Monday, 25 February 2008

Faiz - Neem-Shab, Chaand, Khud-Faraamoshee

While 'Night-Time' has been celebrated in virtually every poetic tradition, I don't think the idea of night has ever been worshipped – even romanticised - quite as hauntingly as in this lovely nazm from Naqsh Fariyaadii. A truly sublime nocturne, it was titled, quite appropriately, 'saruud-e-shabaanaa' or 'music of the night'. Faiz has packed in such beauty in his choice of words here that even translations, howsoever inadequate, end up sounding a trifle poetic...!

Niim-shab, chaand, khud-faraamoshii
mehfil-e-hast-o-buud veeraan hai
paikar-e-iltija hai khamoshii
bazm-e-anjum fusurdaa saamaan hai
aashbaar-e-sukoot jaarii hai
char suu bekhudii sii taarii hai
zindagii juzv-e-khvaab hai goyaa
sarii duniyaa saraab hai goyaa
so rahii hai ghane darakhto.n par
chaandanii kii thakii huii aawaaz
kahkashaa.n neem-vaa nigaaho.n se
kah rahii hai hadees-e-shauq-e-niyaaz
saaz-e-dil ke khaamosh taaro.n se
chhan rahaa hai khumaar-e-kaif-agiin
aarzuu, khwaab, teraa ruuh-e-hasiin

नीम-शब, चाँद, खुद-फरामोशी
महफ़िल-ए-हस्त-ओ-बूद वीरान है
पैकर-ए-इल्तिजा है खामोशी,
बज़्म-ए-अंजुम फुसुर्दा सामान है
आब्शार-ए-सुकूत जारी है
चार सू बेखुदी सी तारी है
ज़िन्दगी जुज़्व-ए-ख्वाब है गोया
सारी दुनिया सराब है गोया
सो रही है घने दरख्तों पर
चांदनी की थकी हुई आवाज़
कहकशां नीम-वा निगाहों से
कह रही है हदीस-ए-शौक़-ए-नियाज़
साज़-ए-दिल के खामोश तारों से
छन रहा है खुमार-ए-कैफ-अगीन
आरज़ू, ख्वाब, तेरा रूह-ए-हसीन

Midnight...the moon...the forgetting of oneself...

The assemblage of being & existence lies abandoned,
silence is the embodiment of supplications,
the gathering of stars the stuff of melancholy,
a quietitude cascading down.

In (all) four directions, there's a sort of dark insensibility,
as if life is (but) a fragment of dream,
as if the entire world is (but) a mirage.

Somnolent on dense trees,
(is) the weary voice of moonlight,
(as if) the Milky Way, with drooping eyes,
recounts fables of (those with a) a taste for submission...

(And) from the silent strings of the heart's lyre
filters through, a blissful intoxication...

...desire...dreams...your beautiful face.

Nice, na?

Some niceties - the 'hast-o-bood' of the second line actually means something like 'what is and was' (it is almost a technical term - used in account books to indicate a comparison of past and present figures), and hence the 'assembly' that is described as desolate in the line is not just that of the denizens of the present night, but also of nights gone by.

The 'aabshaar-e-sukoot' merits attention - a nicely antithetic juxtaposition of contrasts, aabshaar describing a torrential waterfall, while sukoot denotes peacefulness, quietness, silence.

The 'hadees-e-shauq-e-niyaaz' is also interesting - hadees is specifically used for fables describing the experiences of the Prophet; while niyaaz, which in ordinary language is used to denote an abject, self-abasing supplication or worshipfulness, is also used more specifically to describe the alms to the indigent, offered usually in the form of food, in the memory of the Prophet. Shauq, of course, means something like 'fondness or taste'... hence, the entire expression links up quite beautifully in an allusive sense.

In the second-last line, while Khumaar and kaif both indicate inebriation, the latter (a contraction of 'kaifiyat') is more specifically a 'happy, beatific' sort of intoxication...while 'aageen' means something like 'full of'. Hence, the composite expression translates to something like 'a dulcet drunkenness...'

P.S. - Sorry for missing the weekend deadline. The internet connection at home, after spluttering fitfully for most of the week, finally kicked the bucket on Saturday...and it required much cajoling of the ISP rascals over the phone for them to do something about it today...

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Faiz - Kabhii Kabhii Yaad mein ubharte hain

Madame Musiq, I know this has been a long promised one... finally got around to it. A truly magical ghazal from Dast-e-sabaa, one of the two volumes Faiz penned in prison.

kabhii kabhii yaad mei.n ubharte hai.n naqsh-e-maazii miTe miTe se
vo aazmaaish dil-o-nazar kii, vo qurbate.n sii, vo faasle se

कभी कभी याद में उभरते हैं नक्श-ऐ-माज़ी मिटे मिटे से

वो आज़माइश दिल-ओ-नज़र की, वो कुर्बतें सी, वो फासले से

At times, (they) rise forth in memory...(those) evanescent images of the past
those trials of heart and sight, those almost-intimacies, those almost-separations

Actually, part of what's been holding me back from translating this ghazal so far is the difficulty of doing justice to the exact nuance captured in the radif structure of this ghazal. The Radif ends with a 'se' which is, of course, the oblique form of 'saa', which literally translates to 'like' or 'similar to'.

However, urdu grammar allows one to say - with complete naturalness and elegance - something like 'vo faasle se' (as in the sher above), the sense which is almost impossible to translate into English, even if one resorts to a clumsy phrase like 'those things like distances...'. If one says just 'those distances', it does sound more acceptable as an English phrase, but falls very short of the magically approximate sense captured in the Urdu original - 'that thing like distance, but not quite distance'. See?

The via-media I've chosen above leaves me far from satisfied. But it was either that, or just leaving the ghazal aside as 'too beautiful to translate'.

With that said, isn't this matlaa just impossibly lovely? The 'evanescent' nature of the memories...barely what makes them such a 'test' of the heart and (the mind's) eye. And that is why the distances are not quite definitely distances, and closenesses not quite definitely closenesses...!

kabhii kabhii aarzuu ke sehraa mei.n aa ke rukte hai.n kaafile se
vo saarii baate.n lagaao kii sii, vo saare unwaan visaal ke se

कभी कभी आरज़ू के सेहरा में आ के रुकते हैं क़ाफिले से

वो सारी बातें लगाओ की सी, वो सारे उनवान विसाल के से

At times (they) come and halt in the desert of desire, like caravans
all those things said, as in affection; all those signs, as of union

The defining characteristic of caravans being, of course, that they don't make permanent stops... just halts for the night, to leave the next day, leaving the 'desert of longing' just as desolate as before... but still, memories of the words uttered in love, the faintly remembered signs of meetings with the Beloved, can temporarily slake desire...

nigaah-o-dil ko qaraar kaisaa, nishaat-o-gham mei.n kamii kahaa.n kii
vo jab mile.n hai.n to un se har baar kii hai ulfat nae sire se

निगाह-ओ-दिल को करार कैसा, निशात-ओ-ग़म में कमी कहाँ की?

वो जब मिले हैं तो उन से हर बार की है उल्फत नए सिरे से

What relief (can there be) for the sight and heart; what lowering of joy and pain?

Every time (I have) met her, (I have) fallen in love with her anew!

Isn't that just haunting? Indeed, what slackening of suffering can there ever be, even over time, if the whole stomach-wrenching process of falling in love is to be undergone afresh, all over again, every time the Beloved is sighted? But then again, what exquisite agony it would be, to live like that...!

bahut giraa.n hai ye pesh-e-tanhaa, kahii.n subuktar, kahii.n gawaraa
vo dard-e-pinha.n ke saari duniyaa rafiiq thii jis ke vaaste se

बहुत गिरां है ये ऐश-ऐ-तनहा; कहीं सुबुकतर, कहीं गवारा

वो दर्द-ऐ-पिन्हाँ के सारी दुनिया रफीक़ थी जिस के वास्ते से

(It is) very burdensome, this enjoyment of solitude; (it was) much lighter, much more acceptable,
that hidden pain, because of which the whole world was (my) companion

gawaaraa is literally 'digestible', but used in the sense of something 'acceptable' or 'pleasant'. 'Disengagement' from passion might bring the sort of peace only solitude can, but who can put up with such weighty repose, once used to the tumult of longing...?

The 'kahiin' used in the first line is to be read not in its common sense of 'somewhere' but in the comparative sense... i.e. as a verbal device to stress that the 'hidden pain' is 'so much more light, so much more pleasurable'...

tum hii kaho rind-o-muhtasib mei.n hai aaj shab kaun farq aisaa
ye aa ke baiThe.n hai.n maikade mei.n, vo uTh ke aaye.n hai.n maikade se

तुम ही कहो रिंद-ओ-मुह्तसिब में है आज शब कौन फर्क ऐसा

ये आ के बैठे हैं मयकदे में, वो उठ के आए हैं
मयकदे से

Go on, you tell me - what (great) difference is there between the blackguard and the policeman this evening?
This one has come and taken a seat in the tavern; that one has come having arisen from the tavern!

Lovely... dusts out the oft-repeated theme whereby the censor (a mohtasib is specifically a law-enforcer who polices unlawful gaming, drinking etc.- a sort of 'moral police') is snidely insulted as being hypocritical and incapable of following his own diktats... but does it in such magical language that one just can't help smiling afresh at it!

Zauq - Tere koochaa ko vo biimaar-e-gham

Thought we could look at this rather nice ghazal by Zauq today. It will be a bit of a job to translate it, though - not only because some of its shers are quite impossibly abstruse, but also because it is an unusually long work. But it does contain more than one gem, so do bear with me - I shall try and confine the 'commentary' to the minimum.

तेरे कूचा को वो बीमार--ग़म दारु-शिफा समझे

अजल को जो तबीब और मर्ग को अपनी दवा समझे

Those pain-afflicted ones thought your street to be an infirmary,

who (considered) the hour of death (to be) a physician, and death (to be) their medicine

Fairly straightforward, this one. The Beloved has just one cure to offer those suffering the effects of her charms – euthanasia!

निगाह क्या और मिज्हा क्या हम तो दोनों को बला समझे

तीर--क़ज़ा उस को पर--तीर-क़ज़ा समझे

What is a glance, and what is an eyelash? We considered both to be a calamity

Oh arrow of fate, we considered it to be the feathers of the arrow of fate

Some clever word-play here... hinging on the fact that 'par' can mean both a 'feather' and an 'eyelash'. The coquettish glances of the Beloved are often characterised as arrows in the poetic idiom, and an arrow needs to be 'feathered' in order to fly straight and fast, doesn't it? Nice!

ग़लत-फहमी हमारी थी जो उन को आशना समझे

हम उन को देखो क्या समझे थे और वो हमको क्या समझे

It was my error that I considered her an acquaintance/lover

look, what I had thought her, and what she thought of me!

Definitely not too deep, but still charming in its sheer colloquial-ness, nahin?

शहीदां--मोहब्बत खूब आईन--वफ़ा समझे

बहा खून कू--क़ातिल में उसी को खून-बहा समझे

The martyrs of love understood well the laws of faithfulness

The blood flowed in the street of the killer, (and) that is what they considered as blood-money (only that they considered as blood having truly flowed)

Oh, VERY nice, this one! Zauq pulls off some truly exquisite word-play here...

As per Shari'a law, a murder can be compensated through 'blood money' (paid to the dependents of the victim), and the legal term for such a payment is 'khoon-bahaa'. So, in one sense, what the sher is saying is this - those slaughtered by the Beloved have such a fine understanding of the 'laws of faithfulness' that they are quite prepared to accept their own blood flowing through the Beloved's street as adequate 'blood money' for the crime.

However, one can also take the more every-day sense of 'khoon-bahaa' – which simply implies the act of 'blood having flowed'. And in this sense, the sher is saying that these poor wretches truly consider their blood to have flowed only when it has flowed on the Beloved's street – before that it might as well have been congealed in their veins, for all the value it had for them!

वही कुछ तल्ख़-काम उस जिंदगानी का मज़ा समझे

कि जो ज़हराब--तेग-यार को आब--बका समझे

Only those few embittered ones understood the enjoyment of that life

who considered the poison-water (steel) of the Beloved's sword to be the eternal waters

Once again, a lot of nice word-play here. Zahraab is literally 'bitter waters', used to mean poison. However, it also is used figuratively for the 'temper' of steel of a finely made sword. Hence the zahraab-e-tegh-yaar has many layers of meaning lurking within. Similarly, 'aab-e-baqaa' is literally the 'immortal waters', and the term usually indicates the legendary 'fountain of youth' from which Khizr is supposed to have drunk (also known as aab-e-Khizr). However, 'aab' can mean, apart from 'water', the lustre of (among other things) a finely made sword!

हर एक गर्दिश में सौ अंदाज़ नाज़--फितना-ज़ा समझे

फ़लक को हम किसी काफिर की चश्म--सुरमा सा समझे

in every adversity, the hundreds of coquetries I considered the graces born of mischief

the sky I considered to be like someone's kohl-lined eyes

'Fitna' can mean something like 'mischievous seduction' as also 'sedition' or the 'instigation of turbulences'. Hence fate, which is often guilty of such perverse inspirations, is seen to be equivalent to the Beloved's eyes, which are always guilty of mischief-inspired coquetries...

सितम को हम करम समझे जफ़ा को हम वफ़ा समझे

और उस पर भी ना समझे वो तो उस बुत से खुदा समझे

Torture I considered to be kindness, oppression I considered to be faithfulness

and if she does not understand even then, then (even) God should learn from (/deal with) that idol

Very very nice again! Simple words, but what a wealth of meanings!

The first line is straightforward. The beauty is in the second. Apart from its delightfully 'expostulatory' tone, the line is enjoyable because of two very different senses it can be read in. In the first, what is being implied is that the Beloved is so perverse (since she fails to appreciate the Lover's exceptional devotion, as captured in the first line) that even God could take lessons in perversity from her. The alternative meaning is more ominous – hinging on the fact that 'kisi se samajhnaa' can mean something like 'to deal with someone'... hence the poet could be letting off something like an imprecation - that if the Beloved is so obstinate as to 'not understand' then let God deal with her suitably!

बुराई में हमारी गर वो अपना कुछ भला समझे

बुरा समझे बुरा समझे बुरा समझे बुरा समझे

In my downfall, if she found something to her own advantage;

she erred; she erred; she erred; she erred!


तुझे संगदिल आराम--जान--मुब्तिला समझे

पड़ें पत्थर समझ पर अपनी हम समझे तो क्या समझे

O stone-hearted one, I considered you the relief of an afflicted life

may lightning strike my wits – what on earth did I choose to believe!

Once again, what a delightfully colloquial touch in the second line, isn't it? “PaDen Patthar samajh par apni” would literally translate to “may stones fall on my understanding”, but I've tried to put in a more natural English phrase that captures the same sense of exasperated hand-wringing!

वो हम से ख़ाक-सारों को गर अपना ख़ाक--पा समझे

हम अपनी ख़ाक-सारी अपने हक में कीमिया समझे

If she considered us lowly ones to be the dust (beneath) her feet

we considered our lowliness to be the alchemy (magic) in our favour

To become the dust beneath the Beloved's lovely feet is not something any Lover would cavil at, is it? In fact such a chemical transformation would be welcomed with the same joy as that of lead turning to gold, which is essentially what 'kiimiyaa' means.

जो कुछ दिल पर गुज़रती है सुनाएंगे हम उस बुत को

खुदा जाने कहें क्या हम वो अपने दिल में क्या समझे

Whatever besets the heart, I shall recount to that idol

(but) God knows what I shall tell (her), and what she will understand in her heart!

Simple. But sweet.

तीरे कुश्ते जो यूं ख्वाब--अदम से यक-बा-यक चौंके

मगर शोर--क़यामत को तेरी आवाज़--पा समझे

those slaughtered by you were startled from (their) dreams of annihilation, (as if)

they (mis)took the clamour of the day of reckoning to be (the sound of) your footsteps

Makes the Beloved sound uncharacteristically heavy-footed, doesn't it?! Perhaps it's her high-heels...? :-)

नसीम--सुबह गुलशन में अगर होवे दम--ईसा

तेरा बीमार--ग़म तुझ बिन शुमूम--जां-गजा समझे

Even if the morning breeze in the garden was the breath of Jesus

Those sickened in your love would, in your absence, consider it a fragrance that kills

The allusion being, of course, to Biblical fables of Jesus reviving the dead by breathing on them.

कहो बुलबुल से चलता कारवाँ है नाघत--गुल का

चमन बाद--सबा समझे की आवाज़--दरा समझे

Tell the bulbul that the caravan of the bloom's fragrance is setting off

whether the garden considers it the morning breeze, or the tolling of a bell

Not quite sure what sort of metaphor is being evoked here. There is the sound of bells (tied around the camels' necks) when a caravan sets off, of course...but why the morning zephyr should evoke the sound of bells remains a little unclear. Still, it undeniably sounds beautiful...

निगाह--लुत्फ़ उन की जब ना बाज़ आई तगाफुल से

हम उस की ना-रसाई अपना बख्त--ना-रसा समझे

When her gracious glances did not desist from indifference/inattention

I considered her non-arrival the fortunes of my unworthiness/ineffectualness

'naa-rasaa' can mean the lack of something arriving or reaching somewhere, and also the quality of being abject, unworthy and without effect. The sher plays upon this ambiguity.

हिसाब असला ना पूछे मुझ से मेरे दिल के ज़ख्मों का

हिसाब--दोस्तां दर दिल अगर वो दिल-रुबा समझे

(She) would never demand from me the account of my heart's wounds

The accounting between friends/lovers, if in her heart that heart-stealer (sweetheart) would understand

The sher plays upon the fact that the popular term 'dilrubaa' used almost as a synonym for 'sweetheart' actually means 'someone who steals hearts'. Hence, if the Beloved had an appreciation for the rules of accounting between lovers, she would desist from demanding a tally of the wounds in the Lover's heart...lest her theft get discovered...

अगर दिल को निकाला चीर कर पैकान तो रहने दो

कि आशिक अपने पहलू में उसी को दिल की जा समझे

If (one) would extract the arrow-head by tearing open the heart, let it be

that the lover may, to his advantage, consider it to be the (appropriate) place for the heart

Clearly, if extracting the arrow-head lodged in one's heart by the coquettish eyes of the Beloved requires the heart to be ripped open, it would be in the Lover's interests to simply accept the 'arrow lodged' state of his heart. The sher leverages the fact that 'pahluu' can mean one's side (the common sense in which it is used) as also an 'advantage' or 'expedient'.

करे आह--रसा मेरी जो सैर--आलम--ब़ला

तो सीना को फ़लक के आब्ला सा ज़ेर--पा समझे

If my sharp sighs were to travel around the world of calamities

(they would) consider the breast of the sky (like) the blister beneath the foot

Nicely picturesque!

हिकायत दिल की कहता हूँ समझते हो शिकायत है

तुम ही समझो ज़रा दिल में कि समझे भी तो क्या समझे

(I) tell the tales of the heart, (and) you consider them to be complaints

(I leave it to you to) figure out in your heart how little you understood!


हँसे है ज़ख्म--दिल तदबीर पर जर्रा से कह दो
उन्हें टांके ना समझे खंदा--दंदां-नुमा समझे

Tell the physician - the heart's wound laughs at the cure

(let him) not believe them to be stitches; (he should) see them as toothy smiles

hmm...the stitches used to sew up a wound do bear a superficial similarity to someone showing his teeth in a smile...! The wound in the Lover's heart is thus seen to be laughing at the physician's ministrations, which it knows shall prove to be ineffectual.

A 'zarraah' is actually not a doctor, but specifically someone (like a compounder, I guess) who is qualified to dress wounds.

हुआ जब गर्मी--उल्फ़त से मोम उस दिल-शिकन का दिल

तो उस के दिल-शिकस्ता अपने हक में मोमिया समझे

when the heart of that heart-breaker turned to wax with the heat of love

those with hearts broken by her considered it a corpse-preserver for themselves

A little too contrived, i think.

'Momiyaa' is the wax used to embalm a mummy for preservation. Hence, when the Beloved's heart finally 'melts' (in favour of a rival, of course) the multitudes of disappointed claimants to her affections accept the dripping drops of her molten heart to embalm their own corpses!

अदू आया है बन कर नामा-बर लिखा नसीबों का

करेंगे ले के ख़त क्या मुददा' से मुददा समझे

The rival has come as the messenger of the writing of fate

why should I bother to accept the letter, (I have) understood the issue from the litigant (herself)

Quite right! Why accept the Court's summons if the plaintiff has already given you an exhaustive account of her complaint? Might as well try for an 'out of court' settlement!

ना आया ख़ाक भी रास्ता समझ में उम्र--रफ्ता का

मगर समझे तो दाग--मसीयत को नक्श--पा समझे

Not at all did (I) figure out the path (taken by) life gone past

but what I did understand was to realise the wounds of sin as (its) footprints

Our pasts 'marked out' by the trails of our sins....? Very nice!

ख़बर सुनते ही क़ासिद से हुए हम बे-ख़बर बिल्कुल

तेरे पैगाम को गोया कि पैगाम--क़ज़ा समझे

On hearing the news, I became completely unaware of the messenger

as if I took your message to be the message of fate (death)

...the grim reaper being the only messenger whom one is never in a position to give a reply to...

नहूसत भी सा'आदत हो गई सौदे में जुल्फों के

गिलीम--तीरा-बख्ती सर पे हम जिल--हुमा समझे

Even adversity turned to prosperity in the infatuation (trade) for the tresses

The garment of misfortune on my head, I considered the shadow of Humaa

Very abstruse!

Humaa is a legendary bird which is supposed to fly constantly in the air and never to touch the ground; with the added merit that every head it 'overshadows' during flight becomes destined to wear a crown!

Gileem is a garment (or a blanket or carpet) made of sheep's hair.

I'm not quite sure how the Beloved's tresses come into all of this, unless Zauq means to imply that the particular gileem the Lover fancies (in his madness) he is sporting is made of the Beloved's tresses, and hence he feels as blessed as someone under Humaa's shadow...???

कुशाद--कार हम ने पंजा--तकदीर को सौंपा

खिरद के तेज़ नाखून नाखून--अन्गुष्ट--पा समझे

the untying of affairs I left to the claws of fate

the sharp nails of intellect (I) took to be the nail of the big toe

Haven't figured out this one either... 'Angusht' means the forefinger, and the word normally carries a certain degree of significance since the forefinger is used for making a pledge or for 'pointing out' someone... however, 'angusht-e-paa' would mean the forefinger of the foot (or the big toe) where I begin to lose Zauq...

हवा ने ज़ुल्फ़ को छेड़ा और अपना दम उलझता है

कहीं ऐसा होवे हम से वो काफ़िर अदा समझे

the winds teased (her) tresses, and it is my breaths/life that tie themselves in knots

god forbid that that infidel learns coquetries from ME!

The idea being that if the Beloved observes the effect (on the Lover) of the winds stirring her locks, the next time she could remember to 'tease the tresses' herself, in coquetry!

समझ ही में नहीं आती है कोई बात ज़ौक उस की

कोई जाने तो क्या जाने कोई समझे तो क्या समझे

(I) just can't understand anything about her (/anything said by her), o Zauq!

What is one to know? What is one to understand?

Delightful - this ghazal could have no other maqtaa!

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Mir - Hastii apnii habaab kii sii hai

One of Mir's most famous ones, this one. A little patchy, though – some of the shers are quite nice...others quite pedestrian. Which is pretty much par for Mir, in my opinion...!

हस्ती अपनी हबाब की सी है

यह नुमाइश सराब की सी है

our existence is like that of a bubble

(and) this (entire) display is like a mirage

Touches of 'baaziichah-e-atfaal...' in this, nahin? To stress the illusoriness of existence and discount the concreteness of the material world is pretty standard fare in poetry inspired from sufi'ism...but this is still a competent 'mood establishing' sher for the ghazal.

नाज़ुकी उस के लब की क्या कहिये

पंखड़ी एक गुलाब की सी है

What can one say about the delicateness of her lips

(they are) like the petal of a rose

Huh?! Well, at least he is candid enough to admit in the first line that he has nothing particularly penetrating to say!! :-)

The comparison with a rose petal, as opposed to that of any other bloom, is probably supposed to hint at the possibilities of thorns lurking under the outward delicateness... but the simile is still pretty banal, one must admit.

चश्म--दिल खोल उस भी आलम पर

यां की औकात ख्वाब की सी है

do open the eyes of (your) heart to that world too

the status of the 'here and now' is like that of a dream

Nicer. Sort of paraphrases the first sher, but does it well.

बार-बार उस के दर पे जाता हूँ

हालत अब इज़तिराब की सी है

I go to her door again and again

(my) condition is now one of desperation

Once again, little more than a mere restatement of the compelling infatuation that is the defining characteristic of the Lover in the ghazal universe.

नुख्ता--खाल से तेरा अब्रू

बैत एक इन्तिखाब की सी है

due to the mark of (your) mole, your eyebrow

is like a chosen abode (poem).

Oh, much nicer! 'Bait' can stand for both a 'house' (or a temple) and a 'poem' or 'verse'. The beauty-spot next to the Beloved's eyebrow, 'marks it out' as something 'selected' or 'chosen out'....whether it is a chosen 'abode' (of beauty, what else?) or a 'verse' that is seen to be highlighted by the mole, the sher does capture an original sort of compliment...

मैं जो बोला कहा की ये आवाज़

उसी खाना-खराब की सी है

When i spoke, she commented – that 'this voice

is like that of that same vagabond'

Nice-ish. Obviously, the lover has spent some time calling out to the Beloved from the street outside, vexing her. When he finally manages, through some artifice, to find entry into her presence and speak to her, she is quick to remark on the similarity between his voice and that of the vilified importunate tramp!

आतिश--ग़म में दिल भुना शायद

देर से बू कबाब की सी है

The heart was baked in the fire of pain, probably

since a while, there's the smell of kebabs (in the air)

Cute...very cute! Even if it isn't the highlight of the ghazal in terms of pure poetry, it must have been a real hit in an oral recital!

देखिए अब्र की तरह अब के

मेरी चश्म--पुर-आब की सी है

Look, this time, just like clouds

my eyes (too) are full of water

The point of this sher is obviously technical rather than semantic. The clever way the composite adjective 'pur-aab' is fitted into the rhyme structure of the qaafiyaa...

मीर उन नीम-बाज़ आंखों में

सारी मस्ती शराब की सी है

Meer, in those half-open eyes

it's like there's every intoxication of wine


You know, a number of adherents of the 'Mir camp' claim that it is this very 'simplicity' of Mir that sets him apart as a poet of class... many of them take the position that the sort of overt 'cleverness' that someone like Ghalib infuses in his poetry makes it seem less 'feeling', and almost 'mocking'. In contrast, Mir, in his simplistic, almost wonder-struck, descriptions of the Beloved's beauty (the second sher in this ghazal serving as a typical example), comes across as much more sincere in his depiction of infatuated love.

There probably is something in that point of view...but still, give me Ghalib at most times!

Monday, 4 February 2008

Ghalib - Husn gamze ki kashaakash se chhuutaa mere baad

Remember the Mir we looked at a while back?...The charming ghazal that begins “aa ke sajjaada-nashiin Qais huaa...”? Today, let's study one by Ghalib that uses exactly the same formal structure – i.e. the same radif, qaafiyaa and beh'r. The ghazal in question probably isn't among the most famous in his divaan, but it provides an interesting comparative study between the styles of these two masters.

This sort of 'replication' of structure was actually quite common in classical urdu poetry. In fact, in many formal mushairaas, all the ghazals had to be, perforce, structured on a pre-announced 'sample' line, which, in effect, laid down the beh'r, radif, and qaafiyaa that everyone had to follow in his composition. The idea was presumably to provide a 'level playing field' for the assembled poets to show off their relative poetic craftsmanship...

This ghazal is of interest not only because of the above mentioned comparative sample it provides vis-a-vis Mir, but also because all its shers are devoted, unusually, to a single broad theme – namely, a series of observations (from 'beyond the grave') by the departed Lover. To an extent, of course, this unity of composition is forced by the nature of the radif - 'mere baad'... (and was also largely true of the Mir ghazal we are comparing it with)... but it might also have been deliberate, since a poet of Ghalib's calibre could easily have integrated other themes within the same radif, if he had so willed...

husn gamze kii kashaakash se chuuTaa mere baad
baare aaraam se hai.n ahl-e-jafaa mere baad

हुस्न गमज़े की कशाकश से छूटा मेरे बाद

बारे आराम से हैं अह्ळ-ए-जफ़ा मेरे बाद

Beauty has been freed from the pulls and pressures of (administering) coquettish glances, after me;
The perpetrators of cruelty are finally at ease, after me

A nice sher, which hints at the fact, rarely admitted in the stylised ghazal world, that the constant inflicting of oppressions, which the typecast Beloveds of this make-believe world are almost obliged to indulge in, must be a bit of a strain on them too!

The sher hinges on the implication that all the Beloveds of the world were concentrating their perverse energies on the poor Poet alone, and hence, after his demise, they can all 'hang up their boots' and take a much-deserved break...! The underlying premise being, of course, that there are no other Lovers in the world worthy of their cruelty...

As with most of Ghalib's 'from beyond the grave' shers, this one (and almost every other one in this ghazal) is best read in a 'wry' tone of bitter amusement...

mansab-e-shaftagii ke koii kaabil na rahaa
huii mazuulii-e-andaaz-o-adaa mere baad 

मनसब-ए-शफ्तगी के कोई काबिल न रहा

हुई मज़ूली-ए-अंदाज़-ओ-अदा मेरे बाद

None remained worthy of the office of infatuation
Airs and graces lost their jobs, after me

This sher restates the situation under study, somewhat in the 'officialese' of babudom!

Once the 'post' of the 'infatuated lover' has fallen vacant (due to the death of the Lover), and no other candidates to the job have quite measured up to be appointed to the office, there is little reason for 'andaaz-o-adaa' to be kept on the payroll either – and hence pink slips are duly handed out to them (mazuulii means something like 'dismissal from service')!!
Sweet... if not exactly brilliant!

In mughal times, 'Mansab' actually denoted a slightly more specific term than the generic 'office'... the Mughal military/revenue system was historically organised around the famous 'mansabdaarii' system, supposedly introduced by Akbar, wherein a series of feudal chieftains, called 'mansabs', reigned over delineated parcels of the Emperor's kingdom, and in return were obliged to contribute both in revenue terms as well as militarily to the Emperor...

shama'a bujhtii hai to us mei.n se dhuaa.n uThtaa hai
shola-e-ishq siyaah-posh huaa mere baad 

शमा बुझती है तो उस में से धुआं उठता है

शोला-ए-इश्क सियाह-पोश हुआ मेरे बाद

When a lamp is extinguished, smoke rises from it
the flame of love clothed (itself) in black, after me

This one is slightly more cryptic... and I haven't been able to quite figure out whether the two lines should be read in unison or opposition...or perhaps both?

The basic idea seems simple...when a candle is snuffed out, wisps of smoke waft upward, marking the end of its 'life'... and the poet, personifying the candle-flame as the 'fires of passion', seems to be implying that what actually happens is not that the flame is 'put out', but that it becomes invisible by covering itself in 'black robes' (of mourning) due to the death of the Lover... where the wisps of smoke are seen as the manifestation of these poetic 'black robes'...

The sher would work well as above, and is probably meant to evoke that sense... except that the smoke that rises from a snuffed out candle is usually white, not black... and this chromatic distinction is, in fact, explicitly held to be significant in some other places in Ghalib's own poetry... hence, could the sher be actually implying that his death is somehow even worse than the snuffing out of a lamp? In the sense that, after his demise, the 'flame of passion' doesn't even let out (white) smoke (as lamps usually do, as pointed out in the first line), instead choosing to cloak itself in inky black robes?

Probably there is a bit of both senses being implied here.... and the slight ambiguity probably meant to only add to the sher's appeal.

khuun hai dil khaak mei.n ahvaal-e-butaa.n par yaanii
un ke naakhuun hue mohtaaz-e-hinaa mere baad

खून है दिल ख़ाक में अहवाल-ए-बुतां पर यानी

उन के नाखून हुए मोह्ताज़-ए-हिना मेरे बाद

The heart is killed(/bloodied) in the dust, at the condition of the Idols; for
their nails have become dependent on henna, after me

Brilliant! This is just the sort of thing Ghalib does so well!!

'Butaan', the plural of 'but', is, of course, a generic term to describe the Beloveds of the world. 'Ahwaal' (the plural of 'haal') is literally something like 'state' or 'condition', used here in the sense of the 'well-being' (or otherwise) of a person...

Now look at the totally dazzling word-play. In the first line, the Poet informs us, rather cryptically, that his heart is (being) 'killed', as it lies in the dust... And, apparently, what is causing such fatal anguish to this disembodied heart is the observance of the '(sorry) state of the Beloveds'...

The two questions this raises – why is the poet's heart lying in the dust; and why are the Beloveds suddenly worthy of such sympathy – are both answered in the second line. The radif clarifies that the Poet is dead - and standard ghazal stylisation allows us to understand that his heart is consigned to the dusts because his life has been lost in the wildernesses. And the rest of the second line specifies exactly what it is about the 'state of the Beloveds' that is inspiring such pity in his heart – the fact that these poor Beloveds are now reduced to colouring their nails with henna!

Which makes one ask, of course, what they used for this purpose before the Poet's death? Well, their nails were obviously adorned by the colour of his blood, as they busily gouged out bits of his heart...! And now, bereft of this ghoulish pastime, they are forced to adopt henna as an alternative if they wish to keep their nails aesthetically reddened...

The cleverest aspect of the sher is the word-play involving 'khoon' and 'nakhoon', of course – you would recall that Ghalib had played on this in one of the earlier pieces we looked at too. Which is why, he is careful to specify that it is the nails of the Beloveds which have become dependent on artificial colours now (as opposed to their entire palms, on which henna is usually laid out)... the literal 'blood-less' sense of nakhoon is important to give the sher its punch. And, in the first line, therefore, the khoon could be used not just metaphorically to mean that 'the heart being killed', but also that the heart is literally oozing out blood, as if obligingly inviting these deprived Beloveds to 'dip in' as of yore...!!! [you know how we describe those easily moved to sympathy as 'bleeding hearts'! :-) ]

darkhuur-e-arz nahii.n jauhar-e-bebaad ko jaa
nigaah-e-naaz hai surme se khafaa mere baad

दरखूर-ए-अर्ज़ नहीं जौहर-ए-बेदाद को जा

निगाह-ए-नाज़ है सुरमे से ख़फा मेरे बाद

(There remains) no place worthy of (bestowing) the jewels of oppression
The coquettish glance is annoyed with kohl, after me

Nice! Having polished the art of oppression to such heights of excellence, it must be somewhat off-putting for the poor Beloved to suddenly 'lose' her victim! Where now to show off her skills? No wonder her beguiling eyes are upset with the mascara – which lent them such unintended lethality that the Lover, whom the eyes meant to play around with for a while, like a cat tormenting its prey, actually breathed his last on the very first blow!

hai junuun ahle-e-junuun ke liye aagosh-e-vidaa
chaak hotaa hai girebaan se judaa mere baad 

है जुनून अह्ळ-ए-जुनून के लिए आगोश-ए-विदा

चाक होता है गिरेबान से जुदा मेरे बाद

Madness is, for the crazed folks, (in?) the bosom/embrace of leave-taking

Tearing is separated from the collar, after me

This is an exquisite one... concealing multiple 'barely-hinted-at' layers of imagery within it.

The first line is complex in its interpretative possibilities. Aagosh can mean somebody's bosom, as well as an embrace. And hence aagosh-e-vidaa can mean either a 'farewell embrace' or 'the bosom of departure, of parting'.

When first heard in a mushairaa context (until the explanatory sub-text provided by the second line becomes available), the first line would be understood, by most people, to be saying that for people who are crazed in love, this 'madness' is to be found in the bosom of departure, i.e. such folk 'manifest' their madness by entering the depths of solitude, of wildernesses (which is pretty standard ghazal stylisation, of course). A similar meaning can be gleaned if one reads aagosh as embrace – namely, that the madness of passion lies in 'embracing' departure, in bidding farewell to the world of normalcy...etc.

However, when the brilliant second line is finally revealed, the need to link it backwards with the first line forces the listener to revisit the latter, and discover new possibilities in it. Once one realises that the sher is, like the others in this ghazal, 'describing' the consequences of the Poet's death (due to the compulsions of the radif), it becomes clear that the first line is not just the statement of a 'general' truth, as it seemed on first hearing... instead, what it actually meant to imply is that the 'madness of passion' is, itself, in the act of 'taking leave of' the people who are afflicted with such madness. Meaning that, after the poet, there shall be no more persons who can honestly claim to be beset by the lunacy of love...he would always remain the emblematic symbol of this malady.

And now look more closely at the haunting second line itself... it takes a Ghalib to come up with such an original juxtaposition of actually deconstruct a standard stylisation and lend new meaning to it. As we have seen over and over again previously, the 'chaak-e-girebaan' stylisation is one of the most enduring in the ghazal universe...serving almost as the staple measure of a crazed Lover's suffering. In this clever line, Ghalib quips that chaak, the act of tearing, would be disassociated from girebaan, the collar, after his death. While this is, in effect, merely a restatement of the first line's claim that 'madness' would quit the 'crazed', the fact that chaak-e-girebaan is usually written as a composite expression allows Ghalib to highlight, in typical tongue-in-cheek fashion, how he has managed to, creatively, separate the two terms of this composite in this line! And what lofty poetic vision to see something as abstract as the 'act of tearing' to be divorced - to be 'torn apart' - from the 'object of the tear'...!

And when one associates the two lines together, one is left with a totally haunting sequence of images...that of 'madness' bestowing a 'farewell embrace' on the 'crazed' and (while separating from this embrace), stealing away the essential characteristic of 'tearing-ness' from their collars...!

kaun hotaa hai hariif-e-mai-e-mard-afgan-e-ishq
hai muqarrar lab-e-saaqii mei.n salaa mere baad

कौन होता है हरीफ़-ए-मय-ए-मर्द-अफगन-ए-इश्क

है मुक़र्रर लब-ए-साकी में सला मेरे बाद

Who shall be equal to the man-quelling wine of love?
(the/a) call is repeatedly on the lips of the wine-bearer

Once again, a typically clever sher.

Hareef is a word that can mean anything from a colleague or an associate, to a rival or an enemy. It also admits a different sense – of someone who is impudent or audacious. All these senses are evoked in the first line, which seems to, with a certain rhetorical flourish, ask who (among the claimants to the ardour of love) would dare to down the cup containing the fatal wine of love. [Mard-afgan literally means 'something that would cast away (throw aside) a man']. The second line then goes on to picturise the saaqii, the emblematic 'wine-server' of the ghazal universe, constantly calling out (for clients/customers), after the death of the Poet...implying that the majority of the saaqii's business used to be provided by the Poet while he was still alive.

However, as Ghalib is himself supposed to have famously pointed out, the sher cleverly also allows us to see the entire first line as the actual 'call' that is described (in the second line) as being on the lips of the saaqii – i.e. the first line is not a rhetorical question being asked by the Poet, but the actual words that the saaqii constantly repeats as she goes around looking for worthy successors to the dead poet...!

gham se martaa huu.n ki itnaa nahii.n duniyaa mei.n koii
ki kare taaziiyat-e-mihr-o-wafaa mere baad

ग़म से मरता हूँ कि इतना नहीं दुनिया में कोई

की करे ताज़ीयत-ए-मिह्र-ओ-वफ़ा मेरे बाद

(I) am dying of pain that there isn't even someone in the world

who would grieve/condole (the death of) love and faithfulness, after me

With typical Ghalib-ish cleverness, the sher sets up a 'paradox' – in effect, what is 'killing off' the poet is the very realisation that after him, there would be nobody left to mourn the death of love and faithfulness. There are two senses in which this can be read – that the Poet himself personifies 'love and faithfulness', because of which his death would make it necessary for people to mourn their loss... or that while the poet was alive, he alone used to truly lament the loss of love and faithfulness, and after him this role would no longer be fulfilled by any one.

Ta'aziyat can mean the act of consoling/condoling as well as mourning/lamenting – and both meanings work well in the sher. In the former, 'love and faithfulness' are poetically 'personified', and themselves made worthy of sympathy, of condolence...since their principal connoisseur, the Poet, is dead...and the poet is 'dying of grief' at the thought that there is nobody who can be relied upon to go and console Love and Faithfulness for his own death.

aaye hai bekasii-e-ishq pe ronaa Ghalib
kis ke ghar jaayegaa sailaab-e-balaa mere baad

आये है बेकसी-ए-इश्क पे रोना गा़लिब

किस के घर जायेगा सैलाब-ए-बला मेरे बाद

The loneliness/friendlessness of Love makes one weep, Ghalib
whose house will the flood of calamities visit, after me?

A lovely maqtaa, as usual, by the Master!

The word bekasii unites the common negator be with kas, which can mean 'somebody' or 'anybody'... hence bekasii, which translates to 'lack of somebody', is used to indicate a state of forlorn-ness or friendlessness. 

With that in mind, the first line's lament for bekasii-e-ishq could be implying two different kinds of regrets... the loneliness of Love itself... or the friendlessness of the Lover i.e. the Poet. Both senses work well. 

In the former sense, what the sher is saying, in effect, is that Love shall be rendered friend-less after the demise of the Poet, and hence the 'flood of calamities' (which is, in reality, the very manifestation of love) shall have to hunt around for alternate hosts. The implication being, of course, that while the Poet was alive, there was never any doubt in whose house this flood had taken up permanent residence! 

In the second, more nuanced sense, the Poet is actually lamenting the fact that a Lover (i.e. himself) is without any true friends in the world (probably because the act of falling in love implies a turning away from the real world?). As a result, even if the Poet dies, no great flood of calamities is going to befall anyone in the world! [The second line, in this sense, is 'negatory' in meaning – the kis ke ghar jaayegaa is meant to rhetorically imply that nobody's house would be so visited by the flood of disasters].