, I take your point - it is very self-indulgent, this obsessive picking at the bruises in one's heart, not to mention cooing admiringly over them!

Bahut bahut shukriyaa! But you are being your usual kind self - given that this is ghalib there must be huge chunks of 'soul' i've missed entirely!

Musings of June said...

How could I miss not being here before? Well better late than never.

This is almost a veritable archive of Urdu poetry and each of the shers of various poets has been endearingly explained by janaab deewan. However there were more room for other interpretations as well esp. Ghalib's since I truly believe that apart from the surface meanings, there's a spiritual underlying essence as well which has not been touched by you.Nevertheless, the attempt is appreciated.

Without your permission, I've linked this site to mine so that I can come here over and again to soak myself in absolute divinity.

Thanks for the read.I'll love to comment eventually technically,but ofcourse,if you do not mind.

Keep up the good work.

deewaan said...

Hi June - welcome to the site!

Thanks for your kind words. And you're right, of course - in the poetry of the masters, there is never an end to the layers of meaning, spiritual or otherwise, left to be explored. Would love to have your two bits to add to the discussion, whenever you feel like revisiting!