An Anthology of Translations of {20}

from 2011 through 2030


*Dia Tsung, 2011*
*Vijay Seshadri, 2013*
*Arshad M. Hashmi and Farhat Mansoob, 2013*
*Randeep Purewall, 2013*
*Surinder Deol, 2014*
*F. Pritchett and O. Cornwall, 2017*
*M. Shahid Alam, 2018*
*Sanjiv Saraf, 2019*
*Ajit Dutta, 2020*


It was not fated in this lifetime that we should be united with the beloved,
But even so, a longer life-span would merely have prolonged the waiting. 

Though we lived clinging to your promise, we still recognised its falseness- 
For had we known it to be true, we would have died of jubilation. 

From your fragile delicacy, we surmised your promise could be easily broken:
If it had been sturdier it would have resisted all your efforts to shatter it.

Let anyone inquire of my heart  how it was affected by your arrow partially penetrating:
I  would now be free of this prickling anxiety if it had finished me off and pierced my core.

What manner of friendship consists on merely offering counsel?
Commiseration would have been far more helpful in its stead.

From this vein embedded in the rock there would issue an unstoppable hemorrhage.  
If but a spark from this grief were to explode, it  would cause extensive bloody damage.

Even though grief is life-destroying, what escape is there for those who have a heart?
But for the grace inherent in this grief of passion, a myriad mundane griefs would conquer us instead.     

To whom can I describe this grief-steeped lonely night of cataclysmic disaster? 
How bad could dying have been if death had struck me but a single time this night?  

Death comes accompanied by public disgrace - rather to be sunk obscurely in the sea
Sans the necessity of a cortège or obsequies - or the occasions of a memorial tomb. 

Who has set eyes on it, ever? for the Prime Cause is ineffable, singular and unique.
If two had been present at the beginning, there would have been foremost some chance of meeting. 

Ghalib,! this might well serve as your exegetical discourse on mystical subjects
And we would almost take you for a saint did we not already take you for an imbiber!

--Dia Tsung, unpublished translation, 2011
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No, I wasn't meant to love and be loved.
If I'd lived longer, I would have waited longer.

Knowing you are faithless keeps me alive and hungry.
Knowing you faithful would kill me with joy.

Delicate are you, and your vows are delicate, too,
so easily do they break.

You are a laconic marksman. You leave me
not dead but perpetually dying.

I want my friends to heal me, succor me.
Instead, I get analysis.

Conflagrations that would make stones drip blood
are campfires compared to my anguish.

Two-headed, inescapable anguish!--
Love's anguish or the anguish of time.

Another dark, severing, incommunicable night.
Death would be fine, if I only died once.

I would have liked a solitary death,
not this lavish funeral, this grave anyone can visit.

You are mystical, Ghalib, and, also, you speak beautifully.
Are you a saint, or just drunk as usual?

-- Vijay Seshadri, 3 Sections (Minneapolis: Graywolf Press, 2013), p. 16.
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I lived on your promise, thus-beloved, I knew it to be false.
For would not have I died of happiness, in case- I had faith!

O’ someone should ask my heart about your half-drawn arrow.
Where would this pricking have arisen from, had it pierced the liver!

Blood would’ve unceasingly dripped from the veins of stone,
Had it, which you are considering grief, been a spark!

Grief is, invariably, life-consuming; still one cannot escape as 'tis a matter of passions!
Had there been no grief of love, there would've been sufferings of livelihood!

To whom would I confide that the distressing night is a severe catastrophe!
Would death be bad for me if I died once and only once!

Since my dying disgraced me-- why wasn’t I drowned in the river?
Neither my bier would ever have been carried, nor would anywhere be a tomb.

Who would ever be able to see Him, for unique is His Oneness!
If there had been even a sign of twoness, somewhere He’d have been encountered!

These inquiries into mysticism, this eloquence of yours, Ghalib!
We would’ve regarded you to be a saint, had you not been a wine-drinker

--Arshad M. Hashmi and Farhat Mansoob, unpublished translation, 2013
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'Twas Not My Fate

'Twas not my fate to meet my love
Had I kept on living, here I'd be waiting

I lived on your promise, knowing it false
Wouldn't I have died happily if I believed it?

Your delicacy, this weak vow
It couldn't break, had it been firm

Someone ask my heart about your half-drawn arrow
Where did this prickling come from if it pierced the liver?

What's friendship when friends become advisors?
Had someone just been there to heal, to console

Blood drips and drips from veins of stone
Was it once a spark which you call grief?

How could our hearts escape that life-destroying sorrow?
Had love's sorrow not been the world's sorrow would've been

To whom do I tell what it is! The night of grief is terrible!
What harm would death do me if it came but once?

Disgraced since death--why was I not drowned at sea?
No funeral would there be to follow, no gravestone would there be

Who can see him whose oneness is unique!
A whiff of the second and we'd have met Him

These mystical questions, this exposition, Ghalib!
A saint you'd be had you not been a drinker

--Randeep Purewall, unpublished translation, 2013
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It Wasn't My Good Fortune

It wasn't my good fortune / to realize oneness / with my beloved.
Even if I had lived longer, / I would have suffered / the same wait.

If I lived on your promise, / please understand, / I didn't believe it.
Had I believed it, / I would have died / joyously.

Your delicate being / made your commitments / tenuous.
If your promises were firm, / even you couldn't break them.

My heart knows the hurt / of your half-drawn arrows.
There had been no pinch / if the arrow / had gone past my liver.

What good is friendship / if friends became evangelists?
I wish someone / was a pain-reliever / and a comforter.

The blood / from the veins of the stone / was not stopped.
What I thought was sadness / was actually a spark.

Sorrow is a killer / with no escape -- / the price of having a heart.
If there were no miseries of love, / there would have been worries
about mundane things of life.

I need someone to share / the horrors / of the night of separation.
Death was normal / if that happened just once, / and no more.

Why didn't I drown myself / in a river / to avoid notoriety?
It would have saved a coffin, / a grave, / and a stone engraving.

Who can see Him / because He is unlike / anything else?
If there was another, / we would certainly have known.

Ghalib, your elucidation / of mystical matters / was divinely inspired.
Imagine being a saint / if you had stopped boozing!

--Surinder Deol, The Treasure: A Modern Rendition of Ghalib's Lyrical Love Poetry
(New Delhi: Partridge India, 2014), pp. 71-73
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Union with her--it was just not in my fate.
A longer life would only have meant more waiting.

If I lived on your promise--you know, I knew it was false.
For wouldn't I have died of joy, if I had believed it?

From your delicacy I knew that your vow was loosely bound--
You never could have broken it, if it had been firm.

Let someone ask my heart about your languid archery.
How could I have felt this frisson, with an arrow right through my liver?

What kind of friendship is this, when friends have become advisers?
If only someone would help me, if only someone would sympathize!

From rock-veins would have dripped unstoppable blood,
If what you think is "grief" had been a spark.

Although grief is deadly, how to escape, when one has a heart?
If there weren't the grief of passion, there's be the grief of the day-to-day.

To whom can I describe it--the night of grief is a torment.
Why would I have minded dying, if it had happened just once?

Since after death I was disgraced, why didn't I drown in the sea?
There would never have been a funeral, there would nowhere have been a tomb.

Who can see Him? For that oneness is unique.
With even a whiff of twoness, then somewhere--an encounter.

These lofty Sufistic questions! This style of yours, Ghalib!
We would have thought you a saint, if you weren't a wine-drinker.

--Frances W. Pritchett and Owen T. A. Cornwall, Ghalib: Selected Poems and Letters
(New York: Columbia University Press, 2017), pp.27-28
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Fate did not decree that I should be with you.
I would still be waiting if I had more time.

I know that your vows are a clever ruse.
If true and I knew, would I not die of joy?

It is true I prefer your barb inside me.
Would the pain endure if it shot through?

Agony is the inbred discourse of hearts.
The language is the same in love as in life.

Hard on the heart are dark lonely nights.
I do not mind dying, but I die every night.

Who can see the One who is complete? If there
Is room for two where is the point of entry?

Ghalib dazzles the world with his sufi talk.
He has a chance at sainthood if he sobers up.

--M. Shahid Alam, Intimations of Ghalib
(Asheville, NC: Orion Books, 2018), p. 17
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that my love be consummated, fate did not ordain
living longer had I wanted, 'twould have been in vain

'twas your vow that made me live, be not thus deceived
happily my life I'd give, if could have but believed

to your daintiness is tied, the frailty of your vow
you couldn't break it if you tried, if it was firm somehow

pain, your arrow, partly drawn, inflicts upon my heart
cleanly through if it had gone, this sting, would it impart?

what sort of friendship is this say? that friends do seek to preach
instead of trying to allay, my pain with soothing speech

if sorrow's fatal then tell me, how can this heart endure?
if love's sorrows would not be, then life's would be for sure

of these nights forlorn and sad, to whom should I complain?
dying once would not be bad, but each evening again?

when on dying was reviled, why, then was I not drowned?
no remnant there, to be defiled, no grave site to be found

Him, in person, who can see? unique, no form to glean
if was whiff of duality, He, somewhere would be seen

on mystic philosophy, 'ghalib', your words profound
a saint we would deem you to be, if drinking you weren't found

--Sanjiv Saraf, Nava-e Sarosh, Voices from Beyond: Delhi Masters rendered in rhyme
(New Delhi: Penguin Random House India, 2019), pp. 180-183

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This was never my destiny, meeting Her was not to be
Were I to live longer, this yearning still would be.

To survive on your promises is to know them as false
Wouldn't I have died of happiness if I believed you truly

Those sidelong glances of yours, ask me their pain
They throb half buried, from their pain I am never free

What friendship is this, that friends are now counselors
Someone, come, share my heartache, someone set me free

To whom should I complain of dreaded nights of longing
To die often of hope, what if death came once to set me free

If after death I am disrespected, why didn't I die of drowning
No corpse to be found, no funeral procession, no tomb to mark me

These knotty Sufisms, your wise testimony Ghalib
We'd take you for a saint, except you're a drunk to me

--Ajit Dutta (provided for this website by the translator)
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