Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Ghalib's ghazal 59

 Upon the latch of your gate, since I erect, with no word spoken,
Natch, my Estate,  you'll only detect by heard token

She says- now my Logos fails and her Laughter too is weak-
'What hearts say, I can't know, no wights speak!'

She who fixed upon my neck Love's collar of iron
This World surnames the tyranny of Zion.

By the time ghazal 59 was written, Ghalib had already composed several odes (qasida) to Ind's true 'sitamgars'- i.e ruinous tyrants- the British Imperialists and their ever Victorious Queen. Some of these qasidas were returned as improperly addressed- a familiar plaint in succeeding decades; Champaran's indigo farmers went en masse to petition the King Emperor, who was in their vicinity, for a spot of Tiger shooting ( this was a few years before Gandhi appeared on the scene) but their petition was rejected because it had not gone through the proper channels.

Conventionally, the qasida opens (nasib) with an account of the poet's sense of ruination on arriving at the encampment of the beloved only to see that it has already moved on.
First couplet

ghar jab banaa liyaa tire dar par kahe ba;Gair
jaanegaa ab bhii tuu nah miraa ghar kahe ba;Gair
1) when I built a house at your door, without [your/my] saying [anything]

2a) will you not know my house, even/also now, without [your/my] saying [anything]?
2b) you will not know my house, even/also now, without [your/my] saying [anything]!

Nowadays, of course, the beloved aint a bedouin- tho' perhaps little better than a 'street Arab' subsisting upon 'the produce of her vagrant amours'- yet her house is the centre of a now universal depredation which mirrors the activities of the 'Stationary Bandit' that is Company Raj- and though the foundation of my house is now but the eddying of dust at her too frequented door, yet she refuses to know my location save by way of my own nasib which is to but describe my desolation at her having already moved on though still at the same place.
It seems Ghalib has predicted the trajectory of the 'Post Colonial Subject' in this pithy verse.  The fatalism of the 'Musselman' in Primo Levis Auschwitz now has a triple valency as 
1) the beginning of Philosophy, which is the beginning of Love, which is the rekindling of anamnesis (the qasidah's nostalgic nasib) and proper induction into the Socratic practise of Death (T.S. Eliot knew that the Sanskrit 'Smara'- Love but also Memory- is but a sibilant prefixed to that distinguished...nothing which destroys both) i.e. the ecstatic, in articulo mortis, practice of relinquishing Maieutics for Mousike (the Urdu word derives from the Greek) but all to no avail for, Post or Pre Colonial subject- i.e. qua subject- all that is recited is some muthoi of Aesop such that the Lion in its net is rescued by mice who nibble away not the rope that binds the noble beast, but its very marrow and sinews.
2) The transformation of the notion of Sacred allotment or apportionment (nasib) into negative Entitlement- a tax owed to a Secular Aeon (ad-dhar) which we can't vilify because it robs us so thoroughly no tongue is left to us nor candle, book or bell.
3) Nasib not as the tempering of Thymos by terminable Fate but an un-annealing amor fati and Eternal, worse un-Ergodic, and therefore unmeaning, Recurrence and Seriality.

Second couplet 
kahte haiñ jab rahī nah mujhe t̤āqat-e suḳhan
jānūñ kisī ke dil kī maiñ kyūñkar kahe baġhair
1) [she] says, when the strength for speech did not remain to me,
2) 'how would I know [the speech] of anyone's heart, without [his] saying [it]?'

Sukhan, as used by Sheikh Galip, means 'Logos'- more particularly 'Logos' as self-evidently Logos, not vainglorious doxa, by reason of the special facility- or Lewis 'elite eligibility'-  which 'Poetry'- at least that of Galip or  Ghalib's-  shows in carving it up along its joints; or rather the reverse, restoring the Lion Aslan whose sinews our mind mice had previously been snacking on.

Third couplet
kām us se ā paṛā hai kih jis kā jahān meñ
leve nah koʾī nām sitamgar kahe baġhair

work/desire} with/through that one has befallen [me]-- [that one] of whom, in the world,
 no one would mention/invoke the name without saying 'tyrant'

Kaam, in the Hindvi tradition has a double valency- both 'work' and 'Eros'- and both are sublated by 'Naam'- the name- Eros perpetuates either an honourable family name or the stain of infamy just as Work (karm) perpetuates bondage to karma- the cycle of re-birth and nescience. Chanting the name of God- for example that of Shiva, one of whose epithets is 'Smarahara'- destroyer of 'Eros', destroyer of 'Memory'- including the memory of work done and debts owed- on the other hand releases from the delusion of ontology- the Name is higher than the Reality it signifies, indeed the Names of God- independent of attributes- are both cause and cure of worldly dysphoria.
From the time of Amir Khusrau, if not earlier, this theme had been very thoroughly integrated into Islamic mysticism- indeed, there is no difficulty in warranting it a wholly Arab intellectual provenance.
The equation of the beloved with the tyrant has, however, a specifically Indian meaning- given the use of the Hindvi words 'kaam' and 'naam'- best explicated by the story of, the Turkish, Sultan Mahmud and his beloved slave, the native, Ayaz who, proverbially, knew his place.
Ahmed Ghazzali analysed their relationship in terms reminiscent of Hegel's 'Master-Slave dialectic' such that, the 'Young' Marx's 'Alienation' applies equally, or- indeed- more particularly- to 'Love' rather than 'Labour' such that, in the same way that the Thymotic Roman Master becomes the helpless slave of the Wealth created by the self-objectifying Arts of his Stoic bondsman, so too does the  capricious Turkish Sultan come under the tutelage of his all tolerating Punjabi peon.
From the ecumenical Spiritual point of view, this raises a question regarding the archetypal figure of the 'beloved disciple'- be it Christ & St. John the Evangelist, or Lord Buddha and Ananda, or some rather more antinomian syzygies in the Malamati Sufi tradition which however should not be taken at face value so as to give scandal to the Faithful.
Goethe, I think, said that of the animals we know are assured of heaven, sans doubt, Prophet Muhammad's beloved cat Muezza, is up there along with the dog of Ephesus' Seven Sleepers.  Was that cat a Pharaonic 'tyrant' or 'Abu Houl' type 'father of terrors'- i.e. a Sphinx? It caused the Prophet to mutilate his robe.
Yet, surely, for all hearts, be we Muslim or Kaffir, that cat which sat on the mantle of Prophethood, is verily the name of all that empowers, honours and strengthens our own self-sought bondage to Love be that parole howsoever delayed.

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