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

 

nang , nangaa : '(Hindi) Naked, nude; bare; ... —shameless; —s.m. A naked person; a shameless person; —a disgraced person'. (Platts p.1156)

 

be-nang : 'Shameless'. (Platts p.204)

 

nang-o-naamuus : 'Honour, esteem; —shame, disgrace'. (Platts p.1150)

 

naamuus : 'Reputation, fame, renown; esteem, honour, grace, dignity; —disgrace, reproach, shame —the female part of a family'. (Platts p.1118)

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 == MULTIVALENT WORDS ( nang ); VARNAH
LIFE/DEATH: {7,2}

CLOTHING/NAKEDNESS: {1,1}; {3,5}; {6,1}**, on the rhyme-word positioning of ((uryaa;N ; {6,7x}; {6,11x}; {64,8x}; {82,4x}*, tightness; {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}; {68,10x}; {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}

ABOUT varnah : The original form was the Persian va agar nah , 'and if not'. In Urdu, the word varnah is flexible, and signals some kind of condition 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 to try his famous barbecue. Y might reply, 'Well, I'm a vegetarian; otherwise, I can certainly come'; the grammar invites a work-around (grilled vegetables?) 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 and verb forms that it can introduce.

ABOUT SHAME/HONOR: The powerfully bi-valent Persian-derived word nang means 'honour, esteem, reputation; shame, disgrace, infamy, ignominy' (see the definition above); it thus flips back and forth according to context between the two possible forms of public judgment and (dis)repute. It seems clear that for Ghalib the 'shame' meaning is primary: consider {47,4x}, {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 , 'shameless', is clearly a powerful reproach. (The related Hindi-side nang or nangaa means both 'naked' and, secondarily, 'shameless' (see the definitions above).)

The similarly bi-valent term naamuus is often conjoined to make the pair nang-o-naamuus , meaning 'Honour, esteem; —shame, disgrace' (see the definitions above). Behind the duality no doubt is the obvious psychological and cultural fact that whatever is a source of pride can easily become, if jeopardized, a source of humiliation and disgrace. (Compare the similar ambivalence in English: 'Doesn't that cause you shame?', in which 'shame' is a bad thing; versus 'Have you no shame?', in which 'shame' is a good thing.)

In the present verse Nazm, like Chishti, accuses Ghalib 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'; and there's {159,3}.

In their discussions of the present verse, the commentators insist on reading nang only as 'disgrace', but the possibility of 'honor' works perfectly well too, and adds another dimension to 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 speaker 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 speaker may thus suggest 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 speaker grovel. But Ghalib's speaker/lover is just as often unimaginably arrogant; and sometimes, as in this verse, he may be both at once. See for example {7,7}, in which Asad's corpse lies unattended and perhaps even naked, with no shroud at all, while the sorrowful speaker describes him as a 'strangely/remarkably free man'.

The 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.

See also the discussion of Mir's use of nang in M{1896,9}.