Thursday, November 22, 2012

Interpreting My Poem - II

In my previous post, I had presented a translation/ interpretation of one of my ghazals. Here is another ghazal, interpreted again by Archana Gupta.

राशिद तू कुफ़्र से है पशेमान किस लिये
इतने से विज़्र से है परेशान किस लिये

(राशिद = pious person;  कुफ़्र = Unbelief, infidelity; पशेमान = repentant, ashamed; विज़्र = sin)

The word "कुफ़्र" stood out here.  This is a word with multiple meanings - one general negative sense but a number of subtle nuances, each of which lent a different perspective to this couplet and caused "राशिद" and "विज़्र" to assume slightly different personas as well .
Literally  translated with most direct/conventionally accepted word meanings, this is a sort of a taunt towards religious fundamentalism. Why should the "pious one" feel guilty of religious tolerance that other call non-believing. It is too small a sin in the larger scheme of things.  This was the poet's take on the couplet too.
Looking at "कुफ़्र" as  inability to accept or believe only, without assigning any religious context, we get  -  "O pupil, why are you ashamed of your inability to accept (may be past misdeeds).  Why do these not so significant (in the long run)  matters bother you so"?  Assigning Rashid the literal meaning of Pupil who has been accepted into a teacher's guidance (jisne guru-diiksha prapt ki hai), this could well be the teacher addressing the new pupil (or a preacher addressing a confessor).  Once you have decided to make a transition into a new way of life, your past should be considered insignificant and be relegated to the back burner, basically should no longer bother the taught /confessor.
Now another slightly varying meaning of कुफ़्र is infidelity.  So another interpretation is that this is an address of the faithful but extremely forgiving partner to the unfaithful one.  The question is the same, why are you so ashamed of your act (of infidelity).  Considering all things (aspects of life together and your having confessed) its not such a big burden to carry around.  Note that the nature of one partner and act of the other, place them at unequal footing, signified by "Rashid"  (literally the teacher is considered far above the taught.  Conventionally, partners in an intimate relationship would be equal )
A yet another play on "कुफ़्र" is the meaning of ingratitude.  This again leads to another meaning with a more sarcastic tone to this couplet.  Its an oblique comment on the fact that there seems to be no value for emotion like gratitude in today's world -  "As the world does not consider ingratitude a vice, why are you so ashamed and bothered by this."

फ़िरदौस को न जायेगा इन्सान अब कभी
बैठा है दर-ए-ख़ुल्द पे रिज़वान किस लिये   

(फ़िरदौस = paradise; दर-ए-ख़ुल्द = door of paradise; रिज़वान = doorkeeper of paradise)

Again two interpretations are possible here, based on whether you consider "किस लिये " to be rhetoric or not.
If you consider this phrase to be actual question, then consider why is a doorkeeper needed ?  To guard a door so that the wrong people do not enter. The poet questions, When people in this world are such sinners that there is no likelihood of any them getting a seat in paradise, why the need of a door keeper at all?  No one will reach the door at all...
If you consider it a rhetoric then the interpretation is slightly different.  No human will ever get entry into the Heavens now for they are guarded by the ruler of the Heavens himself.  Basically, the reference is that humans are allowed entry into the Heaven based on evaluation of their "Karma".  The ruler himself guarding refers to the bar having been set higher and the obvious comment is that the deeds of humankind no longer match up to the bar  -  this is a more of social comment in either case.

बस कल ही की तो बात है परदानशीं थे वो
हैं आज सर-ए-राह वो उर्यान किस लिये

(परदानशीं = behind curtains, veiled; सर-ए-राह = middle of the road; उर्यान = naked)
This one is again possibly layered.
Literal meaning is "She used to stay in hijaab (veil), why is she being seen naked in the streets today?"   In a more refined fashion, it translates to "As of yesterday (or when I was closer to her), she used to maintain a mystique around her, how come now her motivations, intent and desires are known to the world?"
At a different level -  as a more social comment, this could be a reference to anything/anyone that was hidden from public before and thus was held in high esteem but has now been exposed to have feet of clay and has thus fallen in stature.

ख़ातिर-तवाज़ो के हैं न असबाब मेरे पास
आते हैं मेरे घर पे ये मेहमान किस लिये

(ख़ातिर-तवाज़ो = to receive with politeness; to entertain; असबाब = means)
Literally translated, it is a lament of a  man about his lack of capacity or willingness to provide for his guests- he would rather not have guests at all. 
A closer look reveals that this could also be the poet's lament with respect to people making claims to his time or having high expectations from him that he finds himself unwilling to meet or sees no reason to meet. 
Another, though less plausible, interpretation is that the poet is stating that generally people give him more credit or consider him far more worthy and capable than he really is.  So the "guests" have expectations that are beyond his "capabilities"  (not desires).

अग़यार के लिये थी उठी आपकी नज़र
जानिब हमारी अब है ये अहसान किस लिये

(अग़यार = strangers; अहसान = favour)
Two possibilities...
"Earlier you used to welcome strangers - considered them closer or gave them more importance,  why have I suddenly become more important for you?  Why is my council suddenly valuable?"  Note that conventionally speaking, every one other than the two people involved romantically are "outsiders" or "strangers" in context of the relationship.
Second meaning is also within the context of the relationship and ties into one partner feeling that the other is letting outsiders in.  Here the comment is more sarcastic saying "If you want to welcome the strangers in, don't try to portray it as if its a favor to me or you are doing it on my behalf too - I plain don't want them here".  May be tied to the general unwillingness to have "guests" as discussed above also.

जिनके लहु के दम से ये मिट्टी बनी है ज़र
इफ़्लास के मारे हैं वो दहक़ान किस लिये

(ज़र = gold; इफ़्लास = poverty; दहक़ान = villagers, peasant)
This is a direct social comment but could be generally applied to mean "Those who do the actual work, do not actually get their due or credit". The literal translation is that why are those farmers bankrupt who have toiled so hard that the barren land has become fertile only on account of their labor (as if its been irrigated with their blood)?  Why have they not reaped the benefit of this fertility?

माना कि तुम्हारा है तिजारत से इल्तिफ़ात
बाज़ार में ले आये हो ईमान किस लिये

(तिजारत = trade; इल्तिफ़ात = to attend to)
This one is relatively straightforward.
I understand that you are by nature fond of trading or bartering (be it favors) but why have you stooped to selling your conscience?

मक़सूद है जो क़त्ल से नज़रों से काम लो
घिसते हो पत्थरों पे ये पैकान किस लिये

(मक़सूद = intention; पैकान = arrow-head)
Now this one appears plain romantic on first glance.  Literal meaning is that "You could kill me with just the look of your eyes, why are you sharpening tips of your tools on the stone".   
On a second look, It appears to be the poet's/poet's imaginary personification's regret at his vulnerability to someone, perhaps a lover.   When translated within that context, one meaning is "If you want to criticise/reprimand me, just non-verbal cues are enough. Why do you have to choose the harshest of words (sharpened tooltips) to express that?"  A slight variation on the same is "You could break my very spirit with just a non-benevolent or disapproving or ridiculing look and that itself is equivalent to death.  Thus there is no need to sharpen the tools to end my physical existence.  Such is your power."

Friday, November 16, 2012

Interpreting My Poem - I

I have been writing for many years now, mostly for my own consumption. One of the reasons why I haven’t shared much of my poetry with others is that I find myself terribly inadequate in explaining or translating my own poems for others. Of course, I can provide the meanings of the difficult words, but explaining the meaning behind them does not come easily to me. Moreover, I feel that poetry needs to be interpreted by the reader. The poet’s intent is nice to know, but finally it is up to the readers to extract the meaning from it. And if I explain everything myself, the fun is lost.

I do realize that this makes my poems quite inaccessible to people. I had no solution to this problem, till Archana Gupta, a facebook friend, volunteered to translate and interpret some of my ghazals. I thought this was a reasonable solution. While it does not completely overcome the problem of experiencing poetry through someone else’s eyes, it is better than hearing it from the poet himself because it is another reader’s interpretation.

So here I present Archana’s interpretation of one of my ghazals. Hope you enjoy it.

The most interesting thing about good poetry is its innate ability to lend itself to multiple interpretations, to have enough depth to allow for the exploration of under the surface meaning and imagery.   A few ash'aar (couplets)of this ghazal also fit that mould rather well.  In some cases below, its the interpretation of "कोई ", that leads to multiple layers.
ये क्या जो लाला-ओ-गुल से तवस्सुल कोई करता है
ख़राश-ए-ख़ार का लेकिन तजाहुल कोई करता है

(तवस्सुल = association; ख़राश-ए-ख़ार = injury caused by a thorn; तजाहुल = ignorance)
When interpreted generally with "कोई" as people, it seems to be a comment, even a complaint about the human tendency to associate with things that are outwardly beautiful and completely ignore that beautiful things do have faults underneath and can cause one pain -  sort of a warning that good in life comes with the bad. 
One could also view the "कोई " as poet himself stating his philosophy or positive approach to life.  Then the meaning becomes "I desire the flowers from the garden (of life) and am willing to purposefully ignore the raze of the thorns (troubles) that come along, rather bear the troubles that come along".   Though the meanings appear the same when viewed casually, the intent is different.  In the second case, the "purposefully turning a blind eye" is then an intent to pay the debts of life to get what one wants.

मुकर्रर है जहाँ में हर ख़ता से मग़फ़िरत का दिन
क़रार-ओ-ताब दिल में रख तहम्मुल कोई करता है

(मुकर्रर = pre-determined; ख़ता = mistake, sin; मग़फ़िरत = absolution, forgiveness; क़रार-ओ-ताब = patience; तहम्मुल = endurance)
Someone is (I am) tolerating (the travails of life) with repose and patience with the belief that the day of salvation is pre-decided and will come regardless.

शिकस्ताहाल रहते हैं ये महव-ए-बुतपरस्ती में
न क्यूँ उश्शाक़ पर नज़र-ए-तफ़ज़्ज़ुल कोई करता है

(शिकस्ताहाल = broken down; महव-ए-बुतपरस्ती = absorbed in worshipping an idol/obeject of desire; उश्शाक़ = lovers; नज़र-ए-तफ़ज़्ज़ुल = look of kindness/benevolence)
Here if one views "कोई " as the lord himself, the sher appears to be a complaint to the Almighty.  "Your followers (lovers/उश्शाक़) are so deeply devoted to you that they forget everything else, yet you don't listen and improve their circumstances". Alternately, it could be viewed as a similar complaint to one's object of desire (but), so now "कोई " is the lover -  in either case, the one worshipped.

Yet another interpretation of the play of words comes about when "कोई" is considered to be the worshipper    -  (When troubled in life) people (कोई) absorb themselves in idol-worship or appeals to the (unseen and unknown entity called)  God  (in hope of finding salvation from their sorrows).  Why do they not seek (and in process provide) solace from (to) their lover or partner in life (when the sorrows are actually shared)?  So here, the change in "कोई" changes, rather offers a completely different interpretation. 

न रूदाद-ए-सितम कोई बयाँ करता असीरी में
बहें अश्क-ए-फ़ुग़ाँ क्यूँकर त-अम्मुल कोई करता है

(रूदाद-ए-सितम = tale of tyranny; असीरी = captivity; अश्क-ए-फ़ुग़ाँ = tears of complaint; त-अम्मुल  = hesitation)
Now this sher is a little different.  Here the "कोई " is the same and is rather unimportant to the meaning.  Its considering the placement of the word "क्यूँकर", that offers the difference in interpretation.

If one considers "क्यूँकर त-अम्मुल कोई करता है" to be one phrase, the meaning appears to be "Why is the captive hesitating in narrating the travails of captivity; he/she should let the tears of complaint show."

However, if one considers "क्यूँकर" to be part of the leading words and "त-अम्मुल कोई करता है"  as the independent phrase, the meaning becomes - "She/He does not describe her problem, nor complains of torture in this relationship.  I am left reflecting (with bewilderment) why does she/he cry and lament then (what is troubling her/him)?"  Here we interpret the captivity to be the relationship with one involved party wondering this about the other one that appears to be quietly unhappy.

है क़िस्मत का सितारा औज पर लेकिन रहेगा डर
ज़मीं पर अर्श से आख़िर तनज़्ज़ुल कोई करता है

(औज = zenith; अर्श = sky; तनज़्ज़ुल = descent, fall)
While my stars are on the zenith (fate is smiling upon me), I remain apprehensive, as its inevitable that those flying high in the seventh heaven would fall to the ground one day.  Here the interpretation considers the poet to be the "कोई"
Those ("कोई") who are enjoying the benevolence of the powers that be, should remain mindful of the fact that times and circumstances change – it’s the law of nature that what goes up must come down
The difference in the two is only in the tone of the she’r...

जो होता है यहाँ दहशतनुमा अक्स-ए-हक़ीक़त भी
है लाज़िम ये कि वा बाब-ए-तख़य्युल कोई करता है

(दहशतनुमा = scary; अक्स-ए-हक़ीक़त = image of reality; लाज़िम = necessary; वा = open; बाब-ए-तख़य्युल = door of imagination)
The realities of life are so frightening (there is so much trouble in reality)  that its reasonable that someone (I) turn to the world of my imagination (to make this life bearable).   Could it be that this is the poet's justification to immerse himself in the world of poetry?  World's reason for indulging in various art forms -  music, drama, films, painting -  all creative arts?