Monday, 3 May 2010

dast-e tah-e sang-āmadah paimān-e vafā hai

Prof. Frances Pritchett, creator of the wonderful 'desertful of roses' site on Ghalib, waxes lyrical about this couplet-

majbūrī-o-daʿvā-e giriftārī-e ulfat

dast-e tah-e sang-āmadah paimān-e vafā hai
For my part I always really liked Dard's
 'patthar tale ki haath hai gaflat ke haath dil
Sang-e-giran hua hai yeh khwaab-e-giraan mujhe'
A heavy stone has heavy slumber been to me, and
In sloth's hands, my heart, a stone crushed hand
I wonder whether this response of ours has to do with the Anglo American  Peine forte et dure tradition- i.e the crushing of a defendant who refuses to plead. Of course, in India the more relevant reference is to the ghotna- the heavy roller used to crush the thighs of a suspect.
However, the connection between crushing and standing mute (refusing to plead) esp. for writers (for whom the hand rather than the tongue is the means of expression) is going to have resonances for us of which we might not be consciously aware.  
I was 11 or 12 when Indira Gandhi promulgated Emergency and some of my Dad's journalist friends- including a near neighbour who had a pretty daughter (I've written about this in my novel 'Samlee's daughter) were arrested.  

In the distinguished Professor's case, for all I know, there may be Arthur Miller's 'the Crucible' and the McCarthyite witch-hunts at the back of it.
 I see, from Wikipedia, that the only American to have been crushed to death was one Giles Corey who - in the film version of 'The Crucible'- refuses to name names.
However, the context independent point here is that refusal to plead 'aye or nay' was what got you crushed to death. Language is like that. But to plead is also to be crushed to death- or at least to be permitted only a sort of liquidised life within Language obedient to the tides of its lunatic Moon- so there was never any real choice. 
But that's the nature of Language. Okay. We can both live with that. The Americans have weaponized their music (they used rock & roll against Noreiga) and the Indians are now weaponizing their food
The Europeans have not the resources of such as we.
We're safe. Or are we?
The trouble is that when Language held a knife to Love's throat- saying 'Do you take this man/woman/panda- answer 'yea or nay'- then, ah! then ...
Okay! I think I get why the Prof. likes this couplet! 

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