Ghazal 5, Verse 3


mai;N ((adam se bhii pare huu;N varnah ;Gaafil baar-haa
merii aah-e aatishii;N se baal-e ((anqaa jal gayaa

1a) I am beyond even/also nonexistence-- otherwise, heedlessly, more than once
1b) I am beyond even/also nonexistence-- otherwise, oh heedless one, more than once

2a) from my fiery sighs the wing of the Anqa burned
2b) from my fiery sighs the wing of the Anqa would have burned


;Gaafil : 'Unmindful, forgetful, neglectful, negligent, heedless, inadvertent, inattentive, remiss, thoughtless, careless; indolent; imprudent; senseless, unconscious;-- negligently, thoughtlessly, inadvertently, unconsciously, &c.'. (Platts p.768)


[See his use of ((adam se bhii pare in the letter quoted in {234,9}.]


Anqa is the name of a nonexistent bird. And when he became nonexistent, he too was in nonexistence, and the fiery sighs and the wing of the Anqa could come together in the same field. For this reason the wing of the Anqa burned from his sighs. But the poet's saying 'I am outside even nonexistence'-- the result of this is that I neither exist nor do not exist, and I transcend opposites. Perhaps it's about just such verses that people in Delhi always used to say, 'Ghalib constantly composes meaningless verses', and in reply to that the poet recited this verse: {175,6}. The word pare is now rejected [matruuk]; in Lucknow, since the time of Nasikh it has not been in the colloquial language. (5)

== Nazm page 5; Nazm page 6

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, I've emerged even somewhat beyond nonbeing; that is, I've attained oblivion in God [fanaa fi))l-ullaah]. No doubt, when I was passing through that stage, then more than once, from my fiery sighs, fire spread to the wing of the Anqa. The meaning is that in the beginning of my education in oblivion, I destroyed the reputation of the Anqa, who is considered one of the greatest proofs of being nonexistent. Here ;Gaafil refers to those people who cannot understand human progress. (15)


The truth is that I have an inadequate understanding of this verse. And not to speak of my worthless self-- other worthy commentators too, according to my imperfect mind, have not been able to understand it. (108)



EXISTENCE/NONEXISTENCE verses == {3,10x}; {5,3}; {6,5}; {11,4x}; {24,7}; {51,5x}; {214,13x}; {223,6x}

THE WORD ;gaafil == The multivalent word ;Gaafil can be used most effectively. It can be an adverb, 'heedlessly'; or else an admonitory vocative, 'oh heedless one(s)!'. In both cases, it can suggest either a mildly culpable absent-mindedness, or a more serious kind of deliberate moral lapse (see the definition above). More such examples: {5,3}; {24,4}; {45,1}; {226,6x}

GRANDIOSITY verses == {4,8x}; {5,3}; {5,4}; {6,5}; {10,1}; {11,4x}; {12,5x}; {15,16x}; {25,1}; {27,1}; {27,9x}; {38,6}; {43,3}; {51,5x}; {62,8}; {64,2}; {81,1}; {90,2}; {102,1}; {110,5}; {110,6}; {110,7}; {145,1}; {208, 1-4}

Well, it's an obscure verse all right. But it's not as if Ghalib hasn't warned us of his inclinations. It seems that the Anqa lives in the realm of nonexistence [((adam]. I used to be there with him, and in those days I often burnt his wing with my fiery sighs (2a). Or, alternatively, I am simply beyond that realm, which is fortunate for the Anqa because if I had been there, I would often have burnt his wing with my sighs (2b). Not surprisingly, Ghalib's other Anqa verses tend to be equally difficult and complex.

The phrase-introducer varnah is not only used to contrast past with present situations (as in 2a), but also signals possible contrafactual situations (as in 2b). 'Otherwise' is the best available translation, but it's not as flexible.

;Gaafil can be an adverb describing the heedless, careless way in which I burnt (or would have burnt) the Anqa's wings. Or it can be an epithet: someone might be addressed as a 'heedless' or 'careless' or 'negligent' one. If so, that person is perhaps being warned: 'Take care-- someone who could burn the Anqa could do something dire to you too!' You, like the Anqa, are perhaps safe from the consequences of your own rash negligence only because I'm so far 'beyond even Nonbeing' that I might not (bother to) do anything dire to you.

In other words, this verse need not be read pompously and abstractly. It could just as easily be a kind of teasing one, playfully threatening a companion (the beloved?) with implausibly grandiose-- and also conveniently self-negating-- dangers.

Compare Mir's play with the possibilities of existence vs. non-existence: M{254,1}. And on the flight of the 'bird of thought': M{431,7}.