Mirza Ghalib, again
By Dr Zafar M. Iqbal
TCCI, Chicago, IL

 

Very few, if any in Urdu poetry, would express what you feel more memorably than Mirza Ghalib. He was not just able to put your innermost feelings into simple words, but also gave those words poetic wings.

I was reminded of it last week again when a friend, like most of us, was struggling to find words for his frustration with the world. Words fail all of us, more often than not. Wouldn’t it have been nice if we had Ghalib’s felicity of expression, or were able to readily borrow from him or other such poets the words elude us?

That friend didn’t know Urdu or Ghalib, and the best I could and did offer was some rendition of a part of his poem, which I now offer here fully, followed by the Romanized original:

I haven’t been lying at your door, forever.

Damn this life, I am no stone!

 

Don’t be flustered by the changing times, my heart;

I’m human, not a wineglass or a carafe!

 

Why are people trying to wipe me out, Lord?

I’m not a superfluous word on world’s slate!

 

In retribution, there has to be limit to cruelty;

I’m just a sinner, not an infidel!

 

Why don’t my loved ones know me better?

I’m not a pearl, ruby, gold or jewel!

 

Why do you hesitate to kick me in the eye?

I’m no less important than moon or sun!

 

Why wouldn’t you let me kiss your feet?

Am I not like the heaven you stepped on?*

 

Ghalib, you now get a pension, pray for the Ruler.**

Past are the days for you to say “No servant of anyone.”

 

[*Prophet Mohammed, for his may-raj with Allah, is believed to have first stepped on the heaven. The poet wonders why human beings, ordained to be superior to other forms of life and much superior to the worldly things, are not allowed to show to their prophet the same kind of respect that the heaven showed him.

** Ghalib was in the employ of the last Moghul King and also a poet, Bahadur Shah Zafar. In this poem, he acknowledged the pension he receives.]

 

Ghalib in Romanized Urdu

 

Da-yum parah huwa thay-ray dur pur nahin hoon mein.

Khakh ayesi zindagi pay, kay puth-thur nahin hoon mein.

Kyun gurdish-e-muda-em say ghubra na ja-yey, dil,

Insaan hoon mein piyala-o-saghur nahin hoon mein.

Ya Rub, zamana mujh ko mita-tha hai kis li-yey,

Loh-e-jahaan pay hurf-e-mukar-rur nahin hoon mein.

Hud cha-hi-yey saza main oo-khoo-buth kay was-thay,

Aakh-ur guna-ghaar hoon, kaafir nahin hoon mein.

Kis was-thay azeez nahin jaan-thay mujh-ay,

Laal-o- zumroodh-o-zur-o-gohur nahin hoon mein.

Rukh-thay ho thum khadum mayri aankh-awn say kyun di-reegh

Ruth-bay main mahr-o-maah say kum-thur nahin hoon mein.

Kur-thay ho mujh ko mana-e-kha-dum bose kis liyey

Kiya aasmaan kay bhi bara-bur nahin hoon mein.

Ghalib, wa-zeefa khwar ho, do shah ko du-aa

Who din ga-yey kay keh-thay thay, nawkur nahin hoon mein.

 

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