Translation - Naqsh Fariyaadee Hai Kiskee (Ghalib)

This is probably among the most famous of Ghalib's work and the most complex that I have come across with each verse having various connotations and multiple streams of interpretation. This translation uses fair help from other sources over the web.

naqsh fariyaadee hai kiskee shokhee-e-tehreer ka
kaaghazee hai pairhan har paikar-e-tasweer ka

Line 1/2 - The poet says this written complaint, against whose mischief of writing/painting is it against? Every face in this painting wears a dress of paper. A bit of history before we understand this seemingly meaningless couplet. In old Persia a complainant would enter the courts of kings wearing clothing made of paper in order to display their humility and abjectness. Ghalib cleverly employing this scheme says against whose mischief and fickleness is this written complaint directed? Who wronged? For every face in this painting is made of paper (i.e. they are in despair) The picture here being that of the Universe and the mischief doer being the God. The question asked being whose mischief was this to create such a painting where each character is suffering and helpless. All faces appear helpless pleading in front of God. The poet asks Why was Universe such created? Why are we made so helpless? The questioning in the first line and the realization in the second is the beauty of this verse.

kaave-kaave sakht_jaanee haay tanhaaee na pooch
subah karna shaam ka laana hai joo-e-sheer ka

Line 3/4 - The poet says ask me not of the hard and difficult work that life is excavating through this hardness of solitude. To turn this lonely evening into the morning is like creating a river of milk (an impossible task).  Ghalib says living life solitary is like digging slowly and laboriously through the hard and unyielding rock. It makes the whole existence toilsome and punishing. And to pass the night alone waiting for the next day is like making a river of milk. The passing of night (separated from my beloved) is no less taxing than that impossible task.

jazba-e-be_ikhtiyaar-e-shauq dekha chaahiye
seena-e-shamsheer se baahar hai dam shamsheer ka

Line 5/6 - The poet says you should have seen the passion of the uncontrollable desire. The breath of the sword is beyond the chest of the sword. This is such a brilliant play on words. Here the breath is used to describe the edge of the sword. Ghalib says that see the rage of the irrepressible fervor and zeal. It like as if the rage has filled the sword with emotion and fury so much that the sword was now outside its sheath. The breath is literally tearing out of the chest chaining it in midst of this uncontrollable rage. Totally awesome!

aagahee daam-e-shuneedan jis qadar chaahe bichaaye
mudda'a 'anqa hai apne aalam-e-taqreer ka

Line 7/8 - The poet says that let knowledge spread its trap of conversation that way it wants to. The meaning of my universe of discourse is like a angha bird. Angha or simurgh (in persian literature) is a mythical bird that is appears as a peacock with the head of a dog and the claws of a lion.(wikipedia) In short it is difficult to conjecture what exactly is it or even if it exists? Ghalib says the let the net of intelligence spread its reach where ever it wants through the conversation. Lets my knowledge (through talking) cast its net far/wide and anyway it wants. The intention of my domain of discussion is like a angha bird. What I discourse is hard to comprehend or there maybe no meaning or truth in it. Here angha is a metaphor of something which is elusive to make sense and grasp.

bus ke hoon 'ghalib' aseeree mein bhee aatish zer-e-pa
moo-e-aatish_deeda hai halqa meree zanjeer ka

Line 9/10 - The poet says I am as much Ghalib, the one who even in captivity, has fire beneath his feet. The rings of my chain looks like (curls) of hair burning. Ghalib in his fascinating imagery says even though he is imprisoned, he still has fire under his feet. He is burning restless in his legs. Even the shackles on the legs can not calm him. They chains appear like hairs that have caught fire (and subsequently curled). The ring of the chains on his legs evoke images of hairs being on fire. The coils of burnt hair are so soft and airy that they do not concern me (bother me), same are these shackles that bound me. I am not bothered by them. To me they are like coils of burnt hair, soft and un-hampering.

Meaning of difficult words.
naqsh = copy/print
fariyaad = complaint
tehreer = hand writing
kaaghazee = delicate
pairhan = dress
paikar = appearance
kaave-kaave = hard work
sakht_jaanee = tough life
joo = canal/stream
sheer = milk
joo-e-sheer = to create a canal of milk(here means to perform an impossible task)
ikhtiyaar = authority/power
shamsheer = sword
aagahee = knowledge/intuition
daam = net/trap
shuneed = conversation
'anqa = rare
aalam = world/universe
taqreer = speech/discourse
aseeree = imprisonment/captivity
zer-e-pa = under the feet
moo = hair
aatish_deeda = roasted on fire
halqa = ring/circle

Read more posts on Ghalib.

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