Ghalib / 31.01.2009

Even as I was writing about Pascal’s wager (On God: Existence and Nature), Ghalib’s words were echoing in my mind: taa’at meN taa rahe nah mai-o-angabiiN kii laag dozaakh meN Daal do koii le kar bihisht ko so that in obedience, the desire of wine and honey may not remain let someone take heaven and cast it into hell The question is quite obvious: What is the motivation to do the right thing or to act ethically? But, of course, this begs the prior question: What is right or ethical to start with? Ghalib’s position on the prior question is well known – he never placed much value on the rituals and gestures of propriety; for him it was always the sincerity of intent that mattered more. There is the constant contrast in Ghalib’s poetry between the genuineness of the Sufi and the hypocrisy of the Mullah. Here Ghalib is going a...

Ghalib / 31.10.2008

Last week we left off with the comment that Ghalib did not have a high opinion of people who thought they would go to heaven. Here is the she’r we had in mind: kam nahiiN jalvah-garii meN tire kuuche se bihisht yihii naqshah hai vale is qadar aabaad nahiiN it’s not less in splendor than your street, paradise – the layout is the same, but it is not as flourishing The following interpretation by Faruqi explains it best: “Those who long for paradise, and those who enter it -- the poor things are dried-out ascetics. Little do they know that paradise is present in the world itself. Only a handful of fools follow them on the road to paradise. The axis of the people is the beloved's street.” The underlying question is: Who goes to heaven? Ghalib is quite consistent in voicing his opinion that those who are absolutely sure they would go...