shooKhi-e tahriir ka – mirza Ghalib

For word meanings and explanatory discussion in English click on the “English” or “Notes” tab.

شوخیٔ تحریر کا ۔ مرزا غالبؔ

۱

نقش فریادی ہے کس کی شوخیٔ تحریر کا

کاغذی ہے پیرہن ہر پیکرِ تصویرِ کا

۲

کاو کاوِ سخت جانی ہائے تنہائی نہ پوچھ

صبح کرنا شام کا لانا ہے جوئے شیر کا

۳

جذبۂ بے اختیارِ شوق دیکھا چاہیے

سینۂ شمشیر سے باہر ہے دم شمشیر کا

۴

آگہی دامِ شنیدن جس قدر چاہے بچھائے

مُدّعا عنقا ہے اپنے عالمِ تقریر کا

۵

بسکہ ہوں غالبؔ اسیری میں بھی آتش زیر پا

موئے آتش دیدہ ہے حلقہ مری زنجیر کا

۶

آتشیں پا ہوں گدازِ وحشتِ زنداں نہ پوچھ

موئے آتش دیدہ ہے ہر حلقہ یاں زنجیر کا

۷

شوخیٔ نیرنگ صیدِ وحشتِ طاؤس ہے

دامِ سبزہ میں ہے پروازِ چمن تسخیر کا

۸

لذّتِ ایجادِ ناز افسونِ عرضِ ذوقِ قتل

نعل آتش میں ہے تیغِ یار سے نخچیر کا

۹

خِشت پُشتِ دستِ عِجز و قالب آغوشِ وداع

پُر ہوا ہے سیل سے پیمانہ کِس تعمیر کا

۱۰

وحشتِ خوابِ عدم شورِ تماشا ہے اسدؔ

جو مژہ جوہر نہیں آئینۂ تعبیر کا

शोख़ी-ए-तहरीर का – मिर्ज़ा ग़ालिब

नक़्श फ़र्यादी है किस की शोख़ी-ए तहरीर का

काग़ज़ी है पैरहन हर पैकर-ए तस्वीर का

काव काव-ए-सख़्त-जानी-हाए तन्हाई न पूछ

सुब्ह करना शाम का लाना है जू-ए-शीर का

जज़्बा-ए बे-इख़्तियार-ए-शौक़ देखा चाहिए

सीना-ए शमशीर से बाहर है दम शमशीर का

आगही दाम-ए-शुनीदन जिस क़दर चाहे बिछाए

मुद्दआ अन्क़ा है अपने आलम-ए-तक़्रीर का

बसके हूँ ग़ालिब असीरी में भी आतिश ज़ेर-पा

मू-ए आतिश-दीदा है हल्क़ा मेरी ज़ंजीर का

आतिशीं-पा हूँ गुदाज़-ए वहशत-ए ज़िन्दाँ न पूछ

मू-ए आतिश-दीदा है हर हल्क़ा याँ ज़ंजीर का

शोख़ी-ए नैरंग सैद-ए वहशत-ए ताऊस है

दाम-ए सब्ज़ा में है परवाज़-ए चमन तस्ख़ीर का

लज़्ज़त-ए ईजाद-ए नाज़ अफ़्सून-ए अर्ज़-ए ज़ौक़-ए क़त्ल

ना’ल आतिश में है तेग़-ए यार से नख़्चीर का

ख़िश्त पुश्त-ए दस्त-ए-इज्ज़ ओ क़ालिब आग़ोश-ए विदा’अ

पुर हुआ है सैल से पैमाना किस ता’मीर का

१०

वहशत-ए ख़्वाब-ए-अदम शोर-ए तमाशा है असद

जो मिज़्शा जौहर नहीं आईना-ए ताबीर का

 

Click here for background and on any passage for word meanings and explanatory discussion. mirza asadullah KhaaN Ghalib (1797-1869). I dare not write any introduction. On more than one occasion Ghalib has warned his readers that he needs no introduction or even address. I humbly comply. This Ghazal appeared in earlier publications of Ghalib’s divaan, but in the later versions, which have become “official” and more common, he abbreviated it to 5 ash’aar. This full version is dated 1812 when Ghalib was fifteen years old. mushaa’era at the time was a private affair for shu’ara and patrons by invitation only. Sitting in a circle along with 50-60 year old stalwarts, holding his own!!!!!

1
naqsh1 fariyaadi2 hai kis ki shoKhi3-e tahrir4 ka
kaGhazi5 hai pairahan6 har paikar7-e tasvir ka    
1.mark, sketch 2.appellant, plaintiff 3.mischief 4.writing 5.of paper 6.dress 7.face
It was ancient practice that people who appealed for justice would wear paper gowns. So the face/image of every sketch/symbol/word written on paper is imagined as wearing paper clothes, appealing for justice. Against whom are words appealing? Most experts write that “picture” is symbolic of human beings, appealing to god against the injustice of an imperfect world. A few have taken a different view. They say that the “picture” is the written word, appealing against the injustice of the imperfection of the creator i.e. poet. Thus, Ghalib himself is admitting his limitations in translating his sublime thoughts into words. That is why he chooses this as the opening Ghazal instead of a ‘hamd’. faiz adds a twist – that shooKhi implies ‘intensity’ and that pen and paper are protesting that they cannot handle the intensity of feeling that Ghalib puts into them. He presents Ghalib’s faarsi she’r as evidence …
Ghalib nabuvad sheva-e man qaafiya bandi
zulmiist ke bar kilk o varaq meekunam imshab
O, Ghalib, it is not my practice to do word-smithing
It is cruelty that I visit on pen and paper tonight

2
kaav kaav1-e saKht-jaani-haa2-e tanhaaii3 na puuchh
sub’h karna shaam ka laana hai juu-e-shir4 ka   
1.digging, scratching 2.shamelessly refusing to die, also the “haa” makes it an awkward plural, thus, repeatedly resisting death 3.loneliness 4.river of milk
This draws on the legend of shiriN-farhaad. As a condition of winning the hand of shirin, farhaad was set a task to cut a channel through the mountain and make a river of milk flow to the palace. This is used as a symbol of an impossible task. Loneliness is trying to kill the poet. But he shamelessly lives on, again and again. His loneliness is so intense that to pass the night of separation (subah karna shaam ka) is an impossible task. There is a further implication that IF the task is ever completed he will die, just like farhaad killed himself.

3
jazba1-e be-eKhtiyaar2-e shauq3 dekha chaahiye
siina-e shamshir4 se baahar hai dam5 shamshir ka    
1.passion 2.uncontrollable 3.eagerness/desire 4.sword 5.life, breath, sharp edge, shine
The “eagerness/desire” is either the eagerness of the poet/lover to be killed at the hands of the beloved or the desire of the beloved to kill him. In either case, this desire is so intense and uncontrollable that it should be seen to be believed. It is possible that “seena-e shamshir” may be interpreted to mean the scabbard. The sword is drawn out of the scabbard and is ready. The “breath of the sword is out of its bosom”. The vision created is that of someone out of breath because they are out of control. In this case it is the sword that is too eager. The word play is that “dam” in addition to breath also means the sharp edge, shining edge of the sword.

4
aagahi1 daam2-e shunidan3 jis qadar4 chaahe bichhaaye
mudd’ua5 anqaa6 hai apne aalam7-e taqrir8 ka  
1.awareness, knowledge 2.net, trap 3.hearing, understanding 4.much, quantity 5.goal, intent 6.imaginary/invisible bird 7.world 8.speech
The world of speech of the poet is their verse/poetry. ‘anqa’ is a legendary bird that no one can see. Thus, Ghalib recognizes, perhaps declares it is his intention, that his verse is difficult to understand. However much to try spread the net of understanding, you will not be able to catch this bird. There is such profound meaning in what I write that it will be difficult for anyone to understand.

5
baske1 huuN Ghalib asiri2 meN bhi aatish-zer-paa3
muu4-e aatish-diida5 hai halqa6 meri zanjir ka    
1.even though 2.bondage 3.fire under foot i.e. restless 4.hair, follicle 5.exposed to/seen fire 6.circle, link
When a hair follicle is exposed to fire it curls up into a circle like a link of a chain. Thus, even though I am in bondage, O, Ghalib, I am restless and eager to break out. Every link of the chain that binds me is but like a curled up hair follicle i.e. My frenzy is so strong that I should be able to break it and leave in spite of my bondage.

6
aatishiN-paa1 huN gudaaz2-e vahshat3-e zindaaN4 na puuchh
muu5-e aatish-diida6 hai har halqa7 yaaN zanjir ka   
1.fiery/burning feet, restlessness 2.comfort 3.frenzy, passion 4.confinement 5.hair, follicle 6.that which has seen fire, singed 7.link
This she’r has the same meaning as 5 above and is an earlier version.

7
shoKhi1-e nairaNg2 say’d3-e vahshat4-e taa’uus5 hai
daam6-e sabza7 meN hai parvaaz8-e chaman-tasKhir9 ka    
1.playfulness, mischief 2.illusion, fascination 3.prey, victim 4.frenzy, passion 5.peacock 6.web, net, trap 7.vegetation 8.flight 9.garden encircling
Normally the peacock should be able to fly all around and across the garden and enjoy/display its fascinating colours. But it does not do that. It stays in the forest because it is trapped by its passion for wilderness and green vegetation. What does this imply for the poet and his audience? This is pure speculation on my part. The peacock and its colourful display are the poet and his verse. The poet is passionate about his words and the dense vegetation of the forest (his imagination and his ‘tasavvuf-mysticism’ and prefers to stay hidden there rather than display it in the comfortable environment of the garden/mushaa’era.

8
lazzat1-e iijaad2-e naaz3 afsuun4-e arz5-e zauq6-e qatl7
n’aal8 aatish9 meN hai teGh10-e yaar11 se naKhchiir12 ka    
1.pleasure 2.invention, creativity 3.coquetry 4.fascination, magical spell 5.appeal 6.desire 7.killing 8.horshoe 9.fire 10.sword 11.beloved 12.prey
The beloved invents new styles of coquetry. Each new style casts such a magical spell on the poet/lover that he appeals to die at her hands. She derives pleasure at seeing this effect of her coquetry. “n’aal dar aatish buvad” is a farsi expression that means getting impatient and restless. Looking at the beloved’s sword the prey i.e. poet/lover is eager/restless. Of course, the beloved’s sword could be alluding to her scimitar like eye lashes.

9
Khisht1 pusht2-e dast3-e ijz4 o qaalib5 aaGhosh6-e vid’aa7
pur8 hua hai say’l9 se paimaana10 kis t’aamir11 ka  
1.brick 2.back 3.hand 4.helpless, giving up 5.body/structure/skeleton 6.lap, embrace 7.farewell 8.filled 9.flood 10.cup, measure 11.construction, building
Picture an arm-wrestling match when the hand that has lost, given up, is pushed down on its back. Bricks have become helpless like that. The whole body/structure/skeleton is in the embrace of farewell/death i.e. about to disintegrate. “paimaana pur hona” is an expression meaning that things have reached a limit, filled to the brim. There has been a flood and the limits of endurance of this building have been reached. Ghalib leaves his audience to guess what the building is and what the flood was. Of course, the rhetorical answer is that the flood is the overpowering wrath of the beloved and the structure that is flooded is the poet/lover. I must add that my interpretation is different from any that I have read. I prefer mine. Surprise!

10
vahshat1-e Khwaab2-e adam3 shor4-e tamaasha5 hai asad
jo mizsha6 jauhar7 nahiN aaiina-e t’aabir8 ka   
1.fear, terror 2.sleep 3.non-existence 4.noise, tumult 5.spectacle 6.eyelash 7.brilliance, quality 8.interpretation
Back in those days, mirrors were polished metal surfaces. Polishing left very fine hairline scratches on the surface. The measure of the quality of the mirror was the fineness of hairline scratches. This has similititude with eyelashes. Eyes themselves are likened to mirror and should reflect the reality they see. Thus, those eyelashes that are not like fine polish lines for the eyes, and those eyes are not like a good mirror, they are not eyelashes at all and the eyes are not really good or seeing/discriminating eyes. Instead of seeing reality all they see is the terror of the sleep of non-existence (fear of death) and a tumultous spectacle (drama of the material world). If they had been real seeing/discriminating eyes, with fine polish lines, then they could see reality. What is this reality? The audience is left to guess.

mirza asadullah KhaaN Ghalib (1797-1869).  I dare not write any introduction.  On more than one occasion Ghalib has warned his readers that he needs no introduction or even address.   I humbly comply.  This Ghazal appeared in earlier publications of Ghalib’s divaan, but in the later versions, which have become “official” and more common, he abbreviated it to 5 ash’aar.  This full version is dated 1812 when Ghalib was fifteen years old.  mushaa’era at the time was a private affair for shu’ara and patrons by invitation only.  Sitting in a circle along with 50-60 year old stalwarts, holding his own!!!!!
1
naqsh1 fariyaadi2 hai kis ki shoKhi3-e tahrir4 ka
kaGhazi5 hai pairahan6 har paikar7-e tasvir ka

1.mark, sketch 2.appellant, plaintiff 3.mischief 4.writing 5.of paper 6.dress 7.face

It was ancient practice that people who appealed for justice would wear paper gowns.  So the face/image of every sketch/symbol/word written on paper is imagined as wearing paper clothes, appealing for justice.  Against whom are words appealing?  Most experts write that “picture” is symbolic of human beings, appealing to god against the injustice of an imperfect world.  A few have taken a different view.  They say that the “picture” is the written word, appealing against the injustice of the imperfection of the creator i.e. poet.  Thus, Ghalib himself is admitting his limitations in translating his sublime thoughts into words.  That is why he chooses this as the opening Ghazal instead of a ‘hamd’.  faiz adds a twist – that shooKhi implies ‘intensity’ and that pen and paper are protesting that they cannot handle the intensity of feeling that Ghalib puts into them.  He presents Ghalib’s faarsi she’r as evidence …
Ghalib nabuvad sheva-e man qaafiya bandi
zulmiist ke bar kilk o varaq meekunam imshab
O, Ghalib, it is not my practice to do word-smithing
It is cruelty that I visit on pen and paper tonight
2
kaav kaav1-e saKht-jaani-haa2-e tanhaaii3 na puuchh
sub’h karna shaam ka laana hai juu-e-shir4 ka

1.digging, scratching 2.shamelessly refusing to die, also the “haa” makes it an awkward plural, thus, repeatedly resisting death 3.loneliness 4.river of milk

This draws on the legend of shiriN-farhaad.  As a condition of winning the hand of shirin, farhaad was set a task to cut a channel through the mountain and make a river of milk flow to the palace.  This is used as a symbol of an impossible task.  Loneliness is trying to kill the poet.  But he shamelessly lives on, again and again.  His loneliness is so intense that to pass the night of separation (subah karna shaam ka) is an impossible task.  There is a further implication that IF the task is ever completed he will die, just like farhaad killed himself.
3
jazba1-e be-eKhtiyaar2-e shauq3 dekha chaahiye
siina-e shamshir4 se baahar hai dam5 shamshir ka

1.passion 2.uncontrollable 3.eagerness/desire 4.sword 5.life, breath, sharp edge, shine

The “eagerness/desire” is either the eagerness of the poet/lover to be killed at the hands of the beloved or the desire of the beloved to kill him.  In either case, this desire is so intense and uncontrollable that it should be seen to be believed.  It is possible that “seena-e shamshir” may be interpreted to mean the scabbard.  The sword is drawn out of the scabbard and is ready.  The “breath of the sword is out of its bosom”.  The vision created is that of someone out of breath because they are out of control.  In this case it is the sword that is too eager.  The word play is that “dam” in addition to breath also means the sharp edge, shining edge of the sword.
4
aagahi1 daam2-e shunidan3 jis qadar4 chaahe bichhaaye
mudd’ua5 anqaa6 hai apne aalam7-e taqrir8 ka

1.awareness, knowledge 2.net, trap 3.hearing, understanding 4.much, quantity 5.goal, intent 6.imaginary/invisible bird 7.world 8.speech

The world of speech of the poet is their verse/poetry.  ‘anqa’ is a legendary bird that no one can see.  Thus, Ghalib recognizes, perhaps declares it is his intention, that his verse is difficult to understand.  However much to try spread the net of understanding, you will not be able to catch this bird.  There is such profound meaning in what I write that it will be difficult for anyone to understand.
5
baske1 huuN Ghalib asiri2 meN bhi aatish-zer-paa3
muu4-e aatish-diida5 hai halqa6 meri zanjir ka

1.even though 2.bondage 3.fire under foot i.e. restless 4.hair, follicle 5.exposed to/seen fire 6.circle, link

When a hair follicle is exposed to fire it curls up into a circle like a link of a chain.  Thus, even though I am in bondage, O, Ghalib, I am restless and eager to break out.  Every link of the chain that binds me is but like a curled up hair follicle i.e. My frenzy is so strong that I should be able to break it and leave inspite of my bondage.
6
aatishiN-paa1 huN gudaaz2-e vahshat3-e zindaaN4 na puuchh
muu5-e aatish-diida6 hai har halqa7 yaaN zanjir ka

1.fiery/burning feet, restlessness 2.comfort 3.frenzy, passion 4.confinement 5.hair, follicle 6.that which has seen fire, singed 7.link

This she’r has the same meaning as 5 above and is an earlier version.
7
shoKhi1-e nairaNg2 say’d3-e vahshat4-e taa’uus5 hai
daam6-e sabza7 meN hai parvaaz8-e chaman-tasKhir9 ka

1.playfulness, mischief 2.illusion, fascination 3.prey, victim 4.frenzy, passion 5.peacock 6.web, net, trap 7.vegetation 8.flight 9.garden encircling

Normally the peacock should be able to fly all around and across the garden and enjoy/display its fascinating colours.  But it does not do that.  It stays in the forest because it is trapped by its passion for wilderness and green vegetation.  What does this imply for the poet and his audience?  This is pure speculation on my part.  The peacock and its colourful display are the poet and his verse.  The poet is passionate about his words and the dense vegetation of the forest (his imagination and his ‘tasavvuf-mysticism’ and prefers to stay hidden there rather than display it in the comfortable environment of the garden/mushaa’era.
8
lazzat1-e iijaad2-e naaz3 afsuun4-e arz5-e zauq6-e qatl7
n’aal8 aatish9 meN hai teGh10-e yaar11 se naKhchiir12 ka

1.pleasure 2.invention, creativity 3.coquetry 4.fascination, magical spell 5.appeal 6.desire 7.killing 8.horshoe 9.fire 10.sword 11.beloved 12.prey

The beloved invents new styles of coquetry.  Each new style casts such a magical spell on the poet/lover that he appeals to die at her hands.  She derives pleasure at seeing this effect of her coquetry.  “n’aal dar aatish buvad” is a farsi expression that means getting impatient and restless.  Looking at the beloved’s sword the prey i.e. poet/lover is eager/restless.  Of course, the beloved’s sword could be alluding to her scimitar like eye lashes.
9
Khisht1 pusht2-e dast3-e ijz4 o qaalib5 aaGhosh6-e vid’aa7
pur8 hua hai say’l9 se paimaana10 kis t’aamir11 ka

1.brick 2.back 3.hand 4.helpless, giving up 5.body/structure/skeleton 6.lap, embrace 7.farewell 8.filled 9.flood 10.cup, measure 11.construction, building

Picture an arm-wrestling match when the hand that has lost, given up, is pushed down on its back.  Bricks have become helpless like that.  The whole body/structure/skeleton is in the embrace of farewell/death i.e. about to disintegrate.  “paimaana pur hona” is an expression meaning that things have reached a limit, filled to the brim.  There has been a flood and the limits of endurance of this building have been reached.  Ghalib leaves his audience to guess what the building is and what the flood was.  Of course, the rhetorical answer is that the flood is the overpowering wrath of the beloved and the structure that is flooded is the poet/lover.  I must add that my interpretation is different from any that I have read.  I prefer mine.  Surprise!
10
vahshat1-e Khwaab2-e adam3 shor4-e tamaasha5 hai asad
jo mizsha6 jauhar7 nahiN aaiina-e t’aabir8 ka

1.fear, terror 2.sleep 3.non-existence 4.noise, tumult 5.spectacle 6.eyelash 7.brilliance, quality 8.interpretation

Back in those days, mirrors were polished metal surfaces.  Polishing left very fine hairline scratches on the surface.  The measure of the quality of the mirror was the fineness of hairline scratches.  This has similititude with eyelashes.  Eyes themselves are likened to mirror and should reflect the reality they see.  Thus, those eyelashes that are not like fine polish lines for the eyes, and those eyes are not like a good mirror, they are not eyelashes at all and the eyes are not really good or seeing/discriminating eyes.  Instead of seeing reality all they see is the terror of the sleep of non-existence (fear of death) and a tumultous spectacle (drama of the material world).  If they had been real seeing/discriminating eyes, with fine polish lines, then they could see reality.  What is this reality?  The audience is left to guess.

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One comment:

  1. For the first time I have heard a true interpretation of this شعر of Ghalib by a great poet like Faiz. I was never satisfied by the traditional explanation of pleaders wearing paper cloths, to make their pleas to their rulers.

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