Thursday, January 31, 2013

Poetry of Meeraji in a Disco Album

धुँधली रात के दुखिया साये
जाने किस पाताल से आये
धीरे धीरे चलते चलते
दिल के दर्द कि बात सुनाते
धरती का सीना सहलाते
आँखों से हर शय को छुपाते
जाने किस पाताल से आये ...
बोझल दिल हो जाए हल्का
आएगा झोंका सुबह का
जब आएगा नूर उजाला
आएगी नूरानी उषा
दिल के गुन्चे खिल जायेंगे
प्रेमी प्रीतम मिल जायेंगे

I have a huge sense of nostalgia associated with Nazia Hasan’s Disco Deewane album. It was an integral part of my growing up years after all. I was, and still am, quite fond of most of the songs in the album. One song, however, always piqued my curiosity. It was quite different from the rest of the album, especially in terms of lyrics. Mostly free-verse, with some, unconventional mixing of Urdu and Hindi words, I found the lyrics, well, different…. Noorani Usha!

It was many, many years later when I chanced upon the vinyl Disco Deewane at a music shop that I found out that it was written by someone by the name Meeraji. That also piqued my curiosity, but soon it was forgotten and kept in some crevice of the mind (taaq-e-nisyaan). Again, a jump of some years, and I learnt that Meeraji is actually a well-respected modern Urdu poet best known for his unconventional approach towards poetry. His real name was Sanaullah Dar.

I quote from an article written by Syed Noman-ul-Haq, general editor of Oxford University Press’ series, Studies in Islamic Philosophy:

“Miraji is everywhere in the contemporary world of Urdu poetry since it is he who introduced robustly and sustained poetically the genre of free verse in this ghazal-locked poetic tradition, a tradition with its hitherto hardened conventions of metre, rhyme, and form….

“… Now add to this the new poetic form of the free verse along with the daring attending act of cracking through standard metres of Urdu poetry, and we see — Miraji’s work is hard to swallow! He would at a first glance appear obscure, contradictory, and inaccessible, even bizarre.

“The irony in fact multiplies. Miraji, the flouter of standard Urdu metres, has such a firm and mind-boggling grasp of these classical metres that he wrote the longest unilinear poems in the known history of Urdu-Persian poetry — the whole poem being effectively a single line, perfectly metrical, but broken up into numerous lines as quasi-hemistiches (misra’). His monumental poem “Jaatrii” (Pilgrim) is a case in point: the poem has 52 practically equal lines in prosodic terms, one flowing into another, merging in complex manners, but in fact they all constitute a single metrically constructed line. This is no minor feat. ..”

So let’s savour Meeraji’s unconventional poetry in Nazia Hassan’s unconventional voice

Dhundhli Raat Ke Dukhiya Saaye - Disco Deewane - Nazia Hasan - Zohaib Hassan - Meeraji

Saturday, January 26, 2013


This article was written for Swar Sutra, a Facebook group dedicated to non-film music.

चर्ख-ए-सुखन जिस से मुनव्वर है ये वो नज्म-ए-शिमाल
तालिब जो हैं उर्दू ‘अदब के उन का मुर्शिद भी वही

चर्ख-ए-सुखन = Sky/firmament of language; मुनव्वर = illuminated; नज्म-ए-शिमाल = North Star; तालिब = he who desires; मुर्शिद = Guide

He is the North Star that illuminates the language's firmament
As well as a guide to every Urdu literature student

Tomes have been written on Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib, considered by many as one of the greatest Urdu poets of all time, and many more will continue to be written. His work is but a bottomless ocean that reveals new dimensions every time one takes a dip.

The purpose of this article is not to provide a biographical sketch of the poet. Enough material is available on his life (For one, the Wikipedia entry is fairly good). Through this piece I am trying, in my own limited capacity, to highlight some of the characteristics of his poetry, based of course on my rudimentary comprehension of his work. I must add that these characteristics, as I list them down, are neither exhaustive nor without counterexamples. For instance, if I cite ‘complexity of language’ as one characteristic, you can easily find many couplets contradicting that.

COMPLEXITY OF LANGUAGE – It is well-acknowledged that the language used by Ghalib in a major portion of his work is esoteric and complex. His penchant for using heavily Persianized Urdu probably emerged from his own fondness of Persian as a language. He considered his own work in Persian much superior to Urdu. As Ralph Russel puts it, “...his view, which he held almost to the end of his days, that Persian was par excellence the language of literature, and that Urdu, by contrast was an inferior medium for poetry, and no medium at all for prose”. Quite a harsh dismissal of Urdu, but in a way it explains why his usage of Persian words (even grammar) in many of his Urdu couplets far exceeds most of his predecessors and contemporaries. What we see in his Deewan (collection) is just a glimpse. In his early days he wrote in a very complex style, inspired by the style of poets like Bedil, and he himself eliminated all those complex couplets while compiling his Deewan. One can only imagine how much more complex could it get!

Let’s see this example:

शुमार-ए-सुब्ह मरग़ूब-ए-बुत-ए-मुशकिल पसन्द आया
तमाशा-ए-ब-यक-कफ़ बुरदन-ए-सद दिल पसन्द आया

शुमार = counting; सुब्ह = rosary beads; मरग़ूब = fondness; बुत = idol/lover; कफ़ बुरदन = in the palm; सद दिल = hundred hearts

I liked my difficult beloved’s fondness for rotating the rosary;
I liked watching her hold a hundred hearts in her palm

Now, what does one say of this couplet. Barring the refrain (पसन्द आया), the whole lines are constructed in Persianized Urdu. Once you decipher the language, the meaning that emerges is also very unique, something that could force you to repeat… पसन्द आया. The poet is equating the beads of rosary to the hearts of hundred lovers – a truly unique comparison. But are the hearts of lovers like the beads of the rosary, or is it vice versa? Ghalib wouldn’t tell.

COMPLEX WORD CONSTRUCTIONS – Another way in which Ghalib adds complexity to his verses is by the usage of complex compound words, many of which are his own unique creations. Izaafat (the usage of –e- between to words to add qualifiers to a word) is a word construction tool borrowed from Persian. The more izaafat one adds in a word, the more complex it becomes as it takes a while for the reader to decipher which word is qualifying the others. Ghalib has been quite adventurous with his word constructions. Not only does he coin new compound words, he also goes one step ahead and constructs extremely long, and hence complex, compound words. Take this example with four izaafat in one line, something rarely seen in the works of other poets. In fact, in the unwritten rules of poetry, more than three izaafat is even considered a poetic flaw because it invariably imprisons the reader/listened in a convoluted route to resolution.

कमाल-ए-गर्मी-ए-स`ई-ए-तलाश-ए-दीद न पूछ
ब-रंग-ए-ख़ार मेरे आइने से जौहर खेंच

स`ई = efforts; ब-रंग-ए-ख़ार = like a thorn; जौहर = polish lines, skill, talent

Ask not for the success of efforts to find an appreciating eye,
Remove the lines from my mirror, as if they were thorns

Even ignoring the seemingly unresolvable izaafat constructions in the first line, this couplet is a little difficult to resolve. In lot many of Ghalib’s verses, the mirror is typically a metallic mirror where jauhar refers to the lines that are formed while polishing a metallic mirror. So, in a way, jauhar refers to imperfections that eventually add ‘shine’ to a mirror. Another meaning of Jauhar is skill. It is extremely difficult to decipher what’s going on in this couplet and the two lines seem quite disconnected. One view, as expressed by Dr. Sarfaraz Niazi, is that Ghalib is lamenting the fact that it is difficult to find an appreciating eye for his talents, so it is better to ignore his talent (or imperfection as he cynically calls them) and remove it like one would a thorn.

UNUSUAL SIMILES AND METAPHORS: Ghalib did not think very highly of his contemporaries because of their dependence on tried and tested traditional similes and metaphors. He always came up with truly unique metaphors. Here is a classic case of juxtaposition of the traditional with the invented.

जुज़ क़ैस और कोई न आया ब-रू-ए-कार
सहरा मगर ब-तंगी-ए-चशम-ए-हसूद था

जुज़ = Except; क़ैस = real name of Majnoon, Laila’s lover; ब-रू-ए-कार = in the face of action; सहरा = desert; तंगी-ए-चशम-ए-हसूद = narrow like a jealous eye

Except for Qais, no one ever came face to face
The wilderness was perhaps like a narrow jealous eye

The legend of Laila Majnun is as traditional as can be. The depiction of Majnun as a madman wandering the desert has been used by countless poets. But Ghalib brings in his own unique flavor by giving a character to the desert. Why wasn’t anyone else so madly in love so as to wander the desert like Qais? Was it because the desert was so literally so narrow so as to provide room for just one? Or was it that the desert, like a person, wanted to associate only with the maddest of mad, that is Qais, and hence showed a jealous eye to others, almost like a warning? In true Ghalibian sense this is much more complex than it appears. But you cannot deny that equating the narrowness of the desert to a jealous eye is truly unique and unprecedented.

Citing one more example where the lover’s world appears to be very narrow or constrained, but this time it’s equated to, of all things, an ant’s egg!

क्या तंग हम सितम-ज़दगां का जहान है
जिस में कि एक बैज़ह-ए-मोर आसमान है

तंग = constrained, narrow; सितम-ज़दगां = oppressed beings; बैज़ह-ए-मोर = ant’s egg

How cramped is the world of us, the oppressed people,
Wherein the sky is merely an egg of an ant

For Ghalib, lovers are oppressed beings who are experiencing such enormous degree of oppression that their world has become extremely constrained and small. The oval sky above is nothing more than an ant’s egg. What can be smaller than an ant’s egg? Not only is this simile extremely unusual and rare, it is also, in a way, cheeky. Almost as if Ghalib is deliberately pushing the envelope to create something completely unheard of before and throwing a challenge to the readers who have mostly found pleasure in conventional imagery. Add to that usage of a word like क्या, that adds multivalence to the meaning of the couplet owing to the subtle shifts of meaning from inquisitive to rhetorical to exclamatory.

DELIGHTFUL WORDPLAY: A poet’s mastery over a language can best be judged by the extent to which they employ wordplay in their writing. And Ghalib has an abundance of wordplay in his work. The wordplay he employs includes all possible flavors ranging from clever punning, to purposeful misdirection by choosing a word with multiple meanings. From juxtaposition of words with similar sounds and/or meaning to even a play on how a word is written. Let’s take this couplet that exemplifies some very delightful punning.

तंगी-ए-दिल का गिला क्या ये वो काफ़िर दिल है
कि अगर तंग न होता तो परेशां होता

तंगी-ए-दिल = tightness/narrowness of the heart; तंग = constrained, distressed; परेशां = scattered, perturbed

Why to complain of the tightness of the heart? It is that disbeliever heart
Which, if it were not sad, would have been perturbed.

The real pleasure of this verse comes from the two meanings of तंग and परेशां. One set of meanings refers to slightly different flavors of the same emotion (i.e. distressed vs. perturbed), while the other can almost be treated as diametrically opposite (i.e. constrained vs. scattered). One cannot but salute the poet for such clever juxtaposition of two words that can be the same as well as opposites.

Now, let’s look at an example where the poet cleverly misguides the reader to think about one meaning of the word, but as the verse resolves itself, the second meaning is the intended one.

फिर देखिये अन्दाज़-ए-गुल-अफ़शानी-ए-गुफ़तार
रख दे कोई पैमाना-ए-सहबा मेरे आगे

गुल-अफ़शानी = Scattering of flowers; गुफ़तार = speech; पैमाना-ए-सहबा = goblet of wine

You will then see the style of my flowery speech
If only someone would put a goblet of wine in front of me.

When the first line is read, one is very likely to consider the word फिर to mean as ‘again’. However, when the second line is read and the meaning is clear, you know for sure that the poet has meant it to be read as ‘then’.

MEANING CREATION (मा’नी आफरीनी): Shamsur Rahman Farouqui defines ‘meaning creation’ as “a style of expression in which in a single utterance a number of kinds of meanings are manifest or hidden”. One of the ways it is done is by wordplay as discussed above. However, there are several other ways in which a meaning is enhanced several times. Using words in such a manner that the subject or the object in a couplet is deliberately left ambiguous is one way. Another is the usage of certain words that add multiple layers to the interpretation. For example, the use of the word Kya has been discussed earlier in this article. Yet another technique is to avoid punctuation of any kind within a line, thereby increasing the chances of varied pauses and emphases within a line.

Ghalib has used these techniques of meaning creation in abundance. He was a strong votary of meaning creation as an important facet of poetry. In one of his letters, he emphasizes that poetry IS meaning creation, not mere rhyming (भाई, शा’इरी मा’नी आफ़रीनी है, काफ़िया-पैमाई नहीं).

I personally find couplets that ‘generate’ more than 3-4 nuances of meaning particularly difficult to explain. After decoding a few meaning, my head literally goes for a spin and the nuances of differences between the various interpretations start to blur and focus alternately. Therefore, I will quote S. M Farouqui verbatim in trying to explain one of Ghalib’s very famous couplets.

सब कहाँ कुछ लाला-ओ-गुल में नुमायाँ हो गईं
ख़ाक में क्या सूरतें होंगी कि पिन्हाँ हो गईं

लाला-ओ-गुल = tulips & roses; नुमायाँ = manifest; ख़ाक = dust; पिन्हाँ = hidden

Not all, only a few have become evident as tulips and roses
What images may lie in the dirt that remain hidden from us?

Before getting into the meaning let me highlight two words that play a role in adding multivalence of meaning to this couplet – कहाँ and क्या. Both these words carry within themselves nuances of inquiry and exclamation. Try reading सब कहाँ twice, once with the emphasis on सब and once on कहाँ. Two meanings emerge, don’t they?

Now let’s look at the above couplet at a very macro level. What are these ‘faces’ Ghalib is talking about. Broadly it could have two readings – a more mundane one, where one is talking of dead people, people who are buried under the dust, some are remembered even after death, some are completely forgotten; and a more abstract one, where the faces refer to the various aspects of the Universe itself. The second reading therefore refers to the countless possibilities that the Universe offers, some have become evident taking on a beauteous façade, while some remain hidden.

Time to get more micro into it and explore the nuances. And here, I choose to quote Farouqui:

“Ghalib, saying क्या सूरतें, has created possibilities upon possibilities. For example, consider these:

  1. what faces will there be? (inquiry, reflection)
  2. what (wonderful) faces there will be (for which beautiful flowers are the return) (wonder)
  3. what faces there will be! (praise)
  4. what faces will there be? (which ones? of which people?) (reflection)
  5. well, what faces will there be? (of what kind will they be?) (ignorance)
  6. no telling what kind of faces there will be, for they've become hidden (thought)

… But putting the two lines together creates even richer possibilities:

  1. Where did they all become manifest? Only some faces were able to become manifest in the form of tulips and roses.
  2. Only some are tulips and roses-- among them, all faces could hardly have [कहाँ] become manifest!
  3. What faces there will be that became hidden in the dust!
  4. What faces there will be in the dust, that became hidden!”

The six variations of the second line as mentioned by Farouqui are a little difficult to comprehend in one go. The trick lies in reading the verse with different emphasis on the words to reveal the nuances of the wonderfully multivalent word “क्या”. And as I mentioned before, even then, they will alternately blur and focus making you head spin!

For another example of a head spinning couplet by Ghalib, read this post about Ghalib’s Meaning Generator.

ARROGANCE AND WIT: There is a fine dividing line between self-confidence and arrogance. It is very easy to misconstrue Ghalib’s supreme self-confidence and assessment of his own skill and mastery as arrogance. Maybe there IS some arrogance, but it rests on a solid foundation.

As I have stated before, Ghalib considered Persian as superior to Urdu as a language for poetry. He also probably thought of himself as among the best of Urdu poets. This is fairly evident in this seemingly arrogant couplet:

जो ये कहे कि रेख़ता क्यूँकि हो रश्क-ए-फ़ारसी
गुफ़्ता-ए-ग़ालिब एक बार पढ़ के उसे सुना कि यूँ

रेख़ता = Old name for Urdu; रश्क-ए-फ़ारसी = Envy of Persian; गुफ़्ता-ए-ग़ालिब =Ghalib’s speech

To those who say “how can Urdu Ghazal be envy of Persian”,
Just once recite to them the verses of Ghalib, “that’s how”

Hali has cited many anecdotes of Ghalib’s wit in his Yaadgar-e-Ghalib. Here is one excellent example of wordplay that unfortunately doesn’t work well in English, so I am retaining Ghalib’s words in Urdu:

“One time when the month of Ramzan had just passed, he went to the Fort. The King asked, 'Mirza, how many days of fasting did you keep?' He petitioned, 'My Lord and Guide, Ek Nahin Rakha” (meaning both: “I did not keep one”, as well as ‘'Not even one”).

I end this article with a classic verse by Ghalib that uses clever wordplay and a slight display of arrogance under the guise of humility.

रेख़ते के तुमहीं उस्ताद नहीं हो ग़ालिब
कहते हैं अगले ज़माने में कोई मीर भी था

I leave it to the readers to resolve this couplet for its wordplay and arrogance.

This couplet also inspired me to write one of my own as a Tribute to Ghalib using similar wordplay. This is the best way I can think of summarizing Ghalib’s poetry:

हर्ब-ए-इदराक में कुछ कम तो मुहारिब न हुए
जाँ लगा दी मगर अफ़सोस कि ग़ालिब न हुए

हर्ब-ए-इदराक = war of comprehension,   मुहारिब = warriors,  ग़ालिब = winner,  Mirza Asadullah Khan's pen name

So many fought valiantly the war of comprehension
Alas, none proved to be winners in true Ghalib fashion


I owe my exposure to Ghalib’s work to many books and articles read over the years. A lot of what I have learnt from them is certainly reflected in this article, but following are the sources I have specifically referred to for this article.

  1. Love Sonnets of Ghalib by Dr. Sarfaraz K. Niazi : All of Ghalib’s couplets translated in English are taken from this book
  2. A Desertful of Roses – The Urdu Ghazals of Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib: This is a delightful online project by Dr. Frances W. Pritchett. I owe a great deal of my understanding of Ghalib to this.
  3. Ghalib – Life, Letters and Ghazals by Ralph Russel

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Interpreting My Poem - VIII

Moving on to the next installment. Another early Ghazal of mine with simple thoughts. And, of course, made simpler for people not very familiar with Urdu by Archana Gupta’s precise translations.

है क्या ख़िज़ाँ में मुमकिन सहरा में बाग़ निकले

ज़ुल्मत को जो मिटाए ऐसा चिराग़ निकले
Can a garden, in  autumn, in a desert bloom

Can a mere beacon purge this dark, this gloom?

ख़िज़ाँ =  autumn or winter, a season when plants don't take root and flowers don't bloom,  सहरा = desert or jungle, non-fertile land,  ज़ुल्मत = darkness

"Is it possible for a garden to take root in non-fertile land and that too in the wrong season?"  This line seems to suggest that stage is being set for an impossible task.  The second line, however, is very tame and simply translates to "Is it possible to find a lamp that is capable of illuminating this darkness".  Implication seems to be that the darkness is too widespread for any lamp to overcome.

To be fair, the she’r does have universal applicability -  could be a reference to deep or seemingly unending personal sorrow / situation that seems irreparable or could be a social comment on say deep rooted corruption and such.

शोर-ए-सफ़ीर-ए-बुलबुल से गूँजता था कल तक

क्यूँ आज मेरे घर में रोने को ज़ाग़ निकले
It was replete with the echoes of the sweet songs of nightingale
Today, in my house why do I hear crows lament and wail?

शोर-ए-सफ़ीर-ए-बुलबुल = noise of sound of bulbul,  ज़ाग़ = crow

This house was full of sounds of happiness till yesterday -  the happy sounds are compared to the song of a pleasant sounding songbird.  Why then I hear the cries of the crows today?  Basically, a straightforward she’r claiming that the happiness of yesterday has turned to extreme sorrow today for no apparent reason.

दाग़-ए-क़मर से आख़िर जब आशना हुआ मैं

जितने रक़ीब पाये उन में न दाग़ निकले
Now that I can see through my lover's treachery and duplicity
no longer do I blame my competetors for her infidelity

दाग़-ए-क़मर = blemish of the moon,  रक़ीब  =  rival most commonly a rival vying for one's lover's affections

This is a lil more interesting.  Here the comparison is age-old cliché, the lover is being referred to as moon (personally, I always find this comparison very trite and actually rather insulting to the lover as moon has no "glow" of its own, but that is beside the point and anyway, it’s such a favorite of poets since time immemorial...).  Anyway, generally speaking the tendency is to place the blame for a lover's infidelity or lack of interest on the other competing parties and say they must have misled her but here the poet states that once I saw through the flaws in my lover, I could find no fault in the competitors and holds her responsible for her actions - nice breaking of the stereotype (within the confines of another).

डरता था मैं न आये वक़्त-ए-फ़िराक़ मुझ पर

कुछ वस्ल से तेरे अब हौल-ए-दिमाग़ निकले
I live in constant fear of possibility of separation
May my union with you ease my angst and trepidation

वक़्त-ए-फ़िराक़ = time of separation,  vasl = meeting, union (usually with a lover),  हौल-ए-दिमाग़ = fear in the mind

This one could possible be interpreted in two ways:

  • First is the wishful thinking, I was/am afraid of impending rather inevitable time of separation -  a time that he knows is coming, dreads but wants to wish away and the second line is then the wish -  I wish for a meeting/union with you that would ease some of my fear or apprehension, basically, lack of actually meeting her has increased his anxiety.
  • The second way is to view it as event past, the tone alone changes now to a relief of sorts -  I was apprehensive that a time of separation may come but now that we have united, I feel a little more reassured in my mind, more sure of our love. 

Again, no material difference to meaning, just a subtle shift in tone.  I favor the first one a bit more...

हो जुस्तजू में जिस की है वो मज़ार कैसी

क्या अपनी क़ब्र का तुम लेने सुराग़ निकले
What is the shape and form of your quest in reality
Are you off looking for your final destiny

जुस्तजू =  search,  मज़ार = grave usually that of a famous or holy person,   सुराग़ = sign

This one stumped me and took me a while to get my arms around it.  As I read it, this one seemed all about the quest of the impossible.  After all, who can locate their own grave or tombstone while they are still alive?  But then, there are examples of kings/emperors who built their own future mausoleums in their own lifetime.  So I was fairly uncertain about this one.

The way Aditya explained his vision of it was a quite different.  To him "kabr" was the "final outcome of life" and the desire for it to be viewed as a "mazaar" translated to a desire to be revered after the lifetime is over here.  So then the meaning that this she’r takes on is more like "What are you looking for?  Perhaps a means of achieving so much greatness that in the final analysis, the world shall remember you with reverence"?   And come to think of it, isn't that and hasn't that always been the ultimate aim of so many who strive to achieve great feats, be it those who wanted to conquer the world with the might of the sword (kings and politicians) or those who tried it as actors, singers, painters, artists of any kind, sportspersons, and so on?  In a way, it is a quest of all human beings -  just varies in scale...  Certainly a more beautiful explanation than what I initially read into the she’r -  one instance where the poet's view should carry more weight Winking smile 

मैं थक चुका हूँ लोगो तरग़ीब-ए-ज़िन्दगी से

चाहूँ उफ़क़ से आख़िर रोज़-ए-फ़राग़ निकले
People, I am exausted from a life of active commotion
Oh how I long for a period of repose and recreation

तरग़ीब-ए-ज़िन्दगी= extremely active life,   उफ़क़ = horizon,  रोज़-ए-फ़राग़  = day or rest/vacation

To me this seems to express simple weariness.  May even have been penned after a particularly strenuous project at work or a period of extreme social activity or both :-)  Simple translation is that I am tired of this extremely active life and really wish for a day of rest, a break from the hustle and bustle -  a do nothing day to sleep in and laze.
There is a more profound but darker side to this she’r though and it could be interpreted as a death-wish of sorts.  The claim then is that I am tired of this hassle of living and am now ready for and even wish for the day of permanent rest.  I don't particularly associate such dark thoughts with this poet's attitude to life but this she’r carries a darker shade.

All in all a collection of more straightforward, less profound ash'aar that should be relatively simple for anyone to understand...

Friday, January 18, 2013

Interpreting My Poem - VII

This blog owes its name to a couplet from this ghazal. You could read here about how this blog came to be named.

As in the previous posts, the credit for English translations goes to Archana Gupta.

लब-ए-ख़ामोश में पिन्हाँ हैं कोई राज़ नहीं

ज़िन्दगी साज़ है जिस में कोई आवाज़ नहीं
Beneath my silent lips are no deep secrets to avoid
Life is just an instrument of all music devoid

लब-ए-ख़ामोश = silent lips; पिन्हाँ = concealed

There is no secret to my silence.  My life is like an instrument that can make no sound when played -  or rather, I am not quiet because I have secrets to hide, I am quiet because I really have nothing to say.

क्यूँ न आग़ोश-ए-तख़य्युल में मैं उड़ता ही रहूँ

दर हक़ीक़त है मुझे ख़्वाहिश-ए-परवाज़ नहीं
In the arms of my imagination, why should I not touch the sky
So what if in reality, I have no urge to fly

आग़ोश-ए-तख़य्युल = embrace of imagination; दर हक़ीक़त = In reality; ख़्वाहिश-ए-परवाज़ = urge to fly
Why should I not fly in the safety of my dreams and imagination just because I have no urge to fly in reality?  Could also be an oblique reference to one's supposed lack of ambition and propensity to day-dream.

हूँ तो हरग़िज़ नहीं पाबन्द-ए-क़वाइद यारों

अपनी आवारगी पे मुझ को मगर नाज़ नहीं
I am absolutely not by nature to the rules bound
But of my delinquency, I am not proud

हरग़िज़ = never; पाबन्द-ए-क़वाइद = bound by rules

By nature I am not the one to stick to rules all too closely.  This is just a fact and I state it with no particular pride (or shame).   This is a matter-of-fact statement from the poet that while he is not completely tied down to rules and regulations, he is not the one to uphold complete unruliness or waywardness either.

मेरे किरदार में है नेकी बदी पर भारी

क्यूँ वो कर पाये बदी को नज़रअन्दाज़ नहीं
In my character, goodness outweighs the evil far more
Why could she not then my little flaws ignore

किरदार = character; नज़रअन्दाज़ = ignore
Like all humans, I have strains of gray in my character too -  I am not all good, nor all bad.  But why is he/she (perhaps a lover or a friend or even an enemy -  just someone) not able to see the good in me and is all focused on my negatives even when in my opinion I have more good in my character than bad.  It’s certainly an admission to imperfections in oneself but is also a lament against probably a lover for their inability to ignore those imperfections and cherish the positive aspects.

ये त’अल्लुक़ जो किया क़त’अ हुआ क़िस्सा तमाम

ये नई दास्ताँ का नुक़्ता-ए-आग़ाज़ नहीं
The end of this relationship is the end of the story for once and all
It’s not an excuse for a new beginning of a tale tall

त’अल्लुक़ = relationship, connection;  क़त’अ = cut-off; नुक़्ता-ए-आग़ाज़ = starting point

Literally, it means, "Once I have ended this relationship, that’s it -  it indeed is the end.  It’s certainly not a nuance of a new beginning".  One way to understand is that most emotional relationships leave some embers smoldering even after the supposed end -  embers that are capable of lighting the fire again but the poet is sure that once ended his relation will really end with no scope of reconciliation.  It could also mean that once I end this relationship, it’s like ending my capability to open myself to ANY emotional relationship at all -  so once/if this relation ends, there will never be another beginning.

रू-ब-रू आईने के जाऊँ तो दिखता है मुझे

अजनबी शख़्स जो हमशक्ल-ओ-हमआवाज़ नहीं
As I look in the mirror, a stranger there I see

Neither whose face nor voice, matches me

रू-ब-रू = face to face; हमआवाज़ = having similar voice

As I look at myself in the mirror, I see a reflection that does not look like me, nor does it sound like me.   This is certainly poet's comment on how much he has changed physically and more so emotionally or behavior-wise over time.  He no longer recognizes or correlates who he has become (or how he behaves outwardly) to who he believes he actually is deep down.  Another reference to maintaining an outward persona that is different from the actual essence of the personality he has.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Interpreting My Poem - VI

I owe this one to Mir Taqi Mir. One of my most favourite ghazals by Mir has a couplet that I like very much, so I ended up writing one very similar to that one. Here is Mir’s couplet.

नाहक हम मजबूरों पर ये तुहमत है मुख्तारी की
चाहते हैं सो आप करें हैं हम को ‘अबस बदनाम किया

The couplet inspired by Mir was written sometime around 1994. At that time, I wasn’t aware of the concept of behr (meter). A decade or so later, when I learnt about meter I realized that my ghazal had serious ‘technical’ issues and I had to re-write it. All the couplets of the original ghazal could not be fitted into the same meter, so I split this one into two by adding a few new couplets in the each ghazal. The first one can be read here. And the second, shorter one is given below.

As earlier, except the Urdu couplets, all that is written below is by Archana Gupta.

This ghazal stumped me a bit - seems at odds with the rest of the work I have interpreted so far. Its more depressed and resigned than usual but also carries a strong ring of sarcasm and suspicion that I have not noticed in previous ghazals that I looked at closely.  There is a definite ring of self-pity as well as extreme resentment towards the subject, perhaps a lover?   Its simply worded but is harder to decipher, IMHO ...

अब क्या सुनायें दास्ताँ इस आलम-ए-सरशारी की

हैं बेतकल्लुफ़ सब नहीं है फ़िक्र परदादारी की
What can I tell you about this time of hysteria and frenzy
Everyone is so open with no concern for privacy

आलम-ए-सरशारी = state of intoxication; बेतकल्लुफ़ = informal, open; फ़िक्र = concern; परदादारी = state of being hidden, veiled

Literally translated it simply means "How do I describe this environment of frenzy bordering on hysteria.  Everyone is so informal in their expression and no one is bothered about even pretense of  secrecy (more decorum)".  There are nuances attached to the words used though.

If I analyze a little, the comment is sarcastic as well as representative of the poet's discontent with the state of affairs.  In the simplest sense, it could be a comment (a disgusted one at that) on the very prevalent trend amongst the current generation to get drunk at parties, lose all self-control and make a complete fool of themselves.  So it seems to be a taunt at those who believe in drunken revelry and in the process lose their dignity/decorum and behave in a vulgar manner.

For some reason, it also reminds me of the first work I had examined and seems to carry a more private meaning to the poet -  this also appears to be a complaint against what the poet perceives as invasion of privacy.  It certainly could also be an expression of discontent against the hysterical behavior of perhaps a partner or lover or even a friend where she/he has forgone the norms of decorum and perhaps revealed some intimate details to "outsiders" that should have remained within the confines of the relationship. 

ग़मज़े हमारी ओर हैं मक़सूद लेकिन ग़ैर से

है आज नज़र-ए-शौक़ में कैसी झलक अय्यारी की
Her glances seem to beckon me but another is her real intention
In my lover's eyes, today I sense a strange deception

ग़मज़े = glances ; मक़सूद = intention; नज़र-ए-शौक़ = loving look ; अय्यारी = deception

While she/he looks at me and seems to be beckoning me and telling me something, I suspect she is actually aiming at someone else.  The message that appears to be for me is actually intended for another.  Why do I sense a tinge of deceit in my lover's eyes, her/his glances today?  Applied generally, rather interpreted impersonally,  it could also be a comment that in general there is deceit in all expressions of love in all relationships at some point or the other - another comment completely colored with disillusionment.

हो जल्वागर कुछ देर तक फिर राख में तब्दील हो

क़िस्मत में है हस्ती-ए-फ़ानी एक अदद चिन्गारी की
It’s reduced to ashes after for a while shining brightly
To be obliterated completely is every tiny spark's destiny

जल्वागर = illuminated; तब्दील = convert; हस्ती-ए-फ़ानी = temporary existence; अदद = small
On the surface its a comment on the transient nature of existence of most things in life.  The example taken is that of an ember of fire and the statement made is that it is the destiny of the ember to burn brightly for a bit of time, put on the show and then quietly be eliminated, rather turn to ashes (that contain no beauty or life or vitality).  Applying this universally to all existence including human, is easy to comprehend and needs no explanation. 
However, perhaps reading the next sher led me here, but I strongly felt that the reference to ember is also a reference to that elusive element or "spark" in a relationship which when present elevates it to the highest level possible but once gone, reduces a relationship (not necessarily romantic) to mere "bondage" or "ravaayat"  or "rasm-o-rahe-duniyaa".  And the poet's claim is that it’s inevitable for that spark to leave/end/ burn out at some point in time or the other and just leave a pile of ashes in place.

ज़न्जीर-ए-पा और ये कफ़स जब हैं ‘अतायें आपकी

क्यूँ हम बेचारों पर लगी हैं तुहमतें मुख़्तारी की
In this cage, you have me bound with strong chains on my feet
Why accuse me then of any independence of thought or deed ?

ज़न्जीर-ए-पा = chains of the feet; कफ़स = cage ; ‘अतायें = gifts ; तुहमतें = accusations ; मुख़्तारी = independence
When you have given me, rather have imprisoned me in a cage and have bound my feet in chains of iron, why do you keep "blaming" me of being independent?  This she’r to me is the crux of the ghazal in which somehow each she’r seems related.  There are  couple of interpretations for this one that just vary in intensity or perceived emotion of the poet, not in the basic meaning.  In a lighter vein, the poet's claim is that he is tied to his object of desire/ lover irrevocably, why suspect him of any independence of thought and action -  more in the nature of "tumhaare hain, aur kahaan jaayenge" and there is no unhappiness in that status quo.  This seems little unlikely explanation as the choice of words like "chains on my feet" and "cage" belie the feeling of "bonds of love" or "cage of desire".  The more likely emotion seems to be at least a dissatisfaction possibly extreme disgust at being tied down by now unwanted restrictions -  may be the relationship itself, maybe just the rules of engagement that are "dictated" or controlled by the other person involved.  The poet is certainly feeling stifled by them and is not amused when perhaps his behaviour (in rebellion) is pin-pointed ...