Jit vall:adv. On whose side, towards whom, wherever. Mitr: s.m. Intimate companion, friend, ally; - the sun. Aajzi:s.f. Lacking strength or power or ability, inability, powerlessness, helplessness, humility, submissiveness, supplication, entreaty; lowliness; exhaustion; dejection, despair, hopelessness; being baffled, frustrated.
Line 2: Jogan:s.f A female devotee or performer of jog; a contemplative saint, an ascetic; a hermit; one supposed to have obtained supernatural powers, a magician, a conjurer.
s.m. Smoke, vapour; an ignited pile of chaff and rubbish around which people warm themselves in cold weather; a perpetual fire from where people took fire before matches were developed.
Line 4: Taazgi: s.f. Freshness, newness, novelty, renewal, renovation, revival, fatness, plumpness, good condition; tenderness; greenness; pleasure.
Line 6: Daenhin: s.m. In the day, during the day, at daytime; all day long. Darmaandi: s.f. Lying at the door; destitute, distressed, ill at ease, miserable, wretched; helpless, without remedy. Waajbi: s.f. Whatever is necessary or expedient, obligatory or incumbent, &c.; — incumbency; expediency; - salary, stipend, wages.
Line 8: Litaaan: s.f. Curls, ringlets, locks (of hair); — entangled state, tangle; matted or tangled hair; tangled silk, etc.; — flames. Baeraagan: s.f. One who has subdued her worldly desires and passions, one who has abandoned the pursuits of this world; ascetic, devotee. Aad s.m. Beginning, commencement, starting-point; original; — first, prior, primary; primeval; pre-eminent.
Line 10: Baelae: s.m. In the baela:s.m. Wilderness, a place abounding in grass or reeds, or which is on the margin of a river, a marsh or moor. Kook: Scream, etc.; from kookna: v.t. Wail; cry, scream; shriek (of a human being, or of a peacock, or a cuckoo, etc.). Laaj di:s.f. Of shame; from laaj: s.f. Shame, sense of decency; bashfulness, modesty; — honor, reputation, good name.
Line 12: Faqeer: sm. One who lives in poverty [commended in the Quraan (35:16), and Hadith Prophet Muhammad (m.p.b.u.h) said, "Poverty is my pride"]. Poverty signifies, (a) material impoverishment deliberately sought which aims at being liberated from the temptation and possession of material things so that one can focus on ceaseless inner struggle; (b) it connotes every virtue which the seeker in the way of God embraces, as through poverty, meaning ceasing to be self-centred, one can become a channel for God’s grace, and the submitted lover of the Divine Beloved; - categories of faqeers known as malaamati (self-reproaching) or qalandar (who abandon all worldly relations) are usually itinerant darvaeshes who reject conventional mores and mock the patterned life that pertained to the kbaanqaah-mazaar (convent-tomb) complexes or shrines. These faqeers are spiritual ecstatic who are also social eccentrics; — one who lives in faqar (pious poverty); - a mystic lover of God; — one who has purged himself of egotism, lust, anger, greed, delusion (including self-delusion), pride, etc.; a devotee; — a religious mendicant; a beggar.
1 Wherever’s my friend, go tell of my helpless despair 2 Becoming a jogan communal fire make I 3 For you I could die 4 Meeting you my renewal declare 5 Wherever’s my friend, go tell of my helpless despair 6Nights of pain, despondent days, dying our obligatory affair 7 Wherever’s my friend, go tell of my helpless despair 8 Open tangles round my neck, I’m an ascetic detached from e’er 9Wherever’s my friend, go tell of my helpless despair 10 Jungles, moors I roam in search, in modesty crying cannot dare 11 Wherever’s my friend, go tell of my helpless despair 12 Says Husayn the Lord’s devotee, night and day I’m awake, aware 13 Wherever’s my friend, go tell of my helpless despair
In addition to some words which impair the balance of the lines and sometimes even take from the meaning in this kaafi there is one extra half line which breaks the metre. Perhaps if its second half is found the metre can become correct. Perhaps the poet purposefully breaks the metre structurally to tell us of all what he has done. The deliberate rhyming in lines 2, 3, 4 appears to have an insistent relationship with the refrain.
Because musical metres are more ‘forgiving’, singers sometimes add words because their rendition calls for it. Sometimes they retain a common phrase. Perhaps people copied down these extra words which then entered new manu scri pts. The ‘courage’ required to ‘cleanse’ the lines is often hard to come by. The scholarship to be able to do so is scarce.
Perhaps all metres in poetry are drawn from music. Perhaps dance lurks in the metre. And perhaps child’s play is behind both. ‘Natural’ sounds are formalised in time and then rigidly followed. Perhaps musicians are loath to being bound by such rigidity (though they are at least as rigid in the technical delineation of raags).
refrain (Line 1): Jit vall maenad mitr pyaara, vanj aakhin maendi aajzi vo Wherever’s my friend, go teli of my helpless despair
‘Towards whomsoever (or wherever) is my intimate friend’, says the line, ‘go and tell of my helpless despair’. The word aajzi is very hard to translate. It has a mixture of humility and an admission of a deficiency in it. It speaks of an inability to do something, to be helpless. This predicament is presented here. But how this predicament came about is not clarified further, leaving us with several possibilities to consider. The poet may be saying that he would have come but faces a hindrance which precludes his reaching who or where he wishes to reach. Perhaps the predicament is to be turned on its head. Since the Friend is everywhere, is it hard to reach him? If so, then what leads to helpless despair is our inability to act.
The line has three words which present intimacy, love and friendship. These are maenda (mine), mitr (friend, intimate), pyaara (beloved). The combination probably means Beloved God. Lesser meanings show us situations of hindered love (by societal norms, etc.), as a messenger is being sent to reach the beloved. But then, who is this messenger? Who is the via media?
In response we may say that this is a figure of speech. The kaafi is in woman’s language and presents woman’s majboori (compulsions, constraints, and helplessness). The word vanj aakhin underscores a society where women used female messengers who had access to the beloved, and who were close friends or relatives. They could not communicate directly, especially in matters of love. These words can be taken as spoken in such a situation.
The line then says that ‘I cannot reach my beloved. I am not sure where he is. If I knew I could perhaps reach him. A search is required and I cannot do it. That is my aajzi ‘The end word of the rahaao (refrain) is vo. This confirms that this matter is being made public. (Vo is a word used for hailing. This is no mere clandestine messaging. The woman is making her love public. She seems to be calling after someone (and can be heard by others). Now we bear a complaint in the word aajzi This is not a welcome limitation. This announcing of (usually forbidden) love is not acceptable to society. It is resented.
The hailing word continues throughout the kaafi, creating its own ambience and meaning (and bilingually, ithas the same audio as ‘woe’, which fits in nicely with the meaning of the kaafi-in-translation).
Another aspect of the line can be that the main message which is being conveyed is a complaint against society, or against man’s predicament which seems to preclude union with the Beloved. As usual with Shaah Husayn, love of man and woman is a metaphor of love of man (and woman) for God. The two readings run in parallel.
Jogan hovaan dhuaan paavaan, Becoming a jogan communal fire make I Taerae kaaran maen mar jaavaan For you I could die Taen milyaan maeri taazgi vo Meeting you my renewal declare
The first part of the line talks of becoming a jogan (see Glossary) and to ‘attain’ fire or smoke. On its face this line talks about becoming a faqeer, a jogi. Such people were sometimes custodians of a fire in a village. This was before flints and later matches became common. Every village had a fire, usually a slowly smouldering, smoky affair. Every village member ‘took’ from the fire whenever it was needed. The keeper of the fire, who kept it going, received something from each villager for his modest keep. This fire, which was smoky (and never raging, to conserve fuel), may have made dhuaan (smoke) synonymous with fire.
Perhaps the poet is saying that being a jogan would not change much. ‘I will die, if not by being burnt alive, then by being buried alive’. This brings the whole matter of the disposal of the dead to mind.
All this is acceptable, says the poet. She is willing to die on account of her intimate. The word taazgi is, in its spirit, the opposite of death. This death is more like a renewal of being.
On its own the last part of this line (if we call it that) has the image of the freshness on the cheeks of a woman on meeting her beloved. The hope of experiencing pleasure of this freshness is being proclaimed. The word vo at the end of the line confirms this reading. The renewal of being is in meeting the beloved, or Beloved.
Rahaao/refrain (Line 5):
Jit vall maenad mitr pyaara, vanj aakhin maendi aajzi vo Wherever’s my friend, go tell of my helpless despair
As the refrain returns to us, the helplessness and despair of the line is accentuated. Renewal is possible. But is it attainable? That is the predicament, the despair of the poet.
Line 6: Raatin dard daenhin darmaandi, maran asaada waajbi vo Nights of pain, despondent days, dying our obligatory affair
We are introduced to another type of death in this line. This is the inevitable death which hangs over man all the time and of which he is continuously reminded. The structure of the line tells us that we know death is essential but we seek the other death, the one in the previous line. The distinction is not made explicit by the poet. But it is implicit. One death is a process of meeting the Beloved. The other is just dying. And the two, at one level, are the same. At another level, not quite. Dying in this life is a Sufi aspiration. It means ridding oneself of egotism and its attendant ills of greed, anger, lust, etc.. In a way a faqeer dies while living. He becomes something else with the riddance of egotism, etc.. And yet he is not dead. Dying has become essential and not purposive, laments the poet. The word waajbi also takes a dig at religionists who do not tire at using this word for impending death.
The pain of man is in the first part of the line. At night there is pain. Daytime is full of wretchedness says the line. Here too the poet is showing his craft. He uses the word darmaandi. She is at the door and has perhaps died there — a hair’s breath away from union. That is wretchedness par excellence.
Rahaaof refrain (Line 7): Jit vall maenad mitr pyaara, vanj aakhin maendi aajzi vo Wherever’s my friend, go tell of my helpless despair
As the rahaao returns, the aajzi the despair of the poet, acquires another intensity. After all the pain, no union. The line now becomes a supplication. Perhaps the beloved will be swayed this way.
Line 8: Litaan khol galae vic paaiyyaan, maen baeraagan di vo Open tangles round my neck, I’m an ascetic detached from e’er
This line is seeped in the concept of Waahdat al-wujood. (Unity of Being). It presents man’s predicament and his eternal complaint. The predicament is that union is not possible when our despair assumes a dishevelled appearance. The complaint is that separation from God on the first day (aad, meaning the Day of Creation) has brought this about. The line presents a posture of one who has lost her Beloved and is extremely distraught, from ‘Forever’.
Rahaao/refrain (Line 9): Jit vallmaenad mitr pyaara, vanj aakhin maendi aajzi vo Wherever’s my friend, go tell of my helpless despair
The refrain tells us that though such complaints can be sacrilegious, such a liberty can be taken with an intimate. The Beloved is intimate. This is perhaps as close as one gets. (Mystical) union is still at bay.
Line 10; Jangal baelae phiraan dhundaendi, kook nah sakkaan laaj di vo Jungles, moors I roam in search, in modesty crying cannot dare
This line talks of the misguided man who plods the wilds in search of the intimate, when perhaps looking within or amongst fellow beings he could find love. Man’s focus is wrong, the line implies. He is misdirected. The poet conveys that running around in wilderness is unlikely to get us anywhere. The ascetic who roams the wilds, away from people, in search of Reality, is given a badgering.
The second part of the line tells us of the compulsions of society. Despite all the pain of man’s predicament, he cannot even scream. Face-saving stops him from doing so. Or the norms of polite behaviour harness him. This is the other predicament of man. Society tells us not to think about such subjects as the God-man relationship. That is suffocating, the poet implies. Man has been separated from God, and he cannot even yell and scream in complaint. When applied to women the line assumes another dimension. ‘Shame’ becomes a woman’s millstone preventing her from declaring her love, the line seems to say.
The line takes a jibe at unfounded shame and matters of ‘face’. It also presents the pain of the loss of shame. Both feelings run concurrently. Here then is another aajzi of man. He cannot even complain.
Rahaao/ refrain (Line 11): Jit vall maenad mitr pyaara, vanj aakhin maendi aajzi vo Wherever’s my friend, go tell of my helpless despair
Woman’s compulsions have moved into her language. They also reflect her helplessness. Perhaps that is why the poet has assumed a woman’s role — to experience what she experiences. Not being able to meet her beloved is a social condition.
Man’s pain is that he is not able to find union. Shaah Husayn is living in that state. In the rahaao he sends a message. Sending messages through messengers by women is also a compulsion of society, as already mentioned. The very act of sending a message is painful for we cannot speak to the beloved face-to-face (in a segregated society). Or face-to-Face. Hence, we cannot speak of the intensity of our love as well and are not able to say what we wish to say. To be unable to declare our love directly is our pain.1 The ‘modesty’ which stops our yelling out our love for all to hear, is a part of this painful condition.
Line 12: Kahae Husayn faqeer Saain da, raatin daehin maen jaagdi vo Says Husayn the Lord’s devotee, night and day I’m awake, aware
Keeping awake day and night has not helped. The poet still cannot reach her beloved. But still she is awake. Therefore there is hope. Another reading of the line is that the poet is in a state of perennial awareness. She is conscious. This may be achieved by letting a part of her die and becoming fresh and revived. What stops is dead. Constant renewal is only afforded by awareness. That may be the one thing that does not stop.
The line also says that the poet is awake at all times, day and night, so that she may not miss ‘the moment of light’, which comes our way, if and when it does come.
Rahaao/refrain (Line 13):
Jit vall maenda mitr pyaara, vanj aakhin maendi aajzi vo Wherever’s my friend, go tell of my helpless despair
The refrain reminds us that the state of despair or humility persists. The Beloved has not been contacted thus far. Messengers are still out in every direction. The mind is focused yet circumspect and awake at all times. It is waiting. This waiting for union with the Beloved is a predicament of man. Oh the interminable wait!
1. Punjabi poetry is replete with poets sending hypothetical messages through messengers, crows, the moon, etc...