Author Parvati Sharma revisited the Jaipur lit-fest after several years — and found herself in the company of Bahadur Shah Zafar’s ghazals:

The writer seems to me possessed with a more intense and morbid self-consciousness than I ever knew in any sane human being

 — John Stuart Mill on Robert Browning, quoted in Seamus Perry, ‘Against the Same-Old Same Old’, London Review of Books 38:21, 3 November 2016,

A lit-fest lament
(via the greatly more graceful melancholy of Bahadur Shah Zafar)

Naheen ishq mein is ka to ranj hamein

ke qarar o shakeb zara na raha,

Gham-e-ishq to apna rafiq raha

koi aur bala se raha na raha.

Not of JLF do I make this complaint

that peace and patience I was left without;

career anxiety kept me company, no matter

who called out ‘Hey, hi!’ — or did not.


Na thee haal ki jab hamein apne khabar

rahe dekhte auron ke aib o hunar,

Padi apni buraiyon par jo nazar,

to nigah mein koi bura na raha.

When I hardly knew what I liked of myself,

I watched to see who received censure, who praise,

then catching a glimpse of my own sorry self,

I declared the wide world a vainglorious blot.


Hamein saaghar-e-baada ke dene mein ab

kare der jo saqui to hai e ghazab,

Ke yeh ahd-e-nishat, ye daur-e-tarab

na rahega jahan mein sada na raha.

If now for the sake of a small glass of wine

a pass they demand, it’s truly a crime:

that such passing pleasures of our pleasing times

are declared not for me, as if I never was.


Lage yun to hazaron hi teer-e-sitam

ke tadapte rahe pade khak pa hum,

Wale naaz o karishma ki tegh-e-do-dam

lagi aisi ke tasma laga na raha.

So often my panel ambitions were crushed,

I sipped Diggi chai till the kullarh was dust,

till the two-edged blade of frail pride and sheer lust

struck me: oh it means that I mean diddly-squat!


Zafar aadmi us ko na janiyega,

ho wo kaisa hi sahib-e-fahm-o-zaka,

jise aiyesh mein yad-e-khuda na rahe,

jise taish mein khof-e-khuda na raha.

Paro, don’t call her a real litterateur

(her prose may be broody, her banter delightful)

who when she’s at ease, has not her game on,

who when she’s at play, claims not she’s distraught.


To read Parvati Sharma‘s delightful satire on the Gandhis, go here:


Leave a Reply