Ghalib – 27: Rhetoric or Reality?

From resignation and withdrawal, Ghalib is rousing himself:

huuN giriftaar-e ulfat-e sayyaad
varnah baaqii hai taaqat-e parvaaz

I am captured by love of the Hunter
otherwise, strength for flight is still left

How appropriate then the ambivalence: Does the protagonist really have the strength for flight or is he deluding himself?

I suppose the reality of becoming captive is a gradual process. To start with, the feeling that one can resist can be quite strong and real. Over time, as one becomes enmeshed in the web, it can turn into a delusion.

I am reminded here of Macbeth (Act III, Scene IV):

I am in blood stepp’d in so far, that, should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o’er

You can be committed to such an extent that extricating yourself could seem just as difficult as going along.

But note what makes great poets great. There is ambivalence here that comes from Shakespeare’s use of tedious: does he intend ‘difficult’ or does he intend ‘boring’? How much richer the lines become with the embedded ambivalence.

Gahlib’s use of varnah achieves the same effect, energizing the lines with a whole range of possible meanings.

For us, who seek a contemporary relevance, there is an obvious subtext here. We are confined to the few – those who could protest but wont. There is, however, the huge unspoken mass that hates the Hunter but cannot afford to protest.

We are on familiar grounds now: the Hunter buys off the few that matter with love or with favors (love of favors?) and the rest are frozen out of the game.

Let us translate this into very modern language: civil society needs to empower the masses so we can get rid of the Hunter. The wings of the reluctant few have to be transferred to the oppressed but wingless many.

Is that possible?

For a more literary interpretation of this she’r see Mehr-e-Niimroz.

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2 Responses to “Ghalib – 27: Rhetoric or Reality?”

  1. Naila Says:

    To add my two pence, I refer to Bahadur Shah Zafar:

    Itney manoos saiyaad sey ho gaey
    Ab rehai melay gee toe mer jaeen gaey

    In its struggle to reckon with the captive, the captor has to reckon with him/herself.

  2. Mohammad Saleem Says:

    The subtext is perhaps more important, as it reflects what the text doesn’t. The words ‘varnah’ and ‘tedious’ do communicate the experience of conflict within.

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