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.


musiq said...

"by merely going mad, renouncing the world, and taking to the wilderness"

funny :)

musiq said...

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

how about the confidant being his heart, which, if it finds a messenger or 'words' should be acknowledged gratefully by himself? as in his mute feelings find an outlet... though Ghalib is the least likely person to be at a loss for words :)so it is kind of ironic