Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Ghalib - Kyoon jal gayaa naa taab-e-rukh-e-yaar dekh kar

Here's the other Ghalib ghazal you recommended, Deepti. I find this one a little patchy - while many of its shers are comparable with the best in the entire Divan, a few seem somewhat so-so.

kyuu.n jal gayaa na taab-e-rukh-e-yaar dekh kar
jaltaa huu.n apnii taaqat-e-diidaar dekh kar

क्यूं जल गया न ताब-ए-रुख-ए-यार देख कर

जलता हूँ अपनी ताक़त-ए-दीदार देख कर

Why did (it) not (get) burnt up on seeing the glow of the Beloved's face?
I am jealous on seeing the strength of my (own) sight!

The sher turns on a somewhat too-obvious leveraging of the dual meanings of 'jalnaa' - i.e. the physical act of burning, as well as 'feeling jealous or envious' of something. The overall idea is still a nice one, though. The poet is suffering the after-effects of having glimpsed the Beloved's face (which has left him 'burning' in a tumult of desires), and he envies his sense of sight, which could 'absorb' the divine incandescence of the Beloved's face without immediately being scorched. [Moreover, if it had been so scorched, it would have saved the Poet the subsequent suffering, so it isn't simply jealousy that is causing the Poet's discontent against the 'thick-skinnedness' of his sight.]

aatish-parast kahte hai.n ahl-e-jahaa.n mujhe
sar-garm-e-naalaahaa-e-sharaar-baar dekh kar

आतिश-परस्त कहते हैं अहल-ए-जहाँ मुझे

सर-गर्म-ए-नालाहा-ए-शरार-बार देख कर

People of the world call me a fire-worshipper
seeing (me) ardent for spark-sprinkling laments

Rather picturesque. The poet's preference for fiery cries (sharaar-baar is 'raining sparks') makes him seem like a Zoroastrian worshipper of fire. The fire-imagery is helped by the 'sar-garm' wording, which means 'eager' or 'zealous' but has a literal meaning of 'hot headed'.

Since, in the Islamic milieu that these lines were written, being an aatish-parast would have been considered as scandalously sacrilegious as being a but-parast, the sher displays Ghalib's typically naughty desire to puncture religious pomposity.

kyaa aabruu-e-ishq jahaa.n aam ho jafaa
ruktaa huu.n tum ko besabab aazaar dekh kar

क्या आबरू-ए-इश्क जहाँ आम हो जफ़ा

रुकता हूँ तुम को बेसबब आज़ार देख कर

What dignity of love (can there be, in a place) where torture is commonplace?
I am held back, upon seeing you tormenting (everybody) without reason.

Rather nicer! The Poet complains against the indiscriminate way the Beloved is going about dispensing her oppressions. This is a privilege, he reasons, that should be reserved for him, her true lover, and not for all and sundry! After all, the cruelties that he used to receive at the hands of the Beloved were what lent 'dignity' to his (otherwise unrequited) love - if even that exclusive right is now lost to him, what self-respect can he continue to claim?

aataa hai mere qatl ko par josh-e-rashk se
martaa huu.n us ke haa.nth mei.n talwaar dekh kar

आता है मेरे क़त्ल को पर जोश-ए-रश्क से

मरता हूँ उस के हाँथ में तलवार देख हर

(she) comes to kill me off, but from the frenzy of envy
(I) die seeing the sword in her hand

A little contrived, this. The Beloved is coming to slaughter the Poet, but he is dying of jealousy on seeing the sword she is holding in her arm (the implication being, presumably, that she should, instead, be holding him?!) As paradoxes go, it isn't bad (watching her coming to kill me kills me off anyway, thus depriving her of the pleasure of actually killing me?) but the chain of reasoning does seem somewhat forced. Unless I am missing something here...

saabit huaa hai gardan-e-miinaa pe khuun-e-khalk

larze hai mauj-e-mai terii raftaar dekh kar

साबित हुआ है गर्दन-ए-मीना पे खून-ए-खल्क

लरज़े है मौज-ए-मय तेरी रफ़्तार देख कर

The murder of creation (mankind) stands proved on the wine-flask
the wave of wine trembles, seeing your gait

This one's much nicer!

(literally, God's creations) is a way of describing mankind. The Beloved's swaying walk habitually causes 'genocide' among the poor unfortunates on her path. And since the deliberately nymph-like oscillations of her gait are similar to the walk an inebriated person, it is the poor wine-flask that stands at risk of being blamed for this mass-murder caused by her. And it is idiomatic usage in Urdu to say that a victim's 'blood is proved on the neck of' the person who has committed the homicide [recall the 'dare kyon meraa qaatil' sher from one of the first Ghalib ghazals we looked at]. And it is because of this danger of being blamed for the murder of innocent bystanders that the 'wave of wine' pauses, trembling in fear, as it is being poured down the neck of the wine-flask! But since wine, in idiomatic usage, bears a somewhat blood-like gulaabii hue anyway, this 'pausing' in itself also contributes (at least metaphorically) towards proving the 'blood on the neck' of the wine-flask. The end result is a delightfully self-reinforcing set of images, of blood, drunkenness, wine gurgling tremblingly down the necks of flasks, and the Beloved (or perhaps even the saaqii, as a proxy) sashaying, with lethally contrived innocence, through all this!

vaa hasrataa! ki yaar ne khiinchaa sitam se haa.nth
ham ko hariis-e-lazzat-e-aazaar dekh kar

वा हसरता! कि यार ने खींचा सितम से हाँथ

हम को हरीस-ए-लज्ज़त-ए-आज़ार देख कर

Oh, desires! For the Beloved pulled (back) her hand from oppression
seeing me greedy for the enjoyment of (her) oppressions!


The Beloved realises that the Poet is lapping up, with perverse relish, all the cruelties she is heaping on him! Upon seeing his enjoyment of her tortures, she immediately denies him even this perverse pleasure - by stopping the oppression! But what does that mean? Is she going to suddenly become indulgent towards him? Or merely indifferent? In most cases, the 'oppression' that the Beloved is accused of is nothing more than complete indifference anyway, so perhaps this 'stoppage of oppressions' might actually result in her acknowledging his presence - either with appreciation or with abuse...? The reader is left with paradoxical uncertainty about exactly what is going to happen next, but the deliciousness of the situation is still palpable. "Oh, desires!" indeed!

bik jaate hai.n ham aap mataa-e-sukhan ke saath
lekin ayaar-e-tab-e-khariidaar dekh kar

बिक जाते हैं हम आप मता-ए-सुखन के साथ

लेकिन अयार-ए-तब-ए-खरीदार देख कर

I sell myself along with the merchandise of (my) discourse
but (only) after seeing the measure of the quality of the customer

A master poet does not like to sell his compositions to just any buyer. But when a truly discerning customer does come forward, the poet is ready to sell even himself along with the verses! Which is just a picturesque way of saying how much of a poet's 'self' goes into his verses, of course - no wonder he finds it difficult to hand them over to someone who wouldn't appreciate their true worth, irrespective of the remuneration offered to him!

I wonder if this sher could possibly have been composed as a tribute to a patron or sponsor whose kindness Ghalib was enjoying at the time...(it dates from before the time when he was in Zafar's court, so it couldn't have been addressed to the latter).

zunnaar bandh, subhaa-e-sad-daanaa toR Daal
rah-rau chale hai raah ko hamvaar dekh kar

ज़ुन्नार बाँध, सुबहा-ए-सद-दाना तोड़ डाल

रह-रऊ चले है राह को हमवार देख कर

Tie a sacred thread, break the hundred-beaded rosary!
A traveller walks after seeing the even-ness of the road...

Oh, brilliant!!

A zunnaar is the Brahmin's sacred thread (a janeyu, as it is called in Hindi), while a subhaa is the Islamic rosary, usually made by stringing together ninety-nine beads, which are used to keep count with the fingers while performing tasbeeh.

The sher impishly advises the listeners to give up the Islamic rosary for the Hindu sacred thread, on the argument that the thread presents a 'smoother' path (towards God?) than the more 'bumpy' rosary!! And it is only natural for a traveller to prefer easier roads, isn't it??

Clearly, while the intent of the sher is merely to amuse, or leave the listener slightly scandalised, it does betray Ghalib's usual disdain for religious symbolism and ritual ostentation!

in aabilo.n se paa.nv ke ghabraa gayaa thaa mai.n
jii kush hua hai raah ko pur-khaar dekh kar

इन आबिलों से पाँव के घबरा गया था मैं

जी खुश हुआ है राह को पुर-ख़ार देख कर

I had panicked due to these blisters of (my) feet
the heart has gladdened on seeing the path filled with thorns!

Very cute!

The theme of the crazed Lover wandering the desert, and in the process acquiring large blisters on his feet, and then the 'kindness' of the thorns in pricking open the blisters, is a long-established association of ideas in the Ghazal world. The above sher doesn't break any particularly new ground, therefore - but it is still an innovative presentation of a time-tested (if somewhat ghoulish) stylisation!

kyaa bad-gumaan hai mujh se ki aaiine mei.n mere
tuutii kaa aks samjhe hai zangaar dekh kar

क्या बाद-गुमान है मुझ से कि आईने में मेरे

तूती का अक्स समझे है ज़न्गार देख कर

What suspiciousness (she) has about me, that in my mirror
seeing the rust, (she) assumes (it) to be the image of a parrot!

A somewhat cryptic sher, it apparently turns on the common practice of placing a mirror in front of a (talking) parrot, in order to prompt it to talk (the bird mistakes its image for another bird).

is the greenish film that used to get formed, over time, in the brass-framed mirrors used in the past (basically a sort of rust, due to the oxidation of copper). The sher seems to draw upon some sort of analogy of the poet 'talking to himself' in his madness, or at least a suspiciousness harboured by the Beloved that he is crazed enough to talk to himself, because of which she sees (perhaps metaphorically) the green verdigris on his mirror as the imagined image of a parrot...?

girnii thii ham par barq-e-tajallii na tuur par
dete hai.n baadaa zarf-e-kadaa-khaar dekh kar

गिरनी थी हम पर बर्क़-ए-तजल्ली ना तूर पर

देते हैं बादा ज़र्फ़-ए-कदा-ख़ार देख कर

The lightning of manifestation was to fall on me, not on the Tur mountain
Wine is offered after seeing the capacity of the cup's consumer!


The allusion in the first line is to the Koranic version of the episode where the Ten Commandments were granted to Moses on Mount Sinai (also known as Mount Tur) - wherein God is said to have manifested himself (upon the request of Moses) in the form of a blinding bolt of lightning that pulverised the entire mountain, and caused Moses to become unconscious.

In this sher, the Poet grandiosely declares that the bolt of lightning (which is nothing lesser than God himself manifest!) should have fallen not on the undeserving mountain that was unable to bear its force, but on the Poet! And what reasoning does he have to offer to justify this claim - why, the simple observation that even wine is poured out according to the 'capacity' of the drinker!! What delightful arrogance! What divine pretension!! And perhaps even a biting hint about 'cowardice' of the Almighty in avoiding 'squaring off' against an equal adversary...?

sar phoRnaa vo ghalib-e-shoriidaa-haal kaa
yaad aa gayaa mujhe terii diiwaar dekh kar

सर फोड़ना वो गालिब-ए-शोरीदा-हाल का

याद आ गया मुझे तेरी दीवार देख कर

The breaking of (his) head by that maddened Ghalib
It came back to my mind, on seeing your wall

The maqta is wonderful, as ever! The love-crazed Ghalib ended his life by banging his head on the Beloved's wall - and the wall remains as an enduring reminder of that incident, as also, by implication, of the (wall-like?) implacableness of the Beloved herself...!


musiq said...

आता है मेरे क़त्ल को पर जोश-ए-रश्क से
मरता हूँ उस के हाँथ में तलवार देख हर
She comes to murder me, but with a fit of jealousy/envy
I could die (of happiness) on seeing such a weapon

She obviously has feelings for him if he can arouse jealousy in her!
and thus his happy death :)

deewaan said...

hmm... possible...possible... The grammar would certainly allow it. The situation still seems somewhat at odds with the general ghazal scenario, though.

Shweta said...

Hey! On a Wednesday?! Goody goodlum.
Have a half-baked theory on the tota-mirror sher. Could the context be based on that post-nikaah ceremony of muh-dikhaai where they look at each other for the first time. Suspicion of foul-play perhaps? Is the patinated mirror supposed to reveal the owner’s/groom’s indigence or age? Why a tota, though? Dunno. Definitely intriguing.


I am suitably punished for not having checked this site for updates!

Thanx yet again for the beautiful summarization of Ghalib, but am afraid this time I was too taken away by Faiz. What a gorgeous ode of his you chose. Made my day, Faiz did! :)

deewaan said...

Shweta: On the 'dismay on muh-dikhai' scenario...: the problem would be, as you point out, that the 'totee' motif would be left unexplained. I don't know of any stylised negative associations (of decrepit age or otherwise) in respect of parrots. on the other
hand, the totaa-mirror juxtaposition, whenever it is evoked, almost invariably recalls the use of the mirror as a trick to make the parrot talk.

However, taking off from your suggestion, one possible take could be that the Beloved suspects the Poet's 'show' of indigence is merely a ruse to win her sympathy (and possibly make her 'talk' to him?)

Deepti: Glad you like Faiz too - we are quite partial to him on this forum, as you would have noticed! :-)