kyaa jhamkaa faanuus me;N apnaa dikhlaatii hai duur se sham((a
vuh mu;Nh ;Tuk uudhar nahii;N kartaa daa;G hai us ke ;Guruur se sham((a

1) how, in the glass-shade, it shows its radiance from afar, the candle!
2) she doesn't turn her face [even] a bit that way; it is wounded by her pride/arrogance, the candle



jhamkaa : 'Radiance, lustre, sparkle, glitter, splendour, refulgence'. (Platts p.407)


faanuus : 'A pharos, lighthouse; a lantern; (in Urdu) a glass shade (of a candlestick, &c.)'. (Platts p.776)


daa;G : '(adjectively) branded, cauterized, scarred, wounded, &c.'. (Platts p.501)

S. R. Faruqi:

In this meter to invent such a 'ground', and then in it to bring out such verses, is a miracle of poetry-composition. In the kulliyat there are four verses; I've forced myself ['placed a stone on the heart'] to reduce the number by one verse, otherwise all four verses are excellent. In this ground it was difficult for there to be a verse at all; and such a thoroughly proper verse could perhaps not have been made even by Ghalib.

Ghalib and Mir are our two poets who use difficult grounds in such a way that often the suspicion that they're difficult doesn't even arise. By contrast to them, the difficult grounds of Shah Nasir, Nasikh, Mus'hafi, Zauq, etc. seem obviously to be difficult. That is, these poets use their fullest powers to uphold their Ustad-ship; a verse is created, but there isn't an abundance of meaning in it. Ghalib and Mir's accomplishment is that they compose verses so meaning-filled, and compose verses so flowing, that the mind isn't even drawn toward aspects of the ground. The beauty of the meaning and the flowingness of the poetry take the reader in their grip.

In the poetry of Shah Nasir, etc., the larger part of the verse's beauty is based on the ground alone. For this reason the reader of their ghazals in difficult grounds, first of all pays attention to the ground. For example, few people will have reflected that Ghalib's G{36} and G{233} are in extremely difficult grounds. In the present ghazal, the rhyme is shapeless [be-;Dhab], and he has set up such a refrain, se sham((a , that for meaningful poetry to exist is extremely difficult.

Now please consider the verse. The task of the glass-shade is in fact to protect the candle. But because of the glass-shade the candle is not seen clearly; only a single halo of light can be seen. Thus the permission [javaaz] has been created for speaking of the candle as 'afar'. The meaning of jhamkaa is no doubt 'glitter, gleam', but the term is also used for a beautiful face, or the radiance of a beautiful face. Because for beautiful people the simile of a candle is used, jhamkaa meaning 'beautiful face' also has a strong affinity.

Now please consider the grammar and usage of this line. If we read it in one way, then this line is disdainful: kyaa dikhaatii hai -- that is, in vain it shows itself, it will get nothing out of it. It doesn't even have a face, that it could show itself in the presence of the beloved. It's as if someone would say, 'What are you trying to tell me-- I myself understand everything'. Thus the meaning of the line becomes that when the candle, which is seated within the glass-shade, is showing its glittering, or its face, from afar, then this action is entirely vain and fruitless.

If we read it in another way, then the line becomes interrogative-- that is, is the candle, hidden in the glass-shade, showing its brightness from afar, or is it doing something else (that is, it is not hidden in the glass-shade, showing its brightness from afar)?

Now in the second line he says: the beloved is seated with her back toward the candle, she doesn't turn her face even for a moment toward the candle. The candle endures this show of her pride, and thus the candle is sorrowful ( daa;G honaa = to be sorrowful). There are two points here of affinity with daa;G . A 'wound' is assumed to be radiant; the candle too is radiant, but the candle's radiance is not its own, but rather is thanks to this wound. The second point is that the extinguishing [gul] of an extinguished candle is called a 'wound'.

Now the 'connection' of both lines has been established such that when the candle is showing its glitter from within the glass-shade, the real reason is that it's sorrowful and downhearted because of the beloved's pride. Thus it's not coming near-- it only sits far off, hiding its face in the glass-shade. It's possible that in the candle's heart might be a thought of its equality with the beloved; or the candle might have a longing for the beloved to come near, so that it could compare its own radiant face with hers. It's possible that the candle might have in its heart a longing to feel the pleasure of the beloved's glory, and thrill its eyes with her beauty.

In any case, the beloved is so absorbed in the pride of her beauty that she doesn't even glance toward the candle. Thus the candle has been wounded, and has become shut up in the glass-shade. If we take the first line to be interrogative, then too the same meaning emerges, but with the difference that now the second line has the role of an answer to the first line. That is, some person asks, 'The candle that's in the glass-shade-- is that because it wants to show its glory from afar?'. In the second line is the answer, 'No, the true situation is that since the beloved doesn't turn her face toward it, the candle is wounded by grief, and for this reason it has hidden its face in the veil of the glass-shade'.



On the nature of a faanuus , see G{39,1}.

The verse cleverly leaves it ambiguous whether the candle is sulking behind its glass-shade because it is an aspiring beloved (and thus is frustrated by the real beloved's superior radiance), or because it is an aspiring lover (and thus is frustrated by the beloved's refusal to take any notice of its passion).

Isn't it intriguing that there seems to be no objective definition of a 'difficult ground'? Commentators point them out from time to time, but they never explain how the 'difficulty' can be recognized and its degrees distinguished. This seems to be just one more case in which the ahl-e zabaa;N connoisseur simply makes an observation of something that is obvious to him. (Historically speaking, in terms of Urdu literary criticism, it's indeed always a 'him'.) SRF tells us that the rhyme, uur , is 'shapeless', and that the refrain is such that it's difficult for there to be a verse in it at all.

I find it easy to believe that uur se sham((a is a difficult ground, but I'd still like to know more about the judgment process. As far as I'm aware, poets themselves only rarely identify a particular ground as difficult (though we do have a few literary anecdotes on the subject from tazkirahs); in the case of Ghalib and Mir, SRF observes that they are so masterful that they cause us readers not even to notice the difficulty.

So of course in principle it's possible that they didn't notice any such difficulty themselves, at least in many (or even most?) cases; which would add force to my question. How sure are we, how sure can we be, that what we think are difficult grounds, were actually experienced as such by the poets who chose and used them?

When I asked SRF if he had further thoughts on the nature of difficult grounds, he replied (March 2014):

The matter of difficult grounds is not as subjective as you think. The first point is that if rhymes [qaafiyah] would be difficult or few, then the ground will become difficult, as for example with honaa , bonaa , khonaa , dhonaa , sonaa -- there won't be many rhymes. Or ;Ganii , dhanii , banii , ;Thanii -- with their constraints, there won't be many rhymes. And if the constraint would be greater, as with saa;xtanii , baa;xtanii , naa;xtanii , then the ground will become even more difficult.

If in the refrain there would be words like hii , to , bhii , phir bhii , to sahii , hai to sahii , then the ground will become difficult in itself, because to sustain rhyme with it is a very rebarbative task: marnaa hai to sahii , dekhaa hai to sahii , or mushkil hii to hai , bismil hii to hai , etc.

If the refrain would be very long, then the ground will usually be considered difficult, as in falak pah bijlii zamii;N pah baaraa;N ; or iimaa;N sar par , imkaa;N sar par ; or ---ne jaate jaate , etc. You can certainly see the difficulty of these grounds.

If the refrain would be entirely unfamiliar, or made up of apparently uncouth words, then the ground will become very difficult, as with: kii makkhii ; me;N saa;Np ; hai bichchuu . If with these refrains the rhyme would be unfamiliar or a bit far-fetched, then the ground will become even more difficult, as with: kitaab me;N saa;Np , sharaab me;N saa;Np ; or ma;hal kii makkhii , ;Gazal kii makkhii , etc.

If in the refrain and the rhyme (or only in the refrain) there would be insha'iyah speech ( kyuu;N , kyaa , kaisaa , kaise , etc.), then the ground will become very difficult, as with aate hai;N kyuu;N , jaate hai;N kyuu;N , or ;Thaharte kyaa kyaa , marte kyaa kyaa , etc.

If the rhyme would be apparently easy, but it would be hard to maintain it with the refrain, then the easy rhyme will provide no particular help, as in: pardah kiyaa to thaa , jalvah kiyaa to thaa ; or zanjiir na:zar aa))ii , lakiir na:zar aa))ii ; or aasaa;N maaraa gayaa , paimaa;N maaraa gayaa , etc.