Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Captured Gazelle: The Poems of Ghani Kashmiri: Tahir Ghani

The Captured Gazelle: The Poems of Ghani Kashmiri
Tahir Ghani
Translated by Mufti Mudasir Farooqi and Nusrat Bazaz
Penguin, 2013



This is probably the first proper collection of English translations of verse by Mulla Tahir Ghani, or Ghani Kashmiri (d. 1669), a Persian poet from Kashmir who lived during Aurangzeb's time and whose language was respected even in Iran. A poet whose creations, whose idioms, influenced Indian writers even as later as Mir and Ghalib.

The collection comes with a insightful introductory essay by Mufti Mudasir Farooqi on Ghani Kashmiri and Persian language in Kashmir.

The book offers translations of Ghazals, Quatrains (Rubaiyat) and a Masnavi.

As one reads through Ghani's work, one gets to step into Ghani's world, his joyous exclamations, his saddening doubts, his dejection of the way world works and his playful jokes at the world.

The compilation comes with English transliteration, so you actually get to read the original work as well the translation (a practice that should always be followed for such work. But somehow is seldom followed). The translations try best to retain the meaning of the original, the only problem is for a reader not already familiar with the way Persian poetry works, particularly in case of some Ghazals where the reader can easily forget the central theme of a composition in an attempt at catching the meaning of translation of an idiom.

One of the most interesting work translated in this book is  Masnavi Shita'iyah oe Winter's Tale, a graphic and poetic description of Kashmiri winter by Ghani Kashmir that ends with lines:

Hinduye didam ki mast az 'ishq bud
guftamash zin justjuyat chist sud

Dar javaban gift an zunnar dar
nist dar dastam 'inan-e ikhtiyar

rishtaye dar gardanam afgandah dust
mi barad har ja ki khwatire khwah-e ust

I saw a Hindu drunk with devotion
'Such striving to what end?' I asked.

In reply said that wearer of the sacred thread:
'The reins of will are not in my hand.

"The Friend has yoked my neck with HIs thread
And pulled me by it wherever He wills."

 
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There is an interesting famous story given in the book. It is said that when Ghani Kashmiri was invited by Emperor Aurangzeb to his court, the poet snubbed him and refused.
The poet said to Mughal governor Saif Khan, 'Tell the King that Ghani is insane.' Saif Khan asked, 'How can I call a sane man insane?' At this Ghani tore his shirt and went away like a frenzied man. After three days he died.

What is not given in the book is a probable reason for Ghani's hesitation at joining the royal court. The explanation for this behaviour may be sought in the story of his master Shaikh Muhsin Fani.

"Fani was a court poet of Shahjahan and was greatly honoured by the Emperor. But when Sultan Murad Bakhsh [youngest son of Shahjahan] conquered Balkh [in Afghanistan] a copy of Muhsin's diwan was found in the library of Nadhr Muhammad Khan [Uzbek, happened in around 1646] the fugitive sovereign of the kingdom which contained panegyrics on him. This detection of duplicity very much enraged Shahjahan who removed him from the court. However the Emperor allowed him a pension. Fani returned to Kashmir and spent his days in instructing and educating youngmen."*

* From 'A Descriptive Catalogue of the Hindustani Manuscripts in the Government Oriental Manuscripts Library, Madras' (1909)

Also, another thing not mentioned in the book is that his old takhallus Tahir is Chronograph for the year when Ghani (his later takhallus) started his poetic career.

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Buy The Captured Gazelle: The Poems of Ghani Kashmiri from Flipkart.com



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