Ghazal 3, Verse 5

{3,5}*

;Dhaa;Npaa kafan ne daa;G-e ((uyuub-e barahnagii
mai;N varnah har libaas me;N nang-e vujuud thaa

1) the shroud covered the scar/stain/stigma of the flaws of nakedness
2) otherwise, in every attire/guise I was a shame/honor to existence

Notes:

daa;G : 'A mark burnt in, a brand, cautery; mark, spot, speck; stain; stigma; blemish; iron-mould; freckle; pock; scar, cicatrix; wound, sore; grief, sorrow; misfortune, calamity; loss, injury, damage'. (Platts p.501)

 

varnah : 'And if not, otherwise, or else; although'. (Platts p.1189)


libaas : 'Garment, vesture, raiment, robe, apparel, clothes, dress, attire, habit; appearance; guise; a veil'. (Platts p.949)


nang : 'Honour, esteem, reputation; --shame, disgrace, infamy, ignominy'. (Platts p.1156)

Nazm:

That is, only by dying was the flaw of nakedness erased; othewise, in every attire I was a shame to existence.... It's only a similarity of words that carried his mind aloft and away. (3)

== Nazm page 3

Bekhud Mohani:

That is, I was so devoid of human qualities that my existence was a cause of shame to the world. (6)

Mihr:

This verse points the mind toward that verse of the Holy Qur'an, in which it is said, 'Oh ye Children of Adam! We have bestowed raiment upon you to cover your shame, as well as to be an adornment to you. But the raiment of righteousness,-- that is the best' (Qur'an 7:26). (23)

FWP:

SETS == VARNAH
LIFE/DEATH: {7,2}

CLOTHING/NAKEDNESS: {1,1}; {3,5}; {6,1}*; {6,7x}; {6,11x}; {64,8x}; {84,2x} (on jaamah vs. qabaa ); {84,3x}; {108,5}; {111,3}; {145,16x}; {171,1}; {178,4}; {192,1}; {202,1}

SHAME/HONOR verses: {3,5}; {9,1}; {24,1}; {64,1}; {81,13x}; {83}; {87,1}; {98,8}; {99,5}; {102,1}; {114,6}; {115,6}; {119,5}; {119,7}; {120,4}; {139,7}; {139,8}; {159,3}; {183,9}; {220,2}; {226,6x}

SHAME/HONOR: The powerfully multivalent word nang means 'honour, esteem, reputation; --shame, disgrace, infamy, ignominy' (Platts 1156); it thus flips back and forth according to context between the two possible forms of public judgment and (dis)repute. It seems clear that the 'shame' meaning is primary: consider {87,1} and {91,8}, in which only the 'shame' meaning seems to be relevant. But then, to prove the duality of the word, consider {99,5}, in which not nang but be-nang is clearly a powerful reproach. The related nangaa means both 'naked' and, secondarily, 'shameless' (Platts p.1156).

Nazm, like Chishti, accuses the poet here of mere wordplay, but he is certainly doing 'meaning-play' as well. The similarly two-faced word 'shame' [sharm] can even explicitly become a source of pride, as in {24,1} or especially {83,1}, where this doubleness is discussed in more detail. Then {83,1} should be contrasted with {83,2}, in which 'shame' clearly means something like 'honor'. See also {98,8} for another piquant use of 'shame'.

The commentators insist on reading nang only as 'disgrace', but the possibility of 'honor' works perfectly well too, and multiplies the meanings of the verse. If we take this alternative reading, we have something like, 'the shroud covered the flaws of nakedness after my death; otherwise, while I was alive, no matter what kind of clothing I wore I {was / would have been} an honor to existence'. Now perhaps the lover is saying this semi-sarcastically, but there's no reason he wouldn't or couldn't say it; we have many examples in which the lover speaks sarcastically to or about worldly authority. (For a few examples among many, see some of the verses in which he confronts the Advisor.)

The lover may also be proud of his nakedness, as he is proud of that of Majnun in {6,1}. Faruqi points out (in urduu ;Gazal ke aham mo;R ) that nang-e sounds to a listener like nange , 'naked'. The lover may mean to say that only the shroud was able finally to cover him; otherwise, his whole life long he flaunted his nakedness and disgrace, even when he (outwardly? seemingly?) wore clothing. This is in fact just the kind of thing the lover does; his pride in his passion, and his rejection of the fine facades of the worldly, are right at the heart of the ghazal world. The commentators make the lover grovel. But Ghalib's lover is just as often unimaginably arrogant; and sometimes, as in this verse, he may be both at once.

The word varnah is flexible, and signals some kind of conditions that is contrary or contradictory to the clause before it. 'Otherwise' is the only possible English translation, yet it's not very satisfactory. But here's an attempt to capture the effect: Suppose X has invited Y to his house for a barbecue. Y might reply, 'Well, I'm a vegetarian; otherwise, I can certainly come'; the grammar invites a work-around to solve the problem. Or Y might reply, 'Well, I'm a strict vegetarian; otherwise, I would certainly have come'; the contrafactual verb suggests a polite but firm refusal. Or Y might even reply, 'I'll come for your sake; otherwise, I never go to carnivorous parties'; the grammar suggests an exceptional favor. This same degree of multivalence is provided by varnah , through the various kinds of clauses that it can introduce.

Thus varnah can here suggest either a past condition or a contrafactual situation. It's also a key to the whole structure of the verse, for it signals a contrast between the clause before it and the clause after it-- but what contrast, exactly? The possibilities include: being 'covered' with something versus wearing 'attire'; death (in a 'shroud') versus life (in 'existence'); 'scars' and/or 'flaws' versus either 'shame' or 'honor'; 'nakedness' versus wearing 'attire'.

Compare {220,2}, which is also about issues of shame and honor, life and death.