Dil Hi to Hai: It’s my heart, my sorrow – Let me cry a thousand times over (Ghalib, who else!)

If the deep sadness in one’s heart, unrequited love would be a piece of cloth, then Mirza Ghalib has pulled every single thread out of it and painted with the deepest of his emotions. Although I have felt the deepest sadness from “Ye na thi hamari qismat”, this one’s on special request from the most special person in my life. What I like about “Dil hi to hai”, is (apart from the lyrical genius of Ghalib, which is unparalleled) the way it is composed and sung by Nawabjaan in Gulzar’s serial. The slight sense of enthusiasm and resignation (a touching paradox) juxtaposed gives it an almost dreamy feeling. That to me is so quintessentially Ghalib – in the deepest sadness, when it has so much become a part of you, you forget the sorrow for a moment. He sums it all so well in another one liner of his:

Mushqilein hum par padee itni, ke aasaan ho gayee

So here’s to “Dil hi to hai”. To me, it’s another way of saying “It’s my heart, it’s my sorrow. I will cry all I want. So, let me. Let me be”. What always confounds me is the way Ghalib talks about unrequited love. Whether its about a beloved one or GOD is your interpretation.

Dil Hi To Hai Na Sang-o-Khist
Dard Se Bhar Na Aaye Kyon?
Royenge Hum Hazaar Baar
Koi Hamein Sataye Kyon?

It’s only a (my) heart, not a stone or brick,
Why should it not be overcome with pain?
I will cry a thousand times,
Why should one torment(stop) me?

Why do you ask me to stop brooding, stop crying? Why do you torment me? Why do you ask me to compose myself? Why don’t you just let me cry my heart out, a thousand times over? It’s all right to hurt so much. It’s a heart, made of flesh and blood. It’s my heart. It’s my prerogative. Cry I will.

Dair Nahin, Haram Nahin,
Dar Nahin, Aastan Nahin
Baithe Hain Reh-Guzar Pe Hum
Gair Hamein Uthaye Kyon?

Neither the temple, nor the mosque
Nor on someone’s door or porch
I lie waiting on the path where He will tread
Why should strangers lift me up(compel me to go)?

I am crying alone, and on my own, waiting for my beloved. I am not troubling anyone, not in anyone’s path, nor seeking help or sympathy. Just let me be. Let me sit and cry here forever. It’s my pain, my sorrow, my tears. Don’t worry about me, nor take pity on my state. Don’t let the tears in my eyes bother you one bit, O’ stranger. Go on, your way.

Qaid-e-Hayaat o Band-e-Gham,
Asl Mein Dono Ek Hain
Maut Se Pehlre Aadmi
Gum Se Nijaat Paye Kyon?

This prison called life and the sorrow captive in it,
In reality are one and the same
Before the very end (death),
How can then one get free from it?

One cannot escape from pain, when in life, until the very end. Sorrow is not fleeting, it’s eternal, everlasting. As long as you live, with the expectations and desires that fill your life, you will experience pain. Sorrow is your neighbor in this prison cell of life. Sorrow is you, yourself, till you live. Sorrow is your life itself. Why then, do you want to run away from it? Why then, do you attempt the futile?

Han Woh Nahin Khuda Parast
Jaao Woh Bewafa Sahi
Jisko Ho Deen-o-Dil Aziz
Uski Gali Mein Jaye Kyon?

True he is an atheist,
So what if he is unfaithful
Dear to who is faith and heart
Why would you/he venture there?

Confounding! Is he saying that it’s better to trust the non-believer and unfaithful, because he is at least true to his inherent nature? Is he suggesting that human beings are by nature selfish, without faith and heartless, who will only cause pain and heartbreak? Perhaps.

It could also be a Ghalibesque reflection of complete resignation in unrequited love. I know my beloved is a heartless, unfaithful, selfish non-believer who has no love for me and completely ignores my pain. But I would rather sink in my sorrow, than go anywhere else, to someone who feigns loyalty and love. I would rather live with a truth of destruction, than the false feeling of hope.

Ghalib-e-Khast Ke Bagair
Kaunse Kaam Band Hain?
Roeeye Zaar-Zaar Kya?
Keejiye Haye-Haye Kyon?

Without the wretched/devastated “Ghalib”
Has any activity come to a halt?
What then is the need to cry bitterly?
What then is the need to wail and brood?

Don’t you cry for me, and don’t you wail and brood. Wretched and devastated as I am, in my condition, I don’t matter. I don’t matter to you, to anyone. My sorrow, my pain is mine only, and does not concern you or anyone else. I will wither away, and nothing will change. I will die and turn to ashes, and no one will notice. I will be forgotten in the humdrum of life, in the mornings, afternoons, evenings and nights of your life. I don’t figure in your scheme of things. You will forget this moment of pain. You will look forward to your life. So don’t you cry for me. Don’t you wail and brood.

O’ Ghalib, you cut me like a knife every single time I hear you. And then, you make me want to hurt a little more, all over again.





  1. In case you’re going to pick another one of Ghalib to translate —

    “Bazeecha-e-atfal hai duniya mere agey..Hota hai shab-o-roz tamasha mere agey.
    Hota he niha gard me sehra mere hote..Ghista he zami khaak pe dariya mere agey..
    Mat pooch ke kya haal hai mera tere peeche..Tu dekh ke kya rang hai tera mere agey..
    Imaan mujhe roke hai jo kheenche hai mujhe kufr.. Kaba mere peeche hai Kalisa mere agey..
    Go haath ko zumbish nahi ankho me to dum hai.. rehne do abhi sagr-o-mina mere agey..”

  2. Satyendra,

    Glad you liked it. Bazeecha.. is one of my favorites.. Will definitely try that one. Although, I must admit, doing justice to Ghalib’s verse is beyond anyone. I feel an attempt at translation of a Ghalib verse almost always trivializes the originally conceived emotion. But the attempt in itself is a wonderful experience.


  3. So I’m listening this 1 and can’t help writing it, I’m sure you would have heard it –

    Kasid ke ate ate khate ek aur likh rakhu.. main janta hu wo jo likhege jawab me..
    Kab se hu kya batau jahan-e-kharab me.. Shaba-e-hizra ko bhi gar rakhu hisab me..
    Mujh tak kab unki bazm me ata tha daur-e-jaam.. saaki ne kuch mila na diya ho Sharab me..
    Tafir me itezaar me neend aye umra bhar.. ane ka ehed kar gaye aye jo khwab me..
    Ghalib chooti Sharab par ab bhi kabhi kabhi.. peeta hu roz-e-abra shab-e-mahtaab me..!!

  4. I was searching for a translation of “Dil Hi To Hein, Na Sang-O-Khist…”
    That’s how I came across this piece of writing… truely good one…!

    Could you please make me understand the meaning of the following piece?

    “Un ke dekhe se jo aa jati hai mun par ronaq,
    Woh samajhtey hain keh beemar ka haal accha hai..

    Dekhiye paate hain usshaq buton se kya faiz,
    Ek brahman ne kaha hai keh yeh saal accha hai..

    Hum ko maaloom hai jannat ki haqeeqat laikin,
    Dil kay khush rakhnay ko Ghalib yeh khayal accha hai…”

    Thanks Deb… Keep Well

  5. Great translation.. thanks.
    Jisko ho Din-o- dil aziz
    uski gali me jaye kyu?

    I read another translation, which explains it

    I know that she is an atheist and unfaithful
    So, who loves his own heart and faith,
    Why does he venture in her lane!

  6. Poetry by Mirza Ghalib ji and composition by Jagjit Singh ji!! Amazing words, amazing voice, and then amazing translation from you. Rightly said, Mirza Ghalib has touched each and every human emotion so greatly in his poems. “Kehte Hain Ke Ghalib Ka Hain, Andaazein Bayaan Aur”.

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