Ghazal 4, Verse 10x


;xaak-baazii-e ummiid kaar-;xaanah-e :tiflii
yaas ko do-((aalam se lab bah ;xandah vaa paayaa

1) the 'dust-game' of hope-- a workshop/business of childishness/childhood
2) we found Despair [to be] open/cheerful, with smiling/laughing lips, by means of the two worlds


kaar-;xaanah : 'A workshop, factory, manufactory; an arsenal; a dockyard; a laboratory; any place where public works are carried on; an office; a great work; a business, concern; way of action, procedure'. (Platts p.799)


yaas : 'Despair, desperation, hopelessness, despondency; — fear, terror'. (Platts p.1248)


vaa honaa : 'To be or become open; to open; to be freed or liberated; to be relieved of sorrow, to become cheerful'. (Platts p.1171)


In the world, to have any hope is, so to speak, is a ;xaak-baazii and a game with/of dust, and resembles the doll-house games that children all play. Because Despair is laughing at the hopes of the hopeful people, and in both words if someone's two lips are smiling/laughing, then those are the lips of Despair.

== Asi, p. 53


That is, to 'sift the dust' of the world on the strength of hopes is just like the way children play in the dirt-- hands all dusty, face all dusty! We maintain many kinds of hopes for the physical and the spiritual worlds ( do ((aalam ), but Despair laughs at us: 'Look at these fools, how they build sand-castles and weave ropes out of air!'.

== Zamin, p. 32

Gyan Chand:

;xaak-baazii = for children to play in the dust, or a game like chausar [nard] or chess. lab-e ;xandah = a smile. The game of hope is a pastime of childhood, in which there's no stability. By contrast, he has seen Despair conversing, with a smile, with the dwellers in both words. This smile is really a smile of mockery. That is, in the world hope is unstable; and despair, well-rooted.

== Gyan Chand, p. 68



For background see S. R. Faruqi's choices. This verse is NOT one of his choices; I thought it was interesting and have added it myself. For more on Ghalib's unpublished verses, see the discussion in {4,8x}.

Hope is a childish game, like building castles in the sand or dust (not to speak of castles in the air). Thanks to the flexibility of the i.zaafat , it can be a game 'of' childishness in one of several senses: a game that's identical with childishness (or childhood); a game that results in childishness; or a game that pertains or belongs to childishness (or childhood).

It can also refer to some kind of real game. Owen Cornwall contributes (July 2014) this definition, from a Persian dictionary, of ;xaak-baazii : 'The game that children play of the following type: a few children gather together a pile of dirt, and in it they hide an object; then, having divided the piles amongst themselves, the child who finds the object in his part gets to keep it.'

In contrast to the childish futility of hope, despair has been found (by the speaker, presumably) to be 'cheerful' or 'free' or, literally, 'open'. The idea that despair is cheerful is a remarkable one in itself, but it's overshadowed by the spectacular wordplay. For despair is 'open' in a special sense: it is 'smiling' or 'laughing', in a mood associated both with good cheer and with 'open' lips or mouth.

And indeed, it's displaying a smiling or laughing 'lip' or lips, and the smile is shaped through or with or by means of [se] the 'two worlds'. (For more on 'two worlds' imagery, see {18,2}.) How can we not think of two lips? Two lips are needed for a smile or laugh, and Indo-Muslim culture certainly knows of two worlds (the present world and the world to come; or the this-worldly world and the religious world). Since those two worlds are presented as a symmetrical pair, why should they not be seen, or behave, as 'lips'?

Thus we have the strange, ominous idea that despair 'laughs/smiles' through two lips that are (like) the two worlds. Despair is obviously vast and cosmically powerful, the very opposite of poor hope with its childish dust-castles. In fact it seems quite possible that despair is smiling or laughing at the futile but touchingly childlike enterprise of hope. Is it laughing in a sympathetic, rueful, understanding way? Or is it laughing coldly and cynically, with the blackness of the void opening between its two 'lips'?

I can't help but think of Chapter XI of the Bhagavad Gita, in which Krishna shows himself to Arjuna as kaalaanala , the fire of time-- with warriors rushing to enter his jaws, and some of them sticking, with their heads crushed, in the spaces between his teeth. The vision of despair with a smile-- perhaps even a friendly, 'open' smile-- on its 'two-world lips' is at least as frightening.