Friday, 19 February 2010

Ghalib's ghazal - Shab ki voh majlis furoz-e-khalvat-e-naamoos ta- translation

The very brilliant and erudite Satyanarayan Hegde has been kind enough to offer me a glimpse of his work tracing the metaphor of the lamp-wick through its many incarnations in the classical literature of many languages. By the glamor he shed on the first couplet of the ghazal 'shab ki voh majlis furoz', I was- moth to the proverbial- emboldened to offer my own take on it- merely as a clownish contrast to what a truly well stocked mind could do with the same material. This is the ghazal. What follows is my 'transcreation'.


 shab kih vuh majlis-furoz-e ḳhalvat-e nāmūs thā
rishtah-e har shamʿa ḳhār-e kisvat-e fānūs thā
mashhad-e ʿāshiq se kosoñ tak jo ugtī hai ḥinā
kis qadar yā rab halāk-e ḥasrat-e pā-būs thā
ḥāṣil-e ulfat nah dekhā juz shikast-e ārzū
dil bah dil paivastah goyā yak lab-e afsūs thā
kyā kahūñ bīmārī-e ġham kī farāġhat kā bayāñ
jo kih khāyā ḳhūn-e dil be-minnat-e kaimūs thā 
(See Prof. Frances Pritchett's wondeful website 'A desertful of roses'- for the correct translation and  commentary )

Last night, when the radiance of our assembly to her abashed chamber retired
Each candle wick, became a thorny prick at its shade from the desired

Whom has not, Lord, the longing to kiss bridal feet, with a martyr’s zeal fired?
For miles, the Lover’s tomb, by not rolling wheat but green henna is gyred

Against Sorrow's sorites, the Brain, this Stoic armor, in vain, thus acquired
Trysts, hearts crush hearts to gain, are the thin lips of pain- it required.

Knew I respite from this wretchedness- I'd recite much to be admired
But, Oh!- eating my own heart out- my very bile has grown tired!



Today was my 47th birthday. Ghalib's concluding lines are indeed the lees in my wine glass. Happy birthday to me!
Oh dear! I've just learnt, this poem was written when Ghalib was 19.
Na-na-na-na-NINETEEN!











I now read the first couplet as onanistic, the second as narcissistic, the third as immature Weltshchmerz, and the fourth the product of a truly crapulous hangover.
Fuck! That's me! Well, okay, I actually score three out of four. I won't tell you which stricture doesn't apply to me. Gotta maintain one's mystique- once one gets to a certain age. Like Madonna.  No, not Madonna- who is it I'm thinking off?- the long gowns, the hair extensions?- P. Chidambaram- now that's a tushy can still turn heads on Dalal street. 



9 comments:

  1. Happy Birthday!
    I like the Chidambaram reference. Ghalib generally leaves me cold.
    The line that struck me was- 'the thin lips of pain'
    The couplet as given is
    ḥāṣil-e ulfat nah dekhā juz shikast-e ārzū
    dil bah dil paivastah goyā yak lab-e afsūs thā
    This means- the profit on calamity is that at least hope is extinguished/ In a manner of speaking the union of hearts is like that of two lips but which can only come together to express regret and sorrow.
    Frankly I can't see where you get Sorrow's sorites (?) and Stoic armor and trysts and so on.
    Jus' sayin'.

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  2. haasil-e-ulfat is a Ghalibian cliche while the hearts crushed to become the lips of regret seemed quite original to me.
    The question is- does not being burdened by hope actually help? Stoicism would say sure- no hope, no expectation- you can't be disappointed. Expect everyone to screw with you and when it happens you lose nothing you hadn't already budgeted for.
    Trouble is Stoicism needs to be able to be rational and logical and separate itself from the world. Sorites, backward induction, that which Anaxagoras says you can't take an axe to, the notion that everything is mixed together and can't really be separated, stuff like this poses a problem for Stoicism coz it means reasoning things out in language aint severing one's connection to the Shit that happens.
    That's where Ghalib's second line comes in. It seems to gain language, to be able to reason, hearts have to crush each other into 'the thin lips of pain'
    So the Stoic gameplan fails. They miss out on the good stuff when good stuff is going and get hit by the shit storm same as everybody else except that when the shitstorm passes they don't get to enjoy the good stuff coz they went and bought themselves Stoicism with their suffering. And Stoicism is just the ability to say 'Life's a shitstorm- I'm not going out' when its clear skies and time to get your freak on. Senseless if like everything is a part of everything, no binary relation can partially order the Continuum- stuff is radically mixed up.
    Indeed, Epimetheus is the guy who gets things right, Prometheus gets his liver torn out for all eternity. Foresight and Stoicism are silly.
    Okay this aint what Ghalib actually says, but his stuff is embedded in there.
    Well that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

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  3. 'Khuda khud meer-e majlis bood andar laamakan Khusrau;
    'Muhammad shamm-e mehfil bood shab jaay ki man boodam.'
    These beautyfull line of Khusro Dehlvi show real meaning of first couplet.

    Sorry to say, brother, you are putting porn on the internet. Meaning is simple and sane-
    He who shone by his own light- having self luminous face and body (p.b.u.h) was having to put some restriction to protect privacy of his family arrangements due to simple Bedouin of those days were just coming in at any time of day or night.
    Please be mindful, brother, there was no luxury and ostentation and guards standing at the gates and such like. You are giving ignorant picture and false.
    Purdah, you should understand it. People on that time were always spreading scandal and gossip. Even on yout Mahatmma Gandhi they are saying like this- he sleep wtih the young girs.
    So don't tell me, these things are not realized and understood as a type of propaganda.

    Meaning of verse is straight.
    The one who shines by own light (mark of Prophet) has to go behind curtain to be with family members. We can not go there suddenly- for ladies of house hold will not be dressed fully.
    This is elementary knowledge and etiquette. Why put false imputation?
    Still, the Hanif- the ahl-e- sufa- they are only thinking on the true radiance of Allah. They are keeping candle to pray and not for other reason.
    You are showing very bad. You are saying 'thorny prick'- you are meaning 'horny prick'- show some decency at least.
    Just think one moment, if Hanif who are keeping candle for prayer through the night are getting horny thought- why they keep candle? They will put it out or their misdeed will be discover.
    Brother your religion is to you. Mine to me. But, why write like this?
    Horny thorny? What is it? Is it very good English? I don't thkn so!
    Brother, don't take it wrong. I am older.
    You are welcome you can delete this comment. I will not angry on it.
    La Ghalibul'allah!

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  4. Against Sorrow's sorites, the Brain, this Stoic armor, in vain, thus acquired
    Trysts, hearts crush hearts to gain, are the thin lips of pain- it required.

    What on earth is this supposed to mean?
    Sorites means heap. The sorites paradox is about things like a heap of wheat. Clearly one grain does not a heap make. Nor by simply adding a grain can not suddenly transform something that insn't a heap into a heap. If follows, by induction, that no matter how many grains of wheat you add, you never get a heap of wheat. The same argument applies in reverse, no matter how many grains of wheat you take away from a heap- a heap it must remain.
    You are saying Sorrow is a heap of this sort, but that the Brain has acquired a Stoic armour against it. However the armour is useless. Why? Because trysts are required. Why are trysts required? If the Brain really is stoic it has no use for trysts.
    Stoicism is about not complaining about things. It does not need 'thin lips of pain'.
    Now okay I've read your response given above- but does it really make sense?
    What is the point you are making? If Sorrow is a heap which can not be diminished methodically, step by step, the Stoic attitude which is to be happy with what you have rather than pine futilely makes a lot of sense.How is stoicism an armour acquired in vain. Is it not the only sensible course?
    You say- "Trouble is Stoicism needs to be able to be rational and logical and separate itself from the world. Sorites, backward induction, that which Anaxagoras says you can't take an axe to, the notion that everything is mixed together and can't really be separated, stuff like this poses a problem for Stoicism coz it means reasoning things out in language aint severing one's connection to the Shit that happens.
    "That's where Ghalib's second line comes in. It seems to gain language, to be able to reason, hearts have to crush each other into 'the thin lips of pain'
    So the Stoic gameplan fails. They miss out on the good stuff when good stuff is going and get hit by the shit storm same as everybody else except that when the shitstorm passes they don't get to enjoy the good stuff coz they went and bought themselves Stoicism with their suffering. And Stoicism is just the ability to say 'Life's a shitstorm- I'm not going out' when its clear skies and time to get your freak on. Senseless if like everything is a part of everything, no binary relation can partially order the Continuum- stuff is radically mixed up.
    "Indeed, Epimetheus is the guy who gets things right, Prometheus gets his liver torn out for all eternity. Foresight and Stoicism are silly.'

    This is extraordinarily bad reasoning- if reasoning it can be called. You are begging the question big time- you assume what you have to prove viz.
    1) that Stoicism is tied to natural language reasoning. In essence you are saying Stoicism is a sophism- an act of bad faith. Where is the evidence?
    2) that natural language reasoning fails for some reason connected to the Sorites or backward induction or something which you aren't very clear about. Once again I know of no evidence at all for this claim.

    I'm sorry to prick your bubble like this. Perhaps you feel that in poetry euphony makes up for slipshod thinking. But this couplet simply doesn't sound particularly good.

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  5. Fair cop Guv! Many thanks for taking the trouble to look at this.
    Granted, both the couplet in question and the thing as a whole aren't particularly melodious.
    You are quite right to take me to task for begging the question. It never occurred to me that Stoicism might be quite different and independent of the manner in which it argues.
    I'll have to chew a little on this.
    By the way- I guess I could argue that 'the Brain' here is the poet's brain rather than 'The power of thought'. In that case, the meaning becomes-
    I defended myself from Sorrow by acquiring a sort of sham stoicism based on the notion that union-in-love only gives rise to lamentation, however this just got me more and more entangled in the amorphous heap of woe which is this world.

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  6. 'khalwat dar anjuman', (solitude in company) in the Naqshbandi tradition is the mark of spiritual elevation. However khalwat-namoos gives a more erotic charge. The translation should bring out both the mystical and romantic meanings.

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  7. 'Whom has not, Lord, the longing to kiss bridal feet with a martyr's zeal fired'

    Oh dear! That should be Who has not, not Whom has not- coz who is the subject not the object.
    A mis-print perhaps?

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  9. Yeah, this confused the hell out of me. Whom sounded right to me but I don't know from grammar.
    I got this of the net- Rule #1: Substitute “he/him” or “she/her”: If it's either “he” or “she,” then it's “who;” if it's “him” or “her,” then it's “whom.”

    Rule #2: Every verb with a tense in a sentence must have a subject. And that word is always in the nominative case, so it's “who.”

    So it who not whom. Still sounds wrong to me? Why?Guess I'm ju's ignarant

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