Sunday, 25 May 2008

Ghalib - Koi din gar zindagaanii aur hai

A short sweet ghazal, this one. The principal point of interest in it is a clever exploitation of the multivalence of 'aur' - in the radif. While we use the word in day-to-day language to mean 'and' (which gives it a sense of 'more' or 'additional'), it also admits an (almost equally common) alternate meaning of 'different' or 'something else'. Ghalib plays delightfully with this duality in almost every sher of this ghazal.

Koi din gar zindagaanii aur hai
apne jii mei.n hamne Thaanii aur hai

कोई दिन गर ज़िन्दगानी और है

अपने जी में हमने ठानी और है

If life is for a few more days / if life is different some day

In my mind I have resolved something else / In my mind I have resolved more (of the same)

A delightfully worded sher, that straightaway illustrates the full strength of the specific verbal multivalence that Ghalib has selected to explore in this ghazal, with aur. The two alternative senses of this word, when applied to either line of the opening sher, give rise to four possible permutation-combinations of 'complete' thought processes, each of them equally valid and poetically suggestive:

a) If my life is to continue for a few more days, I have resolved on doing something quite different (from whatever I have been busy with so far)
b) Even if my life is to continue for a few more days, I have resolved even more strongly to continue doing whatever I have been busy with
c) If, someday, my life is different (from what it is now), I have resolved to do something different from what I am doing in this life
d) Even if, someday, my life is different (from what it is now), I have resolved even more stongly to continue doing whatever I am doing in this life

See? Such wealth of meaning, and he hasn't even begun explaining yet what the subject of the resolve is!

As in many of the best shers, the sheer unsaid-ness of the words allows them to be applied to just about any kind of 'resolute' intent. However, if we wish to stick to the standard Ghazal stylisation, the obvious candidate would be the poet's single-minded pursuit of the Beloved. In which case, the various senses evoked above would translate to either a gritty determination on the part of the Poet (to not be dejected by the unrequited-ness of his love), or else a bitter sigh of regret (at having 'wasted' his time on such a futile pursuit), or perhaps even an explicit 'threat' to the unyielding Beloved that his patience has been tried to the limit, and if he is to continue living any longer, he intends to do something else (perhaps to adopt more drastic means to attract her attention, or else abandon his devotion to her altogether...?)

aatish-e-dozakh mei.n ye garmii kahaa.n
soz-e-gamhaa-e-nihaanii aur hai

आतिश-ऐ-दोज़ख में ये गरमी कहाँ

सोज़-ऐ-गमहा-ऐ-निहानी और है

Does such heat exist (even) in the fires of hell?!
the burning of hidden griefs is more/something else!

Once again, both senses of 'aur' would give valid, and enjoyable, interpretations of the sher. The burning of concealed pain is either 'more' than that caused by the hell-fires, or even a sort of hotness that is in class completely 'different' than what one would have to suffer in hell!

There is some word-play intended here too. Dozakh can also mean, apart from hell, 'a belly'. Hence the sher could also be a comment on how the concealment of 'griefs of the heart' is a greater source of discomfort than the pangs occasioned in one's tummy by mere hunger.

baar-haa dekhii hai.n un kii ranjishe.n
par kuchh ab ke sar-garaanii aur hai

बार-हा देखी हैं उन की रंजिशें

पर कुछ अब के सर-गरानी और है

Again and again have (I) seen her indignations
but this time the ill-will is more/something else

haa is used for pluralisation in Persian, hence the 'baar-haa' would correspond to 'baar-baar' or 'kai baar' of everyday speech. garaan is literally heavy, and hence sar-garaanee is literally 'heavy headedness, but has a general negative nuance of dissatisfaction, displeasure, pride or ill-feeling.

The 'target' of the sher is obviously the Beloved (either the earthly one or the one in the azure). But the sher, simple as it is, does capture a delightfully helpless sense of 'dread', doesn't it? The poor Lover is quite used to suffering the displeasure of the Beloved, but now, completely inexplicably, she is suddenly even more displeased than before (or, alternatively, her displeasure has taken on a completely new complexion, hitherto unseen... or as we would say in English, is 'quite something else'). What has caused this sudden escalation in temper? And what is the haplessly uncomprehending Lover to do, except quake in apprehension?!

de ke khat mu.nh dekhtaa hai naamabar
kuchh to paigaam-e-zabaanii aur hai

दे के ख़त मुंह देखता है नामा-बर

कुछ तो पैगाम-ऐ-ज़बानी और है

having given the letter, the messenger (continues to) watch the face
(surely) there is some other/additional verbal message!

Probably the most exquisite sher in this ghazal! Even more indirectly than the previous sher, this one captures such a palpable sense of unsaid dangers looming vaguely over the horizon!

Just look at the delightfully evocative 'vignette' that is captured in these two simple lines... [The 'duration' of the scene is almost momentary. And yet...!] The messenger has just handed over a letter from the Beloved to the Lover. From past precedent, it is almost certain that the Beloved would not have penned words that can be described as kind. But the messenger has obviously also been told to convey some additional message, through his tongue. Oh dear, how much more drastic must these words be if even the Beloved, heartless as she is, chose not to commit them to paper?! And is that why the messenger is hesitating to articulate them too? Perhaps even he feels ashamed uttering something so abusive, something so glaringly undeserved?? The sher says nothing, but ends up saying so much...!

In the alternate sense of aur, the Beloved could have sent a letter that confines itself to socially acceptable civilities... but the message she has asked the messenger to convey verbally is obviously quite different from the polite salutations contained in the letter!

In either reading, the sher has this delightful air of 'time paused dramatically'... the poet obviously expects lightning to strike in a moment...but for the moment, there is just this ominously pregnant pause!

kat-e-amaar hai.n aksar nujoom
vo balaa-e-aasmaanii aur hai

कात-ऐ-अमार हैं अकसर नुजूम

वो बला-ऐ-आसमानी और है

Stars are often cutters of lives/ages
(but) that 'calamity of the skies' is something else!

Lovely! Wonderful play on words, once again!

While nujoom is literally 'collections of stars', the word is, more often than not, employed specifically to refer to 'celestial influences' in astrological contexts. Amaar is the plural of umr, which means 'lifetime' or 'age'. And, as in the english word 'age', the word can also be used to mean a 'period of time'. Hence, it is quite true to say that stars & constellations act to 'cut off' amaar, because they do, of course, help us 'mark out' time-periods - by 'marking the end of' days, months and years!

And, by implication, they also 'cut off' our lives, when our 'time is done'. However, when it comes to 'cutting off lives', the 'calamity (descended) from the heavens', i.e., the Beloved, is quite in a class by herself! The stars, powerful as they are, can never hope to match the potency of her 'life-cutting abilities'! The description of the Beloved as a
balaa-e-aasmaanii not only allows Ghalib to highlight her implied 'angelic' origins, but also serves to point out that the sher works wonderfully if it is seen to be referring to the 'celestial' Beloved!

Note that even in this sher, the two alternate senses of 'aur' can be evoked. While the principal reading of the sher seems to concentrate on the 'different' or 'something else' sense of aur (as outlined in the above paragraph), the sher can also be saying that while stars are the 'usual' causative factor behind the 'cutting off of lives', the Beloved acts as an additional agent to deliver the same result - because of which even people whose 'time has not yet come' may be laid waste, if she were to set her capricious mind to do so!

ho chukii.n ghalib balaaye.n sab tamaam
ek marg-e-naagahaani aur hai

हो चुकीं गालिब बलाएँ सब तमाम

एक मर्ग-ऐ-नागहानी और है

All calamities are (now) finished, Ghalib
there remains (just) one more - the unanticipated death

And a classy maqtaa to end things off! The full gamut of calamities has visited the poor poet, one by one, until they have exhausted themselves. There now remains just one more to put up with... namely, a sudden, unanticipated, death! But the very fact that the sher 'anticipates' its coming means that it would not really be 'naagahaan' - so a nice paradox is set up by the words! Even apart from this bit of cleverness, what a sweetly fatalistic air the sher wears, nahin? It is almost celebratory, the observation that all possible disasters have now been dealt with - and there remains just the final one to dispose off!

While the principal sense of aur invoked in this maqtaa is obviously one of 'more', it does admit the evocation of the 'different' sense too. In this alternative reading, the sher would be saying something like, "all possible calamities are now over. The sudden death that remains, is something different, i.e., it is not a calamity at all!" Which is to say that after having braved all that a cruel fate had in its armoury, the poet regards death almost as a palliative... something to look forward to!


musiq said...

enjoyable! with a nice smooth feel to the protestations :)

musiq said...

i quite like this 'deewaan saab' bit, it suits you :) does he have any more faiz manuscripts tucked away in his noble coffers? if so, send it by pigeonpost to my haveli :)

sheece said...

great blog! great service to the language and poetry. do keep writing please.

dropdedman said...

masterful analysis, and I love your excitement in putting it through. thank you for introducing me to this ghazal.