The inspiration for this initiative came from a column by Professor
Stanley Fish in the New York Times on how Milton is used to introduce
undergraduates in the West to the all the big questions in life. We
decided to follow suit and use Ghalib in the same way for college
students in South Asia.
To date we have posted nine couplets of Ghalib on the blog followed by
questions that come to mind on reading them. Readers will find them at
http://thesouthasianidea.com under the theme Education. They are
simple numbered Ghalib - 1, Ghalib - 2, etc. The link to Professor
Fish's column is provided in the post Milton and Ghalib.
Feedback and suggestions for improvement would be very welcome.
This is indeed a worthwhile project. Ghalib's poetry is eminently
suitable for pedagogical work.
I am a chemistry teacher, and when I was teaching students who were
familiar with Urdu, I used to use some verses of Ghalib to illustrate
scientific concepts. One such concept, and the most baffling one, is
Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle. The principle was formulated by
the German physicist Werner Heisenberg in 1927. The importance of the
principle, though formulated by a physicist to explain the quantum
mechanical phenomenom, went far beyond science. It led to a
reevaluation of the nature of all observation of reality. The
reverberations of the profound insight the Principle provides have
been felt in all areas of human thought, particularly in philosophy.
According to the Principle, no observation can be made without
affecting or disturbing the object being observed. if one is trying
to find the location of a particle, one can do so only by bouncing
light off it and observing the bounced light. In the process, the
light itself disturbs the particle and its position is not precisely
measurable. For larger objects, the effect is extremely small; that
is why we don't experience it in everyday life.
The Uncertainty Principle can then be summarised as describing the
interaction between the observer and the observed. There is no such
thing as a detached observer: all observation affects the observed.
Here, then, comes ghalib's she'r
unke dekhe se jo aa jaati hai muNh par raunaq
vuh samajhte haiN keh biimaar ka Haal achcha hai
The observed (the sick lover) is affected by the very act of
observation (by the beloved), and there is no way for the observer to
know the true state of the observed.
Nowhere have I ever come across a better analogy for the Uncertainty
Principle than this gem from Ghalib!
"Entropy" is another concept that evokes a she'r of Ghalib:
buu-e-gul, naala-e-dil, duud-e-chiraagh-e-mehfil
jo teri bazm se nikla so pareshaaN nikla.
But enough science for one day!
Thank you very much for your scholarly input in respect of this
I would like to make a very humble contribution on a quite
mundane topic :
Z'of se gir'ya mubaddal~ba~dam-e-sard huwa
Baawar aaya hameN paani ka hawa ho jaana
Jamil awr Afzal Sahibaan, aadaab 'arz hai.
Jamil Sahib, thank you for initiating an interesting topic. I had read
a similar comment of yours in a post of "good old times". It would be
a good idea if ALUPers can come up with other gems of Ghalib where one
can show some correlation with scientific knowledge, and add tthem to
this thread. To this end, perhaps someone could give this thread an
appropriate new name. I don't know how to do this otherwise, with your
leave, I would have done it. It is unfortunate for me that the very
shi'r that I had in mind, has been "snatched up" by Afzal Sahib. I
shall have to do some serious digging now:)
> Z'of se gir'ya mubaddal~ba~dam-e-sard huwa
> Baawar aaya hameN paani ka hawa ho jaana
The process being described is that of a liquid (giryah>>paanii)
changing to a gas (havaa), in other words evaporation. Without going
into physics, there is a cooling effect when evaporation takes place.
We have all felt this in public toilets where there are air-dryers
when we feel coldness in our hands in the drying process. In case of
Ghalib, ashk havaa ho ga'e haiN awr dam sard.
Jamil Sahib, in the shi'r that you have quoted, I always felt that it
was the poet/'aashiq 's looking at the beloved/ma'shuuq which results
in the be-raunaqii of his face changing to raunaq and not the other
way round. So, if my thinking is not flawed, the observer's condition
is changed by the observed!!! Have I totally misunderstood this
Sa'dii has said something similiar.
guftah buudam cho biyaaii Gham-i-dil baa tuu/to bi-goyam
chih bigoyam kih Gham az dil biravad, chuuN tuu/to biyaaii
kahaa to thaa tuu jab aa'e gaa apne dil kaa Gham tujhe bataa'uuN gaa
kyaa kahuuN kih Gham dil se chalaa jaave hai jab (bhii) tuu aave hai
According to KHvaajah Altaaf Hussain Haalii, here there is a
probability of the beloved finding the true sad state of the lover
whereas in Ghalib's shi'r, there is no such possibility.
>> Jamil Saheb,
>> Thank you very much for your scholarly input in respect of this
>> I would like to make a very humble contribution on a quite
>> mundane topic :
>> Z'of se gir'ya mubaddal~ba~dam-e-sard huwa
>> Baawar aaya hameN paani ka hawa ho jaana
> Jamil awr Afzal Sahibaan, aadaab 'arz hai.
> It is unfortunate for me that the very
> shi'r that I had in mind, has been "snatched up" by Afzal Sahib. I
> shall have to do some serious digging now:)
>> Z'of se gir'ya mubaddal~ba~dam-e-sard huwa
>> Baawar aaya hameN paani ka hawa ho jaana
Ise bhi Ghalib ka ek karishma hi samajhiye :
Dekhna taqreer ki lazzat ke jo "maiN" ne kaha }
"Us" ne yeh jaana ke goya yeh bhi "us" ke dil men hai } !!
Even though I belong to the school that believes that the opposite of
poetry is science (not prose), but since your post is in a lighter
vein, I'll scamper into the bandwagon ... kyoN k waise bhi Ghalib ne
Khud hi keh rakhaa hai:
roza behlaane ko Ghalib ye Khayaal achhaa hai! :)
Very interesting indeed! But there is a small chink in the theory:
The raunaq on the face of the beemaar does not arise from his being
observed by the mehboob, but by the *beemaar's* seeing the face of the
In other words, it's not the act of observation that changes the state
of the particle, but the particle changes because it (the particle)
observes the observer! Otherwise, the state wouldn't have changed if
the beemaar was observed unbeknownest to him ... for example, when he
were sleeping, etc.
> "Entropy" is another concept that evokes a she'r of Ghalib:
> buu-e-gul, naala-e-dil, duud-e-chiraagh-e-mehfil
> jo teri bazm se nikla so pareshaaN nikla.
I'm trying hard to recall a very "scientific" Farsi she'r by Ghalib,
but without any luck so far. But I know that Ghalib may have lifted
the idea of that she'r by the following she'r of Nasikh, which is an
extremely "astronomical" she'r in it's own right:
martaba kam hirs e rif'at se hamaaraa ho gayaa
aaftaab aisaa huwaa oonchaa k taaraa ho gayaa
which means that the sun is actually a star and the stars are actually
suns; the only difference is their distance from us.
I can't help quoting a gem of a jawaab e she'r by Ustad Zauq, even
though it's not that scientific:
naam yooN pasti meN baalaa-tar hamaaraa ho gayaa
jis tarah paani kunweN ki teh meN taaraa ho gayaa!!!
Global warming? :)
Any more "scientific" Ghalib ash'aar?
Ghalib's scientific ash'aar as you call them are quite a few. But
first let us clarify something. By such interpretations in light of
science, I am not pretending that Ghalib had scientific meaning in
mind, or indeed he (or anyone else) was even aware of the scientific
principles which we are now trying to extract from his couplets. All
this is for fun, or at best it can serve some useful pedagogical
purpose. To believe that Ghalib knew about the concept of the
Uncertainty Principle, one would have to believe quite literally that
most most famous of literary quotes ever by Abdur Rahman Bijonori. He
called Divaan-e-Ghalib one of the two divinely revealed books of
India. ("Hindustan meN do ilhaami kitabeN aayeeN haiN: Bhagvad Gita
aur Divaan-e-Ghalib". Afzal Sahib can help us with the exact original
quote: there are so many variations.)
In any case here it goes (give or take a few wrong vowels, which
Naseer Sahib can correct).
GHalat hai jazb-e-dil ka shikva, dekho jurm kis ka hai
na khaiNcho gar tum apne ko kasha-kash darmiyaaN kioN ho
Newton's Third Law. Mehboob is pulling away, but the reaction is that
there an equal and opposite pull towards the aashiq. The mehboob is
complaining that the aashiq is pulling the former towards himself,
whereas it is only Newton's action-reaction law operating.
ghar hamaara jo na rote bhi to viiraaN hota
behr gar behr na hotaa to bayaabaaN hota
Geologists tell us that many present day deserts were under sea water
millions of years ago.
par-e-parvaana shaayad baadbaan-e-kashtii-e-mai tha
hui majlas ki garmi se ravaani daur-e-saGHar ki
Ocean winds are caused by the difference in pressure, which in turn is
caused by the temperature difference of the water. Majlis heated up,
caused the wind to blow and the wing of the moth acted as sail,
causing the circulation of the cup of wine.
haiN kawaakab kuchhh nazar aateN haiN kuchh
deteN haiN dhokaa yeh baazi gar khula
Stars and planets are not what they appear to be.
kab se huuN kya bataa'uN jahaan-e-KHaraab meN
shab-haae-e-Hijr ko bhi rakhUUN gar Hisaab meN
This is Einstein's relativity. Time is not an independent entity, but
is relative. It depends on the observer's own state. It slows down
when the observer is in fast motion (Einstein). It slows down when
the observer is in state of Hijr (Ghalib). If one counts the nights
that the poet passed in separation from the mehboob, the length of
time that the poet lived in this world is infinitely long and
har qadam duurii-e-manzil hai numaayaan mujh se
meri raftaar se bhaage hai bayaabaan mujh se
Relative motion. If for some reason the wasteland is running at the
same speed as the person running over it, he will never reach the
destination. The distance to the destination will remain as much as
it was when the person started running. However, the destination will
appear farther and farther as time passes, since the runner is getting
nazar meN hai hamaari jaadah-e-raah-e-fanaa Ghalib
keh yeh shiiraaza hai 'aalam ke ajzaa-e-pareshaaN ka
Entropy! Every natural process results in more overall chaos or
disorder. Some order that one sees increasing in one part of the
universe, is more than nullified by disorder in the surroundings. In
scientific language entropy of the universe is always increasing. At
the end of the world, there will be maximum disorder (and maximum
entropy). All the components of the world will be dispersed.
In a limited universe, the mehboob's mehfil, the same effect
operates. Here though the dispersal is that of smell of the flowers,
the smoke from the lamp and the naala of the heart. But the dispersal
is there for every thing that leaves the bazm:
buu-e-gul, naalah-e-dil, duud-e-chiraaGH-e-mehfil
jo teri bazm se nikla so pareshaaN nikla.
Lastly a Farsi sh'er of Ghalib, where his flight of imagination is
hamchu KHase k(e)-ash sharar chehra kushaa-ii kunad
suurat-e-aaGHaaz-e-maa ma'nii-e-aNjaam shud
[KHas: tinka; k(e)ash: jis ko; sharar: spark; chehra kushaa-ii= make
us tinke ki tarah keh jise chiNgaari ne numaayaaN kiya (aur saath hi
jilaa diyaa), hamara aaGHaaz bhi hamaare aNjaam ka baa'is hua. (Like
a straw which was made visible by a spark (and simultaneously burnt by
it), our beginning also became our end).
A spark can bring into existence a small piece of straw (can make it
visible), but at the same time burns it. So the beginning of the
straw's (manifest) life coincides with its end. It is the same for
Let us see: An electron becomes visible when it hits the TV screen,
but simultaneously that is the end of the electron as an independent
These should be enough for now.
On Sep 27, 2:12 pm, Jamil <dehq...@gmail.com> wrote:
> On Sep 25, 3:20 pm, Naseer <qures...@googlemail.com> wrote:
> > janaab-i-Jamil Sahib awr diigar aHbaab, aadaab.
> > Any more "scientific" Ghalib ash'aar?
> > KHair-andesh,
> > Naseer
> Naseer Sahib
> Ghalib's scientific ash'aar as you call them are quite a few. But
> first let us clarify something. By such interpretations in light of
> science, I am not pretending that Ghalib had scientific meaning in
> mind, or indeed he (or anyone else) was even aware of the scientific
> principles which we are now trying to extract from his couplets. All
> this is for fun, or at best it can serve some useful pedagogical
> purpose.To believe that Ghalib knew about the concept of the
> Uncertainty Principle, one would have to believe quite literally that
> most most famous of literary quotes ever by Abdur Rahman Bijonori. He
> called Divaan-e-Ghalib one of the two divinely revealed books of
> India. ("Hindustan meN do ilhaami kitabeN aayeeN haiN: Bhagvad Gita
> aur Divaan-e-Ghalib". Afzal Sahib can help us with the exact original
> quote: there are so many variations.)
I wholeheartedly agree with you on this Jamil Sahib but it is
fascinating to see how some of Ghalib's shi'rs seem to conform with
our current scientific knowledge. I am sure one could come up with
shi'rs (as Zafar Sahib has quoted NaasiKH and Zauq) by other Urdu
masters which are also "scince-linked". In your previous thread about
the Uncertainty Principle, my contrary view on the observer/observed
aspect was not to go against the commonly understood version of this
shi'r but just to air my personal feelings. I hope you did not take
this "disagreement" too seriously.
Jamil Sahib, thank you very much indeed for taking the time and
trouble to search for and present these couplets of scientific
interest. Can the following shi'r also be interpreted in light of
paate nahiiN jab raah to chaRh jaate haiN naale
ruktii hai mirii tab' to hotii hai ravaaN awr
I am thinking in terms of a stream of water impeded by, say earth and
rocks from a land slide. The flow may be slowed down or even
terminated for a while but while this is happening, a "head" of water
is being formed in front of the obstruction and the pressure exerted
by the deepening water begins to increase. At one point this pressure
reaches a breaking point and the water tears down all barriers in its
path and the speed/flow of water is much higher than ever before.
> Can the following shi'r also be interpreted in light of
> paate nahiiN jab raah to chaRh jaate haiN naale
> ruktii hai mirii tab' to hotii hai ravaaN awr
> I am thinking in terms of a stream of water impeded by, say earth and
> rocks from a land slide. The flow may be slowed down or even
> terminated for a while but while this is happening, a "head" of water
> is being formed in front of the obstruction and the pressure exerted
> by the deepening water begins to increase. At one point this pressure
> reaches a breaking point and the water tears down all barriers in its
> path and the speed/flow of water is much higher than ever before.
I am not sure this particular sher falls in the same category.
We were talking about scientific phenomena that had not been
discovered in Ghalib's time and would not have been known to him,
hence the discussion about the Principle of Uncertainty and
The scenario described in the above sher, however, has been a
common enough experience for mankind since ages. The only
interesting point is that Ghalib compares his own "creative
instinct" to a fast stream that has encountered impediments in
its normal flow.
Also, I am not sure whether Ghalib is talking about the water
(or stream) tearing down all barriers in its path. Possibly, he
is referring to the water finding other different routes or
pathways, thereby inundating a much vaster tract of land.
Lastly, I have a feeling that Ghalib is indirectly hinting at the
criticism that was being levelled against him, terming it as a
"barrier". He is also expressing his determination not to be
cowed down by such ill-feeling or criticism. He is also promising
that his creative faculties would find other (hitherto unexplored)
avenues to express themselves. He concludes the ghazal with a
strident claim :
Kehte haiN ke Ghalib ka hai aN'daaz-e-bayaaN aur
Your observation is quite plausible that the she'r that Naseer Sahib
has quoted was an allusion to the criticism Ghalib received. Besides
the maqta' (which you have referred to), there is a third she'r in the
same ghazal that probably deals with the same subject:
yaa rab vuh na samjhe naiN na samjheN ge meri baat
de aur dil un ko jo na de mujh to zabaaN aur
The she'r that Naseer Sahib quotes, though, does fit into our
scientific ash'aar category, in my opinion, even if the observation
was commonplace in Ghalib's time. Besides the explanation of a dam
being formed, which then bursts, resulting in a fast flow of water, we
can also simply imagine a boulder in a stream. The water flows faster
around the barrier (rukti hai meri tab' to hoti hai ravaan aur). It
is the same principle which causes wind to blow faster through a
narrow passage between two buildings.
This ghazal has another she'r that is amenable to scientific
logoN ko hai KHurshiid-e-jahaaN taab ka dhoka
har roz dikhaata huuN maiN ik daaGH-e-nihaaN aur
People are deceived by the brightly shining sun, and are not aware of
its hidden spots (daaGH-e-nihaaN). Nevertheless, if you observe the
sun properly (by, say, projecting its image on a paper through an
upside down telescope) you can clearly see those dark sun spots, which
are normally hidden.
There are many other ash'aar in this category. May be during a slow
ALUP period one can post them.
On Sep 30, 11:09 am, Jamil <dehq...@gmail.com> wrote:
> This ghazal has another she'r that is amenable to scientific
> logoN ko hai KHurshiid-e-jahaaN taab ka dhoka
> har roz dikhaata huuN maiN ik daaGH-e-nihaaN aur
> People are deceived by the brightly shining sun, and are not aware of
> its hidden spots (daaGH-e-nihaaN). Nevertheless, if you observe the
> sun properly (by, say, projecting its image on a paper through an
> upside down telescope) you can clearly see those dark sun spots, which
> are normally hidden.
Thank you for bringing to our attention this shi'r which can be
interpreted to disclose the presence of sun spots. Amazing is n't it?
> There are many other ash'aar in this category. May be during a slow
> ALUP period one can post them.
So you think ALUP is moving at some considerable pace, do you?:) I
suppose, you scientists would say that speed is "relative". From where
I am, ALUP does not appear to me to be that "swift". So, I am
presenting another "scientific" shi'r of Ghalib.
manzar ik bulandii par awr ham banaa sakte
'arsh se udhar hotaa kaash kih makaaN apnaa
My "crooked" thinking is telling me that Ghalib is planning to re-
locate himself in a house beyond the "'arsh".This would be , of
course, in the form of a satellite, i.e. a space station!:)