Sunday, 28 March 2010

Mir - Muh takaa hii kare hai jis tis kaa

I find I am a sucker for 'mirror-shers'!  You know the ones I mean - where the evocation of a mirror allows the poet to indulge in a bit of 'pulling by the bootstraps' kind of tautology... The following ghazal by Mir has been selected, therefore, primarily for its outstanding matlaa - one that could justly stand beside some of Ghalib's cleverer ones.

Muh takaa hii kare hai jis tis kaa
hairatii hai yeh aaiinaa hai kis kaa

मुह तका ही करे है जिस तिस का 
हैरती है यह आइना है किस का 

منہ تکا ہی کرے ہے جس تس کا 
ہیرتی ہے یہ آئنہ ہے کس کا

It just goes on staring at the face of one or the other
(this) bewildered mirror - whose is it? /  (I'm) bewildered - whose mirror is this?

Something of a tour-de-force!  The sher works so excellently at different levels.  On one reading, it is a fairly well-worded compliment to the Beloved - implying that if other people were to come before her mirror, the poor mirror could do little better than stare back in astonished silence, its eyes darting from face to face, as it searches for the one that is actually worthy of its regard.  Even when used in this commonplace sense to characterise the Beloved's mirror, however, there could also be an implied barb, besides the compliment - since it would normally be the Beloved who would be reflected in the mirror, the verse could also be pointing out that the Beloved herself remains intransigent to the sufferings of her admirers, as they supplicate before her - content to merely stare back at them without offering a word of solace or comfort.  

But this implied compliment (or barb), as so often, is only the outer shell. The actual intent of the sher is to launch a sufistic barb at the Almighty Himself.  When one recalls that Creation is characterised as the 'mirror of God', the implied sarcasm comes through loud and clear - "what a wonderful mirror this (Creation) is - one that can do nothing but stare like a silent spectator at the faces of suffering mortals?  One can imagine what sort of Being is 'mirrored' in it!"

shaam se kuchh bujhaa saa rahtaa hoo.n
dil huaa hai chiraagh muflis kaa

शाम से कुछ बुझा सा रहता हूँ 
दिल हुआ है चिराग़ मुफलिस का 

شام سے کچھ بجھا سا رہتا ہوں
دل ہوا ہے چراغ مفلس کا

Come evenfall, I remain somewhat subdued
(my) heart has become like a pauper's lamp

The point of this sher is, of course, to indulge in some gentle play with the word 'bujhaa', which, when used for a person, would translate to 'subdued' or 'depressed', but has a literal meaning of 'extinguished'.  A pauper's lamp would, naturally, burn feebly, if at all.  Muflis - which is literally 'insolvent' or 'penniless' - is a negated form of fuluus which is Arabic for a coin.

the bure mugh-bachho.n ke tewar lek
sheikh mai-khaane se bhalaa khiskaa

थे बुरे मुग-बच्चों के तेवर लेक 
शेख़ मय-खाने से भला खिसका 

تھے برے مغ بچّوں کے تیور لیک
شیخ مے خانے سے بھلا کھسکا

The sons of the tavern-keeper were in ill humour, but
the Nobleman wisely fled the tavern

Mugh or its plural mughaan is used in Persian to describe zoroastrian fire-worshippers (Etymologically, the word is from Magus or its plural Magi, which is used, of course, for the Biblical 'three wise men').  However, the term is also used pejoratively for the owner of a house of ill-repute, a drinking den, etc.  Mugh-bachhaa would literally be, then, the son of a tavern-keeper - who seems to have functioned somewhat as modern day 'bouncer'.  The above sher is yet another needling barb at 'Sheikh sahib' - the term describes a man of high social standing, a headman, a preacher, etc.; who is often the butt of ridicule in the ghazal world - who probably found himself in a situation of having drunk beyond what his purse would permit, and was obliged to sneak away from the tavern before he was forcibly ejected. The verb Khisaknaa literally means something like 'to shift sideways' or 'to sidle', but is used figuratively for a the act of making a sneaky and opportune exit from somewhere.  Lek is a poetic contraction of lekin.

daagh aankho.n se khil rahe hai.n sab
haath dastaa huaa hai nargis kaa

दाग़ आँखों से खिल रहे हैं सब 
हाथ दस्ता हुआ है नरगिस का 

داغ آنکھوں سے کھل رہے ہیں سب
ہاتھ دستہ ہوا ہے نرگس

(my) wounds are all blooming like eyes
(the) hand has become like a handful of daffodils

This one's quite nice, with some interesting word-play based imagery.  The first line could literally say 'wounds are blooming like eyes' or even 'wounds are blooming from eyes' (the usage of se as 'from' or 'like' is equally common).  The 'blooming' of wounds refers to their 'opening up', becoming raw again, etc. - which is figuratively similar to the opening of an eyelid.  And since these wounds are self-inflicted ones (in the frenzied zunoon of love), the poet's hand has become metaphorically 'full of flowers'.  The word-play comes from the fact that the first line could also refer to his wounds sprouting forth from his eyes - an allusion to the common ghazal stylisation of 'blood tears' being shed. And a further layer of allusion is added when one recalls that nargis evokes not only flowers of the narcissus genus (daffodils, jonquils), but is also used very frequently in the poetic world to describe the Beloved's eyes (the exact term used is nargis-e-shaahlaa and refers to the tinge of blue or grey in the Beloved's pupils).  Dastaa is literally a 'handful' of something - hence the popular word 'gul-dastaa' to describe a nosegay.     

bah'r kam-zarf hai basaan-e-habaab
kaasa-les ab hawaa hai to jis kaa

बह्र कम-ज़र्फ़ है ब-सान-ए-हबाब
कासा-लेस अब हवा है तो जिस का 

بحر کم ظرف ہے بسانِ حباب
کاسہ لیس اب ہوا ہے تو جس ک

The ocean is small-sized, like a bubble
whose pot-licker is now the air (itself)

Somewhat more cryptic - one has a sense that Mir is saying something quite profound here, but the exact point he is making remains abstruse.  

Zarf is a contracted form of zaraafat which means 'ingenuity' or 'elegance', but, when used for a vessel, also means 'capacity'.  Hence kam-zarf would literally describe a receptacle with a limited capacity, one that is small in size. Kaasah-leb is literally a 'pot licker', and is used to describe relative indigence. [To be somebody's 'pot licker', one would have to be in a situation of great want, relative to that person - forcing you to eke out an existence by licking the left-overs from vessel he has eaten from.]. Saan is Farsi for 'similitude', and hence 'ba-saan' is to be like something.

There is, therefore, lovely imagery in this sher.  The first line says that the entire ocean has no greater capacity than a bubble of water.  And then points out that the very air is, nonetheless, now the pot-licker of this ocean.  Now, it is quite true, of course, that if one chooses to see a water bubble as the 'vessel' in which the entire ocean is captured, then air does 'lick' the insides of the bubble (air trapped within water is what causes the bubble to form in the first place).  And hence air can be seen to be in a situation of great want vis-a-vis even this 'in-capacious' ocean.  Which is all very nice, except that I am not sure what the point of this lovely, mystical-sounding imagery is.  I even wrestled with the possibility of reading 'hawaa hai' in the figurative sense of 'being absent and untraceable' - which would make the second line say something like 'whose pot-licker is now absconding', and would make it more consistent with the relativisation of the ocean's size and importance (that the first line attempts), but again would leave one wondering at what the message behind the entire sher is...!

faiz ab abr chashm-e-tar se uThaa
aaj daaman vasii hai is kaa

फैज़ अब अब्र चश्म-ए-तर से उठा 
आज दामन वसी है इस का

فیض اے ابر چشمِ تر سے اٹھا
آج دامن وسیع ہے اس کا

Now take your bounty from the wet eye, O Cloud
today its daaman is ample

Quite lovely. 

I haven't bothered to translate daaman since there is no English equivalent.  Faiz means 'munificence', 'generosity', 'abundance' etc.  The first line exhorts the cloud to partake freely of the riches held aloft by 'wet eyes' - namely to draw its sustaining moisture not from the seas and rivers, but instead from the tear-drenched eyes of the poet.  The second line goes on to point out that the daaman of the eyes is quite extensive today. Wasi'i is an adjectival form of Wusʻat, which, in Arabic, signifies capacity, spaciousness, etc. However, what is important in the second line is not the size of the daaman, but its wet-ness.  Among the multitude of idioms associated with the daaman imagery is that of daaman geelaa honaa which translates to something like a state of sinfulness or taintedness.  

taab kis ko jo haal-e-miir sune
haal hii aur kuchh hai majlis kaa

ताब किस को जो हाल-ए-मीर सुने 
हाल ही और कुछ है मजलिस का 

تاب کس کو جو حالِ میر سنے 
حال ہی اور کچھ ہے مجلس کا

Who has the strength to pay heed to Mir's (account of his) state?

the condition of the congregation is quite something else!

An apt 'mushairaa' maqtaa to end with. Easy on the ear, thanks to the deliberate repitition of haal in both lines. Majlis is Arabic for an 'assembly', a 'convivial meeting' or a 'Council'. The choice of Majlis as opposed to the more common bazm in the second line is dictated not only by rhyme-considerations, but Mir may also have been trying to play on the common conjointed phrase meer-majlis, which means something like 'the head (or convenor) of an assembly'... 

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Faiz - na ganwaao naawak-e-niimkash

This one's a short, sweet masterpiece by Faiz, very likable for its conversational simplicity and its almost musical lyricism. There is also an admirable unity of approach in the entire Ghazal, with Faiz remaining true to the 'voice from behind the grave' theme in every sher.

Incidentally, after jumping through some hoops, I have managed a half-baked solution to reproducing nasta'liq on Blogger! It takes some tedious steps, and I doubt if I shall have the energy to persist with it in the longer poems, but you would agree that the poetry looks so much more
authentic when written out this way...

na ga.nwaao naawak-e-niimkash, dil-e-rezaa-rezaa ga.nwaa diyaa
jo bache hai.n sang sameT lo, tan-e-dagh-dagh luTaa diyaa

गंवाओ नावक--नीमकश, दिल--रेज़ा रेज़ा गंवा दिया
जो बचे हैं संग समेट लो, तन--दाग़ दाग़ लुटा दिया

Don't waste (your) half-drawn arrows, (for I have) squandered (my) heart away, piece by piece
Gather up the stones that remain, (for I have) let (my) body be pillaged, wound by wound

A simple sher, that archly advises the poet's detracters against wasting their energies in demolishing him, since he has done the job himself! The words could be addressed to the baleful Beloved, to zaalim zamaanaa or to a perverse Celestial being - they work well in any of these senses.

The second line, that begins with an ironically solicitous 'save your stones!' has a particularly delicious ring to it.
There is such an air of perverse triumph in having thwarted the assailants - It seems to evoke an image of someone expecting to be robbed, and taking 'preventive measures' by scattering all his money among swarming mendicants!

The verb
luTaanaa is used in several nuanced ways, all conveying a sense of deliberately frittering away some possession. Rezaa is derived from the Farsi verb Rekhtan (which means 'to scatter') and is used mainly in compounded noun forms like in the first line of this sher. Interestingly, Rekhtan is also the root of the adjective Rekhta, which means 'scattered', or 'mixed up', and was an alternative name given to the Urdu language in times of yore - the tongue was seen to be a mix of native Indian dialects and classical Farsi. Niim-kash, as I think we've seen before, describes a bow that is loosely strung, or one that is lightly pulled while shooting the arrow, so as to release the projectile at a lower velocity (and thus cause it to lodge in the victim's body rather than pass through it). Naawak is a small sized arrow.

mere chaaragar ko nawed ho, saf-e-dushmana ko khabar karo
jo vo karz rakhte the jaan par, vo hisaab aaj chukaa diyaa

मेरे चारागर को नवेद हो, सफ़-ए-दुश्मना को खबर करो
जो वो क़र्ज़ रखते थे जान पर, वो हिसाब आज चुका दिया

Convey the glad tidings to my healer, let the ranks of enemies be informed
That debt they held on (my) life - (well), the accounts have been squared today

This one's sublime too, isn't it? The soft irony, the classy metaphorical touch... I love the way both the healer and the detractors are seen as creditors holding IOU's on the poet's existence. And there is such lofty grandeur in the announcement that the debts have been discharged honourably!

Nawed (or Nawiid) is Farsi for 'good news', and is also used for a 'wedding-invitation'. Saff is a rank of soldiers, arranged in military formation - a phalanx. [Saf-aaraaii is the military art of making battle-arrays, of marshalling one's men on the battlefield].

karo kaj jabii.n pe sar-e-kafan, mere qaatilo.n ko gumaa.n na ho
ki guroor-e-ishq ka baa.nkpan, pas-e-marg hamne bhulaa diyaa

करो कज जबीं पर सर-ए-कफ़न, मेरे कातिलों को गुमां न हो
की गुरूर-ए-इश्क़ का बांकपन, पस-ए-मर्ग हम ने भुला दिया

tilt the shroud on (my) forehead (jauntily), let not my killers delude themselves
that, after death, I have forgotten the foppishness of love's pride

Cutely brilliant! The Poet is loathe to shed his persona of a cockily confident Corinthian even after death, imploring that his shroud should be placed fashionably askew on his head, lest his detractors think he has become unmindful of 'style' because of mere death!

A baankaa is a man given to sartorial indulgences - a dandy, a coxcomb. Pas is Farsi for 'after' or 'behind'. [The compound pas o pesh, which is literally 'behind and before', describes a state of nervous indecision]. Kaj or Kajh means 'crooked' or 'bent'.

udhar ek harf ki kushtanii, yahaa.n lakh uzr tha guftanii
jo kahaa to sun ke uDaa diyaa, jo likhaa to paDh ke miTaa diyaa

उधर एक हर्फ़ कि कुश्तनी, यहाँ लाख उज़्र था गुफ्तनी
जो कहा तो सुन के उड़ा दिया, जो लिखा तो पढ़ के मिटा दिया

Over there, a single word was worthy of slaughter, (while) here, a million excuses were fit to be said
whatever (I) said, (she) heard and ignored, whatever (I) wrote, (she) read and wiped off

Nice - an amusing delineation of the helplessness of the lover, the perversity of the Beloved, the asymmetry of their power equation.

Note that the 'uDaa' and 'miTaa' of the second line could indicate not just the treatment that the Beloved reserves for the poet's words (whether spoken or written) but also for himself - to indicate that his apologetic words - whether spoken or written - are enough to anger her into 'blowing him away' or 'wiping him out'.

Kushtanii is an adjective used to denote someone who deserves to be killed, or an animal destined for slaughter. Guftanii is something fit to be said, or told. Uzr is Arabic for an 'excuse', a 'pretext' or an 'apology'.

jo ruke to koh-e-garaa.n the ham, jo chale to jaa.n se guzar gaye
rah-e-yaar hamne kadam-kadam tujhe yaadgaar banaa diyaa

जो रुके तो कोह-ए-गरां थे हम, जो चले तो जां से गुज़र गए
रह-ए-यार हम ने क़दम क़दम, तुझे यादगार बना दिया

When we paused, we were the heaviest of mountains; when we moved, we left life (itself) behind
On every step, O Beloved's lane, we rendered you memorable

Just Lovely! The first line is an all-time classic, and was much used, immediately after Faiz's death, as a preamble to his obituaries. Just for the grandness of its announcement, for the balance of its cadences, for the way it sums up a lifetime, it ranks as one of my favourites.

Giraa.n or Garaa.n means, in Farsi, something 'heavy' or 'great & important' or 'burdensome & difficult'. Koh is a mountain or a hill.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Faiz - Paas raho

This heart-tugging nazm by Faiz, which appeared under the title 'Paas raho' in his 1965 work dast-e-tah-e-sang, seems like a good way to resuscitate this long comatose site.

In the longish interregnum since the last post, I notice that Google has added a way to type urdu script from the English keyboard (though one doesn't have the facility directly within blogger yet). The system is somewhat buggy, and doesn't work anywhere as smoothly as the transliteration into devnagri - understandably, given the far more idiosyncratic and less phonetic nature of Urdu script. But for what it's worth, I'm adding a (somewhat imperfect) Naskh version. Would have much preferred a Nata'liq font - for aesthetic enjoyment, if nothing else - but I can't get one to work on Blogger!

A visitor on one of the earlier posts had suggested that it would be helpful to also have a transliterated version in Roman script, hence that is included too...

tum mere paas raho
mere qaatil, mere dildaar, mere paas raho
jis ghaRii raat chale
aasamano.n ka lahu pee kar siyah raat chale
marham-e-mushq liye, nashtar-e-almaas liye
bain karatii hui, hansti hui, gaatii nikale
dard ke kaasani paazeb bajaatii nikale
jis ghaRii sino.n me.n doobe huye dil
aastiino.n me.n nihaa.n haatho.n ki rah takne lage.n
aas liye
aur bachcho.n ke bilakhane ki tarah qul-qul-e-may
bahr-e-naasudagi machle to manaaye na mane
jab koi baat banaaye na bane
jab na koi baat chale
jis ghaRii raat chale
jis ghaRii maatamii, sunsaan, siyah raat chale
paas raho
mere qaatil, mere dildaar, mere paas raho

तुम मेरे पास रहो
मेरे क़ातिल, मेरे दिलदार, मेरे पास रहो
जिस घड़ी रा चले
आसमानों का लहू पी कर सियह रात चले
मरहम-ए-मुश्क़ लिए, नश्तर-ए-अल्मास लिए
बैन करती हुई, हंसती हुई, गाती निकले
दर्द के कासनी पाज़ेब बजाती निकले
जिस घड़ी सीनों में डूबे हुए दिल
आस्तीनों में निहां हांथों की रह तकने लगें
आस लिए
और बच्चों के बिलखने की तरह कुल-कुल-ए-मय
बह्र-ए-नासूदगी मचले तो मनाये न मने
जब कोई बात बनाए न बने
जब न कोई बात चले
जिस घड़ी रात चले
जिस घड़ी मातमी, सुनसान, सियह रात चले
पास रहो
मेरे कातिल, मेरे दिलदार, मेरे पास रहो

تم مرے پاس رہو
مرے قاتل مرے دلدار مرے پا
س رہو
جس گھڑی رات چلے
آسمانوں کا لہو پی کے سی سسیہ رات چلے
مرہم مشک لئے نشتر الماس لئے
بین کرتی ہو ی ہنستی ہو ی گاتی نکلے
درد کے کاسنی پازیب بجاتی نکلے
جس گھڑی سینوں میں ڈوبتے ہوئے دل
آستینوں میں نہاں ہانتھوں کی رہ تکن
ے لگیں
اور بچچوں کے بلاکھنے کی طرح قل-قل-مے
بہر ناسودگی مچلے تو مناے نہ منے
جب کوئی بات بناہے نے بنے
جب نہ کوئی بات چلے
جس گھڑیرات چلے
جس گھڑی ماتمی سنسان سسیہ رات چلے
پاس رہو
مرے قاتل مرے دلدار مرے پاس رہو

stay close to me
my assassin, my beloved...stay close to me
(at) the moment when night sets out
(when), having drunk the blood of skies, the inky night sets out
(armed) with a diamond-lancet, carrying the salve of musk
(as she) passes by, wailing..., laughing..., singing...,
(as she) passes by, tinkling (her) lilac anklets of pain
(and) when hearts (that lie) sunken in chests
start looking out for hands concealed within sleeves
with hope...
and the gurgling of wine (being poured) is like the sobs of children
inconsolable in their restlessness
when no endeavours can be made to succeed
when conversation flags
when (only) night stalks
when the gloomy, silent, inky night stalks
stay close to me
my assassin, my beloved...stay close to me

In the charged political firmament of mid-60s Pakistan, these words were inevitably seen as an incisive commentary on the state of affairs, as they were undoubtedly meant to be. However, even without any contextual props, what a hauntingly desperate plea it is, isn't it?

'almaas' is Farsi for a diamond, also used in adjective form to describe something shaped into angles or facets (as a well-cut diamond), and hence a fitting description for a lance. In this case, of course, the diamond-lancet evokes a starry night... a night that perversely also carries fragrant ointments to soothe the wounds it has set out to inflict.

'Kaasnii' is the white chiccory (Cichorium endivia), and hence also describes the lilac colour of the chiccory flower:

The colour is often used to figuratively describe the bluish tinge that finely wrought silver wears.

The characterisation of hearts searching, with forlorn hope, for 'hands that lie hidden in sleeves' evokes not just a conspiratorial image of concealed daggers about to be whipped out, but also harks back to the stylised chak-e-girebaan imagery.

'Bahr' is a Farsi preposition that is used in the sense of 'on account of' or 'for the sake of'. 'Naasuudgii' is the negated form of 'aasuudgii', which connotes contentment, ease, tranquility, etc.