Kab Se Hoon, Kya Bataaon - Mirza Ghalib Translation

Translation - Kab Se Hoon, Kya Bataaon (Ghalib)

miltee hai khoo-e-yaar se naar iltihaab mein
kaafir hoon gar na miltee ho raahat 'azaab mein

Line 1/2 - The poet says his beloved's temperament matches the fiery flames of the fire. I would be an infidel if I do not find solace in sorrow. Ghalib in his despair says his lover's behavior is like the searing flames of the fire. It is passionate and intense, and I would be a non-believer if I do not find comfort in torment. I am in sorrow and already in anguish hence I find comfort in the fiery habits of my lover. They don't bother me. But if they start to annoy me, then assume that I am no more a believer that I used to be.

kab se hoon, kya bataaoon jahaan-e-kharaab mein?
shab haaye hijr ko bhee rakhoon gar hisaab mein

Line 3/4 - Ghalib says that 'What to say! Since how long I have been in this world of misfortune and misery'. Even if I account for the misery due to your nights of separation into this. Now this can be interpreted in multiple ways. The poet says that his life has long been in this world of grief and affliction. If I take care of the torment/misery due to our separation still my world would be sad and amiss. In other interpretation, Ghalib says his long he has been in wretched world and those nights of separation from you are just more addition in those woeful times. My beloved's company makes this world joyful and without her, it is another day in this wretched world.

taa fir na intezaar mein neend aaye 'umr bhar
aane ka 'ahad kar gaye aaye jo khwaab mein

Line 5/6 - The poet says 'So that, in waiting - sleep may never come in my entire lifetime, she came in my dreams and promised that she would come'. Ghalib says I am waiting for my beloved eagerly and so excited am I that I can not rest until she comes. Sleep may never come close to my eyes until I see her face for she came to my dreams and promised that she is going to come and meet me.

qaasid ke aate-aate khat ik aur likh rakhoon
main jaanta hoon jo woh likhenge jawaab mein

Line 7/8 - Ghalib says by the time the messenger comes, he will write another letter and keep it handy. For I know what she is going to write in her reply. Again couple of interpretation, One he knows his beloved so well that he knows what she has written in the letter and he want to keep his reply ready by the time the messenger comes. The other interpretation being the poet wants to keep another letter ready for he knows what she is going to say (she would not reply to his letters and he would therefore send another letter to her to evict response).

mujh tak kab unkee bazm mein aata tha daur-e-jaam
saaqee ne kuchch mila na diya ho sharaab mein

Line 9/10 - Ghalib says since when have the drinks doing the rounds in her meeting reached him. It never used to happen before. I wonder if the bartender has not mixed something in his drinks this time. The poet says that the wine never used to come this far as to reach him in the meetings organised by her. Maybe this time there is something in the wine. The interpretation being that earlier drinks never used to reach him in these meetings but somehow that is not the case today and I am just suspicious if the drink is adulterated to disrupt his meeting with the host this time around.

jo munkir-e-wafa ho fareb us pe kya chale?
kyoon badghumaan hoon dost se dushman ke baab mein?

Line 11/12 - The poet says the one who is unfaithful, what trick/fraud would work on him/her? Why am I suspicious of my friend in company of my enemy. The exact interpretation is unclear. Ghalib says that no trick or fraud will work on his beloved (he calls her denier of loyalty for she refuses to profess her love for him). What trick would work on her? Then why am I suspicious of my beloved in company of my enemy?  I know she is too rebellious to be tricked, yet why am I wary of her in company of my rival?

main muztarib hoon wasl mein kaauf-e-raqeeb se
daala hai tumko weham ne kis pech-o-taab mein

Line 13/14 - I am a bit anxious/uneasy in midst of a meeting (with my beloved), from the fear of my opponent. In what predicament has this doubt/fancy put you in? Ghalib says I am in this awkward quandary caused by my doubt that I am having (about if his beloved is having feelings for his opponent). This fear of the rival is making me restless even in middle of union with my beloved.

maiy aur haz'z-e-wasl, khudaa_saaz baat hai
jaan nazr denee bhool gaya iztiraab mein

Line 15/16 - Wine and the joy of union (with my beloved), these are the gifts from God. I forgot to offer my life in return to God due to my anxiety caused by this sudden good luck. Ghalib says the glass of wine and the company of his beloved are like God's gift to him. These are the workings of the merciful one. I forgot to offer my self in return (for all this good luck) to that compassionate divinity in midst of this excitement and anxiety.

hai tevaree chadee huee andar naqaab ke
hai ik shikan padee huee tarf-e-naqaab mein

Line 17/18 - The face is frowned inside the veil, there is this wrinkle/fold on the cover of the veil. The poet says I can sense a frown on the beloved's face inside the veil for there is visible crinkle on the surface of the veil. How to interpret this is anybody guess! Ghalib says his beloved can not hide the displeasure that she displays inside the veil for I can perceive the frown by the wrinkles on the surface of the veil.

laakhaun lagaav, ik churaana nigaah ka
laakhaun banaav, ik bigaadna itaab mein

Line 19/20 - There are hundreds of thousands of ways of your fondness's and affection and yet there is this particular one way in which you steal away your glances. There are hundreds of thousands of ways of your ornaments and embellishments and yet there is this one particular way of showing anger and throwing tantrums. Ghalib says my beloved has countless ways of showing affection but nothing beats the subtle turning away of her eyes. She has countless ways of ornamentation and yet nothing like those momentary anger she displays at me!

woh naala_dil mein khas ke baraabar jagah na paaye
jis  naale se shigaaf pade aaftaab mein

Line 21/22 - The heart is filled with such sorrow that one can not find space needed even for a small blade of grass to fit in. That sorrow which causes a crack to appear on your splendid face. Ghalib says the grief that caused that wrinkle to appear on his beloved's face, his heart is now so full of that grief that there is not even space in the heart to fit even a blade of grass in it. There is another possible meaning of the word - naala (i.e. request) and if we can interpret is as the request that causes a wrinkle on your face, that request even if it is as small as a blade of grass it won't find space inside my heart. Not really sure which is the correct interpretation!

woh sehar muddaa talbee mein na kaam aaye
jis sehar se safina ravaan ho saraab mein

Line 23/24 - That magic would not help/work in fulfilling your desires. The one which makes your boat sail in a mirage. Ghalib says the magic that makes a boat moves in a mirage, that magic won't help you in accomplishing your desires and seeking your goals. Your dreams that make you see magical things and enchanting narratives (like a boat sailing in a mirage) , those bewitching spells won't facilitate your purpose.

ghalib' chutee sharaab, par ab bhee kabhee-kabhee
peeta hoon roz-e-abr -o- shab-e-maahtaab mein

Line 25/26 - The poet says that I have quit drinking, but still sometimes from time to time. I do drink on days when it is cloudy (and the moon is hidden) and on days when moon shines in the night. Ghalib in his brilliant play on words, says he does not drink now, but does it sometimes on cloudy(moon-less) nights and moon-lit nights. Another way of saying that I am still a lover of wine (and drink daily) despite of what I proclaim.

Meaning of difficult words :-   
khoo-e-yaar = lover's nature/behavior/habit
naar = fire
iltihaab = flame
'azaab = sorrow
jahaan-e-kharaab = world of problems
shab = night
hijr = separation
taa = so that
'ahad = promise
qaasid = messenger
bazm = meeting/"mehafil"
saaqee = bar tender
munkir-e-wafa = one who denies loyalty
fareb = illusion/fraud
badghumaan = suspicious
baab = company/relation
muztarib = anxious/disturbed
wasl = meeting with the lover
raqeeb = opponent
pech-o-taab = predicament
maiy = wine
haz'z-e-wasl = joy of meeting
khudaa_saaz = god's gift
iztiraab = anxiety
shikan = wrinkle
tarf = eyelid
naala_dil = crying heart
khas = hay/grass
shigaaf = crack
aaftaab = sun/face
itaab = anger
sehar = magic
muddaa talbee = fulfillment of a desire
safina = boat
ravaan = move
saraab = mirage
abr = clouds
roz-e-abr = cloudy day
maahtaab = moon


  1. Jo munkire wafa..... Line 11/12
    Possibly it may mean

    It is difficult to trick that faithless trickster
    Then why he is mistaking me for a enemy when I have come bearing friendship