Saturday, February 15, 2014

Interpreting My Poem - XII

There is a story behind this ghazal. Sometimes in response to comments on Facebook I write instantly composed couplets that are very contextual and may not make much sense when seen outside of that context. Also, due to the fact that they are composed with minimal thought, they tend to be quite shallow. One couplet of this ghazal was written in such a scenario. I had no intention of expanding this one into a full-fledged ghazal till I was challenged by Archana Gupta to write it. I was reluctant at first but took on the challenge for a number of reasons.

First, the zameen (combination of rhyme and refrain) of this couplet was a little tricky because of bolo appearing as the refrain in each couplet. I could have made it into a ghair muraddaf ghazal (refrain-less ghazal) by choosing kholo, tolo, etc. as the rhyme words, but that seemed less challenging to me.

Secondly, the meter that I ended up using for that instant couplet (and it was not by design at all), was one I had never written on before, so that presented something new to be tried.

And finally, since the instant couplet seemed quite incomplete in isolation, it presented an opportunity to write a qit’aa for the first time in a ghazal. As many would know, the couplets in a ghazal are usually complete as standalone entities and do not depend on other couplets of the ghazal to make sense. Sometimes poets include a verse-set or a qit’aa in the ghazal in a way that those verses have to be read together to make total sense.

It took me a while to write it, but I finally did. So here is that ghazal, translated and interpreted by Archana Gupta, who has done a brilliant job of bringing out the nuances of the verses in her interpretations.


हो कैसी मोहब्बत की तस्वीर बोलो
रिहाई हो हासिल कि तस्ख़ीर बोलो


[रिहाई = freedom,  तस्ख़ीर =  entrance, captivate]

What should the tableau of love be like Pray?
Should it leave one free or entrance him, say?


The eternal question -  what should love be like or what is love really?  That what allows one to be free to be themselves, to express themselves as one desires, retain their independence of thought and action; or one that chains, binds, and enslaves one to itself either by enchanting/mesmerizing or simply by "right" or social norms?  Our poet uses the word tasKheer which literally is to entrance or mesmerize, but I do sense the question is more on the lines of "Should loving someone mean owning them?”

Now, this could be a rhetoric, possibly setting ground rules for a budding relationship but is more likely, start of a discussion for ground rules of an established relationship where the two people involved are not on the same page in this respect.

ये अहवाल मेरे तो हैं सब पे ज़ाहिर
पढ़ोगे क्या माज़ी की तहरीर बोलो


[अहवाल = circumstances,  माज़ी  = past]

My circumstances are known to one and all in totality
What else do you want to know about the antiquity?


Poet is a little perplexed, possibly at someone expressing a desire to know him better and asking questions about his past or life in general.  He believes that his life is pretty much an open book, well-known to all and sundry and is surprised that someone has questions for him.  It could also be disbelief that someone could want to know him better.

Another slightly different way to look at it is that the poet is claiming that everyone knows about his present circumstances and that is all that is important and his past should concern no one.
In either case, this is a sign of a persona who wants to tell the world nothing or truly believes he has nothing more to tell  - I suspect former.


पस-ओ-पेश या कोई पुरपेच रस्ता
हुई किस वजह से ये ताख़ीर बोलो


[पस-ओ-पेश = indecision,  पुरपेच = with twists and turns, ताख़ीर = delay]

Was it just indecision or was it convoluted way?
Tell me,  what caused this inordinate delay?


On the surface, it’s a simple question -  someone is late in getting to a rendezvous and the other one asks if he/she could not make up their mind whether to come or not, or if the route to reach was too circuitous.  But there is a mental/emotional layer to this one which indicates one persons unwillingness to commit to an emotional relationship - here, the rendezvous is an emotional commitment.  And the question is, of course, still the same -  is it just indecision on your part that you are not ready to make a firm commitment or are there other considerations that are a hindrance to your ability to do so? 

हैं ख़ुद की हदें  या रिवाज-ओ-रवायत 
नहीं कौन है पा ब-ज़ंजीर बोलो


[रिवाज-ओ-रवायत = customs & traditions, पा ब-ज़ंजीर = Shackled at the feet]

Customs, traditions or our own sense of propriety
Who in this world is footloose and totally free?


This could be considered a rhetoric, a simple statement that all of us and our behavior is bound by customs, traditions, social norms, etc. or by limits that we impose on ourselves.  And that no one is really free to act in whatever manner he pleases or to really follow his heart.  But the choice of words suggests that its a statement laced with regret, almost a desire to be free of these bounds of acceptable behavior, especially these self-imposed limitations.  Its almost as if the poet has a strong desire to do something that he himself does not think is right or feels will be unacceptable to his social connections -  for a person with strong enough conscience, former is enough to set the bounds - his bounds will be more rigid than those imposed by society.  For all others, what will people think/say becomes the guiding factor.

असरदार क़िस्सा-ए-गुमनाम हस्ती
कि फिर तज़किरा-ए-मशाहीर बोलो

[क़िस्सा-ऐ- गुमनाम हस्ती =  story of a common man,  तज़किरा-ए-मशाहीर = memoirs of famous people]

(So what would you rather choose for inspiration)
Effective and inspiring life of an unknown
Or simply the memoirs of famous and well-known


Lack of subject leaves this she'r a little vague or open ended and allows for a couple of slightly different interpretations.  One is that it is really a question to the subject, who would you rather be - a commoner with an effective and inspiring life well spent or a rich and famous person - the kinds whose memoirs are well read (even though the riches or fame may be mere accident of birth).  And the second is again a slightly different question - Why do people choose to get inspiration from the memoirs of rich and famous while it can be found in travails of ordinary people too.

A very slight third variation to look at is that its a simple comparison of what should be considered more effective or impactful  - accounts of everyday tribulations of ordinary men and women or recollections of the rich and famous?

नवाज़िश, करम, मिहरबानी की सौग़ात
है कितनी परस्तिश में तासीर बोलो


[नवाज़िश= consideration,  परस्तिश = devotion]

Benevolence, tenderness, kindness, and consideration
What all gets invoked in lieu of devotion and dedication!


This one can be interpreted in a few different moods and the word kitni allows these variations.  One is sense of wonder - Wow! Devotion so effective that in return one gets kindness, benevolence, magnanimity and even indulgence!!  The second is sort of cynical disbelief -  you think devotion is so compelling that it deserves all these gifts in return?  A slightly different third is a response from someone who is stifled by dedication of another and the strings of expectations attached to it and is perhaps responding in irritation -  what all do you expect from me in return for your supposed adoration and reverence?

बचा हुक्मरानों में कोई न आदिल
कहाँ गुम है अद्ल-ए-जहाँगीर बोलो


[हुक्मरानों = rulers, आदिल = just, अद्ल-ए-जहाँगीर = Jehangir's justice]

There is no ruler anymore who is just and fair
Where has Jehangir's justice gone, oh where?


Simple straightforward comment on the social-political-judicial tableau in the country.  The poet bemoans the fact that all the government officials are corrupt and unjust and there is no justice left in the country where once Jehangir's justice was sworn by.

क़ित'अ
शिकायत हमें तीर से तो नहीं है
मगर कैसे पाए ये नख़चीर बोलो


यहाँ भी, वहाँ भी, इधर भी, उधर भी
चले किस तरफ अदना सा तीर बोलो


[नख़चीर = prey]

Against the means I have no lament
But how shall they achieve the intent?

Here and there, this way and that, its all the same
Then where should the poor little arrow aim?


This qit’aa is an interesting one and has a story.  This second she’r was the very first she’r that was written - more in jest than anything else - in response to an interchange on a music group post.  Aditya calls such ash'aar the "instant coffee variety" and I usually try to write a ‘response’ on same zameen -  more for practicing writing in a particular behr (and because its plain fun).  AFAIR, that day I complained that the he had chosen a tough qafiya-radeef and though I did write a response, it wasn't contextual enough to post -  all because of his bolo. He then took it as a challenge to expand this she'r into a complete ghazal, warned me it might take long (and it it did take time and pestering to get him to finish) but will write one (and of course, did it).

Now for the meaning -  it’s a set that is wide open.  Basic meaning remains the same while applicability is wide - With the limited means, what all targets can one expect to achieve?  While I do not have any complaints that my means are limited, I have doubts that can achieve my goals with those.  I see so much that needs to be done, set my priorities, tell me where to shoot, rather what to address.

जवाहर गुहर लाल नज़्म-ओ-ग़ज़ल सब
ये गन्जीना है किसकी जागीर बोलो


[जवाहर= diamonds,  गुहर = pearls,  लाल = rubies, गन्जीना = treasure]

Diamonds, pearls and gems of verse and song
To whom does this treasure truly belong?


Here the poet is comparing the vastly available pieces of poetry (of all poets) and perhaps songs to precious stones and jewels and questioning who does it really belong to -  who has the right to it?  Do creators hold a right over it or does someone else?  There would certainly be at least two schools of thought on this -  First, literary creations belong to their creators and the creators have a right to share or not share.  The second would be that these literary gems actually belong to the readers and appreciators of these pieces.

A slightly different way of looking at this is also -  Whose interpretation or intent is of import when considering what a piece of poetry really means?  Is it important to know what the creator intended, what were his circumstances or state of mind at that point and what relevance the piece has to his/her life, if any? Or is the reader's independent interpretation and understanding of more significance? Knowing this poet, he firmly insists on attaching more import to reader's independent assimilation and believes that pieces of prose and poetry belong to those who have the faculty to read, understand and enjoy them and an interest to do so.