Translation - Aah Ko Chahiye Ek (Ghalib)

aah ko chahiye ek umar asar hone tak
kaun jeeta hai tere zulf ke sar hone tak?

Line 1/2 - Ghalib laments that it would take a lifetime of sighs of the lover to have an influence (or affect) on the heart of the beloved. Who knows who will live so long so see this fructify. Who will live so long to see your hairs properly arranged and your small nuances (curls of your hairs could mean the tangled/mysterious ways of your life) to get resolved. The poet says these small niceties/concerns of yours may take forever and who knows if I am alive to see you finally free and giving me the full attention that I deserve.

daam har mauj mein hai halqa-e-sad kaam-e-nahang
dekhain kya guzre hai qatre pe guhar hone tak

Line 3/4 - In a net of each ocean wave, lies a circle of devouring crocodiles with hundred jaws. See what struggle a grain of sand has to go through to become a magnificent pearl. The metaphor, the imagery in the lines is simply breathtaking. The poet says that life is full of endless churning (as waves in the vast ocean) and of dangerous obstacles (like the menacing crocodiles on this ocean) and yet my deep love for you and my patience will ultimately make my love, the jewel of my life. This love will survive against all odds slowly growing on to be something really magnificent and worth cherishing.

aashiqee sabr talab aur tamanna betaab
dil ka kya rang karoon khoon-e-jigar hone tak?

Line 5/6 - True love asks for patience but this desire and longing and search is making me restless. How should my heart remain, until I am consumed by this suffering? What color should I paint my heart with till it dies with in the agony of love? What should be the mood/temperament of my heart until you destroy it with your whims and indifference? What kind of emotion should it wear until it is killed? The poet says he know love demands patience but what should he tell his heart until it is ruthlessly broken by the beloved.

ham ne maana ke taghaful na karoge, lekin
khaak ho jaayenge ham tumko khabar hone tak

Line 7/8 -I know you will not be indifferent to me, but I may have died and turned to dust when the news of my situation reaches you. The poet says that I know you will not be apathetic towards me forever, but it could be that by the time you care to inquire about my well being (or respond to my love); I may be dead and turned to dust. The poet reassuringly tells his beloved, that I understand you will not be indifferent towards me, but who knows I may be dust by the time you get some news of me. One could also interpret it as poet hinting that if his love is not requited he will kill himself for the sake of love and it will be the only news she will get.

partav-e-khur se hai shabnam ko fana'a ki taaleem
main bhi hoon ek inaayat ki nazar hone tak

Line 9/10 - The morning drops of dew know of their imminent death by the morning sun's rays. The morning sun has taught them this lesson of mortality. I too, exist only till you grant me with a glance. The poet compares the radiant early sun with his beloved’s face and said that dew knows of its transitory life, I too live till the time I catch your glance. Your one glimpse is enough to take my life away. Beautiful simile indeed!

ek nazar besh naheen fursat-e-hastee ghaafil
garmi-e-bazm hai ik raqs-e-sharar hone tak

Line 11/12 - A single glance (from you) and no more is enough to fill the years (span) of my life and keep me lost in this world careless thinking of you only. That one glance is adequate to make me lose interest in the matters of living. Alternatively one can argue that it could mean the exact opposite where the poet says that - just your one glance is not enough for me and for my existence that is unaware/confused and looking for answers. The warmth of the meeting (between the lovers) is no longer than the dance of the flames burning in the night. The warmth (of the company) provides comfort as long as it burns (as long as we are together) but as soon as its burns out (i.e. we separate), the darkness (despair in our relationship) takes over.

gham-e-hastee ka 'Asad' kis'se ho juz marg ilaaz
shamma'a har rang mein jaltee hai sahar hone tak

Line 13/14 - The endless suffering that we call as life, ‘Asad’ has no cure for it other than death. Death eventually would heal all the misery and struggle that existence carries. The candle burns all through the night to the very dawn, burning (suffering) through all the colors and then eventually die out. In the same way, existence would eventually fade out passing through all the shades of life. The candle is the metaphor for life that burns sometimes brightly sometimes flickering and ultimately gets extinguished.

Meaning of difficult words: -
daam = net/trap
mauj = wave
halqa = ring/circle
sad-kaam-e-nahang = crocodile with a hundred jaws
guhar = pearl
talab = search
taghaful = neglect/ignore
partav-e-khur = sun's reflection/light/image
shabnam = dew
fana'a = mortality
inaayat = favour
besh = too much/lots
fursat-e-hastee = duration of life
ghaafil = careless
raqs = dance
sharar = flash/fire
hastee = life/existence
juz = other than
marg = death
sahar = morning

Read more posts on Ghalib.


  1. This is the best explanation ever. Hats off to the writer.

  2. This ghazal touch to one's heart. The meaning touches the every aspects of ghazal. Let it be related to the literal or philosophical meaning. I mean to say the translation is meaningful.

  3. Amazing rendition by Jagjit Singh and beautiful ghazal by Mirza Ghalib

  4. Short and sweet. Hats off..

  5. ek baar suraiya ji ki voice me suniyeye ghazal..