Like many other of Ghalib’s ghazals, you could pick it up from anywhere, start reading from wherever you want. And so I will. A quick caveat that this is not an exhaustive translation of the entire ghazal, but merely a commentary of some key lines that I adore more than others. But before I begin, as a true admirer of Ghalib and his inimitable style, I will first indulge in some ranting. It’s good to rant. It’s like medicine for the soul.
I am a creature of love. It is the universal energy that creates and destroys me, makes my heart pulsate, runs the blood through my veins, causes my synapses to touch, my arms and legs to move, my vocal chords to tremble and is the only and ultimate evidence of my being. It makes me think, laugh, cry, get restless, be hopeful, feel desperation and euphoria. It makes me come alive. I am ecstatic when I am bathed in it, I even delight in the hurt it causes but mostly I cry in its absence, and I agonize in its coldness and insensitivity. In the most ironic way possible, love is so much a part of who I am, and yet so little of what I possess or experience. As I try to understand and articulate into words what I feel quiver so strongly within me, I wonder if all that effort is worth anything after all; if there is anything precious about understanding pain, any value in living through misery, any treasure buried underneath all my suffering that my words try to unravel. Or is it just incurable hope, in the desperate search of heaven, trying to dig and rake mindlessly in the burnt cinders of a lifetime of hell.
Ye massail-e-tasavvuf, ye tera bayaan Ghalib
Hum tujhe vali samajhte, jo na baada-khvaar hota
But why must you listen to my ranting? I am after all Ghalib, the intoxicated fool, the baada-khvar whose mystic words can neither be believed nor overrated.
To me the essence of “Ye na thi..” echoes somewhere in the depths of hopeless dejection, turning and twisting in the dark, bottomless caverns, encouraged once in a while, by the somewhat foggy mirageesque path to consummate love that seems so tantalizingly close, yet out of reach. It is the agonizing realization of the deep chasm that lies between reality and the stuff of dreams. So close, yet so far. And having fallen into those deep, echoing caverns of hopelessness, running from one dark corner to the other, you come face to face with yourself, with what you so intensely desire and so fervently miss in your life, and you feel the force of love inside of you. Only in true darkness, can you really see the meaning of light. Only in the depths of the gorge can you truly understand the value of crossing it, what lies beyond.
Khushi se mar na jaate agar aitbaar hota
But unfortunately, with my understanding of love also emerges the knowledge of it’s folly and futility. Now that I know what it is, I am wiser in not believing the promise of heaven. I am not seduced by that foggy light. Through my suffering, I have been robbed of my naiveté.
Tere vaade par jiye hum, to yeh jaan jhooth jaana
So, my friends, as you see me bleed, don’t offer me any more advice. Pray, do not try to explain my suffering to me anymore. I know where it stems from, and I am deeply aware where it cuts me and makes me weep. Wisdom and advice is not what I need. All that my heart years for is a shoulder to lean on and cry, some comforting words, a light soothing touch that heals, so I can go on living through it, on my own terms.
Ye kahaan ki dosti hai, ke bane hain dost naaseh
Koi charaasaaz hota, koi gham-gusaar hota
While the exquisite and priceless is beyond my destiny, I would rather live forever in the misery of hope, than die of one clear shot, or give up having not tried at all. I would rather hang perilously to the cliff of this chasm till my last fingernails, smoldering slowly in the fire of your desire till The wind blows away my ashes, elongating the agony for as long as I can, living in the seemingly perpetual slowed down reality, perhaps with the incurable hope of finding heaven. I love this anxiety. I live in it. It is what keeps me going. It is what I have to come to know that is me.
Koi mere dil se pooche, tere tire-neem-kash ko
Ye khalish kahaan se hoti, jo jigar ke paar hota
O, Ghalib, don’t leave us tottering on this high rope yet again. Decide for once between hope and hopelessness.