Hazaron khwaishen aisi...
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)