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!