The Fourth Era of Āb-e ḥayāt:
[SAYYID INSHĀʾALLĀH ḲHĀN, Concluded]
His dress and manners: When you look at his volume, a picture of his life and his habits is drawn for you. When he came into a mushairah, or went to court, in one direction he offered a respectful greeting #270# with suitable courtesy--and in another direction, he smiled--and in another direction, he made faces. Sometimes he was entirely a proper gentleman, sometimes a Delhi-style rake; sometimes he shaved his beard on one side, sometimes he shaved his face clean--including his eyebrows.
If you look at his Complete Works, this is just the situation of his verses. And there's no doubt that from the point of view of amusement and joking, having him at a gathering was no less than having a jester. Thus Muṣḥafī did not lie when he said about his satires, '/By God, you are no poet, but a jester, a eunuch/'.
Although this poor man too runs around in the same narrow circle within which the poets of Persia and India are shackled, nevertheless he is not limited to the romantic themes that were the basic conventions of the poets of the time. One reason was that a number of his ghazals and odes are in stony grounds. Then, he used to select such ungainly rhymes for them that romantic themes could not often enter in. That is why he made it a rule for his poetry that no matter what kind of a rhyme it was, and what kind of a theme, if it could be fitted into an apropos place, it ought not to be removed. Along with this, there's the fact that a poet has to do mostly with the common people--who enjoy, next to themes of love, nothing so much as humor. And his temperament was the Venus of this particular sky--at every moment it showed a new, radiant aspect. Although the poet bound by convention and custom can sit at home and say whatever he wishes, when Sayyid Inshā came into the gathering of friends, or the arena of a mushairah, he used to light magic chandeliers; then cries of praise and 'Bravo! Bravo!' flowed steadily upward like smoke, and the gathering became a balloon [bailūn]. The truth is that he was the founder of his own style--and he himself brought it to its conclusion.
The unevenness in his poetry is not due to ignorance: People say that Sayyid Inshā's poetry is not everywhere fit to provide an authority. This view is accurate. But the unevenness in his poetry is not due to ignorance. Rather, it was deliberate. Or else it was carelessness that caused him to have no respect--compared to his own brilliant temperament and versatile abilities--for grammar and the grammarians. The truth is that the ebullience of his accomplishment used the acid of his caustic temperament--and melted rules and grammar into water. In words and idioms he took many #271# liberties. If these liberties had occurred only in a certain number of places, then there would have been no complaints, because who knows the language better and has more power over it than this master of language? Especially since he is equipped with a ready store of learning. But his excess has silenced us as well. And since he was drunk with accomplishment, in his intoxication he could pay no heed to anyone's words. In fact if anyone had been unlucky enough to make an objection, he used sometimes authorities, sometimes appropriate or inappropriate arguments, and along with this sometimes the big guns of satires to make that person the target of his bombardment. Be that as it may, from his poetry someone who knows the situation and seeks accomplishment can derive much advantage. There are a number of most original inventions that are worth wearing on one's brow like a fresh rose of spring. Many others can be made attractively new through a minor change or a bit of editing. Many are such that one can only say about them, /It is a fault to point to the faults of the elders/.
People say that Sayyid Inshā's poetry is libertine,a and that the buffoonery in it is not sprinkled on like salt, #272# but is out of proportion to the main dish. This too is an accurate view. But the reason for it is that Time is a tyrannical ruler, and his laws are made by popular taste. At that time everyone, from the king and the nobles to the beggar and the poor man, delighted in just these things. And their appreciation was such that authors were rewarded more lavishly for even extremely minorb poems than they are nowadays for whole books. If Sayyid Inshā hadn't done this, then what would he have done? How could he have cut out his stomach and thrown it away? The real hero of the turmoil of living considers it a form of accomplishment not to collapse in fatigue halfway along any road. Whatever rocks are in his way he kicks aside, and he comes through. The eyes of Justice see that what that expert in a thousand arts accomplished, could not have been done by just anybody. When I look at Navab Muṣt̤afā Ḳhān Sheftah's Gulshan-e beḳhār [=Garden Without Thorns], then not a thorn but a dagger pierces my heart. About the Sayyid he writes, 'In no genre has he composed in the established way of poets'.
A proper excuse for his immoderations: We can also say why he set foot on these roads, so that his garments became stained with such muck. But those who take a tour through the city of Experience know that when the king of Popular Taste plays Holi, the most grave and dignified persons are proud to receive his spray of color on their heads and turbans. So could he and his contemporaries have left the country, and where could they have gone? They had to live right here, and earn their livelihood from just these people. And the best part was that in that very poetry was his pride, the ancient honor of his family. His patrons too treated him as one of their own. He himself wanted to create this poetry, and he was subject to the commands of these loved and loving people--commands that could be neither evaded nor satisfied. And his patrons were not petty #273# people who could have their minds easily changed by persuasion or could be put off with excuses. They were people like Shāh ʿĀlam the king of Delhi, or sometimes Mirzā Sulaimān Shikoh, or sometimes Saʿādat ʿAlī Ḳhān the ruler of Avadh, and so on.
Commands: Thus there are a number of ghazals about which it's apparent that on some occasion a line fell from Saʿādat ʿAlī Ḳhān's lips, and it was Sayyid Inshā's task to complete the ghazal. One time someone's turban had not been tied properly. Saʿādat ʿAlī Ḳhān said, '/This is no turban--it's a Frenchman's hat!/'. Look at the whole ghazal among his ghazals.
Remarkable commands: Saʿādat ʿAlī Ḳhān was reclining in a small boat, with his head resting in Mīr Inshāʾallāh Ḳhān's lap. In a state of enjoyment, he was having a tour along the river. On the riverbank, he saw a mansion with 'The Mansion of ʿAlī Naqī Ḳhān Bahādur' written on it. He said, 'Inshā, look--someone has composed a chronogram, but has not been able to put it into verse. My friend, you see it's a very fine text--make a quatrain out of it.' Instantly he petitioned,
`Not Arabic, not Persian, not Turkish,
Not a tone, not a beat, not a melody,
Some fool has composed this chronogram:
'The Mansion of ʿAlī Naqī Ḳhān Bahādur'/.
The late Shāh Naṣīr met Sayyid Inshā: The point is also supported by this story: When Shāh Naṣīr Dihlavī went to Lucknow, and enhanced the brightness of the mushairahs by planting gardens in his stony grounds, he also met Sayyid Inshā, who had undertaken to promote the affairs of Delhi people. He said, 'My friend, Mīr Inshāʾallāh Ḳhān! I've come here only for your sake--otherwise, whom do I know in Lucknow, whom I would have come to see?' At that time much of the night had passed. Mīr Inshāʾallāh Ḳhān said, 'Shāh Sahib! The atmosphere of the court here is unique; how can I describe it? People think that I discharge my duty by composing poetry. But I myself don't know what I'm doing. Just look--I went there in the morning, and came back at night. I was just loosening my sash, when the herald came: "His Excellency remembers you once again". When I go, I see that a carpet has been spread out on the upper terrace. It's a moonlit night. On a raised bedstead with wheels, I find His Excellency seated. Flower garlands are lying before him. He has a garland in his hand; he waves it back and forth, and with a touch of his foot the cot moves forward. I respectfully salute him. He commands, #274# "Inshā, recite some verse". Now just please imagine--in such a condition, when you yourself are out of rhythm, how can you remember verses? Well, at the time this is what came to me. I composed it then and there, and recited it:
/Attaching four wheels to your bedstead, when you tossed the garland in your hand
Your bedstead moved like a pleasure-boat through the waves of a moonlight river/.
When he heard this opening verse, he was pleased.' Sayyid Inshā said, 'Now please tell me--is this what is called poetry?' Other occasions of this kind also occurred, which will be described later. In short, in this connection the words of Miyāñ Betāb are worth recording: 'Poetry caused the loss of Sayyid Inshā's greatness and accomplishment, and Saʿādat ʿAlī Ḳhān's companionship destroyed his poetry'.
A colorful anecdote: One day he was sitting with the Navab Sahib, having a meal. Bothered by the heat, he had taken his turban off and put it aside. Seeing his shaven head, the Navab thought of a piece of mischief. Raising his hand, he gave Sayyid Insha's head a slap from behind. Sayyid Inshā quickly covered his head and said, 'Praise be to God! What my elders always said in my youth is true: that if you eat bareheaded, then Satan slaps you!'
Saʿādat ʿAlī Ḳhān, who believed in arranging every matter with decorum and elegance, had commanded that the people of the court should write a fine calligraphic hand, and should pay a fine of one rupee for every error. It happened that among the high-ranking clerks was a Maulvī Sahib. In an account, he wrote down not ajnās [=grains] but ajnā. Saʿādat ʿAlī Ḳhān himself kept tabs on everything. He noticed the error. Maulvīs are clever at explaining things. He quoted [Arabic dictionaries like] Qāmūs [ul-lughāt] and Ṣurāḥ and gave some meaning for ajnā. He referred to some [Ara bic] grammar rules of abridgement, and claimed that they could apply. The Navab gestured to Sayyid Inshā. By means of quatrains and verse-sets, Sayyid Inshā pulverized him:
/What is this ajnā in the ajnās-list?
What's the point of this thundering of a cloud of words?
Although the word ajnā may mean something that grows
What's the point of this new growth of folly?/
#275# That Maulvī Sahib was named Maulvī Suḳhan. Thus he referred to it: [three quatrains, one in Purabi dialect].
An anecdote about an opponent from Bāharah: It was very late at night, and he was releasing his fireworks of jests and witticisms. He wanted to take his leave, but could not find an occasion. One of the Navab's companions, who lived in Bāharah, often ridiculed the city people's ways, and told the Navab Sahib, 'For no reason, you overrate the accomplishment of Sayyid Inshā; in reality, he's not that much'. At that time this companion recited an opening verse by Baqā, and praised it extremely:
/The person who looks in the mirror and says, 'My God, it's me!'
I'm the one who looks at him, Baqā--good for me!/
Everyone praised it. The Navab too liked it. The companion said, 'Your Excellency, have Sayyid Inshā recite [a match for] this opening verse'. The Navab looked in his direction. In truth, the opening verse was peerless. He cudgelled his brain, but he couldn't come up with anything. The Navab again made the request. The Sayyid at once petitioned, 'Your Excellency, I haven't thought of an opening verse, but I've come up with a verse suitable to the occasion; if the command is given, I'll recite it:
/A villager standing at the door last night said,
"You went inside Bāharah [=outside] and you never came outside!"/'1
I have had to omit many jests about him because of their extreme immoderation. And whatever I do record--I don't consider that worth writing, either. But in this respect it's not inappropriate, that people who #276# pick the flowers of admonition even from the thorns of buffoonery will see an example of a famous writer's boldness of temperament. And they will see what a knack this accomplished gentlemen had for judging the age and achieving his purpose through the people of the time.
A rakish jest: One day the Navab kept a fast, and ordered that no one should be admitted. Sayyid Inshā had some urgent work. He arrived. The guard said, 'No one has permission to enter; but as for the rest, it's up to you'. Although the Navab had shown him the greatest kindness, he was wary of the Navab's temperament. Sayyid Inshā hesitated for a little while. Finally he untied his sash and lifted the turban from his head and took off his long outer robe. And draping his sash into a veil such as women wear, he went with extraordinary coquettry before the Navab. When the Navab's gaze fell on him, he placed a finger beside his nose [as women do] and recited,
/May I sacrifice myself for you, oh my darling, don't keep the fast--
In place of you, this servant girl will keep the day of 'a thousand fasts'!/2
The Navab couldn't stop laughing. What Sayyid Inshā wished to say he said, and with much merriment he came away.
A rare anecdote: From his circumstances it is also clear that he helped everyone, and solved everyone's problems, and especially promoted the affairs of the people of Delhi. Thus there was an elegy-reciter in Lucknow called Mīr ʿAlī Sahib, who had equalled the ancient philosophers in his knowledge of music. But he recited only at majlises in his own home; he never went to recite anywhere else. The Navab, hearing the fame of his accomplishment, eagerly sent for him, but he refused. And after the exchange of a number of messages, he even said, 'If he is the ruler of the age, then I too, since I am a Sayyid, am a prince. Where's the shame in his coming to my house?' The Navab said, 'I keep many thousands of Sayyids in my house. If the Mīr Sahib has some cause for pride, it's only this: that he's not only a Sayyid but now a Ḍom too! Well, it's up to him.' When Mīr ʿAlī Sahib heard this, many thoughts and considerations caused him to decide to leave at once for the Deccan. When Sayyid Inshā came home in the evening, he saw that preparations were being made for a journey. When he inquired, he was informed that Mīr ʿAlī Sahib was leaving Lucknow; and because Inshā's nephews were Mīr ʿAlī Sahib's pupils, they too were going with their ustad.
When Sayyid Inshā asked the reason for the departure, he learned of the whole matter. At once he put on formal dress and went to court. Saʿādat ʿAlī Ḳhān asked in surprise, 'I hope everything is all right? Why have you come back?' He #277# recited a ghazal of which this was one verse:
/Wealth is the bride [banī], and Saʿādat ʿAlī is the bridegroom [banā]--
Oh Lord, may cordiality always remain [banī rahe] between them!/
Then he said, 'Your Excellency! When this slave had taken leave and departed, my heart told me to just go and look at the bride of my bridegroom (the bride of the kingship). Your Excellency! Really, she was resplendent with the twelve pieces of jewelry, and decorated with the sixteen kinds of adornment. On her head was a hair-pendant. Who was that? [The Shia elder] Maulvī Dildār ʿAlī Sahib. In her ears were earrings. Who were they? The two princes. Around her neck was a garland worth nine lakhs of rupees. Who was that? Ḳhān-e ʿAllāmah.' In short, mentioning the names of some pieces of jewelry in this way, he said, 'Your Excellency, when I looked closely, in her nose there was no nose-ring. My heart missed a beat--"Oh God, please keep her in married happiness! What is this!"' The Navab asked, 'Well, who was it?' He said, 'Your Excellency, the nose-ring was Mīr ʿAlī Sahib!' After this, he told him the story in detail. The Navab laughed and said, 'His suspicions are misplaced. I consider such a gentleman of accomplishment to be the pride of Lucknow.' In short, in order to erase this unwarranted fear, the Navab went and took to him a decree of preferment and a robe of honor worth five hundred rupees.
A meeting with John Baillie Sahib: Although John Baillie Sahib, who at that time was Resident of Avadh, had heard of Inshā and his wide fame, he had not seen him. When Sayyid Inshā entered the service of Navab Saʿādat ʿAlī Ḳhān, one day a visit by the Resident Sahib was announced. The Navab said, 'Inshā, today I'll introduce you too to the Sahib'. He replied, 'Your Excellency takes the greatest care of me, but there's no need for you to make any special introduction of your humble servant'. In short, when the Sahib arrived, he and the Navab sat down on chairs that faced each other. Standing behind the Navab, Sayyid Inshā waved his handkerchief as a fly-whisk. In the course of conversation, the Sahib looked in his direction. He made a face. The Sahib averted his eyes, but he was astonished: 'What kind of face does that man have?' As he was thinking this, his glance again fell on him. This time Sayyid Inshā so distorted his face that he looked even stranger. Feeling embarrassed, the Sahib looked away. When he looked again, Sayyid Inshā had made an entirely different sort of face. Finally he asked the Navab, 'When did this companion enter your service? I'm seeing him today #278# for the first time.' The Navab said, 'Indeed, you haven't seen him. This is Sayyid Inshāʾallāh Ḳhān.' John Baillie Sahib laughed heartily. He was introduced to him. Then the magic of Sayyid Inshā's speech so captivated him that when he came, he first asked, 'Where is Sayyid Inshā?'
An anecdote about the Chief Clerk: ʿAlī Naqī Ḳhān, the Chief Clerk of the Residency, always used to come with John Baillie Sahib. He and Sayyid Inshā used to have delightfully witty jousts. [An anecdote involving witticisms based on the Gulistān.]
'May God watch over the Chief Clerk Sahib!' Whenever he took his leave, Sayyid Inshā always used to say, 'May God watch over [allāh belī] the Chief Clerk Sahib'.3
An anecdote about 'ḥijr' and 'ḥajr': One day in the same gathering, as the story has been told, Saʿādat ʿAlī Ḳhān said that [pronouncing ḥijr as] ḥajr [=separation] was also correct. John Baillie Sahib said that it was unidiomatic. Saʿādat ʿAlī Ḳhān replied, 'Oh well, when it's correct according to the dictionary, then what's the harm in using it that way?' In the meantime, Sayyid Inshā arrived. John Baillie Sahib said, 'Well, Sayyid Inshā, between ḥijr and ḥajr, what do you say?' He didn't know the situation, he blurted out impulsively, 'Ḥijr!' But at the same moment he guessed the meaning of Saʿādat ʿAlī Ḳhān's frown, and at once added, 'Your Excellency, this is why Jāmī says, [a verse in which ḥajr is used to accommodate the rhyme].' The moment he heard this Saʿādat ʿAlī Ḳhān cheered up, and those present at court burst out laughing.
Sayyid Inshā took on the form of a Pandit-jī: Mirzā Sulaimān Shikoh's house was on the riverbank. It was reported that on the following day there would be a festival #279# for bathing at that place. Sayyid Inshā, who was of fair complexion, stout build, and elegant demeanor, decked himself out in the dress of a Kashmiri pandit and prepared everything necessary for [Hindu] worship. In the morning he was the first to reach the riverbank, where he sat himself down like a pious temple-priest and began reciting shlok [=verses] and chanting mantras. People began to come to take their baths. And whoever came--man or woman, child or old person--saw an apparently fine-looking man, and was spontaneously attracted to him. He guided their worship, and applied [ritual] paste to their foreheads. His friends to whom he had told his secret informed Mirzā Sulaimān Shikoh. He, with the people of his court, at once came out on the upper balcony. They saw that in truth Sayyid Inshā had heaps of grain, flour, coins, and cowries--and to such an extent that he had more than anyone else. Along with diversion, and the demonstration of his ability in every area, the point of this was also that His Excellency should not consider such an old family servant as a burden, or as someone confined only to poetry: in whatever direction he might go, he would do somewhat better than others.
An anecdote involving Fāʾiq: There was an ill-fated poet with the pen-name of Fāʾiq. God knows what made him angry at Sayyid Inshā, that he composed a satire against him, and himself brought it and read it! Sayyid Inshā praised it very much, and performed various antics, and even gave him five rupees. When he was leaving, Sayyid Inshā said, 'Please wait just a moment. There's still something owing to you.' Picking up a pen, he wrote this [Persian] verse-set and gave it to him:
/When the shameless Fāʾiq wrote a satire on me
My heart burned and burned like kindling
I gave him five rupees as a reward
A dog's mouth is better shut by a morsel/.
Anecdotes involving Ḥāfiz̤ Aḥmad Yār: In Delhi, Ḥāfiz̤ Aḥmad Yār was a learned, sophisticated, well-known Quran-reciter [ḥāfiz̤]. And he held a government post among the other Quran-reciters. Although there was nobody in the world whom Sayyid Inshā didn't treat in a friendly way, with Ḥāfiz̤ Aḥmad Yār he was friends [yār] indeed. He composed a name-pun about him: 'Ḳhudā Ḥāfiz̤ Aḥmad Yār' [=God is my protector, Aḥmad is my friend.] [An anecdote involving a verse of Inshā's in Avadhī about a rainstorm.] #280# When the Ḥāfiz̤ used to take his leave, Sayyid Inshā always said, 'Allāh Ḥāfiz̤ Aḥmad Yār!' There were thousands of such matters that appeared in his conversation night and day.
It's a cause for the greatest grief that Sayyid Inshā's end at the hands of Saʿādat ʿAlī Ḳhān was not good. There are various reasons for this. The first is that although through the power of his versatile temperament he made the Navab feel familiar with him, still in reality his own opening verse exemplified his and the Navab's situation:
/Last night he said to me laughingly, 'Love, my friend, is no game:
I am a jokester and you are sober; we don't go well together'/.
Opposition of temperaments: For example, both because of his companions' wishes and because of his own real temperament, he usually loved to attend fairs and shows. In short, he definitely had to go; and this was entirely contrary to Saʿādat ʿAlī Ḳhān's temperament. It often happened that the Navab was studying state papers, and Sayyid Inshā too was present among his companions. Meanwhile, a number of anecdotes were being told. Sayyid Inshā petitioned, 'Your Excellency, may this slave have leave to go?' The Navab replied, 'Hmmm! Where?' He said, 'Your Excellency, today is the fair of the Eighth [day of Holi]'. He replied, 'May God protect us!' Sayyid Inshā said, 'It would have been proper for Your Excellency too to visit it'. The Navab said, 'Inshā, who told you to go to such improper places?' He petitioned, 'Your Excellency, to go there is from one point of view a personally obligatory religious duty, and from another point of view a general religious duty, and in another respect according to the Sunna'. Then he gave reasons for each of these statements individually. Finally, the Navab, who had been listening while he was working, grew tired of it and said, 'Get to the end of it quickly, and go away!' Then, twirling his moustache, Sayyid Inshā asked, 'Who is there today besides Sayyid Inshā who can say things with reason, and holy precedents, and [Quranic] verses and [hadith] stories?' Often such things used to amuse the Navab--but often, because of the bent of his real temperament, he grew displeased. Especially because when taking leave, Sayyid Inshā would request expense money. Because he was not Shāh ʿĀlam--he was Saʿādat ʿAlī Ḳhān. [A Persian proverbial verse:]
#281# /If you want my life, there's no harm
But if you want money--I won't even discuss it!/
Fate! Fate!! The disaster that occurred was that one day in court the lineage and grandeur of some nobles of famous descent were being described. Saʿādat ʿAlī Ḳhān said, 'Well, how about it, my friend--am I not also of noble descent on both sides?' Call it an accident of fate, or consider it the fruit of too great a readiness to talk, but Sayyid Inshā burst out, 'Your Excellency--rather, anjab!' [=extremely much; =slave-girl's son]. Saʿādat ʿAlī Ḳhān was born of the womb of a concubine;c he fell silent, and the whole court was stunned. Although Sayyid Inshā tried then to cover up and explain away his mistake, the arrow of fare had been loosed from the bow. The rancor didn't leave the Navab's heart--because [of the Arabic proverb] 'The child of a slave-girl is the noblest'.
Now the Navab's manner began to change, and he began to cast about for an excuse for harsh treatment. Sayyid Inshā tried, with various types and kinds of witticisms, to polish the mirror of favor. But the resentment in the Navab's heart didn't permit any possibility of clearing it up. One day Sayyid Inshā told an extremely piquant anecdote. Saʿādat ʿAlī Ḳhān said, 'When Inshā speaks, he says things that no one has ever seen or heard of'. Then, twirling his moustache, Sayyid Inshā replied, 'Thanks to Your Excellency's victorious fortune, I'll go on till Doomsday, saying things that have never been seen or heard of'. The Navab was waiting for his chance; frowning, #282# he replied, 'Well, not so many! Tell only two anecdotes a day, but the condition is that they should be things that have never been seen or heard of. Otherwise, it will not be well for you.' Sayyid Inshā understood that there was more to it than met the eye.
In any case, from that day on he began to tell two anecdotes a day. But after some days he was in such a state that when he was about to go to court, he would ask whomever sat near him, 'If you know any anecdote, any joke, then tell me, so I can just tell it to the Navab'. His neighbor would say, 'Sir, as though I would think of telling a joke in your presence!' He would say, 'My friend, just tell me something you recall about a bird or a worm. I'll put salt and hot pepper on it and please him.' In the meantime, one day it happened that Saʿādat ʿAlī Ḳhān sent for him. He had gone to the house of some other noble. The herald came back and petitioned, 'I didn't find him at home'. Growing angry, the Navab commanded him, 'Don't go to anyone else's place except mine!' This imprisonment without chains caused him great distress. And a fresh difficulty occurred: Taʿālʾ Allāh Ḳhān, his youthful son, died. This shock affected his brain. So much so that one day Saʿādat ʿAlī Ḳhān with his entourage passed by his house, and partly out of grief and anger, partly from his overburdened heart, he stood by the edge of the road and roundly reproached him. Saʿādat ʿAlī Ḳhān went and stopped his salary. Now what remained between him and madness?
Saʿādat Yār Ḳhān Rangīn was a great friend of his, and his brother through the exchange of turbans. Thus Sayyid Inshā himself says,
/There are some wonderful pleasures [rangīniyāñ], Inshā
When Saʿādat Yār Ḳhān and I get together/.
Miyāñ Rangīn used to say, 'In Lucknow I have seen Sayyid Inshā in such situations that to think about it makes one feel disgusted with the world. First came that time of his ascendancy when he was [intimate] like a hair in Saʿādat ʿAlī Ḳhān's nostril. He was sought out by everyone for his accomplishment, worth, and liveliness of temperament. At his door were horses, elephants, palanquins, and litters in such numbers that it was impossible to pass by.
Second, a situation such that when I next went to Lucknow, I saw that outwardly things were fine. But the tree of his ascendant fortune had white ants eating away at its roots. I went to see someone. In the course of conversation, he began to complain of the faithlessness and lack of affection of friends in this world. I said, "Indeed, it is so; but still, the time is not entirely empty". He #283# insisted even more emphatically. I said, "There is one friend of mine, Inshā, who is ready to give his life for a friend". He fell silent, then said, "All right, I ask only this much. Today please go see him, and say to him, 'Go yourself and bring a watermelon from the bazaar, and serve it to me'. It's the fruit that's in season, and it's no great matter". I said, "Why, does this even count as a request?" He replied, "My request is only this. But the condition is that he himself should bring it and serve it. In fact you can even take the small change from me to pay for it". I at once rose and went there. Inshā, according to his old habit, ran to greet me the moment he saw me. "I take your misfortunes onto myself. Come with great pleasure, come again and again." I said, "Put these airs and graces on the shelf for a while, first bring a watermelon and serve it to me. The heat is roasting me alive." He called out to a manservant. I said, "A manservant won't do; you yourself go, and look for a good Shahīdī watermelon and bring it". He said, "No, the man is skilful; he'll bring a good one". I said, "No; if I eat one at all, I'll eat one brought by you". He said, "You've gone mad--what is all this?" Then I told him the story. Then he heaved a deep sigh and said, "My dear friend, he told the truth, and you and I are both proved wrong. What can I do? I'm in the tyrant's power. Except to go to court, the order is that I am not to leave the house."'
The third situation: Miyāñ Rangīn recounts, 'In order to sell some horses, I took a group of them and went to Lucknow, and stayed in a caravansarai. When evening came, I learned that there was to be a mushairah right near by. After eating my dinner, I too arrived at the gathering. Just two or three hundred men had arrived. People had sat down, and were chatting and smoking their huqqahs. I too sit down--and I see that a person wrapped in a dirty, wrinkled cotton quilt, with a small dirty handkerchief on his head, short tight trousers on his legs, a huqqah-bearer's large pouch around his neck, was approaching, with a crude clay huqqah in his hand; saying "Peace be upon you", he sat down. A few people asked him how he was. He put his hand in his pouch and pulled out tobacco, and putting the plain tobacco [without the plate necessary to slow its burning] in his pipe, he said, "Brother, if there's a little fire, then put it on this tobacco". At once voices were raised, and people began to offer him their own sophisticated and elaborate huqqahs. Becoming annoyed, he said, "Gentlemen! Let me stay as I am; otherwise, I'm leaving." Everyone #284# agreed to what he said, and acted on it. After a moment, he again spoke: "Well, then--has the mushairah still not started?" They said, "Sir, people are still arriving. When everyone comes, then it will start." He said, "Gentlemen--as for me, I am now going to read my ghazal". With these words, he pulled out a paper from his pouch and began to recite a ghazal:
/With their loins girded for travel, here sit all the friends
Many have gone ahead; those who are left are sitting ready
Don't tease, oh scent of the spring breeze! Be on your way
You're in the mood for mischief, I'm sitting here disgusted
Their thoughts in the seventh heaven, and their head on the cupbearer's feet--
In short, just now the wine-drinkers are in a strange and powerful trance
Like the footprints of the passersby in the street of longing
I have no strength to rise--what can I do? I sit helplessly
This is my own manner now--from weakness, for hours,
I just sit down, wherever I see the shade of a wall
Where are patience and endurance--ah, what are shame and honor?
Miyāñ, I've mourned them and lost them forever at one stroke
The nobles are in a strange state in this age, oh friends--
Whenever you ask, they say, We sit here in idleness
It's well known that the revolving of the sky gives no one peace, Inshā
It's a stroke of luck that three or four of us like-minded ones are sitting here/.
He recited the ghazal, threw away the paper, said, "Peace be upon you", and left. But a desolate silence spread through earth and sky, and for a long time people's hearts were in a strange state, the mood of which can't be described. While he was reciting the ghazal, I too recognized him. When I inquired about his circumstances, I was very much grieved. And I went to his house and visited him again.
The fourth time I went to Lucknow, I asked people the way, and went to his house. Alas--at the door where elephants used to stand swaying, I saw the dust blowing and dogs rolling around. I knocked on the door. From inside some old woman asked, "Who's there?" (It was his wife.) I said, "Saʿādat Yār Ḳhān has come from Delhi". Since I was extremely intimate with Sayyid Inshā, the virtuous lady recognized me; coming to the door, she wept a great deal and said, "Dear friend, he's in a strange state. Here--let me step aside, come in and see for yourself." I went in. I saw that he was sitting in a corner. He was squatting there naked to the waist, with his head resting on his drawn-up knees. Around him were heaps of ashes. Nearby lay an old and decrepit huqqah. Once I used to see those crowds and that pomp and circumstance, those high spirits and joyous gatherings; and now I saw this! My heart grew uncontrollably full. #285# I too sat down on the ground, and I wept for a long time. When my heart was relieved, I called out, "Sayyid Inshā! Sayyid Inshā!" Lifting his head, he looked at me with a glance full of hopelessness that said, "What can I do--my eyes are beyond tears". I said, "How are you?" Heaving a deep sigh, he said, "Thanks be to God". Then he put his head down once more on his knees, and didn't lift it again'.
Some Greek philosophers say that the period of every man's lifetime depends on the number of his breaths. I say that just the way every man brings with him his share of breath or of sustenance, so he also brings with him, already written, his share of everything involved with happiness and laughter. The Sayyid had used up his share of laughter, which was for his whole lifetime, in a brief period. For the rest of his time, he remained deprived of it. Or it was time for his share of grief.
[Nine ghazals #286# #287# #288# #289# by Inshā, then forty-four verses #290# #291# #292# of an extended-line poem, then six #293# #294# #295# more ghazals].
a The reason for this was that his elders had the duty of disbursing the government stipends to the [dandyish, rakish] Shuhdahs. When his brother came to Delhi, he too wore a necklace of one bead around his neck, and carried himself in that style. Mīr Inshāʾallāh Ḳhān composed an extended-line poem in the style of these free spirits, and thus demonstrated his creative mastery over the language; his ghazals too show the radiant reflection of this style. In Daryā-e lat̤āfat Sayyid Inshā himself offers a detailed note on the term shuhdah: [prose passage, in Persian]. Because obscenity appeared in their speech, I have avoided quoting it. In short, Shuhdahs are extraordinary creatures--the moment their name is mentioned, just look, page upon page is ruined!
b Sayyid Inshā and Shaiḳh Muṣḥafī had a set-to over a verse. And the mischievousness of people's temperaments combined with the shamelessness of their tongues created great encounters. At that time Āṣif ud-Daulah had gone away on a hunt; thus he expressed a thousandfold grief at not being in Lucknow, and with great interest he sent for their satires and conveyed rewards to the poets. In reality, every single line is a charm to make one roar with laughter. But if anyone should write such things today, he would be culpable in the eyes of the courts of justice and would have to answer for his deed.
1 He is challenging a cowardly rival or a reluctant host.
2 According to folk belief a fast on this day, the 27th of Rajab, is equal to a thousand fasts.
3 The expression can also be translated, 'The Chief Clerk Sahib's God [allāh] is Baillie [belī]'.
c I have learned from trustworthy people that when Gunnā Begam, daughter of Qizilbāsh Ḳhān Ummīd, became famous for her beauty and charm, refinement and domestic skills, quick repartee and poetic abilities, Navab Shujāʿ ud-Daulah was a young man. He wanted to marry her. The elders, according to the rule, asked the king's permission. The king replied that he had other plans for him. He married the Navab to a Sayyid's daughter whom His Majesty had, for religious merit, brought up in his household like a daughter. He celebrated the wedding with such pomp and elaborateness that perhaps the like had never been done for any princess. This was the reason that Shujāʿ ud-Daulah and his whole family held her in the greatest esteem. Her name was Dulhan Begam Sahib. And she was the mother of Āṣif ud-Daulah. Saʿādat ʿAlī Ḳhān [the son of Gunnā Begam], who had been called Mañglū in his childhood because he was born on a Tuesday [mañgal]--the thoughts that the Begam had about him sometimes even became apparent. But signs of his intelligence and wisdom were evident even from his childhood. Navab Shujāʿ ud-Daulah always used to say, 'Dulhan Begam, if you place your hand on Mañglū's head, then he'll make your scarf into a flag, and with his army will plant it beyond the Narbada'.