‘Hazaarun Khwahishen Aisi Ki’ by Mirza Assadullah Ghalib

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With a thousand daunting desires am I ever beset
Never is it enough, no matter how many are met

Why should my killer fear? no blood their hands will smear
It has long since left my body, long flown out with my tears

Great must’ve been Adam’s woe when from eden he fell
But greater my grief to withdraw from whence you dwell

The one I had hoped would soothe the wounds of my heart
Turned out to be injured also from the same pitiless dart

In love, no difference there is betwixt life and death
For you live for the one who takes away your breath

Keep the pressure on the heart, lest the arrow in it come out
lest the heart come out with it, lest with it my life spout

By god, o cruel one, let the cloak on the Kaaba stay
I fear to find that same fickle idol if it’s pulled away

Ghalib, the tavern stool is so far from the priest’s chair
Yet last night as I got up to leave, I saw him seated there

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Hazaaron khwahishen aisi ke har khwahish pe dam nikle
Bohat niklay mere armaan, lekin phir bhi kam nikle
Daray kyon mera qaatil? kya rahega us ki gardan par?
Voh khoon, jo chashm-e-tar se umr bhar yoon dam-ba-dam nikle
Nikalna khuld se aadam ka soonte aaye hain lekin
Bahot be-aabru hokar tere kooche se hum nikle
Hui jin se tavaqqa khastagi ki daad paane ki
Voh ham se bhi zyaada khasta e tegh e sitam nikle
Mohabbat mein nahin hai farq jeenay aur marnay ka
Usi ko dekh kar jeetay hain, jis kaafir pe dam nikle
Zara kar zor seene par ki teer-e-pursitam nikle jo
Wo nikle to dil nikle, jo dil nikle to dam nikle
Khuda ke waaste parda na kaabe se uthaa zaalim
Kaheen aisa na ho yaan bhi wahi kaafir sanam nikle
Kahaan maikhane ka darwaaza Ghalib aur kahaan vaaiz
Par itna jaantay hain kal voh jaata tha ke ham nikle

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Such a beautiful ghazal by Ghalib. I’ve omitted a few verses in my translation and kept it literal, so I fear continuity is lost somewhat as a result. However, this poem still illustrates the quotable nature of Ghalib’s work, which is my aim. Each couplet stands on its own; pithy and comprehensive.

Like Shakespeare in English, Ghalib’s verses have entered the public consciousness of the Hindi/Urdu speaking world. He is quoted daily in all kinds of conversations- a testimony to his poetry that speaks for everyone.

I have read that Ghalib once remarked that the sign of a great poet is if his songs are sung both by the courtesan in the brothel and the fakir on the street; if that is the case, Ghalib’s universal appeal makes him the greatest of all.

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