Translation - Jaur Se Baz Aaye Par Baz Aayen (Ghalib)

jaur se baz aaye par baz aayen kya
kahate hain hum tum ko muh dikhalayen kya

Line 1/2 - Refrained from oppression (she has), but refrain from what did she? (She) says that how can I show my face to you now! The poet referring to the beloved says, that she has finally realized her tyranny and cruelty towards him and has refrained from those injustices. But, alas such is the misery of the lover that the renunciation of the cruelty is of no use to him, for the beloved is now shameful of her past behavior and says that she can't face him or show her face to him. So! what has changed, even after the admission and abstaining from the injustice, I am feeling the same. Her not showing face was the original grievance and her repentance by shying away from facing me puts me back to same situation. I wonder what did she refrained from?

raat din gardish mein hain sat aasman
ho rahega kuch na kuch ghabarayen kya

Line 3/4 - Night and day, the seven skies wander about. Something or the other will happen, should we panic? The poet says, all night and all of day, the seven skies above us wander about and revolve around. Something will happen, should we be anxious? The idea that movements of heavenly bodies decide the fortunes and fate of men is being mentioned. Since all the bodies are moving around, the poet says this will have an affects on us. What those effects would be, we can not tell, but should we panic or fear? An alternative reading of the last line could be, that something will happen for sure, so why fear? We do know yet what is going to happen so no point stressing yet. Let it happen and then we will see.

laag ho to us ko hum samajhen lagav
jab na ho kuch bhi to dhoka khayen kya

Line 5/6 - If it was a grudge, we would have understood it as a affection. When there is no emotions present, how do I delude myself? 'laag' can mean lot of things. The most common being co-relation or bearing. It can also mean affection as well as enmity. The poet says when his beloved showed a grudge or spite towards him, he would deceive himself into thinking that as a mark of affection. I will fool myself into thinking that he was shown warmth and love. But what to do, when there is no emotions shown. When no feeling are conveyed, neither love or anger, when the beloved is just ignoring him then how does he delude himself. What should he fool himself with?

ho liye kyon namabar ke saath-saath
ya rab apne khat ko hum pahunchayen kya

Line 7/8 - Why did I go along with the messenger. O Lord!, Should I deliver my letters to her!  The poet says, in his eagerness and zeal to ensure that his letters to the beloved reach her promptly and without delay, he goes along with his messenger not realizing that he has reached his beloved's doorstep. O God! Why am I here? Am I delivering my letters to her now? An alternate reading could be made my reading the first line differently. The lover says to the beloved that why are you with the messenger. Oh! maybe I need to deliver my own letters now!. Maybe his beloved has developed an affinity for the messenger. In that case, it is prudent not to send the letters via the messenger for he may read it for he is a rival now!

mauj-e-khun sar se guzar hi kyon na jaye
aastan-e-yaar se uth jayen kya

Line 9/10 - Even if the waves of blood were high enough to wash over my head, Would I rise up from the home of my beloved? The poet says even if the waves of blood came rushing forth, high enough to wash over his head, his head would still be bowed down at the door of his beloved's home. Come what may, come even the apocalypse, but I would not rise up from that door. I read an interesting alternate reading of these lines. The poet in this interpretation questions - why should not the waves of blood wash over my head? No one knows what rises from the abode of my beloved. Such is the tyranny of my beloved, that I have no clue as to what may come forth (from her powers) as I lay on her doorstep. I could very well be waves of blood (cataclysm) that wash over my head.

umr bhar dekha kiye marane ke rah
mar gae par dekhiye dikhalayen kya

Line 11/12 - Through out my life, I waited for death. Now that I am dead, lets see what I have to show for it! This could be read in so many ways. The poet says I have waited for death all my life. I fancied death throughout my life. But now that I am dead, I am not sure what I have to show. All my life, I longed for death as if my dying would redeem everything. Alas! nothing like this happened, the world around goes on unworried and undisturbed (referring to may either God or his beloved). I have nothing to brag for in my death for they continue to behave unfazed. An alternate could be that after death, in front of God I have nothing to show in my life (in terms of deeds). Yet another could be that now that I am dead, lets see how they (God or his beloved) treat me. Their indifference and my agony made me to wish for death. Now dead, lets see if they treat me any better in death!

puchate hain wo ki “ghalib” kon hai
koi batalao ki hum batalayen kya

Line 13/14 - She asks, - who is Ghalib? Someone tell me for what should I tell her? These lines again can be read in so many possibilities. The poet says that his beloved is endearingly asking "Who is this Ghalib?', a genuine question for she does not know? To this the poet in a light banter says someone tell me what should I tell her? In-spite of my lifelong dedication to her, she is still unaware of me and my love. Well! someone tell me what can I tell her for she has no clue of who I am. What words can cover or complement my lifelong loyalty to her. An alternate meaning could be the beloved in scornful tone asks "Well! Who does this Ghalib thinks he is?" To which the poet ponders - Someone tell me, if I should tell. In response to disdainful tone of the beloved's question, it may be prudent just to be quiet for now. Can somebody confirm?

Meaning of difficult words -
jaur = oppression/tyranny
baz = refrain, hawk
gardish = misfortune/wandering about
laag = co-relation, enmity
laagav = love/affection
naamaabar = messenger
mauj = wave
aastaan = abode

Read more posts on Ghalib.


  1. Again a brilliant translation and interpretation of the Ghazal,though most of the people have heard of the Maqta but only a handful of people have read the Ghazal in its entirety.
    However, for the 7/8 line I have a different version, i felt: Oh God! Why did I trust the messenger at all, given the importance of the letter; since the messenger is unaware of what the letter means to me, he might treat it like any other and in the process there is a chnace that it might not get delivered at all and that will be devastating for me. Oh! God, I should not have trusted the messenger in the first place.

  2. Thanks Susanta. Appreciate the comments here.

    That is the thing with Ghalib, any of those lines could mean be interpreted differently on how you read its different words. Like 'saath saath' as in to go along with(literally). In colloquial usage, this meaning of the lover and messenger going along just to make sure the message is delivered or maybe just because he is so impatient or in this dreamy senses that he just tags along. In any of the reading, it captures the edginess of the lover, his state of mind and his anxiety that is his message getting across? his thoughts linger on the messages as he is getting no response back even though he probably knows that she hasn't sent any!

  3. Exactly Rahul,couldn't agree more.

    Ghalib is an interpreter's delight. All his "shers" can be seen in various ways. While "Saath Saath" literally means go along with or together, it also can be interpreted as putting trust in him i.e. messenger.

    The maqta can also be interpreted in various ways, barring the two possible explanations that you gave, another can be: Even if after considerable fame and reputation in the society, I am asked to introduce myself, what am I to say?? My words are there to be read for generations to come; and moreover a true artist is introduced by different people in different ways. So tell me which one to be chosen??
    An alternative can be, many people know me in various capacities, poet or otherwise, tell me which one to choose?
    The explanation you gave were great, but if we take the sher out of the confines of the mere lover and besotted Ghalib, it can also be another explanation.

  4. @Susanta. Thanks for these. I agree. Sometimes if the ghazal has some overarching themes, then the thinking process just gets boxed up thinking on those lines. If I would have read the maqta in isolation, I would have said one of the many themes that you pointed out. But again as Ghalib says - someone tell me in what should I say! I am all ears, just tell me in what way you want it to be... :)

  5. Dear Rahul, As Susanta rightly captured - a brilliant attempt at explaining the mood and environment created by this Ghazal! You won it for me, with the interpretation of "laag". I was never aware that laag and laggav could have opposite meanings, their root being the same! I always took, "laag" as romantic playful exchanges - but your explanation makes the aashaar very relevant now. Ghalib! O Ghlaib!

    Please keep this journey alive!

    @Susanta - Really liked your interpretations too. Icing to the cake! Especially how you mentioned that some couplets could be read out of the boxed context of the beloved and the lover. Again makes us think of the 'tilism' of these great people and their mastery over stringing words, feelings and things beyond!

    Aate hain ghaib se ye mazaameen khayaal mein,
    Ghalib, sareer-e-khaama nawa-e-sarosh hai!