The Fifth Era of Āb-e ḥayāt:

Part Eight



People have also made objections too to his poetry. [Two verses with disputed usages of spelling and grammar, defended by the citation of similar Persian verses from Saʿdī and Amīr Ḳhusrau.]

One day I met Auj,a and mention was made of this opening verse of the late Ustad,

/If the candle should try to rival that radiant face

The breeze would give it a slap so that it would become morning [and die]/.

After some days, when I met Auj on the road, the moment he saw me he rose and said, [a verse]. And he said, 'Did you notice? This is how idioms should be used!' I understood that he was being sarcastic: that saḥar ho jāʾe [=would become morning], which the Ustad had used [to imply death for the candle], was not permissible. But pretending ignorance, I said, 'Indeed, in truth you #458# have made a fine transformation of [an idiom]. And you have brought it into a metaphor!' Looking at me, he laughed and said, 'Bravo, my friend! After all, you were his pupil. You've spoiled my point.'

The next day, I went to attend upon the late Shaiḳh, and told him of this matter. He said, 'When morning comes, they strike the candle with their hand and extinguish it. What I mean is that if the candle should seek to rival the beloved, then to punish this impertinence the breeze would so slap it that it would be extinguished. And it would be extinguished in such a way that in its own nature morning would come for it. That is to say, it would not be destined to be lit. Sometime, on the second or third night, if it's lit, it's lit; if it's not lit, it's not lit. That's another matter. Now it's the beauty of coincidence that in our language there is present an idiom parallel to this case: "Such a slap was delivered that it caused morning to dawn". Well, if I did it that way, then some pleasure was created. Or rather, in the style of expression I advanced by one step of expansiveness. What harm was it? And consider this too: if it was an idiom, then what was it? It was hackneyed and commonplace; now it's grave, sober, and elegant.'

Āzād says, a verse of Nāsiḳh's is also in this construction:

/Those who are oppressors never flourish and bear fruit

Has anyone ever seen the battlefield [shamshīr kā khet] grow green?/

In the idiom they say talvār kā khet; they don't say shamshīr kā khet.

A verse of one of the Ustad's ghazals is,

/Where are you rushing off to so blindly--for your

footprint does the work of an eye/.

Navab Kalb-e Ḥusain Ḳhān Nādir says in Talḳhīṣ-e muʿallā, 'The word 'your' belongs in the second line--you ought not to bring it into the first line'. I do not know how to answer this.

The achievement of his quick-wittedness, and his readiness of thought: One time his poetic gift made a strange new flower bloom. It was the time when he had ceased to obtain correction, but he still used to visit Shāh Naṣīr Sahib. He went there and recited a ghazal. The Shāh Sahib praised it and said, 'Recite it in the mushairah, definitely'. As it happened, at the very beginning of the opening verse there was one long syllable lacking. When he recited the ghazal there, the Shāh Sahib called out, 'Miyāñ Ibrāhīm, my friend! That was a fine opening verse!' The late Shaiḳh used to say, 'At once I was alerted, and at the same moment a word occurred to me. The second time I recited, #459# [a metrically correct verse]. At this he was so much astonished that he thought that perhaps previously I had deliberately omitted this word. But then the objection arose that this meter was impermissible: no ustad had composed a ghazal in it. The late Shaiḳh answered, 'The nineteen meters have not descended from the heavens. Those with poetic gifts have, from time to time, caused new flowers to bloom.' This speech was not accepted. But then the late Munīr composed a ghazal in it.

One time the late Shaiḳh recited a ghazal in a mushairah. The opening verse was,

/She sent narcissus flowers, having put them in a bag

The hint was that I should take out my eyes and send them to her/.

The Shāh Sahib said, 'Miyāñ Ibrāhīm! Flowers are not put in bags. Say, /sent narcissus flowers, having put them in a leaf-cup/'. The Ustad said, 'If they are to be placed in a leaf-cup, then they are not 'put' there. Say it like this,

/When she sent two almonds, having dropped them in a purse

The hint was that I should take out my eyes and send them to her/.'

An anecdote: At the late Shāh Naṣīr's place, an ʿurs used to take place every year. On that occasion, after the Fatihah [=opening ceremonies], he used to give his guests rice pudding. As usual, the Ustad too went. After the Fatihah, everyone sat down to eat. Shāh Naṣīr came, with a spoon in one hand and a bowl in the other. In it was yoghurt, which he came around serving to special individuals. He came before the Ustad and stood there and filled up the spoon. His nose was overflowing. With a thought of dietary avoidances, the Ustad said, 'What is this?' The Shāh Sahib said, 'It's arsenic, arsenic! Look out--if you eat it, you'll die!' The Ustad laughed and said, '/Well, you just give me poison--we'll see whether it has any effect/'. Although this line is an old one of Miyāñ Majżūb's,b because it was an occasion of eating, it gave everyone much pleasure.

The Delhi College mushairahs: In the days when he was in competition with Shāh Naṣīr, Munshī Faiẓ 'Pārsā' held the post of a teacher in Delhi College. And in those days he was in his young manhood, full of fervor and enthusiasm about poetry. He established a mushairah in the school, with great pomp and splendor, and declared it to be the major part of the progress of Urdu literature, #460# and received help from the Principal Sahib. In those days the school was outside Ajmeri Gate. At 9:00 PM the city gates used to be closed. He obtained permission from the Commander of the Fort that on the day of the mushairah Ajmeri Gate would remain open until 2:00 AM. In short, the mushairah was established with such pomp and splendor that no mushairah in Delhi ever again equalled it. The nobles of the city and all the renowned poets used to be present. But everyone's eyes were turned toward Shāh Naṣīr and the Shaiḳh Sahib.

Thus in one mushairah Shāh Naṣīr recited a ghazal with 'qafas kī tīliyāñ, ḳhas kī tīliyāñ'. For the next mushairah, it became the pattern. Everyone composed ghazals and brought them. The late Shaiḳh had written a 'double ghazal' [do ġhazalah], and there was some dispute about it. At this he grew heated and said, 'For the next whole year, in every mushairah that takes place, in addition to the ghazal in the pattern, there should always be a ghazal in this ground'. Thus that occurred in two mushairahs. The public too participate at such encounters. In the third gathering when he recited a ghazal, various persons made certain attacks on it, which the partisans of the Shaiḳh Sahib considered to be made at the instigation of Shāh Naṣīr. Chiefly because Shāh Vajīh ud-Dīn Munīr,c that is to say, Shāh Naṣīr's son, recited this verse:

/If you have refurbished the candles of poetry, so what?

In its frame are the same small sticks of a former time/.

About this there was more quarreling, and the mushairah was brought to a close, lest there should be more acrimony!

The chronogram 'Daryā-e aʿz̤am': In those very days Mīr Muḥammad Ḳhān Aʿz̤am ud-Daulah, who used the pen-name Sarvar and was a veteran poet, once composed an anthology of the poets of Urdu. The late Ustad chanced to pass by his balcony. He asked the Ustad to come up. And after a polite exchange of greetings, he said, 'My anthology is finished. Compose a chronogram for it.' The Ustad said, 'All right, I'll give it some thought'. #461# He said, 'No, don't think about it. Compose one right now.' The Ustad used to say, 'Look at the power of God--in accordance with his title and pen-name, I instantly thought of Daryā-e aʿz̤am. When I made a mental calculation, the number was just equal. I instantly said it. Those present at the gathering were astonished.'

The late Shahīdī came to Delhi. He visited with the nobles of the city. Navab ʿAbdullāh Ḳhānd was the Chief Judge, and a great poetry-lover. In one gathering, Miyāñ Shahīdī said, 'Today in India there are three Shaiḳhs. In Lucknow Nāsiḳh, in Delhi Ẓauq, in the Deccan Ḥafīz̤.' The Ḳhān Sahib asked, 'The reason for Nāsiḳh's priority?' Shahīdī recited the 'chaman kī shāḳh, yāsman kī shāḳh' ghazal. The Ḳhān Sahib said to the late Ustad, 'Nāsiḳh composed a very exhaustively rhyming ghazal on this ghazal. And Nāsiḳh has also said, "Whoever now will compose a ghazal in this pattern, will not be able to pull out every individual rhyme and use each one differently from the setting in which I have used it".' When the Navab reported this conversation and requested a ghazal, the Ustad composed one. The Ḳhān Sahib proposed that in the mushairah ghazals should be recited [competitively] in the form of an encounter. But the late Shahīdī had left without announcing his departure. The Navab sent a man to catch up with him; the man went to Bareilly and found him there. But he didn't attend. That ghazal, God willing, will be available for the study of poetry-lovers. May God cause me to finish editing the volume!

One day, as usual, the Ustad went to the king. In those days Mirzā Shāhruḳh, a son of the king, had taken many services and arrangements into his hands, and he usually remained in attendance. At that time he was present. The moment he saw the Ustad he said, 'Look, now he's arrived'. The Ustad learned that the king had a ghazal. He wanted to add a line to every verse and make a three-liner. But his invention was that the added line should not be, according to conventional practice, added at the beginning. Rather, a line should be added after every verse--so that it would be as if in every stanza an opening verse would be created. In short, the king gave him the ghazal: 'Ustad, join the lines to this'. #462# He picked up his pen and cast a glance over one verse. And at once he added the line. The same way in the second, in the third. He went on and completed the ghazal in the time it took him to cast a glance over each verse; without hesitation he kept writing the lines, and at once read them aloud. Everyone was astonished. And Mirzā Shāhruḳh said, 'Ustad, did you compose them at home and bring them?' The king replied, 'Why, of course he didn't--how did he know what was happening here? Especially when the invention itself was such a new one!' See page #472#.

An anecdote: It was the rainy season. The king, according to his custom, had gone to the Qut̤b Sahib. Mirzā Faḳhrū, the king's son (who later became Crown Prince as well), was at the edge of the pond there one moonlit night, watching the beauty of the moonlight. The late Ustad was standing nearby. Mirzā Faḳhrū too took an interest in poetry, and was a pupil of the Ustad's. This line fell from his lips: '/If that moon-faced one should see moonlight at the edge of the pool/'. He said to him, 'Ustad, please join a line'. He at once said, '/From the brilliance of the reflection of that face, the moon would be destroyed/'.1

Correction: Navab Ḥāmid ʿAlī Ḳhān's father-in-law Navab Faẓl ʿAlī Ḳhān and the late Shaiḳh had a longstanding friendly connection. Therefore the late Navab Ḥāmid ʿAlī Ḳhān too used to treat him with affection and courtesy. One day they were standing in the Hall of Private Audience, reciting and listening to poetry. The Navab recited this opening verse of Ḳhvājah Vazīr's:

/The bird who is released as an offering on your behalf,

Oh king of beauty--the instant it is freed becomes a Humā/.

The late Ustad said, 'Usually for someone's sake they release crows. Thus it is more proper to say,

/Even a crow, if it is released as an offering on your behalf,

Oh king of beauty--the instant it is freed becomes a Humā/.'e

A coincidence: One time there was a mushairah in the Fort. Ḥakīm Āġhā Jān 'ʿAish,' who was a veteran, long-practiced, and extremely lively poet, was seated right near the Ustad. The ground of the ghazal was, 'yār de, bahār de, rozgār de'. Ḥakīm Āġhā Jān ʿAish recited one verse of his ghazal,

#463# /Oh candle, why do you weep? It's nearly morning--

Only a little time remains--let it pass somehow/.2

The Ustad too had a verse with that very same theme. Despite his high rank among poets, he still had an extreme respect and affectionate regard for others. My late father was seated near him, and the Ustad began to say to him, 'The theme has coincided with mine. Now perhaps I shouldn't recite that verse?' My father said, 'Why shouldn't you recite it? Neither had he heard your verse before, nor you his. You ought certainly to read it! From this too people's temperaments can be guessed at, that the thoughts of both had arrived at the same place--but in what different ways they had arrived.' Thus right after the late Ḥakīm Sahib, the candle came before the Ustad and he recited,

/Oh candle, your natural lifespan is one night

You may spend it weeping, or you may spend it in laughter/.



#463fn# Ḥakīm Āġhā Jān Sahib 'ʿAish' came from a family of physicians, and was the king's physician. He was adorned with the jewelry of knowledge and the attire of accomplishment. He was courteous and of a good disposition, with a sweet tongue and a cheerful countenance. When you saw him you felt that he was smiling. Along with this, he loved poetry; his temperament was so wise and delicate, and he was such a judge of subtleties. The ghazal, which is called the soul [jān] of poetry--his ghazals, because of their limpidity of diction, liveliness of themes, and beauty of idiom, were flower-wands. And his tongue was like a fireworks-sparkler of anecdotes and witticisms. On two occasions I saw him with the Ustad at a mushairah. Alas, what a pity--the picture is before me and fills my eyes right now. Medium stature, attractively built, a head of white hair a finger's length long, and a beard likewise. How nice it looked on that fair, red and white complexion. He wore a muslin kurta, so he was like a heap of laughing chameli flowers. In those days I used to study in Delhi College. After the death of the late Ustad, the taste [żauq] for poetry and the attraction of his accomplishment drew me into his service as well. Now the eyes long to see those faces, and do not find them. Some days after the Rebellion of 1857, he departed this world. May God have mercy on him.

The Hudhud of Poets: An individual named ʿAbd ur-Raḥmān came to Delhi from the east. There was a school in a house near the Ḥakīm Sahib's house, and he began to teach the boys there. Some boys from among the Ḥakīm Sahib's family and relations also studied there. Among them one boy was reading the Sikandar nāmah. It was the Ḥakīm Sahib's custom that every week or so, in the evening, he heard every boy's lesson. When he had the boy read the lesson from the Sikandar nāmah, then strange and extraordinary themes came to his hearing. He commanded, 'Send your Maulvī Sahib to me sometime'. The very next day he came. The Ḥakīm Sahib was after all a Ḥakīm; when they met, he took his pulse first from his physiognomy, then through conversation. He realized that there was not too much to him except the elementary, but that he was a peculiar concoction: with a little prescription, he could become the life of the gathering. He asked, 'Do you have any interest in poetry too?' The Maulvī Sahib said, 'Where's the difficulty? It's possible.' The Ḥakīm Sahib said, 'There's a mushairah at one place, there are eight or nine days left. This is the pattern-line. If you too will please compose a ghazal, then I will take you with me.' He didn't know what a mushairah was. The Ḥakīm Sahib described it. The Maulvī Sahib said, 'In this much time, a great deal is possible'.

When he composed a ghazal and brought it, then praise be to God! And he chose 'Maulvī Sahib' itself as a pen-name. To the Ḥakīm Sahib's witty temperament, such a fool was a gift from God. He praised him very much. Giving correction to the ghazal here and there, he sprinkled it liberally with salt and pepper. The Maulvī Sahib was very happy; when he saw this, the Ḥakīm Sahib was reassured. The Maulvī Sahib had a scanty beard, long and pointed too; his head was shaven, with a pointed turban atop it. He looked like nothing so much as a woodpecker. The Ḥakīm Sahib said, 'Poets also need to have a pen-name that is witty, enjoyable, subtle, and sounds good, and need to be crowned with the glory of pomp and circumstance. It will be better if you use the pen-name of Hudhud. He was the confidant of Hazrat Solomon, and an auspicious-footed messenger.' And so on and so forth, this and that. The Maulvī Sahib very happily agreed.

On the day of the mushairah, he went into the gathering. When the candle came before him, the Ḥakīm Sahib said in his praise a few remarks that were suitable for the occasion. Everyone became attentive. When he recited the ghazal, Mockery clapped its hands, and Comedy threw its hat into the air. And bursts of laughter created so much turmoil and confusion that there had not been such a bubbling up of praise for anyone else's ghazal. The Maulvī Sahib was very happy. In this way, for some time he kept giving life to the mushairah and the gatherings of some nobles. But he left off doing his work at the school. The Ḥakīm Sahib reflected that he certainly ought to devise some means for his livelihood.

Hudhud sets out for the royal court: He said to him, 'If you compose an ode in praise of the king, then one day I'll take you to court. Just see what the Absolute Provider does for you!' The ode was prepared. And the Ḥakīm Sahib took Hudhud and flew him off to the court. Alas, that the ode is not now available! I remember four verses. 'It's a handful from a donkey's load' that I offer as a gift to my friends:

/When I open my beak in your praise

I will make my nest the envy of the Garden of Paradise

If the Musician-bird should preen himself before me

I will twist his ears and make him sing a different tune

If the Humā should come and raise his head insolently before me

I will pluck his feathers until he looks like a mongoose

I am one who deserves the best, and for me

The sky says it will offer a provision of millet/.

For kings and nobles, and in fact for the whole temper of the times, buffoonery is the natural nourishment. Z̤afar was himself a poet, he bestowed titles upon him: 'Bird among Pillars', 'Great Winged One of the Land', 'Hudhud of Poets', 'Beak of War Bahādur'. And he also gave him seven rupees a month, for the foundation of his poetry had been laid. Thus Hudhud grew his hair very long, and began to rub chameli oil into it. And his beard, divided into two branches, began to hold converse with his ears.

Hudhud built a nest: One year the rains knocked down his house. He wandered around in search of a nest. He didn't find a house. He made his complaint to the Ḥakīm Sahib. The Ḥakīm Sahib said, 'Many royal houses are lying empty in the city. Will there not be space in them even for the nest of a Hudhud? Wait and see, I'll arrange it.' Quickly he composed a verse. I remember some various verses from this too: [six verses].

One year there was a delay in the royal salary. Hudhud complained to the Ḥakīm Sahib. On the Ḥakīm's part, just as he had a cure for stomach-ache, he had a prescription ready for the cure of hunger. A verse-set was prepared in praise of Raja Debī Singh, to whose supervision the kitchens had been confided in those days. At this time I remember four verses; I record them: [four verses].

The Ḥakīm Sahib was always thinking about poetry. Those witty themes that came to him he used to versify and place in Hudhud's beak. That was plenty for Hudhud, and even for three or four more animals. I remember some verses; I record them for entertainment: [four verses].

At the secret instigation of the Ḥakīm Sahib, Hudhud pecked at the nightingales of poetry with his beak. Thus he recited some ghazals before the whole mushairah, of which the words were extremely refined and colorful, but the verses absolutely without meaning. And he would say, 'I've written this ghazal in the style of Ġhālib'. I remember one opening verse:

/The circle of the axis of the heaven is not at the lip of the water

The fingernail of the arc of the rainbow does not resemble a plectrum/.

The late Ġhālib was a flowing river. He used to listen, and laugh.

Momin Ḳhān, and so on, prepared a Falcon to prey on Hudhud. Hudhud pulled out his feathers as well. In the mushairah there were very fine clashes. But the verses from them did not become famous. I remember some verses of Hudhud. I've forgotten the first opening verse: [four verses]. After some days, the Falcon flew away. The friends prepared a crow, and gave him the pen-name Zāġh [=Crow]. Hudhud took his measure too very nicely. Zāġh too, in some days, turned into a hurricane crow [=dust devil] and vanished in the dust: [four verses].

Whatever animals came to confront Hudhud could not stand against him--in some days, they vanished into thin air. Because in the temperament of those who had nurtured them there was no firmness or substance. Always to keep on composing ghazals in his style to keep the pastime going, and to compose one's own ghazal for the mushairah as usual, was no easy task. The biggest thing was that there was no assurance of livelihood for them. Hudhud's livelihood had been allotted by the royal court. And the provender that he obtained from small rewards received here and there, was only his snack.


Hooray for his quick wits: One day there was the usual court. The Ustad too was in attendance. A prince entered; he was perhaps bearing a message from one of the princesses #464# or ladies of the harem. He said something very quietly to the king, and prepared to leave. Ḥakīm Aḥsanullāh Ḳhān too was present. He petitioned, 'Prince, so much hurry? What is this coming, and at once going away?' From the prince's lips there emerged, 'We3 neither came at will, nor went at will'. The king looked toward the Ustad and commanded, 'Ustad! Look what a perfect line of verse that was'. The Ustad without hesitation petitioned, 'Your Lordship,

/Life brought us, we came; death took us, we went--

We neither came at will, nor went at will/'.

This is a ghazal from the last period of his life. Only two or three years after this, he departed this world.

One day he returned from the court and sat down. When I arrived, he sadly began to say, 'Today an extraordinary thing happened. When I went into the Presence, he was in the inner palace. He sent for me there, and the moment he saw me he said, "Ustad, today I've been sad for a long time over something". I asked what it was. He said, "That ode #465# you composed for me--today I recalled some of its verses. The ideas in them gave me an extraordinary pleasure. But along with it, the thought came that now you compose odes for me; when I die, you will compose them for whoever sits on the throne." I petitioned, "Your Majesty should not feel anxious. The tent falls afterwards; first the ropes and stakes are pulled up. I will depart before Your Majesty. And Your Majesty should keep in mind that the people of the Peaceful Heaven-dweller [Muḥammad Shāh]'s court--where were they in Your Majesty's court? [Several similar rhetorical questions about change over time.] Just understand this: whoever belongs to someone, goes with that person. A new master of the gathering creates a brand new gathering, and #466# brings his own equipment for the gathering with him as well." When he heard this, His Majesty's eyes grew wet. My eyes too grew wet. But the thought came to me, "Look--after offering my prayers, I always ask God's blessings on His Majesty. God is my witness that up till today I have never thought about myself in these terms. Nor does His Majesty have any thought for me." Miyāñ [Āzād]! In the world, no one belongs to anyone.'

Poetry according to his personal circumstances: Because of his physical weakness, the late Shaiḳh didn't keep the fasts. But even so, he did not eat and drink in anyone's presence. Sometimes even if he had to take medicine, or drink sherbet or water, he went either upstairs or to the women's quarters, and drank and then came back. One time I asked about this. He said, 'Miyāñ, we are sinners before God. He is the Knower of the hidden world and the revealed world. We cannot have any sense of shame before Him. But at least we should show some shame before His servants!'

#467# It was the month of Ramazan. The heat was intense. It was the time of afternoon prayers. A servant mixed blue lotus sherbet in a cup and prepared it in a separate room, and said, 'Please just come upstairs', because at that time he was dictating something. Since he was preoccupied he did not understand, and asked the reason. The servant made a gesture. He commanded, 'Bring it here. These are my friends. Why should I hide anything from them?' When the servant brought the cup and gave it to him, he recited this opening verse which he had composed impromptu on the spot:

/Give us the wine openly to drink, Saqi, with whom should I be furtive?

When nothing is concealed from God, how can anything be concealed from a creature?/

Poetry according to his personal circumstances: Maḥbūb ʿAlī Ḳhān the eunuch was the steward over all the royal arrangements. And palace or court, he had entire authority in both places. But he gambled compulsively. There was displeasure over some matter between him and the king. He decided to go on the Haj. One day I was seated with the late Ustad, when someone came and said that Miyāñ Sahib the eunuch was going to the Kabah of God. He considered for a bit, then smiled. And he recited this opening verse:

/Those who have given their heart to the idol in the winehouse

Have left the two Kabahs [=dice] and gone to the Kabah/.

My late father built an imām bāṛah as a charitable trust. One day he went to the Ustad. My father asked him for a chronogram. Right then, after a bit of reflection, he said, '/The place of lamentation for the Imām of both the worlds/'. This phrase is a complete chronogram.

Impromptu: The late Ḥakīm Mīr Faiẓ ʿAlī was his ustad, and used to give him medical treatment as well. #468# One day I too was present. A servant came and said, 'Today Mīr Faiẓ ʿAlī passed away'. He asked about it many times, and became so restless that he rose and began to walk about. After reflecting, he suddenly said, 'Alas, Mīr Faiẓ ʿAlī!' He said to me, 'Just look! Is this a chronogram?' When I added it up, the number was equal.

One individual came and said, 'My friend's name is Ġhulām ʿAlī, and his father's name is Ġhulām Muḥammad. He has written a request, with the most extreme insistence, that I should get Hazrat to compose a name-pun in which both names occur.' When he heard this, he promised, 'Please come in two or three days. God willing, I'll have thought of one.' He took his leave and went away. He must have just stepped across the hall, when the Ustad said to the servant, 'Muḥammad Baḳhsh, call him; run and catch hold of him. It's turned out very well--I'm quickly free of his demand.' Addressing me, he said [in Persian], '/Father Ġhulām [=slave of] Muḥammad, son Ġhulām ʿAlī/'.

#469# Dīvān Chandū Lāl [Shādāñ], having heard his poetry, sent a pattern-line, and invited him [to the Deccan]. He composed a ghazal and sent it, and in the concluding verse he wrote,

/Nowadays although in the Deccan there's great esteem for poetry

Who would go, Ẓauq, leaving the streets of Delhi/.

He sent a robe of honor and five hundred rupees. But the Ustad didn't go. One day I asked the reason for his not going. He said [the following anecdote]:

An anecdote: A traveler stayed in Delhi for twenty days or a month, then left. Here [in Delhi], a dog had taken a liking to him. That faithful little dog went with him. When he arrived at Shāhdarah, the dog remembered Delhi and stayed there. He saw the dogs of that place, with thick necks, muscular bodies, sleek coats. One dog saw him and was happy. And considering him a Delhi dog, he took great care of him. He took him to the Dalhāʾiyoñ kā Bāzār. Stealing a sweet from the sweetseller's shop, he placed it before him. From the innkeeper's shop he filched a jawbone. The Delhi dog ate these treats, and kept telling them #470# about Delhi. On the third day he asked permission to leave. The local dog prevented him. He mentioned the excursions and shows and beauties of Delhi. Finally he left, and he pressed his friend too to come to Delhi. The friend remembered it, and one day he set out for Delhi. Just as he entered--the dogs of the burning-ground, eaters of corpses, with bloody eyes and black mouths. With violent effort he got past them. Then he saw the river. For a long time he walked along the riverbank. Finally he leaped in. He crossed over with the greatest difficulty. Evening had fallen. Avoiding the dogs of the city's streets and lanes, he found his friend only after one and a half watches of the night had passed.

This poor thing was embarrassed by his own situation. Outwardly he was happy, and said, 'Oh ho! How have you happened to come at this hour?' In his heart he said, 'The night has saved my honor. Otherwise, in the day, what is there here?' Taking his friend, he began to wander here and there. 'This is Chandni Chauk. This is Darībah. This is the Jāmaʿ Masjid.' The guest said, 'My friend, I'm dying of hunger. Let's go sightseeing later. Give me something to eat, I beg you!' He said, 'You've come at an extraordinary time--now what can I do?' Finally, on the steps of the Jāmaʿ Masjid, Jānī the Kabab-seller had forgotten a pot of hot chilis. He said, 'There, my friend, you're very lucky.' The guest hadn't eaten for a whole day. He stretched his jaws wide and fell on it. And instantly #471# it was as if even his brains had been blown out of his mouth by gunpowder. He leaped back with a sneeze. And, in anger, he said, 'Bravo--this Delhi!' The Delhi dog said, 'We live here only for this sharp taste!' [End of *auq's anecdote.]

The Ustad's habit was that at seven or eight o'clock he went to the necessary place, and smoked three or four refills of his huqqah there. On holidays, I always came to his house at that time, and stayed there the whole day. The necessary place was by the hall. He recognized the sound of my footsteps. He used to ask, 'Is it you?' I presented my respects. There was a tiny little courtyard. Near it was a charpoy. I would seat myself on it. He used to say, 'Well, how did you recite that verse of mine that day?' He recited one or two words of it; I presented the whole verse. He commanded, 'Yes, now make it like this'.

One day he emerged from the bathroom laughing. He said, 'Well, my friend, after thirty-three years, today I've found the way to give a correction'. Ḥāfiz̤ Vīrān said, 'Hazrat, how so?' He said, 'One day the late Shāh Nāṣīr was giving correction to a pupil. In it there was a line, /Her waist quivers three times with one tickle/. It was the beginning of my practice. I could only realize this much: that other words ought to be in that place. And ever since then this line has been pricking my mind--but only today have I solved that problem.' He petitioned, 'Hazrat, then what is it?' He commanded, '/It quivers three times with one tickle/. Put the 'waist' in the line before'. He petitioned, 'Then how would that work?' The Ustad recited to us three or four lines in different word orders. At this time I remember one of them:

/Bravo to the waist--entangled in chains of curls,

It quivers three times with one tickle/.

Kābulī Gate was very near. In the evening he would go out, and stroll for hours. I usually used to be with him. Themes from books, learned ideas--he used to impart lessons to me, he recited verses. One day he was composing a ghazal of the king's, 'tīr hameshah, taṣvīr hameshah'. As he thought, he began to say, 'You compose something too'. I said, 'What should I present?' He commanded, 'Miyāñ! This is how one learns: at least start with 'hūñ hāñ, ġhūñ ġhāñ.' Compose something, at least a line or so.' I said, '/Your picture always pressed to my breast/'. After a bit of reflection he said, 'Yes, it's proper:

/If it comes to hand, your picture, then how contentedly will I live

Your picture always pressed to my breast/'.

#472# Now when I sometimes have to go to Delhi, and I pass by that place, then tears come into my eyes. A number of times His Majesty hinted for this opening verse, but he evaded it. It was not possible to compose the theme [in any other way]. He did not give the opening verse:

/What can I say--the heart has been captured by this inseparable eyebrow:

One morsel, with two fish fighting over it/.

The king has four volumes. In the first, some ghazals are the product of correction by Shāh Naṣīr. Some are by Mīr Kāz̤im Ḥusain 'Beqarār'. In short, more than half of the first volume, and all the other three volumes from beginning to end, are by the late Ustad. Those stony grounds in which it is difficult even to lift up the pen--he arranged and completed them so beautifully that hearts are gladdened. My late father [Maulvī Muḥammad Bāqir] used to say, 'Your king is the king of grounds; he pulls out patterns excellently. But you make them verdant. Otherwise, they'd become too alkaline.' In [the king's] own manuscript there used to be only an occasional complete verse or a group of one and a half lines; single lines, halves of lines, or only the meter and the refrain and the rhyme could be discerned. The rest was nothing! The Ustad used to put flesh and skin on these bones and make them into images of beauty and love. There was no end to the [king's] inventive requests. I record some verses of that ghazal, after every verse of which the Ustad has joined a line:

/Either You should have given me a kingly crown

Or You should have given me a 'crown' as king of beggars

Otherwise, you shouldn't have made me such as you made me

If You gave me a taste for the intoxication of love

You shouldn't have made the glass of my lifetime so narrow

You should have made my heart a cask and a wineshop

This wisdom made me perplexed and stupefied

Why did you make me wise--You shouldn't have

You should have made me a madman for Your sake

Every day there is desolation in this teeming world, Z̤afar

Instead of such a city, You should have made a wilderness

Or rather, better yet, You shouldn't have made it at all/.

An old man used to wander around selling packets of sweet and sour digestive powder, and calling out. 'Take it, it's the goods you like--sweet and sour!' His Majesty heard him. And adding a line or two on it, he sent it to the Ustad. He #473# composed ten dohrās on it. His Majesty took them and kept them. He had a number of dancing-girls as his servants. He made them memorize the verses. The next day they were on everyone's lips. Two stanzas are still in my memory:

/Take it, it's the goods you like--sweet and sour!

The world is like a grocer's market--everything together

If you want sweet, take sweet--if you want sour, take sour

Take it, it's the goods you like--sweet and sour!

Look, you fool, don't be fooled by appearances

Sweet above, sour beneath--like an unripe mango

Take it, it's the goods you like--sweet and sour!/

A faqir used to go around crying, 'Give something in the way of God! Go on--it will be for your good!' His Majesty liked it. He spoke to the Ustad--he made twelve dohrās on it, and gave them to him. For a long time, the sound of that song came from every house, and people wandered around singing it everywhere. (May God give long life to Ḥāfiz̤ Vīrān; he dictated these verses as well.)

/Give something in the way of God! Go on--it will be for your good!

The beggar, whether he's a drunkard or a pious man

Don't look askance--with God, all subtleties are valued

Give something in the way of God! Go on--it will be for your good!

You do hundreds of chores in the world

But, oh servant of God, also do some work of God here

Give something in the way of God! Go on--it will be for your good!

The world is a sarai, you sit in it as a traveler

And you know that you have to go on from here at last

Give something in the way of God! Go on--it will be for your good!

What God has given to you, give in the name of God

If you don't give here, what account will you give there?

Give something in the way of God! Go on--it will be for your good!

You will give only to the person to whom God wants it given

But, oh Z̤afar, my advice is--

Give something in the way of God! Go on--it will be for your good!/

#474# There were thousands of things of this type: ṭappās, ṭhumrīs, riddles, seṭhnīs. How much can I write? One day he was strolling. Ḥāfiz̤ Vīrān was with him. He squatted down in order to urinate. And he took longer than the usual time. When Ḥāfiz̤ Vīrān went near and paid attention, he was humming something, and tapping out a tempo with his finger on his shoe. He asked, 'You aren't finished yet?' The Ustad said, 'As I was going out, His Majesty recited two or three antaras of a ṭhumrī, and asked me to complete it. I just remembered it.' He asked, 'Why are you tapping your finger on your shoe like this?' The Ustad said, 'I have to see whether the words fit correctly with the beat or not'.

Ḥāfiz̤ Vīrān says that one day there was an extraordinary occurrence. He was composing the king's ghazal. The opening verse was,

/Talk about her eyebrow went a little way, then stopped

Today, oh moon-faced one, the sword went a little way, then stopped/.

Two or three verses had been composed, when his son Ḳhalīfah Ismāʿīl returned from the court and said, 'Just now I saw an extraordinary event [muʿarikah]'. The late Ustad became attentive. Ḳhalīfah Ismāʿīl said, 'When I arrived near Bhavānī Shañkar Gate, toward Khārī Bāvlī I saw two or three men standing and arguing with each other. Even as they spoke, they grew so heated that swords were drawn, and two or three men were even wounded.' Here, because Ḥāfiz̤ Vīrān was listening to the verses of a ghazal, he laughed and said, 'Hazrat, were you present there?' Slowly the Ustad said, 'While I'm just sitting here, everything happens'. I don't mean by this that he had miraculous powers or could see the unseen. It was just a fluke of coincidence. I write it down for the pleasure of interested people. More than this, one day a ghazal was composed in the Royal Presence of which the opening verse was,

/Today the picture of your eyebrow was half-drawn--then put aside

We hear that in Bhopal today, the sword was drawn--then put aside/

Then we learned that on that day in Bhopal there had been swordplay. Many such events are quoted in histories and anthologies. Thinking of the length of my work, I refrain from mentioning any more.

One time it was afternoon. While conversing, he went to sleep. When his eyes opened, he said, 'Just now in a dream #475# I saw that a fire had started'. In the meantime his son came and said, 'There was a fire in Pīr Baḳhsh the merchant's warehouse. It was very lucky that no harm was done.'

One night he came and sat with my late father. The Ustad said, 'I have to compose the king's ghazal; come on, let me do it right here'. There were a number of demands. Among them all, he began to compose in this pattern: 'muḥabbat kyā hai, ṣūrat kyā hai, muṣībat kyā hai'. I said, 'Hazrat, the ground is not fertile'. Falling silent, he said, 'Expert poets make it fertile'. Then he recited these two opening verses [in unpromising grounds] by first Saudā and then Mīr:

/Don't forget, oh mirror, that if the beloved loves you

It can't be trusted--it's merely the sight of a pretty face/

/That to which the whirlwind causes danger and the wild wind causes damage--

My dust should be destroyed in ways like that! Oh cloud, may God have mercy on you!/4

A happenstance: He used to say: 'One day the king gave me a draft of a ghazal and commanded, "Fix this one up at once and give it to me before you go". It was the rainy season. Clouds were forming. The river was at its height. I went into the Hall of Private Audience and sat down to one side, looking out on that view. And I began to work on the ghazal. After a little while, I heard footsteps. When I looked, I saw a gentleman, a European scholar, standing behind me. He said to me, "What is5 you writing?" I said, "It's a ghazal". He asked, "Who is you?" I said, "I praise His Majesty in verse". He said, "In which language?" I said, "In Urdu". He asked, "What languages does you know?" I said, "I know Persian and Arabic also". He said, "Does you compose poetry in those languages too?" I said, "If it's some special occasion, I have to compose in them too; otherwise I compose only in Urdu, since it's my own language. What a man can do in his own language, he cannot do in someone else's language."

He asked, "Does you know English?" I said, "No". He said, "Why hasn't you studi-yed it?" I said, "Our mouths and voices are not suited to it, it just doesn't come to us". The Sahib said, "Well [vil], what is this! Look, I speaks your language." I said, "In old age, a foreign language cannot be learned, it's a very difficult thing". He then said, "Well, I has learned your three language after coming to India. You cannot learn our one language. What is this?" And he went on and on about it. I said, #476# "Sahib, I consider learning a language to mean that one should write and speak on every matter the way native speakers themselves do. You say, 'I 'as learned your three language'! Why, what kind of language is that, and what kind of learning! This is not learning and speaking a language-- this is ruining a language!"'

[Seven long ghazals #477# #478# #479# #480# by Ẓauq.]

In the mushairah of Navab Aṣġhar ʿAlī Ḳhān 'Nasīm', the ghazal [zabāñ ke liye, nihāñ ke liye] recorded above [#479-480#] became the pattern. Nasīm and Momin Ḳhān Sahib, who was his ustad, went and attended upon the late Ustad. And they carried him off with great insistence. This was the first mushairah which the servant Āzād saw with the eyes of enthusiasm. The late Ġhālib did not attend, but he had written a ghazal. I have written down both of those ustads' ghazals. May the people of vision obtain pleasure.

a For an account of Auj, see page #494#.

b See page #171#.

c I have heard from some older people that Lālah Ghanshām Dās 'ʿĀṣī' recited it; he too was a pupil of Shāh Naṣīr. And in those days he was a youthful boy. I saw him in Delhi at the home of he late Ḥakīm Sukhānand. He had grown old. But in his temperament there was more liveliness than even boys have. He talked [as vividly] about those days as if he were telling stories.

d He was the father of Navab Aṣġhar ʿAlī Ḳhān Aṣġhar, the pupil of Momin, who later used the pen-name of Nasīm.

1 Literally, the 'water would be thrown back at' the moon; an idiomatic expression for destruction.

e Many such corrections used to take place every day. If they were written down, they would become a whole book.

2 At this point Āzād inserts an extremely long footnote--one that covers the lower half of every page all the way through page #470#. In the translation, this massive footnote has been interpolated into the text for greater ease of reading; it begins at the end of this paragraph.

3 It is common in colloquial speech to refer to oneself with the first-person masculine plural instead of the singular.

4 The cloud is being reproached for sending rain and causing the lover's dust merely to settle, instead of letting it be blown away and destroyed in the winds as would be proper. The expression used for 'to be destroyed' [barbād honā] literally means 'to be thrown to the winds'.

5 The European's ungrammatical Urdu speech has been reproduced as exactly as possible.

-- Previous Section-- Main Index -- Next Section --