Friday, February 07, 2014

The House of Ghalib

Recently Sangeet Ke Sitare, a music group on Facebook, ran a theme where one had to post songs that talk about a home/house/abode. What follows is my post on the theme


This theme gives me an opportunity to return to my favourite subject – Ghalib’s poetry. That an ‘abode’ appears many times in his poetry is no surprise, as it forms the basis of many well-established traditional ghazal themes. What is interesting, and in no way am I saying that it is unique to him, is the various ways in which he has versified this word. Let’s look at some examples:

GHAR – The most common synonym for home. Among the many verses of Ghalib where ghar makes an appearance is this oft-quoted one:

वह आए घर में हमारे ख़ुदा की क़ुदरत है
कभी हम उन को कभी अपने घर को देखते हैं

AASHIYAAN – A Persian word meaning nest, commonly used in urdu poetry. And Ghalib uses it to chilling effect in this verse:

क़फ़स में मुझ से रूदाद-ए-चमन कहते न डर हमदम
गिरी है जिस पे कल बिजली वह मेरा आशियाँ क्यूँ हो

(क़फ़स = cage; रूदाद-ए-चमन = tale of the garden)

MAKAAN – This is how Ghalib uses this word – a deceptively simple but slippery verse:

मन्ज़र इक बुलन्दी पर और हम बना सकते
`अरश से उधर होता काश के मकाँ अपना

(मन्ज़र = spectacle, view; बुलन्दी = height; `अरश = sky)

KADA – This is a word of Persian origin, meaning a house or place, used mostly in compound words to define a place e.g. mai-kada (wine house). Ghalib has used it in several compound words. For example,

ज़ुलमत-कदे में मेरे शब-ए-ग़म का जोश है
इक शम`अ है दलील-ए-सहर सो ख़मोश है

(ज़ुलमत-कदे = place of darkness; शब-ए-ग़म = evening of sorrow; दलील-ए-सहर = proof of the dawn)

This brings me two words that one does not come across very often…

KHAAN-MAAN – A Persian word from the root khaana, which means a home. Khaan-maan (or khaan-o-maan) refers to the home and all the belongings there in. Ghalib uses this in the adjective Khaan-maan Kharaab meaning “having a ruined home”..

दीवार बार-ए-मिन्नत-ए-मज़दूर से है ख़म
ऐ ख़ान-माँ-ख़राब न इहसाँ उठाइये

(बार-ए-मिन्नत-ए-मज़दूर = weight of the obligation towards the labourers; ख़म = bent, curved; ख़ान-माँ-ख़राब = having a ruined home; इहसाँ = obligation)

KAASHAANA.- This is again a Persian word meaning a small house or a dwelling. Ghalib uses this in a traditional ghazal theme of a house turning to wilderness.

गिरया चाहे है ख़राबी मेरे काशाने की
दर-ओ-दीवार से टपके है बयाबाँ होना

(गिरया = crying; दर-ओ-दीवार = door and walls; बयाबाँ = wilderness)

What a multi-faceted house Ghalib had!

Here is a medley of these verses sung by various singers like Lata Mangeshkar, Talat Mahmood, Begum Akhtar, Arifa Siddiqui, Tarannum Naaz & Shumona Roy Biswas.