By Vishnu Makhijani
It is truly the result of a lifetime of devotion to Mirza Ghalib’s work from the time Najeeb Jung’s mother recited her poetry to him until the time his daughters helped him with the translation by finding the words. closer to do justice to the original.
It’s a journey that began when he was four years old, but it wasn’t until mid-2010 that Jung, 70, former lieutenant governor of Delhi and former vice chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia, found the right “Ustad” to guide him through the translation process. The result is “DEEWAAN-E-GHALIB – Sariir-e-Khaama” (Rekhta Books), an English interpretation of 235 of Ghalib’s poems with the originals in Roman script.
“In these troubled times, Ghalib’s open discourse, his compassion and understanding, and his plurality are of enormous importance. It demolishes current views about man and his relationship with God, or the existence of heaven or hell, or man’s attraction to heaven and his fear of hell, sin and hell. goodness. For him, the truth was not the monopoly of any religion or dogma and the path to the truth was open to all. To that end, it is essential for our time, ”Jung told IANS in an interview.
“This is precisely why I made this translation – a step to bring it closer to those who speak Urdu / Hindustan but have limited vocabulary, or those who know English and wish to read and understand it. Roman writing needs a little practice to become familiar and to make reading easy, and translation gives words meaning. I did not provide comments to the translations as that would make the book too complex and more of a comment, ”he added.
It was quite an inspiring trip and deserves to be told in its entirety.
“If I remember correctly, I was about 4 years old when my late mother (Ammi) taught me Ghalib. We also did a bit of Iqbal but Ghalib was his passion. So while my friends in class were reciting English nursery rhymes, I was chanting Ghalib – not that I understood the meaning !! I was a popular kid at family gatherings for this. In fact, my mother would often tell a story how Maulana Azad, who was a family friend and we often visited her house in Edward Road, now renamed Maulana Azad Road, insisted on listening to Ghalib being recited by a 4/5 year old. old child, ”Jung said.
As time went on and the school (St Columba’s) grew in importance, Ghalib moved away from the background “but Ammi and I kept reciting to each other from time to time. I continued to read the Deewan (in the original) whenever I could, having acquired many editions and prints over time ”.
In the early 2000s he was at Oxford as a visiting scholar and had access to some outstanding libraries.
“I thought that I had read enough and that I should try my hand at Master’s translation for English speakers or those who understood Urdu but did not have adequate vocabulary. It didn’t take long for me to realize I wasn’t equipped for the task – neither my vocabulary was so good, nor did I fully understand the nuances and depth of his thinking. I needed to read a lot more and research the various “sharas” (comments) of other well known thinkers and writers and therefore find the right Ustad. The big question was how to get THAT person, ”Jung explained.
Luckily, he came to Jamia Millia Islamia in August 2009 and it was here that his search for Ustad began. His secretary, Zafar Hashmi, introduced him to Professor Khalid Mahmood who at the time was the head of the Urdu department.
“Something clicked” the first time they interacted and Jung knew he had found his teacher.
“Khalid sahib is not only an extremely good human being, but a deep thinker. He knew Ghalib, but most of all, was happy to read and re-read Ghalib, and to spend time with me. Let me add that it was also a labor of love on her part – and all the hours and years that we have worked together there have never been any fees paid or even expected. It was a sacred relationship between a teacher and a student on a subject that they loved and therefore loved to work together, ”said Jung.
From mid-2010 to the end of 2016, every day, they read Ghalib; reread Ghalib, discussed the “ashaar” (nuances of couplets), looked at the comments and the different interpretations, agreed and sometimes disagreed.
“At that point, I felt ready to attempt a translation. The big question for me whether I should translate the whole Deewan or choose the popular ghazals, already well known through popular films and ghazals sung by greats like (KL) Saigal, Begum Akhtar, Jagjit Singh etc. and stick to translating them. I don’t know why I decided to translate all of Deewan.
“It took me four years to do this. It has been a grueling labor of love, a dream I have lived with. Sometimes a verse wouldn’t be difficult, but some would be grueling. For example, I spent months agonizing over Deewan’s first verse: Naqsh faryadi hai kiskii shokhi-e-tahreer ka / Kaaghazi hai pairahan har paikar-e-tasweer ka, ”Jung explained.
He found it impossible to give a real impression of this. So he would wake up at night and think about it, think about it on long walks, on long flights – and was never satisfied.
What eventually emerged was: What playful writings can a picture petition against / Because made of paper is every picture holding.
There were more like it and hours were spent searching for words that would convey the most appropriate meaning to what Ghalib meant.
“I would look for my daughters, discuss the verse and most of the time they would find the right expression. It is difficult for a family to be with a passion-obsessed husband or parent but to play with him with patience and courage. In fact, for the second half of 2020, we were all together in New York City with everyone helping to finish the job. I guess all of us wanted to finish this job as soon as possible. Ten years was enough, ”Jung said.
He also pointed out that Ghalib is multi-layered and that different meanings can be derived from the same couplet.
“Take the popular couplet: Aah ko chahiye ik umr asar hone tak / Kaun jiita hai teri zulf ke sar hone tak. The simplest interpretation is of a lover moaning how long it would take for his sighs to take effect and if he would even live until the beloved was ready. But couldn’t it be a question to God how long a person would wait for his prayer to be answered, if he would not have died until the prayer was answered?
“Ghalib has a strange informal relationship with God. He is a Muslim believing in Allah and his Prophet, but rejects dogma and ritualism and opens a world of modern thought and iconoclasm: Bandagi mein bhi vo aazada o khudbiin hain ke hum / Ulte phir aaye dar-e- Kaaba agar vaa na hua (While being a believer, I am so independent and proud / That I would turn away from the Kaaba if its door was not opened)
“Or even challenge the established Islamic belief: Hum ko maloom hai jannat ki haqeeqat lekin / Dil ke khush rakhne ko Ghalib ye khayaal achha hai (We know the reality of Heaven but / To keep the heart happy, Ghalib, this thought is good) , “Jung said.
Did Ghalib receive his due in India?
“Well, although Urdu is not widely read in India and most people have inadequate vocabulary, Ghalib’s ghazals were sung by the best in India. Although it is almost impossible to sing a ghazal in the Qawali form, even this has happened. Masterpiece films have been made from the 1940s, when Saigal Sahib played Ghalib, to Sohrab Modi’s hit film in the early 1950s to the recent TV series by Gulzar Sahib – who will always remain a pure chef – of work bringing Ghalib into our homes, ”Jung said.
In 1969, the government celebrated the centenary of Ghalib’s death with seminars, discussions and even a Mushiara at the Red Fort in Delhi. In addition, the Rekhta Foundation brought him to the public and a large number of non-Urdu speaking people attend these recitations and talk about him every year.
“So while poetry is not understood in all its subtleties and nuances, Ghalib is most certainly heard and admired by millions of people in India – and over time his popularity grows,” Jung concluded.