Not a Wish Comes to Fruition
A Ghazal by Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib (1797–1869)
Translation by Maaz Bin Bilal
Not a wish comes to fruition.
I can see no conclusion.
The day for death is a given,
Then why can’t I sleep this season?
I could laugh at myself once,
Now no humour, just remission.
I know the rewards for faith, still,
That is not my predilection.
There is a reason I am quiet now,
Else I’m eloquent in conversation.
Why should I not shout in remembrance?
Inaudible is my voice of reason.
If the wounds of my heart are not visible,
There’s no stench either, o physician.
We are there where to us, even,
Comes no news of our condition.
We die in the hope of dying (for love),
Death waits, with its repetition.
How will you show your face at the Kaaba, Ghalib?
You know no shame, only humiliation.
Transliteration of Urdu Text
koi ummīd bar nahiñ ātī
koi sūrat nazar nahiñ ātī
maut ka ek din mu’ayyan hai
nīnd kyūñ rāt bhar nahiñ ātī
āge āti thī hāl-e-dil pe hañsīñ
ab kisi bāt par nahiñ ātī
jāntā hūn sawāb-e-tā’at-o-zohad
par tabīyat udhar nahiñ ātī
hai kuchh aisī hī bāt jo chup hūñ
warna kya bāt kar nahiñ ātī
kyūn na chīķhūn ke yād karte haiñ
meri āvāz gar nahiñ ātī
dāġ-e-dil gar nazar nahiñ āta
bū bhi ai chārahgar nahiñ ātī
hum wahañ hain jahañ say hum ko bhī
kuchh hamārāī ķhabar nahiñ ātī
martay haiñ ārzū meiñ marnay kī
maut ātī hai par nahiñ ātī
kā’ba kis muñh se jāoge ġhālib
sharm tum ko magar nahiñ ātī
Note on the poet, Ghālib:
Mirza Asadullah Baig Khān ‘Ghālib’ (1797-1869) is, arguably, the greatest and most popular of Urdu poets. Born in Agra, India, he spent most of his life in Ballimaran, Delhi, where he wrote in both Urdu and Persian, and was patronized towards the end of his life by the Mughal emperor, Bahādurshāh Zafar II. Ghālib helped establish and enrich the ghazal form of poetry in particular. He brought the different elements of the poem together in a multilayered and rich compound form, and brought new meanings to old words and motifs by their startling combinations. The ambition of the poems and the poet is unrivalled. His letters, some of which record the revolt of 1857 against the British and subsequent mutiny retributions, are immensely valuable too, both for their prose style and as historical records. A life of financial hardship, the deaths of all of his seven children in their infancy, a schizophrenic younger brother, a declining city and empire, the violence of the revolt and its aftermath, and a skeptical temperament, together resulted in deeply anguished yet very tightly controlled and formally-brilliant verse. He used the pen names Ghālib (dominant, ascendant) and Asad (lion).
Note on the translator, Maaz Bin Bilal:
Maaz is a young academic from Delhi, India, who grew up in Ballimaran, where Ghālib lived for most of his life. An Assistant Professor at Jindal School of Liberal Arts, Sonepat, India, Maaz earned his PhD in 2015 for his dissertation on the politics of friendship in E. M. Forster’s work from the School of English at Queen’s University of Belfast. He writes poetry in English, which continues to be influenced by Ghālib, possibly due to their shared environs. Some of his English poems and translations from poetry Urdu poetry may be found in Himal Southasian, Indian Literature, Poetry at Sangam, Scroll.in,Muse India, The Postcolonial Text, The Four Quarters Magazine, Kashmir Lit, The Sunflower Collective and Writers Asylum. He has also been anthologized in India Dissents and 40 Under 40 among other books.