Saturday, October 25, 2008

Hazaaron khwahishein…

The immortality and the relevance of Ghalib (18th Century) even after so many years, generation after generation, are almost supernatural. His verses, also often referred to as sonnets, though written in Urdu (in the Persian script) speak a language that cut across all barriers. The meaning they convey appeals to the emotions and touches the lives of many, across all barriers of culture and linguistics.
“Hazaaron khwahishen aisi ki har khwahish pe dum nikle,
Bahot nikle mere armaan, lekin phir bhi kam nikle.”

Bollywood introduced me to Ghalib at a very young age;
“Woh aaye ghar mein humaare khuda ki qudrat hai
Kabhi hum unko kabhi apne ghar ko dekhte hain”

But, that time, such shaayari only meant a fanciful set of urdu words put together to romanticize a seemingly mundane circumstance. I also associated Ghalib’s shaayari with lovers. A true lover should recite beautifully sounding couplets. (Though years later, when I did marry, the guy did not recite any such ghazals, and I did not remember that he had to!)
“Zindagi yun bhi guzar hi jati
Kyon tera rahguzar yad aya”

My first formal rendezvous with Ghalib happened in college, quite accidentally I must say. Searching for reference material on Chaucer in the college library, I chanced upon this old book with English translations of Ghalib’s selected ghazals. I soon found myself devouring each page. Each word so evocative, suddenly I could almost associate with the passion with which Ghalib had written.

“Khaamoshi mein nihaan khun gashta(h) laakhon arzuen hain
Chiragh-e murda(h) hun main be zaban, gor-e ghariban ka”
(Hidden in the silence are millions of desires that have been bled out;
I am just a silent, snuffed out lamp at the grave of a stranger)

In the fast paced tracks of studies, career and marital bliss, though Ghalib was pushed to the margins, he continued to dwell in a very special corner of my life.
“Meherbaan ho ke bulaa lo mujhe, chaaho jis waqt
Main gaya waqt nahin hun kih phir aa bhi na(h) sakun”

And Ghalib did return, where I would have expected the least. A fantastic library in Schaumburg, IL, chiseled wood shelves, second floor section on literary criticism and the book, “Love Sonnets of Ghalib: the first complete English translation, explication, lexicon, and transliteration of Ghalibs’s sonnets” by Dr. Sarfaraz K. Niazi. I was thrilled. Three weeks I spent immersed in his work. Each couplet so exquisitely crafted and drenched with varied sentiments that come alive in you as you read. Not a pro at Urdu, the English translation provided me with the tools to appreciate the poetry of Ghalib in much greater detail.

“Gardish-e rang-e tarab se dar hai
Gham-e mahrum’i javed nahin”
(I am afraid of the changing state of joy,
No fear there is for the despair of life)

The mystery and magic of his two line couplets remains unequaled as they range from spontaneous expression to extremely complex and convoluted poetic renderings. The nuances, the similes, the traps, archaic constructions, extrapolation of the humdrum of life to momentous events, the subtlety of expression and the profundity of thought make Ghalib one of the most fascinating and interesting poets of all ages.
“Us falak ke teer ka kya nishana tha
Jahan thee meri manzil wahin mera aashiyana tha
Bas pahunch hi rahi thi kashti saahil pe
Is toofan ko bhi abhi hi aana tha”

I could go on about Ghalib, but the fact is that the uniqueness and the sheer ingenuity of his creations leave a firm imprint in the heart and mind of his readers. Much has been written and said about his personal life as well which provides a sort of context for his writings but with or without context, Ghalib appeals to me in a way no other poet does. He remains an unsurpassed virtuoso who has enriched the world of literature immensely...his own couplet as a tribute to him…
“Jan di, di hui usi ki thi
Haq to yun hai kih haq adaa na(h) hua”

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