Unfulfilled desires…

Mirza Ghalib is  a poet who is very popular in India. The period he lived and wrote poetry in, coincides with the last days of the decadent and by then crumbling Moghul regime. After the cruel and barbaric Aurangzeb died in his long drawn out futile quest to conquer the Marathas, his successors were increasingly less able to do much by way of valour or achievements of any kind and actually the kingdom (or rather a fiefdom) went into a steady state of continuous decline with each local chieftain, who notionally was a vassal, declaring himself independent of Delhi and showed no inclination to acknowledge Delhi’s suzerainty bar paying a token amount of annual hafta. (Bears an uncanny resemblance to the goings on in Delhi over the last 40 years, with the regional satraps declaring independence of an increasingly effete and effeminate hereditary rule from Delhi, with the destined final titular holder more fond of South East Asia, which somehow Bahadurshah never grew fond of).

In the circumstances where Bahadurshah’s writ only held sway till the limits of the Walled city of Delhi, but the vainglorious “Emperor” was so assiduously panegyrized by the ruling clique in Delhi, that he developed rather a grandiose self image, the court craft was reduced to song and dance, poetry, wine and women. (Shades of the pre 2014 Delhi once again!!) In this environment the only aspect of the era that flourished were the poets who while they showed admirable, even enviable wordcraft, were actually there for the perks and the freebies. Meaningless titles adorned and boosted their egos, and regular recitations at the Court ensured a steady flow of moolah, enough to ensure a drunken existence with easy women and verbal jousting in and outside the Durbar. Ghalib was one of Mirza Asadullah Baig Khan‘s  pen names. He was known by the pen names of Ghalib (‘dominant’) and Asad ( ’lion’). His honorifics were Dabir-ul-Mulk (honorific meaning ‘Secretary of State’ or ‘Writer of state’ akin to a Poet Laureate), Najm-ud-Daula (honorific meaning ‘Star of the State’), and Nizam-e-Jung (honorific meaning ‘Order of Strategy or War’) Since Ghalib never actually fought in any war I suppose it implies he was a master strategist at least with wordcraft) . During his lifetime, the already declining Mughal Empire was eclipsed and displaced by the British East India Company Rule and the titular head of state finally deposed following the defeat of the 1857, the first Indian War of Independence. The last occupier of the seat was taken to Rangoon in Burma where he died lamenting the loss of his homeland, thus having reduced himself to the Moanarch (pun very much intended)

The poetry and wordplay by Ghalib is truly meaningful. The bard wrote more copiously in Persian as compared to Urdu, which was widely understood by the gentry and the nobility at the time. In fact a lot of early official orders by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj are written in Persian, before he consciously forced a change to Marathi and Sanskrit!! The Persian words get into Ghalib’s poetry a lot more than they would in today’s times.

हजारों ख्वाहिशें ऐसी

हजारों ख्वाहिशें ऐसी कि हर ख्वाहिश पे दम निकले
बहुत निकले मेरे अरमाँ, लेकिन फिर भी कम निकले

डरे क्यों मेरा कातिल क्या रहेगा उसकी गर्दन पर
वो खून जो चश्म-ऐ-तर से उम्र भर यूँ दम-ब-दम निकले

निकलना खुल्द से आदम का सुनते आये हैं लेकिन
बहुत बे-आबरू होकर तेरे कूचे से हम निकले

भ्रम खुल जाये जालीम तेरे कामत कि दराजी का
अगर इस तुर्रा-ए-पुरपेच-ओ-खम का पेच-ओ-खम निकले

मगर लिखवाये कोई उसको खत तो हमसे लिखवाये
हुई सुबह और घर से कान पर रखकर कलम निकले

हुई इस दौर में मनसूब मुझसे बादा-आशामी
फिर आया वो जमाना जो जहाँ से जाम-ए-जम निकले

हुई जिनसे तव्वको खस्तगी की दाद पाने की
वो हमसे भी ज्यादा खस्ता-ए-तेग-ए-सितम निकले

मुहब्बत में नहीं है फ़र्क जीने और मरने का
उसी को देख कर जीते हैं जिस काफिर पे दम निकले

जरा कर जोर सिने पर कि तीर-ऐ-पुरसितम निकले
जो वो निकले तो दिल निकले, जो दिल निकले तो दम निकले

खुदा के बासते पर्दा ना काबे से उठा जालिम
कहीं ऐसा न हो याँ भी वही काफिर सनम निकले

कहाँ मयखाने का दरवाजा ‘गालिब’ और कहाँ वाइज़
पर इतना जानते हैं, कल वो जाता था के हम निकले

चश्म-ऐ-तर – wet eyes
खुल्द – Paradise
कूचे – street
कामत – stature
दराजी – length
तुर्रा – ornamental tassel worn in the turban
पेच-ओ-खम – curls in the hair
मनसूब – association
बादा-आशामी – having to do with drinks, जाम-ए-जम-  ईरान के प्रसिद्ध शासक जमशेद ने एक पियाला बनाया था, जिससे संसार का हाल ज्ञात होता था। In this context a glass whose contents once consumed would lead to envisioning a lot (probably imagining under the influence)
तव्वको – expectation
खस्तगी – injury
खस्ता – broken/sick/injured
तेग – sword
सितम – cruelty
क़ाबे – House Of Allah In Mecca,           मयखाना- Drinking house where alcohol is sold and consumed, a tad more refined than a contemporary bar,                      वाइज़- preacher

The ghazal was used in a famous TV Serial based on Ghalib , the narration was by Gulzar and Jagjit Singh composed the eternal musical score. The ghazal’s composition and vocal rendition has an unmistakable lining of longing and pathos. Whenever Jagjit Singh sang the same in a live concert, it sounds better. I love this version, composed in a wonderful, melodious raag Bageshwari (Bageshri) to bits. It is nothing short of catharsis, an emotional purgatory….

Worth spending 14 minutes listening to this divine rendition.

Stay safe, folks. Take care during the rampant summer.

By abchandorkar

Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Pune, India

8 replies on “Unfulfilled desires…”

उसी को देख कर जीते हैं जिस काफिर पे दम निकले

Beautiful words,amazing melody
Thank you so much for sharing the word meanings 😅

Liked by 1 person

Excellent 14 minutes performance by Jagjit Singh ji….Truly enjoyable…..The violin is just superb!!!! गाणारे व्हायोलिन..
In this area Pandit Prabhakar Jog and Padmashree D. K.Datar…
both are great!!!!!

All this along with the meaning of difficult words explained by you makes the experience of reading and understanding the poetry more enjoyable and easy..

Thanks for the share sir🙏🏻🙏🏻

Liked by 1 person

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