Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Ghalib - Taskiin ko ham na roen

While this isn't among the deepest of Ghalib's ghazals, I love its tonal balance, its 'swingy' rhythm... Set in a relatively short behr, it has an engagingly casual and light-hearted aural impact, and almost cries out for being set to music.

Taskii.n ko ham na roe.n jo zauq-e-nazar mile
huraa.n-e-khuld mei.n terii suurat magar mile

तस्कीं को हम न रोएँ जो ज़ौक-ए-नज़र मिले 
हुरां-ए-खुल्द में तेरी सूरत मगर मिले 

تسکیں کو ہم نہ روئیں جو ذوقِ نظر ملے
حورانِ خلد میں تری صورت مگر ملے

I wouldn't cry for relief, if pleasure of sight was granted (to me)
among the sirens of paradise, however, (where is) your face to be found!

A typically clever mushaairaa sher.  

The first line, which says something like, "look, how can you expect me to stop crying for relief, unless you give me the visual gratification I seek?" sounds like the typical petulance of a love-struck protagonist, trying to convince the evasive Beloved to give him a glimpse of her face.  It is only after one hears the second line, however, that the true import of the compliment being bestowed on the Beloved sinks in.  The second half of the sher unexpectedly 'ups the ante' by making it clear that the petulance of the Lover is being expressed in a very specific situation - he is already dead, and now stands surrounded by the beguiling houris of paradise (who are promised to the pious, in Islamic discourse).  And yet, he continues to complain, craving visual relief, because among the houris, he does not, of course, find the one face that can actually bring him comfort!  

The entire sher is thus merely a reiteration of the hyperbolic compliment that the appeal of heaven's houris pales in comparison to that of the Beloved - but what an originally worded reiteration, it is!   In a mushaairaa context, the second line is a perfect example of that 'surprise element', that 'twist in the tale', that brings out the waah-waah's from assembled ahl-e-sukhan

apnii galii mei.n mujh ko na kar dafn baad-e-qatl
mere pate se khalq ko kyo.n teraa ghar mile

अपनी गली में मुझ को न कर दफ्न बाद-ए-क़त्ल
मेरे पते से ख़ल्क को क्यों तेरा घर मिले

اپنی گلی میں مجھ کو نہ کر دفن بعدِ قتل
میرے پتے سے خلق کو کیوں تیرا گھر ملے

Don't bury me in your (own) lane, after the slaying!
why should the world find your house, from my address?

Cute!  Nothing too profound here, but a nicely ironical touch, nonetheless.  The Lover, on the verge of being slaughtered by the Beloved, is busy offering her solicitous advice - to bury him somewhere far from her own house, lest people are led to her adress while looking for him!  There may also be a touch of perverse jealousy here - the Lover being more concerned about the possibility of others reaching the Beloved's house than about his imminent demise! 

The sher is doubly ironical in the stylised ghazal universe, of course, because in the 'normal' poetic idiom of this world, it is precisely the possibility of dying in the Beloved's lane, of being interred in it, that the Lover would want to salvage from his otherwise hapless situation!

The 'solicitude' of the Poet could be directly linked to the murderous act about to be performed by the Beloved, of course... the advice may be to 'get rid of the body' in a careful manner, since a hasty disposal in her own backyard may lead to the crime being proven on her!

Khalq literally means something that is 'created', and is used to refer to mankind as a whole. 

saaqi garii kii sharm karo aaj varnaa ham
har shab piyaa hii karte hai.n mai jis qadar mile

साक़ी गरी की शर्म करो आज वरना हम 
हर शब् पिया ही करते हैं मैय जिस क़दर मिले 

ساقی گری کی شرم کرو آج ورنہ ہم
ہر شب پیا ہی کرتے ہیں مے جس قدر ملے

O Saaqi, heed the honour of your calling today!  Otherwise, we
do drink every evening, in any case, however the wine may be found/given!

Lovely!  See what I meant about the cadences?  Doesn't that second line just spill out flowingly from the mouth, as one says it aloud?
And the sher has a lovely mocking tone to it too!  The saaqii (or the Beloved seen as one) is addressed, and is asked to dispense the wine generously, graciously, as befits the high standing of her office [garii is Farsi for a 'trade' or an 'office'].  The truly nice touch is in the second line, however, where the Poet disdainfully indicates that his insistence on courteously generous service is motivated only by concern for the dignity of the saaqi's trade - as for he himself, well, he is, in any case, a habitual drunkard, and is wont to drinking whatever is served to him, in whatever manner!
The main fulcrum of the sher is, thus, the play in the two ways one can read the final mile.  Ghalib is using the word in the sense of 'found' (which would characterise the Poet as a habitual drunk, looking for any opportunity to find his daily fix of booze).  However, when the saaqii is addressed, the same word can also be used in the sense of 'being given' of 'being served', which makes him sound merely indifferent to the manner in which he is served. 

tujh se to kuchh kalaam nahi.n lekin ai nadeem
meraa salaam kahiyo agar naama-bar mile

तुझ से तो कुछ कलाम नहीं लेकिन ऐ नदीम 
मेरा सलाम कहियो अगर नामाबर मिले 

تجھ سے تو کچھ کلام نہیں لیکن اے ندیم
میرا سلام کہیو اگر نامہ بر ملے

(I have) nothing to say to you, but o confidant
if (you) find the messenger, convey my greeting (to him)

The sher has a lovely conversational touch about it, but the main appeal is in its sheer 'unsaidness'.  Obviously there is some situational sub-text, but we are left to imagine it by ourselves.  How has the 'messenger' annoyed the Poet? Has he failed to convey his message to the Beloved (or does the Poet merely imagine that the lack of a response from the Beloved is because his message never reached her?).  Or has the messenger himself fallen under the charms of the Beloved, while conveying the Poet's letter?   

The idiomatic expression 'tujh se kuchh kalaam nahin' would essentially translate to "I have no bone to pick with you".  Perhaps it was the 'confidant' in question who had suggested that it would be sensible for the Poet to send a message to the Beloved, rather than waste his life pining for her in isolation. And the poet reluctantly took heed of this advice, despite his own doubts on this score.  And now, despite his fears having been proven right, the Poet ironically reassures the confidant, somewhat dryly, that he doesn't hold him responsible (for the lack of response from the addressee, or for a 'negative' response which has ruined the fantasy world the Poet was living in), but is quite ready to 'shift the blame' on to the messenger, who probably goofed up somehow and was unable to convey the message in a suitably convincing manner!   

There's also the lovely internal rhyme of the two operative words kalaam and salaam, of course, that merits attention:  "I have no kalaam for you, but I do have a salaam for the messenger..."

tum ko bhi ham dikhaaye.n ki majnuu.n ne kyaa kiyaa
fursat kashaakash-e-gham-e-pinhaa.n se gar mile

तुम को भी हम दिखाएँ कि मजनू ने क्या किया 
फुर्सत कशाकश-ए-ग़म-ए-पिन्हाँ से गर मिले 

تم کو بھی ہم دکھائیں کہ مجنوں نے کیا کیا
فرصت کشاکشِ غمِ پنہاں سے گر ملے

to you too I would show what majnuu.n had done/accomplished
if (I) had reprieve from the agitations of (my) hidden-grief

Nice word-play in the first line, despite the simplicity of the words themselves.  On first reading, the line is saying "I would show you too, what Majnoon had done", which seems to imply that, given a chance, the Poet would emulate Majnoon, and replicate his actions.  However, the expression "majnoon ne kya kiyaa" could also be read in the idiomatically dismissive sense of "what great task did majnoon achieve?!"  In this sense, the Poet could be saying that, given a chance, he would demonstrate his junoon in such a manner that Majnoon's demonstration of it (by merely going mad, renouncing the world, and taking to the wilderness) would be shown up as trifling and insignificant.  

The second line then explains why the bravado promised in the first line is not followed up by actual actions - it is because the Poet is occupied with the internal tensions of a hidden grief.  Kashaakash which comes from the root of kash (meaning 'pulling' or 'stretching') implies a state of being pulled any which way, a state of anxieties and worries. The Poet explains that his problem is bigger than Majnoon's because he is obliged to keep his grief hidden and thus doesn't have the luxury of making an open demonstration of it, the way that iconic lover was able to. 

laazim nahii.n ki khizr kii ham pairavii kare.n
jaanaa ki ek buzurg hame.n ham-safar mile

लाज़िम नहीं कि खिज्र की हम पैरवी करें 
जाना कि एक बुज़ुर्ग हमें हम-सफ़र मिले 

لازم نہیں کہ خضر کی ہم پیروی کریں
جانا کہ اک بزرگ ہمیں ہم سفر ملے

It isn't necessary that we follow the footsteps of Khizr
(We merely) recognise that we came across an elderly fellow-traveller

The sher harks back to the story of khizr, whom we had first encountered in the last sher of this ghazal.  

Ghalib airily dismisses the need for any navigational guidance (presumably on the path to mystical knowledge), preferring to find his own way.  To him, even a venerated guide found on the path is to be seen merely as a fellow-traveller encountered by chance, rather than someone who should be followed blindly.  There is a fairly deep philosophical underpinning to the sher, of course, but what a cheekily impudent air it wears, nonetheless!

ai saakinaan-e-kuuchaa-e-dildaar dekhnaa
tum ko kahii.n jo ghaalib-e-aashufta-sar mile

ऐ साकिनान-ए-कूचा-ए-दिलदार देखना 
तुम को कहीं जो ग़ालिब-ए-आशुफ्ता-सर मिले 

اے ساکنانِ کوچۂ دلدار دیکھنا
تم کو کہیں جو غالبِ آشفتہ سر ملے

O inhabitants of the Beloved's lane, watch out
in case you find, somewhere, (that) woolly-headed Ghalib

A fairly straightforward maqtaa by Ghalib's standards.  Aashuftaa can mean anything from 'disturbed' and 'disordered' to 'enamoured' or 'miserable'. To call someone aashuftaa-sar, therefore, is to describe him as deranged or depressed, as someone who would be given to wandering aimlessly. Saakinaan comes from sakin which, in Arabic, means something that is still or stationary, and hence could be used for the persons who stand transfixed in the Beloved's lane, or have actually taken up abode there.  

The sher could be an appeal for assistance - "I am looking for that crazed Ghalib.  Do please keep an eye out, and let me know if you see him somewhere", or could also be a solicitous warning - "You who have parked yourselves in the Beloved's lane, do keep a careful eye out - that crazed Ghalib wanders in there now and then!" 

Once again, the first line of the maqtaa has that undefinable 'flowingness' that one finds so often in this ghazal. The combination of long vowels with the long ijaafat construction makes for a very mellifluous mix.  

In fact, don't the cadences of this this misraa remind you of something that Faiz might have composed?  This view was shared by none other than Faiz himself, I think, because he chose to take this misraa as the 'pattern line' for setting the behr and the rhyme pattern of a lovely 1967 poem that appeared under the title of 'dildaar dekhnaa' in sar-e-vadii-e-siinaa.  We'll look at it in the next post.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Ghalib - hai bas ki har ek un ke ishaare mein nishaan aur

For reasons that are entirely understandable, the maqtaa of this ghazal is among the best known, and best loved, shers in the entire canon of Ghalibiana.

The radif of this ghazal is aur, and we have already seen how consummately Ghalib can play with the duality inherent in this word - exploiting it, at will, in the sense of 'more' as well as in the sense of 'different'. Let's see what he makes of it this time.

Hai bas ki har ek unke ishaare mei.n nishaa.n aur
karte hai.n muhabbat to guzartaa hai gumaa.n aur

है बस कि हर एक उनके इशारे में निशाँ और
करते हैं मुहब्बत तो गुज़रता है गुमां और

ہے بسکہ ہر اک ان کے اشارے میں نشاں اور
کرتے ہیں محبّت تو گزرتا ہے گماں اور

In every gesture of hers, [there are so many signals] / [to such an extent there lurk other signals]

(that) when she expresses love, [(I) suspect something else] / [suspicion besets me even more]

A typically brilliant matlaa that straight away sets the stage for the clever word-play that's to follow.

We use the word bas in everyday speech to signify limitation - in the sense of 'enough' or 'only', or as in interrogative mode to mean 'that's all?' The compound bas-ki in Farsi is used, however, to mean something like 'so much so that' or 'in so far as' - the entire phrase is az bas ki. Hence, the beginning of the first line of this sher can be read as a qualifier of degree,to emphasise what is being asserted in the rest of the misraa.

And what is being asserted admits of differently nuanced readings, depending on whether we choose to read aur as 'more' or 'different'. An ishaaraa is a signal, an indicative gesture, a deliberate non-verbal cue. If one reads the aur of the first line as 'more', the line could be emphasising how potently expressive the Beloved's oblique gestures are. If one reads the aur as 'different', however, it could be emphasising how ambiguous her signals are. So one is immediately faced with the potential for some fairly convoluted logical meandering here.

Then the second line follows up with its own usage of aur which can also be read in both the above senses, leading to the following four sense-combinations:

So expressive are her signals, that when she shows love, I begin to suspect something else

So expressive are her signals, that when she shows love, my mistrust of her increases even more

So ambiguous are her signals, that (even) when she shows love, I am led into believing something else

How ambiguous her signals are (even otherwise)! And when she shows love, I feel even more mistrustful about her!

The first two possible readings would describe somewhat similar situations, of course, except that in the first, the protagonist begins to have doubts about the Beloved only after she shows some loving sign, whereas in the second, he feels doubtful about her already, but his doubts mount after her expressive gestures acquire an amatory air. The third reading, which is the most straightforward, is the most common way this sher is interpreted.

I love the usage of the picturesque guzartaa as opposed to a simple hotaa in the second line. It gives the line an ironical air, the poet saying something like he is 'visited by doubts' on seeing the Beloved's ostensibly genteel demeanour.

As with almost everything by Ghalib, the possibility that the sher may be directed to the Celestial, as opposed to an earthly, Beloved, adds an added layer of enjoyment to them.

yaa rab vo naa samjhe hai.n na samjhenge merii baat
de aur dil un ko jo naa de mujh ko zabaa.n aur

या रब वो न समझे हैं न समझेंगे मेरी बात
दे और दिल उन को जो न दे मुझ को ज़बां और

یا رب وہ نہ سمجھے ہیں نہ سمجھینگے مری بات
دے اور دل ان کو جو نہ دے مجھ کو زباں اور

Oh Lord! [She has] / [They have] neither understood, nor will she/they understand what I say!

give her/them more/different heart(s), if (you) won't give me (a) more/different tongue(s)!

Oh lovely! Just too clever!

On the face of it, the sher is fairly straightforward. The use of the third person plural is a common ironical device when talking about the haughty Beloved. The sher peevishly admits the complete impossibility of the Poet being able to communicate his message to the Beloved, and then (depending on how one chooses to read the two instances of aur in the second line), exasperatedly asks the Lord to give her 'more' heart, or a 'different' type of heart (which might render her more receptive of the message) if He can't give the Poet greater facility of expression, or endow him with a different (effective) style of communication.

The usage of dil and zabaan in the second line gives an especially amusing ring to the whole thing - 'Please, God! Replace her heart, or replace my tongue!!'

However, the sher is even more delicious when one realises that the Beloved is only a device here. What Ghalib actually intends to do is to take a gentle pot-shot at those among the poetic cognoscenti of his time who decried his poetry for being too 'complex'. The 'third person plural' construct of the first line leads naturally to this interpretation - with Ghalib hinting that his listeners need to augment their capacity for comprehension, to acquire more heart (or more open hearts), if they are to have a hope of 'catching' what his tongue conjures up!

abroo se hai kyaa us nigah-o-naaz ko paiwand
hai tiir muqarrar magar us kii hai kamaa.n aur

अबरू से है क्या उस निगाह-ए-नाज़ को पैवंद
हैर तीर मुक़र्रर मगर उस की है कमां और

ابرو سے ہے کیا اس نگۂ ناز کو پیوند
ہے تیر مقرّر مگر اس کی ہے کماں اور

[what connection does that coquettish glance have with the eyebrow?] / [is that coquettish glance connected to the eybrow?]

[It is] / [There is] certainly an arrow, but [it has another bow] / [she has another bow]

While this sher doesn't directly exploit the multivalence of aur, there is enough in it to leave multiple strata of sense in almost every other part of the couplet.

Abroo is Farsi for 'eyebrow'. The sher harks back to the common trope in the Ghazal world, where the obliquely mischievous glances of the coquettish Beloved are characterised as arrows (recall all those tiir-e-niimkash constructs we've looked at). A paiwand, in Farsi, is a join, a junction, a connection (also used, of course, in the sense of a 'patch' or a 'graft' in stitching or gardening). Nigah is, of course, a glance (contracted from nigaah, for reasons of poetic meter here). Muqarrar is Arabic for something that is settled or fixed - used here in the sense of 'certainly' or 'unquestionably'. Kamaan is a bow (tiir-kamaan is a common expression), or any other sort of arched structure.

Depending on how one chooses to juxtapose the kyaa, the first line can be read as either a straightforward question ("is her glance connected to her brow?", where the kyaa is read with hai) or as a negation ("what connection does her glance have with her brow?" - asserting that her glance is clearly not connected to her glance - where the kyaa is read with paiwand). The second reading flows more logically into the second line, where Ghalib asserts that her arrow-like glances obviously come from some other bow.

Note that the us of the second line can qualify either the Beloved or the arrow - which doesn't change the overall sense of the sher much, but is still an enjoyable ambiguity. Also, the 'hai tiir muqarrar' phrase of the second line could be seen to be taking the nigah-e-naaz of the first line as its subject, which would make the whole thing read as 'the coquettish glance is certainly an arrow'. But one doesn't need to assign a subject to the phrase - left to itself, it would give a nicely enjoyable reading of "there is certainly an arrow (heading my way), but..."

tum shahar mei.n ho to hamei.n kyaa gham jab uThenge
le aayenge baazaar se jaa kar dil-o-jaa.n aur

तुम शहर में हो तो हमें क्या ग़म जब उठेंगे
ले आयेंगे बाज़ार से जा कर दिल-ओ-जां और

تم شہر میں ہو تو ہمیں کیا غم جب اٹھینگے
لے آئینگے بازار سے جا کر دل و جاں اور

[As long as you're in town, what worry do I have? Whenever I feel like it] / [Even if you're in town, what do I care? When pains arise]
(I) will go to the market and get back [a different] / [more] heart-and-life

Lovely! Probably the cutest sher in the ghazal!

One principal source of enjoyment in this sher, in my view, comes from the fact that the gham of the first line can be read either in continuation with hamein kyaa (to make an interjective phrase 'hamein kyaa gham?') or in conjunction with jab uThenge (to make a conditional phrase 'gham jab uThenge').

These two possibilities lead to delicious differences of nuance in the 'tone' of the first line. If one goes with the hamein kyaa gham option, then the first misraa is saying something like this - "as long as you are in town, why should I worry? Whenever I get down to it...". And then the second misraa follows up with "I will go to the market, and get myself another pair of heart and life". The tone of the entire sher is casual, carefree, almost cheerful. The emphasis is on the fact that any town inhabited by the Beloved would always have a 'ready market' of hearts and lives, given the 'high turnover' she causes in these commodities. And so the Lover can rest easy in the comfort that whenever he wants to, he can go and get replacements for his own damaged goods.

If we go with this first option, then the jab uThenge of the first line sits alone, not to be read in continuation with gham. These two words manage to create a delicious effect of extreme insouciance, almost a mocking indifference - the Lover doesn't even see any particular need to hurry in getting his damaged heart and life replaced. There's even a hint of laziness - "I'm resting right now. When I feel up to it, I will just get up, stroll down to the market, and...etc."

If one goes with the second option, however, the first line acquires a subtly different air. The translation would run along the lines of "What do I care that you are in town? When pain rises...".

Perhaps somebody (the solicitous naaseh?) has warned the Poet that the Beloved has returned to town. And, despite the deliciously apprehensive pang this obviously causes in his heart, he chooses to indulge in a bit of desperate bravado: "Well, what do I care?". The construct 'gham jab uThenge', that follows, makes it clear, however, that the Poet isn't carrying his bravado so far as to claim that he isn't going to be affected by the Beloved's proximity. He implicitly concedes that seeing her about (possibly showering her coquettish favours on others) will devastate his heart and life. But bravely comforts himself with the thought that whenever that happens, he would always have the option of going to the market and getting new ones! Maybe even different ones, which won't be as affected by her? Fond hopes, perhaps - but one does need something to cling to!

Depending on how one chooses to read the first line, therefore, the mood of the sher shifts deliciously from tongue-in-cheek humour to an endearingly desperate bravado. In either reading, however, it is a masterpiece!

har chand subuk-dast hue but shikanii mei.n
ham hai.n to abhii raah mei.n hai sang-e-giraa.n aur

हर चंद सुबुक-दस्त हुए बुत-शिकनी में
हम हैं तो अभी राह में है संग-ए-गिरां और

ہر چند سبک دست ہوئے بت شکنی میں
ہم ہیں تو ابھی راہ میں ہے سنگِ گراں اور

Much as (we? / I? / they?) become dexterous in idol-breaking

as long as [we are around] / [I am around], there is still, [another] / [a different class of] heavy stone on the path

And after the mischievous frivolity of the previous sher, we get this weightily mystical masterpiece! And a masterpiece it is!

Har-chand or har chand ki are used in Farsi to mean 'notwithstanding' or 'much as'. Subuk is Farsi for 'light'. And as in the English 'having a light touch', being subuk-dast implies a dexterous facility at doing something manual - in this case, at but-shikanii, the breaking of heathen idols (shikanii has the same word root as shikast, or 'defeat').

Most commentaries of this sher use the ham at the beginning of the second line as the implicit subject of the first line also. Which gives the entire sher a unified meaning of "howsoever deft we might get at breaking idols, as long as we are around, there's always another heavy stone encountering us on the path!". The 'path' being the path to mystical knowledge, of course - on which the myriad stone idols act as enticing diversions, or as physical obstacles. In this sense, therefore, the sher acts as a lovely reiteration of the standard 'the price of freedom is eternal vigilance' sort of caution - asserting that the true seeker of mystical knowledge can never afford to let his guard down; there will always be another hurdle, another mesmerising phantasm, to overcome. In this sense of the sher, the final aur can only be read in the sense of 'additional' or 'more'.

However, note that it is entirely possible to keep the ham as the subject of the second line only. The first line then could be talking about some group of people (because of the plural construct of hue it can't be just one person) - a congregation of religious worthies perhaps, who have become adept at breaking idols? The second line then acts independently, to imply that howsoever adept this gathering might have become at clearing bute.n from the path, as long as Ghalib is around, there is always a different sort of 'heavy' stone facing them! To appreciate this alternative sense, try reading the second line with an implicit magar preceding it, and placing verbal emphasis on the ham. See? The entire sher then becomes a challenge thrown at the religious establishment - "all right, so you guys are good at demolishing idols, are you? Well, I'm equally adept at creating them! And here's my latest creation - why don't you try your hands at this?!". And who can play down Ghalib's ability to 'create idols' eh?

In this alternative sense, the aur can be read easily in either of its two senses. In the first, the Poet is always ready to place another stone but on the path of the idol-breakers. In the second, Ghalib is himself a sang-e-giraan on their path - and one that is in a completely different class than what they are used to breaking with ease!

hai khoon-e-jigar josh mei.n dil khol ke rotaa
hote jo kai diidaa-e-khoon naab fishaa.n aur

है खून-ए-जिगर जोश में दिल खोल के रोता
होते जो कई दीदा-ए-खून नाब फिशां और

ہے خونِ جگر جوش میں دل کھول کے روتا
ہوتے جو کئی دیدۂ خوں نابہ فشاں اور

the blood of the liver is in ferment, (I would have) opened the heart and wept
if (only) there were many more pure-blood scattering eyes

We had encountered khoon-naab in an earlier Ghalib ghazal (see the seventh sher there). Fishaan is an adjectival form implying something that 'scatters', or 'spreads' or 'showers' something (it shares root and meaning with afshaan). Dil khol ke ronaa is a common figurative phrase used in the sense of 'to have a good cry', or "to weep to one's heart's content" - but the literal meaning of the phrase is, of course, to 'to open out the heart, and cry'.

The sher evokes the common ghazal-world pseudo-physiological stylisation (of the liver supplying blood to the rent heart; blood which then escapes through the eyes as tears). Ghalib seems to be saying that his pain is such that merely two eyes do not allow a sufficiently fast 'outlet' for the blood that his heart wants to spill. Hence he is forced to keep the fissures in his heart partially closed, so as to keep the flow at a moderate level. And it is the consequent building up of 'pressure' within, perhaps, that is causing the blood to froth in the liver?

martaa hoo.n us aawaaz pe har chand sar uR jaaye
jallaad ko lekin vo kahe jae.n ki haa.n aur

मरता हूँ उस आवाज़ पे हर चंद सर उड़ जाए
जल्लाद को लेकिन वो कहे जाएँ कि हाँ और

مرتا ہوں اس آواز پہ ہر چند سر اڑ جائے
جلّاد کو لیکن وہ کہے جائیں کہ ہاں اور

I die for that voice; much as (I may) lose (my) head
she keeps telling the executioner, however, "yes, more!"

Rather nicer! The language of the sher has a wonderfully colloquial simplicity about it, doesn't it? Especially the 'ki haan aur' at the end!

The sher conjures up a delicious sort of paradox - the poet needs to only hear the Beloved's voice to die (of excitement) anyway! And he is quite prepared to even 'lose his head' for the sound of a single word from her mouth. Having 'set up' this situation of hopeless infatuation in the first line, Ghalib deftly 'ups the ante' in the second by evoking a Beloved who viciously keeps exhorting the executioner, even after the deed is done!

The haan of the second line is especially delicious - it seems to suggest that even the executioner has sought confirmation whether he is supposed to keep on chopping at the Lover's head - the poor man is dead already, after all! And yet, she commands with perverse relish - "yes, more!" And the lover, dead as he may be, shivers with pleasure at the sound of her voice!

The aur in this sher can only be read in the sense of 'more', of course - not in the sense of 'different'.

logo.n ko hai khurshiid-e-jahaa.n taab kaa dhokhaa
har roz dikhaataa hoo.n mai.n ek daagh-e-nihaa.n aur

लोगों को है खुरशीद-ए-जहां ताब का धोखा
हर रोज़ दिखाता हूँ मैं एक दाग़-ए-निहां और

لوگوں کو ہے خورشیدِ جہاں تاب کا دھوکا
ہر روز دکھاتا ہوں میں اک داغِ نہاں اور

People are deluded (into thinking) of the world-warming sun
every day I show [one more] / [a different] hidden wound

A daagh is, of course, a smouldering wound, usually inflicted on the heart. And so 'smouldering' are the Poet's wounds, that his 'uncovering a fresh one every day' is akin to a new sun rising on the world every morning!

Notice however, that the second line doesn't emphatically say that it is his own wounds that the Poet is exposing on a daily basis. Ghalib could even be asserting the power of the poet to 'bring to light' the hidden wounds of all lovers everywhere...?!

letaa na agar dil tumhe detaa koii dam chain
kartaa jo na martaa koii din aah-o-fighaa.n aur

लेता न अगर दिल तुम्हे देता कोई दम चैन
करता जो न मरता कोई दिन आह-ओ-फिगां और

لیتا نہ اگر دل تمہیں دیتا کوئی دم چین
کرتا جو نہ مرتا کوئی دن آہ و فغاں اور

(I would have) sometime taken a breath of peace, if (I) hadn't given (my) heart to you

(I would have) indulged in a few more days of cries and lament, if I hadn't died

An otherwise straightforward sher, the principal point of interest in it is a poetic rearrangement of words, where the 'na agar dil tumhe detaa' and the 'jo na martaa' phrases have been 'inserted' in between otherwise complete thought-units, thus breaking up the idiomatic expressions 'dam lenaa' and 'aah-o-fighaan karnaa'. There is also the internal rhyme of letaa-detaa in the first line, and kartaa-martaa in the second, which adds to the mellifluous quality of the sher.

The second line has a nice pathos to it - if the Poet hadn't died, his ambition would still have been restricted merely to continuing the same cries and laments he spent his curtailed lifetime indulging in!

paate nahi jab raah to chaRh jaate hai.n naale
ruktii hai merii tab`a to hotii hai rawaa.n aur

पाते नहीं जब राह तो चढ़ जाते हैं नाले
रुकती है मेरी तब'अ तो होती है रवां और

پاتے نہیں جب راہ تو چڑھ جاتے ہیں نالے
رکتی ہے مری طبع تو ہوتی ہے رواں اور

When rivers/cries don't find a path, they 'rise'
when my genius stops, it [becomes more flowing] / [sets off differently]

There is some clever word-play in the first line. Naale can be the plural of both 'rivulets' and 'cries' in Farsi. And just like a river would 'rise' (come into spate) if its natural flow was blocked, so do cries become more ardent if they are not allowed to discharge themselves continuously.

Tab`a is Arabic for 'innate nature' of 'inner quality' or 'genius' [the more commonly used word tabiyat is from the same root]. rawaan means 'flowing', 'moving smoothly', etc. and 'rawaan karnaa' would be the act of 'setting something in motion'. Hence both the senses of aur can be evoked in the second line - the Poet claiming that if his natural poetic disposition is held in check, it either becomes even more potently expressive, or else finds an alternative channel of expression - somewhat like what an artificially dammed river might do. Of course, while rawaanii comes from a hydrodynamic word-root, it is used figuratively to denote fluidity and elegance, and hence is an apt word to use while describing one's poetic genius.

I am not a great fan of 'similes' in poetry, but this one would admittedly have been a competent mushairaa sher.

hai.n aur bhii duniyaa mei.n sukhanvar bahut acchhe
kahte hai.n ki Ghalib kaa hai andaaz-e-bayaa.n aur

हैं और भी दुनिया में सुखनवर बहुत अच्छे
कहते हैं कि ग़ालिब का हैं अंदाज़-ए-बयाँ और

ہیں اور بھی دنیا میں سخن ور بہت اچّھے
کہتے ہیں کہ غالب کا ہے اندازِ بیاں اور

There are other very good speakers in the world too
(however) they say that Ghalib's recounting (of things) [has more style] / [has a different style]

And then the famous maqtaa, of course! Not much that can be said about this - except for the fact that from almost any other Poet, an assertion like this might have sounded silly. In Ghalib's case, it can only evoke a smile of agreement from the listener, howsoever grudging it might be.

The truly delicious touch is the kahte hain of the second line, which allows Ghalib to airily ascribe the fawning praise about his andaaz to unnamed 'others', rather than making any claims about it himself. A rather unnecessary show of restraint, especially coming after the previous sher!

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Faiz - Hum ke Thehre ajnabii

This lovely ghazal exemplifies, yet again, Faiz's uncanny ability to clothe the contemporary politics of his times in the hoary poetic idiom of another age - without compromising on either the beauty, or the topicality, of his mesmerising words. 

Hum ke Thehre ajnabii itnii mudaaraato.n ke baad
phir banenge aashnaa kitnii mulaaqaato.n ke baad

हम के ठहरे अजनबी इतनी मुदारातों के बाद
फिर बनेंगे आशना कितनी मुलाकातों के बाद

ہم کہ ٹھہرے اجنبی اتنی مداراتوں کے بعد
پھر بنیں گے آشنا کتنی ملاقاتوں کے بعد

We, who remain strangers, (even) after so many courtesies;
(We) shall become acquaintances (again), after how many (more) encounters?


Mudaaraat is Farsi for the act of treating someone with overt courteousness and politeness - it also has nuances of circumvention and dissimilitude.  The Beloved may well favour the Poet with socially prescribed courtesies, but retains her distance and remains unapproachable, for all practical purposes. 

The phir in the second line could be read in the sense of 'again', which would hint at the possibility that the Poet might have enjoyed a more intimate acquaintance with the Beloved at an earlier time (aashnaa can be used to mean 'lovers' just as easily as 'acquaintances'), but is denied it now.  Alternatively, the phir could be read simply as 'then' to make the second line something like "so, after how many meetings will we become acquaintances then?"   

Seeing the lines as addressed to a Celestial Beloved only serves to make the implied irony of the sher even more biting.

kab nazar mein aayegii be-daagh sabze kii bahaar
khoon ke dhabbe dhule.nge kitnii barsaato.n ke baad

कब नज़र में आएगी बे-दाग़ सब्ज़े की बहार
खून के धब्बे धुलेंगे कितनी बरसातों के बाद

 کب نظر میں آے گی بے داغ سبزے کی بہار
خون کے دھببے دھلینگے کتنی برساتوں کے بعد

when shall the bloom of unsullied verdure meet the eye (again)?
after how many downpours will the blood stains get washed?

In the stylised ghazal universe, the idea of the colours of the chaman, the garden, being tainted with blood would evoke the oft-used imagery of either the birds or the blooms having been visited by the hands of calamity.  What loveliness Faiz captures in this sher, doesn't he, despite the extreme simplicity of his words?!  

the bahut be-dard lamhe khatm-e-dard-e-ishq ke
thii.n bahut be-meher subhe.n meherbaa.n raato.n ke baad

थे बहुत बे-दर्द लम्हे ख़त्म-ए-दर्द-ए-इश्क के
थीं बहुत बे-महर सुबहें महरबां रातों के बाद

تھے بہت بے درد لمحے ختم درد عشق کے
تھیں بہت بے مہر صبحیں مہربان راتوں کے بعد 

they were very heartless, those moments when love's agony ebbed
they were very merciless (/sun-less), those mornings after the merciful nights

Once again, the sheer beauty of the words almost blinds one to their meaning.  There is some clever word-play here too, since mihr (or mehr) is used in Farsi not only for 'kindness' or 'favour' but also 'the sun' (or for the time of the year that corresponds to the solar equinox).  Hence the be-mehr subhen of the second line could be read as 'sunless mornings', which gives the line a wonderful piquancy, especially as the expression comes after mehr-baan raaton!

dil to chaahaa par shikast-e-dil ne muhlat hii na dii
kuchh gile shikwe bhii kar lete, munaajaato.n ke baad

दिल तो चाहा पर शिकस्त-ए-दिल ने मोहलत ही न दी
कुछ गिले शिकवे भी कर लेते, मुनाजातों के बाद

دل تو چاہا پر شکست دل نے مہلت ہی نہ دی
کچھ گلے شکوے بھی کر لیتے مناجاتوں کے بعد

The heart did want to, but the heart's debacle gave no respite (for it)
(or else, one) could have indulged in a few complaints too, after the prayers (were over)

Divine!  Isn't that second line absolutely brilliant?!  Which but - earthly or astral - could fail to be moved by such endearing petulance?!  The sher captures such a sighing regret at the feebleness of the heart - which didn't allow the poet to use the opportunity of 'the audience' to put on record the litany of his complaints, instead of having 'wasted' the occasion in pointless prayers!

unse kahne jo gaye the faiz jaa.n sadkaa kiye
ankahii hii rah gayii vo baat sab baato.n ke baad

उनसे कहने जो गए थे फैज़ जां सदका किये
अनकही ही रह गयी वो बात सब बातों के बाद

 ان سے جو کہنے گئے تھے فیض جاں صدقہ کئے
ان کہی ہی رہ گئی وہ بات سب باتوں کے بعد  

That which I had gone to say to her, putting (my) life on the line
that very thing remained unsaid, after all else had been said

And the maqtaa, like all of Faiz's, is a pearl!  Reminds one strongly of the penultimate sher of one of the earliest Faiz ghazals we looked at

Even if one didn't know the context in which the above ghazal was written, one would still be bowled over by its beauty, by the resonant melody of its words, and by its perfect 'fit' in standard ghazal stylisations, wouldn't one?  

But consider this - the ghazal, which appears in Faiz's 1979 book shaam-e-sheher-e-yaaraan, was written in 1974 under the title Dhaaka se waapsii par (on return from Dhaka).  

Let us recall the context - Pakistan had just got split, with Bangladesh having emerged as a new fledgling nation, and the sane voices in the subcontinent still dazed at the bloody events of  '71 and the barbarism that preceded them.  In this charged climate, Faiz, despite the criticisms and death-threats of detractors in both Pakistan and Bangladesh, chose to visit Dhaka, almost on a mission of sanity and reconciliation.  And the above ghazal captures the distillate of that visit - the frustrations, the pain, the poignant consciousness of a historical wrong.  

Now let's go back and re-read the whole thing - doesn't each sher, right down to that lovely maqtaa, acquire an entirely new meaning?!