Sunday, March 1, 2009

Ghalib is openly deceived

This week,s verse reaches outside the usual compilation of ghazals in Ghalib's divaan. It is from a qasiidaa (panegyric) in the form of a ghazal.

ہیں کواکب کچھ نزر آتے ہیں کچھ
دیتے ہیں دھوکا یہ بازیگر کھلا

हैं कवाकिब कुछ नजर आते हैं कुछ
देते हैं धोका यह बाज़ीगर खुला

haiN kawakib kuchh nazar aate haiN kuchh
detey haiN dhokaa yeh baaziigar khulaa

1. The stars/constellations are some [one] thing and appear another
2. These conjurers/tricksters trick/fool [us] openly

Acc. to Platts:
A کواکب kawākib, s.m. pl. (of kaukab), Stars; constellations.
P بازي बाज़ी bāzī, vulg. bājī (see bāz, 'playing'), s.f. Play, sport, game, trick; game of chance, hazard; gaming; stake (at play), wager, bet:

This verse does not appear in Desertful of Roses. The translation is ours. Please visit the parallel entry on The South Asian Idea, placing the verse in contemporary social context.

It is a charming verse which exploits the power of the simple yet multivalent word "kuchh" which can mean both "something" and "a few things." The rhetorical power of the verse also derives from the idiomatic use of "khulaa dhoka dena" (to trick or cheat openly).

In one reading here we can imagine the word "aur" at the end of line one. Then the verse reads straightforwardly as the stars are open tricksters because in full view they appear as one thing but are actually something entirely different. Of course we don't know what precisely Ghalib has in mind. Is he talking about real stars in the sky which appear as tiny twinkling spots but are really immense, fiery balls spewing gas plumes?

Or less scientifically and more poetically is he referring to the stars on Earth, the beautiful ones who appear sweet and innocent but really are heartless killers who won't think twice about trampling on lovers' hearts. They trick (play with the lover's heart) openly, in full view of the world. The word "baazigar" is more complex than "trickster," carrying an implication of someone who gambles on love or plays with one's affections.

This verse also sustains a nice socio-political implication if we think of baazigar also as siyaasatdaan (politicians). The post of South Asian Idea explores this connection further.

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes one misses getting deceived by the (earthly) stars:

    Laag jo wo rakhen to samjhe lagaav,
    Jo ho na kuch bhi to dokha khaayen kya?

    and then appeases himself with:

    Hum jaante hein jannat ki haqiqat lekin,
    Dil ke khush rakhne ko Ghalib ye khayal achcha hai