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, https://outofcontextsite.wordpress.com
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.