kahii;N dast-e chaalaak-naa;xun nah laage
kih siinah hai qurb-o-javaar-e garebaa;N

1) may the hand with the adroit/active fingernail not somehow become applied!
2) for the breast is the neighborhood/vicinity of the collar



chaalaak : 'Active, alert, fleet, nimble, quick, smart; expert, dexterous; clever, ingenious; laborious, hard-working; vigilant; artful, cunning, designing, astute'. (Platts p.418)


laagnaa is a variant form of lagnaa


qurb-o-javaar : 'Vicinity, near neighbourhood, environs, suburbs'. (Platts p.790)

S. R. Faruqi:

chaalaak = fast-moving

If we suppose dast-e chaalaak-e naa;xun to be a single phrase, then the interpretation emerges as 'the fast-moving hand of the fingernail'. That is, the fingernail takes on a separate individuality, and its hands are very fast-moving-- sometimes they go this way, sometimes some other way. As though the fingernail's running this way and that way has been called the action of the fingernail's hands.

If we suppose only dast-e chaalaak to be a single phrase, then the interpretation emerges that he has addressed the 'fast-moving hands' and is saying, 'fast-moving hands, please move a bit slower, lest you should apply a fingernail'.

The first reading is better, because in it is a double metaphor.

There's also the possibility that we could suppose chaalaak naa;xun to have a reversed izafat [i.zaafat-e maqluubii]: the way piir mard = mard-e piir , in the same way chaalaak naa;xun = naa;xun-e chaalaak . Now the situation will be that dast-e chaalaak naa;xun will mean chaalaak naa;xun kaa haath . In this way the double metaphor remains established.

But the reading that seems most worthy of acceptance is this one: that it should be read as dast-e chaalaak-e naa;xun . In any case, in all three readings the implication remains that the nails are very long and sharp, and they are being used to rip and tear the collar. The implication of madness is there in any case.

The theme of fingernails, Ghalib has versified in an entirely new aspect:


The German poet Holderlin, who spent the last almost forty years of his life in madness or half-madness, is famous for having kept his fingernails very long. When he used these fingernails to scratch a table or chair, then a strange, dry, maddening sound would emerge. In view of this, consider Ghalib's verse: the longing for the nails to grow-- to what an extent it's maddening! And Mir's speaker, who tears open his collar and his breast with his long, sharp/fast nails-- he is perhaps more terrifying than Holderlin and Ghalib.

In the second line, to call the breast the 'neighborhood/vicinity of the collar' is an eloquent idea-- as though the breast is not important, the collar is important. For example, we say that some place is in the 'neighborhood/vicinity' of some famous place. But compared to the collar, the breast is also not devoid of significance, because at the possibility of its being torn open by means of the fingernails, anxiety, or joy, has also been expressed.

The tone of the verse is such that you can suppose the speaker is anxious about the welfare of the breast, or you can say that he feels a kind of joyful anticipation-- that now, after the collar, the breast's turn has come. He's composed a fine verse. The theme is entirely new, and on top of this there's 'meaning-creation'.



For an explanation of the 'collar', which is of course the vertical neck-opening of a kurta, see G{17,9}.