Tuesday 6 July 2010

Ghalib in Canada

What does it mean to say- this is Ghalib’s verse? He devised it, perhaps revised it, and did or did not include it in his published divan?
Nothing. It means nothing to say that. Why? The sentence is well formed, indeed, is wholly poetic but- ‘sher-e-khub ma'ni nah daarad’- a good poem has no meaning- none!- no, not once Ghalib’s name is invoked.
In contrast, to say- thus did ‘Ustad Ghalib’ develop our present theme- and then proceed to quote Momin (as happens here at 06.44)- is poetic, nay!, theopoetic, for that diplomatically elided ‘Momin’ qualifies, rewards and makes rewarding, ‘Ustad Ghalib’ more even than the setting- viz a Hindu temple in Canada, over-run by fractious children, to which, no doubt, for some salutary, papoose chastening, purpose, have been invited Qawwali singers from Pakistan.
To say of a bunch of words that they represent a poem by so and so is also to say that, in some sense, they are holographic of the poet’s entire oeuvre.
Ghalib, famously, is said to have wished to trade his entire Divan for one couplet of Momin’s- viz.
With me, you then appear
When no other is near.
That his wish was granted in an infidel’s idol-house, and that too by indirection- it is Momin’s ‘ Twixt you & I- what passed, do you remember or not?’ that Farid Ayaz Qawwal attributes to Ghalib- is, of course, a too-consummate-to-appear-artless touch and so, quite correctly, the Canadian little Krishnas, from-their-Saturday-morning-Cartoon-combats-too-Kansa-cruelly-kept-away, howl outrage in the background.

This is Krishna's tragedy- a nice, naughty, little person whose job is to conquer impossible demons and be the innocent consort of impassable Saints- yet trapped, by who won't outgrow him, into friendship, into philosophy, into music, into poetry- he has no choice but to accept the role of pharmakos and, by his theophany- that condign self-praise which, he tells Arjuna, is also a sinless self-slaughter- himself himself do away so only Duty remain.
Love is ontic, Faith deontic- as Ghalib said (where?)
No arrow swift outshoots this quiver
Faith is the gift of an Indian giver.

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