Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Delicacy of thought or meaning-creative? Ghalib ghazal 28

Conisder Ghalib's ghazal 28. 

qat̤rah-e mai baskih ḥairat se nafas-parvar huʾā 
ḳhat̤t̤-e jām-e mai sarāsar rishtah-e gauhar huʾā
                                     iʿtibār-e ʿishq kī ḳhānah-ḳharābī dekhnā
                ġhair ne kī āh lekin vuh ḳhafā mujh par huʾā

Ghalib himself, and Faruqi Sahib concurs, thought this had delicacy of thought but little 'meaning creation'.

Yet the verse seems singularly rich in its associations- viz.

1) breath control as the foundation of all Hesychastic/Sufi/ Yogic/Tao Meditation techniques
2) such breath control being associated via hairath with Bedil's mot theme of hairat-e-aainah thus bringing in the mirror (so fundamental to all Theistic mystical traditions)
3) the drop (microcosm) as attaining this breath control in the mirror of amazement
4) the abolition of time- kshanika vada 'doctrine of momentariness'- which is hugely important to rescue Theodicy from silly Heavens and Hells or the idiocy of karma. But this kshanika vada is also the source of great beauty in poetry and painting
5) the wine glass's foam turning into 'Indra's net of pearls' pointing to the radical interconnectedness of the cosmos.

But that's just to start with, then there is 

1) the wine cup as shaped by the absence of the breast. This links with the (Jungian) notion of the krater/crater as the topos of prophesy

2) wine's foam as the areolae of the absent nipple.

 The krater concretizes the cire perdue of the breast pointing to wine as the mother's milk of prophesy- not petition, not pedagogy-, and the Saqi as Shiduri, the Sumerian Goddess of Wisdom in the Epic of Gilgamesh, who- from behind her veils- presides at the Tavern at the end of what but in the world resides- these are all Jungian archetypes at the foundation of any tradition of khamriyat- all the better in Ghalib's case for operating at the unconscious level.
The elision of mention of the Cup bearer's beauty as occasioning the wine drop's amazement, which appears to lie at the root of some of the commentators complaint against the couplet, is not a defect for Ghalib is not relying on this aetiology. Rather we have a good piece of observational poetry- something universal which any drinker could compose no matter what their cultural background- viz. the wine drop motionless (its upward momentum from the drinker's last quaffing canceling out the force of gravity) above the face of the beaded wine foam from whence it came, holding its breath in awe.
The innocence of the erotic meaning arises from the reverential treatment of the areolae, the hypnotic stasis its sight induces- the freezing of the moment characteristic of first love.'

Anyway, this is my 'transcreation' of Ghazal 28 from the Divan.

{28,1}

Breathless, atremble, the wine drop, forgetting Time's lips to wet
Reflects the cup's foaming areolae as Tvashtr' s pearly net 
To Faith, Love's home wrecker, for her angry breast, in debt
That, for some stranger's sigh, I she'll yet fry, Ghalib bet!

'Here my addition to the elided breast/krater conceit, is angry breast/heated kar'hai (wok) full of bubbling oil.
My point is that for a 19 year old poet, the mazmun- 'breast equals the absence that the wine cup encloses and defines' can quickly go on to the next wonderful thing associated with people who possess breasts (not that my own flabby 'moobs' (Man-boobs)  can't pertly fill a champagne glass) namely their command over the kar'hai in which they fry you cheese pakoras with plenty of minced ginger and green chili. God, my mouth is watering.'
The reason it has to be Tvashtr's (rather than Indra's) net of pearls is explained thus-
"Obviously, it can't be Indra's net of pearls- it has to be the artificer Tvashtar (the Indian Vulcan) coz of the whole thing with Vrtra- wine as the dragon (with whom al Hallaj drank in summer) slayed by the wine bibbing thunderbolt God- and the connection with the krater/ crater.
Also, I want to introduce the notion of 'Ghalib's bet' as being like 'Pascal's wager' except obviously- Ghalib (like Tulsi Das) is betting higher than existence, higher than imaginal Hells and Heavens- hence his choice of takhallus.
"


4 comments:

  1. Dude, what are you smoking? Uv finally lost it.
    Are you seriously comparing the female breast to a karhai? Makes one wonder about the kind of women you've been dating.
    Seriously, give up this pissing on poor old Ghalib's grave- incidentally, do you actually know any Urdu at all?
    Jus' askin.

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  2. My dear Sanjay,
    Not all women look like the women on the porn sites you spend all your time viewing while pretending to your Mommy that you are finishing your Maths homework.
    I am far from being a womanizer, but as a man of the world I can tell you that most normal women do in fact have large detachable karhais over their bosoms. Nature, in its infinite wisdom has designed the female in this way so as to fulfill its beneficent purpose. During the act of sexual congress, the females karhais come loose and quickly fry up cheese pakoras and other tasty comestibles for their husbands. This is called female orgasm.
    Perverted women in some countries belonging to low social strata are having cosmetic surgery to remove aforementioned karhais. This is because they are lazy and good for nothing and not wanting to carry out proper cooking duties for their lords and masters. Such ladies should be avoided by you at all costs.
    When the time is right, after completion of your education and settlement in good job, you can also be getting married to suitable woman with large karhais chosen by your esteemed parents. Till then, take cold showers.
    Also better to avoid Urdu and Hindi language as they tend to inflame the erotic passions.

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  3. (extracted)
    It IS an extraordinary set of symbols to pack into two lines, or rather it would be if Ghalib had in fact packed those symbols into those lines. But I think the packer-in is Janab Vivek Sahib his own self! I know of absolutely no reason to believe that Ghalib had any yogic knowledge or even interest, or any belief in kshanika vada, or any desire to invoke Indra's net of pearls. Can you give me any reason to believe that Ghalib did his own packing in these cases?

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  4. Alas, I can supply no proof that Ghalib was the packer. What further throws doubts on my zeal as a Customs officer is that the contraband I claim to have discovered is more in the nature of toxic waste than some mind expanding drug or languid opiate.

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