Meherban hoke bulalo mujhe

June 14, 2006 at 1:21 pm 5 comments



Meherbaan hoke bulalo mujhe chaho jis vaqt
Main gaya vaqt nahin hoon ki phir aa bhi na sakoon.

Zauf mein taanah-e agyaar ka shikvah kya hai
Baat koi sar to nahin hai ki utha bhi na sakoon.

Zahar mujhko milta hi nahin sitamgar varna
Kya kasam hai tere milne ki ki kha bhi na sakoon.

Empson writes: "Thus a word may have several distinct meanings; several meanings connected with one another; several meanings which need one another to complete their meaning; or several meanings which unite together so that the word means one relation or one process." (William Empson, Seven Types of Ambiguity). He might as well be talking about Ghalib.

This is a poem so full of multiple meanings and subtle resonances that I won't even try to translate it. Even if I could convey the overall sense of the poem (and that in itself is difficult, because words do not have the same multiple meanings in one language as they do in another), I couldn't even begin to capture the sound of Ghalib's verses – the fact that all that verbal brilliance comes packaged in lines that have the authentic simplicity of the speaking voice.

Charles Simic, in his review of Gluck's Averno in the current issue of the New York Review of Books [1], quotes some forgotten source as saying that to read a poem you need to know at least two languages: the language the poet is writing in and the language of poetry itself. The trouble with Ghalib is that he's not just writing in a different language, even the language of his poetry is a different dialect. You either speak it, or you don't.

At any rate, this is one of my favourite Ghalib pieces – not least because it's short enough and simple enough for even someone with my limited Urdu to get it. But it's that compression, and that simplicity, that make this poem miraculous as well. One of the incredible things about Ghalib is that each couplet of his can stand as a poem by itself, and these three couplets are a wonderful illustration of that.

You can find the rest of Ghalib's poems here.


[1] A review notable chiefly for the fact that it spends at least as much time quoting Gluck's poems as it does talking about them. Simic says almost nothing about the book he's supposedly reviewing, and very little of value about Gluck more generally, but at least he has the decency to let her poems talk for themselves.


Entry filed under: Falstaff, Mirza Ghalib, Urdu.

All Who Seek You Sonnet CXXXVIII

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Quizman  |  September 18, 2006 at 9:41 pm

    “One of the incredible things about Ghalib is that each couplet of his can stand as a poem by itself.”

    Actually, that is the underlying criteria of a ghazal. The aashaar need not be connected to each other even if they are part of the same ghazal.

  • 2. falstaff  |  September 19, 2006 at 8:27 pm

    Quizman: Technically, yes. But the fact that each couplet is self-contained doesn’t mean that it would work as a poem by itself. At least not as a particularly good poem. The point I was trying to make wasn’t the fairly pedantic one that the couplets made sense independently, but the more subjective one that they were beautiful by themselves, and would be impressive as poems even if quoted out of context. Of course, that’s not true of all of Ghalib’s couplets, just as it is true of some couplets by other poets. I just think it tends to be true for Ghalib more than it does for other poets.

  • 3. Ravi Kopra  |  August 13, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    English translation at:

  • 4. Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib  |  February 14, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    […] Meherban hoke bulalo mujhe […]

  • 5. Jamil  |  February 16, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    Wa g kya bat he buhot umda


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