Here is my amateurish attempt at demystifying some of Ghalib’s verses. This was attempted by me a couple of months back on Swar Sutra, a Facebook Group dedicated to non-film music.
The ghazal I selected was one which is not often picked by ghazal singers to sing, primarily because of its complexity and esotericism.
सद जलवह रू-ब-रू है जो मिज़हगां उठाइये
ताक़त कहां कि दीद का अहसां उठाइये
(सद = hundred; जलवह = glory; मिज़हगां = eyelashes; दीद = sight; अहसां = obligation)
It is all a matter of lifting one’s eyelashes and all glory will manifest before one’s eyes. But, does one have the strength to behold all the glory? This is a beautiful verse. At a very literal level it could be talking of the beloved before the lover’s eye and the burden of obligation the lover feels just by the fact that the lover has presented herself before him, but looking at it from a spiritual angle, it could be about the God manifesting Himself in a hundred glories. There is an implication in this verse of Prophet Moses’ experiences on Koh-e-Toor, when God revealed himself before him as a divine light (barq-e-tajalli) and Moses could not bear to see it and fainted.
है संग पर बरात-ए-म`आश-ए-जुनून-ए-`इशक़
य`नी हनूज़ मिन्नत-ए-तिफ़लां उठाइये
(संग = stone; बरात = writ; म`आश = livelihood; मिन्नत = obligation; तिफ़लां = children)
Children usually throw stones as madmen. Ghalib says that these stones are like livelihood for madmen. That is, those mad in love are obliged by children who throw stones at them, as that is important for their existence.
दीवार बार-ए-मिन्नत-ए-मज़दूर से है ख़म
ऐ ख़ान-मां-ख़राब न अहसां उठाइये
(बार = weight; ख़म = bent; ख़ान-मां-ख़राब = one whose house is destroyed)
Like the previous two ash'aar this one also talks about obligations and almost in a preachy tone tells people not to take any obligation. Equating life to a house, the poet opines that your life is disheveled because you have taken so many obligations and you’re now totally supplicant to the ones who obliged you.
या मेरे ज़ख़म-ए-रश्क को रुसवा न कीजिये
या परदह-ए-तबस्सुम-ए-पिनहां उठाइये
(ज़ख़म-ए-रश्क = wound of envy; रुसवा = disgrace, reveal; तबस्सुम-ए-पिनहां = hidden smile)
This one is trickier than it appears. There is an either-or situation here. The beloved has a hidden smile on her face, and this makes the lover extremely jealous as not knowing the reason for the smile makes him assume the worst, possibly the time the beloved spent with his rival. The more he is kept in the dark, the more obvious his jealousy becomes and he is disgraced in public. So, the lover wants the beloved to either stop smiling so that he doesn’t feel jealous, or reveal the secret of her smile. Revealing the secret can lead to two outcomes – one, the reason is quite innocuous and the lover stops feeling jealous; and secondly, the reason could validate his assumption and his jealousy becomes even more obvious. In the second case, we’re back to square one. The jealousy persits. So what does the lover eventually achieve?
Now let’s listen to this ghazal in the voice of Tarannum Naaz.