In translation or in the original, these ghazals transcend the commercialisation of a day dedicated to conventional and commonplace romance:
Let’s Live In That Place
Let’s live in that place where there’s no one, let’s go,
Where no one knows our tongue, there’s no one to speak to.
We’d build a house without doors and walls,
Have no neighbours, watchmen forego.
In sickness no one to nurse us, enquire,
If we died, no one to mourn us, no!
Rahiye ab aisi jagah
rahiye ab aisī jagah chal kar
jahāñ koī na ho
ham-suķhan koī na ho aur ham-zabāñ koī na ho
be-dar-o-dīvār sā ik ghar
koī ham-sāya na ho aur pāsbāñ koī na ho
padiye gar bīmār to koī na ho
aur agar mar jāiye to nauha-ķhvāñ koī na ho
At Every Little Thing
At every little thing you
say, “Who art thou?”
Is this the way you talk to one, anyhow?
In flame not this miracle, in lightning
not this art,
Tell me what’s behind her bold, impulsive glow?
This jealousy is there that
he confers with you
Else, what fear of the enemy’s influence now?
With blood, my shirt sticks
to the body,
What need of any darning does it allow?
Where the body’s burnt, the
heart would’ve too.
Raking the ashes, what do you seek now?
We are not convinced of
simply running in the veins,
What blood that which from the eyes did not flow?
That thing for which we
esteem Eden so high,
What is it but wine of the flower, musk of blossoms, mellow?
When it comes to drinks I see
through a few barrels,
Why then in glass, goblet, or pitchers wallow?
Gone’s the power of speech,
and even if it
Stayed, on what hope would I, my hopes, show?
Become the king’s protégé, he
Else, what shall be Ghalib’s fame in this town?
Har ik baat pe…
har ek bāt pah kahte ho tum
kih tū kyā hai
tumhīñ kaho kih yih andāz-e-guftagū kyā hai
nah shole meñ yih karishma
nah barq meñ ye adā
koʾī batāʾo ke vo shoḳh-e-tund-ḳhū kyā hai
ye rashk hai ke vo hotā hai
ham-suḳhan tum se
vagarnah ḳhauf-e-bad-āmozī-e-adū kyā hai
chipak rahā hai badan par
lahū se pairāhan
hamāre jeb ko ab ḥājat-e-rafū kyā hai
jalā hai jism jahāñ dil bhī
jal gayā hogā
kuredte ho jo ab rākh justajū kyā hai
ragoñ meñ dauṛte phirne ke
ham nahīñ qā’il
jab āñkh se hī na ṭapkā to phir lahū kyā hai
vo chīz jis ke liye ham ko ho
sivā-e-bādah-e-gul-fām-e-mushk-bū kyā hai
piyūñ sharāb agar ḳhum bhī
dekh lūñ do char
ye shīshah-o-qadaḥ-o-kūzah-o-sabū kyā hai
rahī na t̤āqat-e-guftār aur
agar ho bhī
to kis umīd pah kahye ke ārzū kyā hai
huā hai shah kā muṣāḥib phire
vagarnah shahr meñ ġhālib kī ābrū kyā hai
Thousands of Desires Such
Thousands of desires, such,
that for every wish I’d die,
My many hopes came true, but many more did defy.
Should my killer be scared? Will it hang upon his neck?
– that blood which dropped lifelong from my ever-brimming eye.
We’d always heard of Adam’s
exile from Eden, but,
When we left, we left your street so disgraced, all awry.
The myth would come undone, O
tyrant, of your growth in
stature, were the coils of your turban uncoiled, let fly.
If a letter to her be commissioned, we’ll write that,
Come every morning, a quill on our ear we supply.
In that age was established, my habit for wine,
Once again the days for the jar of Jum to ply.
Those who we hoped would
harken to our woes,
Were more woebegone under the cruel sword’s sway.
In love there is no
difference in living and dying,
We live looking at our idol that takes our breath away.
For God’s sake do not remove
the veil from the Kaaba,
O Tyrant! What if here too is my beloved idol’s stay?
Whither the way to the bar,
Ghālib, and where the preacher,
Yet, we know that yesterday, thither he went, as we’d stray.
Hazaron Khwahishein Aisi
aisī ki har ķhvāhish pe dam nikle
bahut nikle mire armān lekin phir bhī kam nikle
Dare kyūñ merā qātil
kyā rahegā us kī gardan par
vo ķhūñ jo chashm-e-tar se umr bhar yūñ dam-ba-dam nikle
nikalnā ķhuld se ādam
kā sunte āe haiñ lekin
bahut be-ābrū ho kar tire kūche se ham nikle
bharam khul jāe zālim
tere qāmat kī darāzī kā
agar us turra-e-pur-pech-o-ķham kā pech-o-ķham nikle
magar likhvāe koī us
ko ķhat to ham se likhvāe
huī subh aur ghar se kān par rakh kar qalam nikle
huī is daur meñ mansūb
mujh se bāda-ashāmī
phir āya vo zamāna jo jahāñ meñ jaam-e-jam nikle
huī jin se tavaqqo
ķhastagī kī dād pāne kī
vo ham se bhī ziyāda ķhasta-e-teġh-e-sitam nikle
mohabbat meñ nahīñ hai
farq jīne aur marne kā
usī ko dekh kar jīte haiñ jis kāfir pe dam nikle
ķhudā ke vāste parda na kābe se uțhā vāiz
kahīñ aisā na ho yāñ bhi vahī kāfir sanam nikle
kahāñ maiķhāne kā
darvāza ġhālib aur kahāñ vāiz
par itnā jānte haiñ kal vo jātā thā ki ham nikle
Translated from the Urdu by Maaz Bin Bilal
Maaz Bin Bilal recently earned his PhD in English from Queen’s University Belfast for his thesis on the Politics of Friendship in EM Forster’s work. He teaches at Ashoka University. He is an avid translator and a poet.