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Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Nothing much to say here except that I write to keep myself interested in things other than work and home. And I have to admit it has paid rich dividends. A heartfelt thanks to all my readers who make me feel oh-so-special!

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Hazaron khwaishen aisi...

OK I am attempting to translate a Ghalib Ghazal this time. It is my fondest khwaish to do so even though I know I will get lost in between and most likely end up tripping with face down in the mud. But kya karen hazaron khwaishen aisi ke kar khwaish pe dum nikle!

The greatness of Ghalib is not unknown to the followers of Urdr sher-o-shaayri. I have read translations of a single sher of his that can run into pages and still leave a doubt in the person's mind that this is what he intented to say or if there was some other hidden meaning. From what I've read of Ghalib's stuff and his personality, I would say he was always saying something that none could fathom exactly. One could take potshots at understanding his shers and might even succeed a little here and a little there but I doubt if one could grasp the entire meaning of the sher in the way it was intended to be understood. Or maybe it was not intended to be understood. That's one thing I notice about Ghalib's shaayri, he is always being naughty. Just when I think 'gotcha' I imagine an indulgent smile on his serene face with his own 'gotcha'! So here is my attempt. A very amatuerish one I assure you, but I am trying my best to bring the magic of Ghalib to some of you. Pliss to excuse.

hazaaroN KHwahishaiN 'eisee ke har KHwahish pe dam nikle
bohot nikle mere armaaN lekin phir bhee kam nikle


I am sure most of us have heard this sher in one form or other somewhere or the other. This is one Ghalib's shers that I have memorized even before my interest in Urdu Poetry took root simply because it is quoted everywhere. In Bollywood, in books, in conversations - everywhere. Infact I knew this sher byheart before I knew the shaayar who had written it. One of Ghalib's better known shers. Ok now let me attempt to understand what the great poet is trying to say here. The first line is ofcourse easier to comprehend than the second one.
hazaaroN KHwahishaiN 'eisee ke har KHwahish pe dam nikle. Remember we used to learn in Economics at school 'Man's wants are unlimited'. Ghalib is trying to say the same but in style. Thousands of desires, each desire such that you could choke on it. I have used 'choke' to translate 'dum nikalna' but it is not the exact word. Dum nikalna is something like life being sucked out slowly. I like the word 'khwaish'. It has that special urdu ring to it. Rolling so very nicely on the tongue. Not khaish but khwaish! Now comes the difficult part. The second line in the sher.
"bohot nikle mere armaaN lekin phir bhee kam nikle"

For a very long time thought I heard this sher often and even quoted it sometimes, I could not get to the exact meaning of the last line. I mean I knew what it was trying to convey but I was not sure how it was conveying it. Surely Ghalib was saying that though many desires had been fulfilled, a lot remained. But how did this line manage to convey that. I was taking the meaning of 'nikalna' to be to get out. I was like this means the desires are making their way out. So how did it imply that they were being fulfilled. Well, enlightenment came as I read a very long discussion on this sher. When do desires make their way out? Only when they are fulfilled ofcourse. Otherwise they would remain inside nai? I was like offo! kya baat hain. So basically in a very roundabout and with using the word 'nikle' 3 different times in 3 different ways Ghalib tells us that though a lot of his wishes [armaan] have been fulfilled, somehow they [the fulfilled ones] have remained few. What a beautiful andaz in saying that most of the wishes have remain unfulfilled. Phew!

Darey kyooN mera qaatil kya rahega uskee gardan par
wo KHooN, jo chashm-e-tar se 'umr bhar yooN dam_ba_dam nikle


Once again one can write a story out of this couplet. The sher must be easy to understand in the sense the only hard words being used here are chashm-e-tar which mean the wetness of the eye. Ghalib says why should my killer fear? Gardan par is used in urdu to denote guilt. Uski gardan par woh ilzaam hain is meant to convey that he is guilty of that crime. So Ghalib says why should my killer fear, there is nothing to feel guilty about...the blood has already flowed out of the wetness in my eyes, continously all my life. Yep, very roundabout Ghalibisque fashion in saying don't you fear oh! one who wants to kill me, I am already dead with the amount of grief in my life. Uff!

nikalna KHuld se aadam ka sunte aayaiN haiN lekin
bohot be_aabru hokar tere kooche se ham nikle


This is also one of those famous shers. To get anywhere close to understanding this sher one has to know the story of Adam and how he was thrown out of Heaven. Khuld here is used to denote heaven. That translation makes the first line easier to understand - have heard a lot about Adam being thrown out of heaven. Now comes the mastery as he weaves this event around his own life. bohot be_aabru hokar tere kooche se ham nikle - it was with a lot of shame that I got out of your house. Bhai wah! Equating her house to heaven, his disgrace to that of Adam's - only a master shaayar can think up of something as stunning as this sher. It all makes sense in the end!

bharam khul jaaye zaalim tere qaamat ki daraazee ka
agar is turra-e-pur_pech-o-KHam ka pech-o-KHam nikle


This is one of those shers that have another Ghalib-stamp. Some very difficult sounding words used more than once to convey different meanings. I am like pehleich woh lavs samajh nai aara, ooper se aap usku kayeen baar istemaal karte! Neways I consulted a few dictonaries and ultimately did get a grasp on what those words might mean, but then again as I warned beforehand, they might not! Infact to be frank, though I get a general meaning of what the words might mean, I am thinking that I do not understand the complexity of this sher. So please to excuse and give me some feedback if you think you understand it better. I'd be indebted. Bharam khul jaana is used to convey that the misunderstanding has been cleared. I think Ghalib addresses his tormentor [zaalim] with your secret about your height of esteem [for Ghalib maybe?] ..I am clueless about the second line. Pech I know means tangles and turra means turban but what it is the meaning of it all - I do not know. :-(

magar likhwaaye koee usko KHat, to hamse likhawaaye
huee subah aur ghar se kaan par rakhkar qalam nikle


But if anyone wants someone to wrie a letter for her let me do that, every morning I leave with a pen in my ear. The words used might be simple here but the meaning seems to deep. I thought for a long time on this one and could come up with this - that though she has been mean to him [by the zaalim in the last sher] he still covets any sort of contact with her. Since he cannot approach her directly he is willing to help anyone who might want to contact her. In this hope he always leaves home - the pen in the ear denoting that he is ready and waiting for the opportunity and hopes it comes by his way each day that he leaves home. I told you, one can write stories on his shers!


(...to be continued)

26 Comments:

Blogger Gentle Sunshine said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:43 PM  
Blogger Gentle Sunshine said...

I'll comment just on the first one. I too noticed that *everyone* was familiar with the 'Hazarron khwaishen aisi' sher and I assumed they understood it, never questioning if they did. But it would puzzle me that they did, coz the sher itself isnt exactly straightforward. So I am happy to know that others had to "think" too.

Your translation of HKA -- I'll give you good points for it. But I dont think thats what he is trying to say :--)) (though I am yet to figure out exactly what he is trying to say) That makes me ask - is he really so great, or is it our interpretation thats making him great. Smart man ;--))

4:45 PM  
Blogger bharath said...

GS has a point. :) but plato said it before ... is rose beautiful or we make it look beautiful :-)

Fizo ji, really loved your interpretation. as always. prolly will read it another time too.

7:53 AM  
Blogger Captain Nemo said...

fizo, regarding the ‘bharam khul jaaye…’ sher I think Ghalib is saying that the delusions about the zaalim will be shorn off like the curls of the hair if the extravagant dress and turbans are removed… the accessories creating an illusion of stature.

12:54 PM  
Blogger Reshmi said...

nice job fizzy! loved the translation. also thanks to cn for that piece of explanation there.
many a times with urdu one may get the jist at first. but the layers can be unfolded only with greater span of attention and correct understanding of the language i suppose :D
now i will sit and listen to the gazhal once more try to hear it right :)

12:25 PM  
Blogger Vivek said...

subhaaan allah;
koshish zaalim rakh pyare aage jo rab ko manzoor!

I was expecting couplets translated into couplets: give it a shot, please do!

9:27 AM  
Blogger Bringabrahma said...

hazaaroN KHwahishaiN 'eisee ke har KHwahish pe dam nikle
bohot nikle mere armaaN lekin phir bhee kam nikle


One of the most memorable lines..I'll remeber for a long time to come,..even the movie is as enchanting as this song is..
bohot nikle mere armaan lekin phir bhi kam nikle...ah...I'll die hundred times on these words.
:)
can u translate that to Urdu?

7:09 AM  
Blogger Azamat said...

Nice and Convincing Translation of A Very deep ghazal loved by one and all..

Thanks for all the effort you have put in making it easier for all the people.

Do complete it.

www.azamatali.com

9:58 AM  
Blogger harsha said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12:00 PM  
Blogger Limesh said...

As I discussed this with Rahul I felt what he was saying made more sense than the description above.More to do with the movie as well.In that movie by the same name Vikrams love for Geeta is selfless.So he goes all the way to killing himself to fulfill Geetas "kwaishe".So in that basically while in love you can continue to have "armans" but not worry if they are fullfilled or not.There is no difference to living or death while in love.Watching the movie is worth while :)

8:41 AM  
Blogger Dr. Ravinder Mann said...

Good Job Done.

I am also working on classical urdu shayari and ghazals. www.kuch-shers.blogspot.com

7:22 AM  
Blogger Manaswita said...

Well, nice analysis, but i too agree with Limesh...
I think the first line atleast "hazaaron khwaishen aisi, ki har khwaish pe dam nikle" means that- to someone in love, his lovers every wish is worth dying over...like in the case of vikram and geeta..

now the second sentence in my opinion could have two meanings-
first, that although his ambitions to fulfil them were great, that is, although he did everything in his power to fulfil them, they were still not enough to win her over, to make her love him..
second, it could also mean that "bahut nikle mere armaan", meaning his own ambitions were many, to prosper to become someone great, but even those ambitions were not sufficient to make him forget her, or they were still not enough to be more important to him than her wishes..

4:00 PM  
Blogger Manaswita said...

Actually it could even be from geetas point of view... that she did everything to be with saddharth, to fulfil his wishes of revolutionising the country..but they were still not enough to make him happy, or to bring about a revolution..so that ultimately he went off to study medicine in UK..

4:16 PM  
Blogger Limesh said...

But manaswita your first thought on the second sentence does not go well.I mean in love you do not think of winning someone over nor you do something to gain something in return.Love is selfless and pure and without expectations.The love from the loved one comes on its own.But I liked the second thought and also the write up about Siddharth.For the second thought I feel if you really yearn for someones love then no other thing you do or achieve in life will make you as happy as even a simple smile or a glance from your loved one.Somehow it makes me feel Siddharth never loved Geeta in a way.He loved her maybe because she loved him so much....reminding me of Amir s love in Fanaa for Kajol.

12:46 AM  
Blogger Amit said...

I have been a big fan of this ghazal and today I was looking over the web to understand its meaning. I must say that after reading your blog, I am compelled and inspired to know more about Ghalib and delve more into his philosophical writings.

Thanks
Harsh
www.mantrablogs.contentmantra.com

3:24 AM  
Blogger Swapnil said...

hi, the line that you missed means the following

bharam khul jaaye zaalim tere qaamat (stature) kii daraazii (length) kaa
agar is turraa-e-purapech-o-Kham (turra-e-purpech-o-kham - ornament worn in the curls of hair) kaa pech-o-Kham (the metal clip holding your hair together)nikale

basically, dont be very happy with your status in the society, only slip of the smallest kind can show your true colours...!

4:53 AM  
Blogger Japes said...

Like the unending list of mans needs 'my desires are un ending'... 'whatever desires i have expressed so far are nothing compared to what all desires i actually have'... :) this is the interpretaion i have been giving it all these days, from the perspective of a very needy men.

neverthless i think ur interpretaion sounds better than mine, rather more poetic. i guess that's what makes poetry even better !

i guess Urdu has great power of layered meanings compared to other languages, rock on!

http://japes.wordpress.com/amateur_poetry

PS: Swapnil ... thanks for opening that one up for us.

11:10 AM  
Blogger chethana said...

Awesome stuff!!! I would love to speak urdu, but unfortunately can speak only Kannada, Hindi, and English.
Please do continue with such nice works!!! I'd be indebted...

--A big big fan of Ghalib....

1:24 AM  
Blogger Gregory Williams said...

It was a good to visit to site...last month.here we gets lotss of information about work from home
Work From Home

12:30 AM  
Blogger Megha said...

dere can b many interpretaions as per d mindset of an individual.... u did an excellent job......i likd d way u unfurld d explanation...

3:45 AM  
Blogger puneet said...

Can u please tell me in which sense this was wrote mean for which feeling complete points toward?

4:20 AM  
Blogger cherry said...

Hi, I happen to came across your blog and the interpretation of Ghalib's ghazal "Hazaron Khwaishen aisi". I'm a devotee of Jagjit Singh Ji (R.I.P). Hazaron Khwaishen sung by Jagjit Singh is one my faves. I love the wordings. Everything sounds so serene, though I understand very little of it. I'm in my early 20s and have keen interest in acknowledging myself with Urdu language. I'm so fascinated by the twist, sound and andaaz of urdu words but sadly my urdu vocabulary is absolutely null.
After reading your blog, my way of understanding this particular piece of ghazal changed quite a bit..i've started giving a more elabrorated meaning to the beautiful words of ghazal.
Thanx for posting your blog..
and keep enjoying the bliss essence of Ghalib :)

9:51 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

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11:37 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:38 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:39 AM  
Blogger Limesh said...

The movie HKA had beautiful songs too, one such "bavra mann" was played in a sony serial "Kuch to log kahenge" when Dr Nidhi and Dr Ashutosh confess thier love for each other and have a sleepless night. A true feeling of love indeed

11:42 AM  

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