Our own Azra Raza and Sara Suleiri Goodyear in Asymptote:
When we first embarked on our project to translate a selection of Ghalib's ghazals, we foolishly chose to begin with Dil e nadaan tujhey hua kiya hay…a ghazal that struck us as exceptionally lucid in its simplicity and brevity. After several hours of arduous labor, we discovered our mistake and Ghalib's beguiling force. It made us conclude that there is little distinction between surface and depth in Ghalib's most seemingly accessible ghazals and so we began once more armed with the understanding that the mystery of Ghalib's poetry is its mirage-like quality: it is most opaque when it appears to be crystalline with clarity. This opacity however posed a challenge to the translators, who then had to further acknowledge that translation and interpretation were nearly synonymous. We read widely in available translations of Ghalib and finally decided that our mode and methodology should be based on dialogue because it best represents the continuum and the dynamic flow that initiates the acts of translation. As Walter Benjamin wisely observed, “Just as the manifestations of life are intimately connected with the phenomenon of life without being of importance to it, a translation issues from the original—not so much for its life as from its afterlife.”
This current article is, as it were, our tribute to the two past masters, Ghalib and Benjamin in that it represents the afterlife of our initial project Ghalib: Epistemologies of Elegance. Here, we essay a return to a few of the shers [couplets] that we previously translated and interpreted in order to witness how our own perspectives have evolved and modulated our prior readings of these verses. In the process, we took care not to consult our original interpretation but juxtaposed our readings only after we had completed the second version.