Ghazal 6, Verse 14x


mai;N bhii ma((;zuur-e junuu;N huu;N asad ai ;xaanah-;xaraab
peshvaa lene mujhe ghar se bayaabaa;N niklaa

1) even/also I am excused by/for madness, Asad, oh you house-wrecked one!

2a) in order to escort me from my home, the desert emerged
2b) in order to receive me, the desert emerged from its home


;xaanah-;xaraab : 'Ruined, destroyed; base, abject; --a vain, empty fellow, a good-for-nothing fellow, a vagabond, a wretch'. (Platts p.486)


peshvaa lenaa : 'To meet and receive (a friend or visitor)'. (Platts p.300)


Oh Asad, you house-wrecked one, I am excused for madness. My madness is not voluntary; rather, what happened was that in order to welcome me, the desert came out of its house.

== Asi, p. 55


He says, 'Oh house-wrecked Asad, why do you taunt me about desert-wandering? Majnun had gone on his own two feet to wander in the desert. The desert itself came and took me away from my house; that is, my house itself became a desert and made me a desert-wanderer. When my house itself became a desert, then where could I have gone?'

== Zamin, p. 36

Gyan Chand:

Oh wretched Asad! I'm compelled to remain ensnared in madness. Because the desert itself came to take me from my house, and escorted me. That is, I don't go into the desert through my own desire or intention. Some Unseen [;Gaibii] voice calls me and takes me along.

== Gyan Chand, p. 72


DESERT: {3,1}
HOME: {14,9}
MADNESS: {14,3}

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 For more on Ghalib's unpublished verses, see the discussion in {4,8x}.

Right in the middle of the second line we see that innocent-looking little postpositional phrase ghar se , perfectly positioned between two clauses, into either of which it would easily fit.

If we read it with the first clause, as in (2a), then the desert comes right up to the door of the lover's house to meet him, and to escort him into its domain, into madness and wilderness-wandering. And if we read it with the second clause, as in (2b), then the desert actually emerges from its own dwelling-place and surges forward to greet and welcome the lover, bringing the desert (of madness) right up to his very doorstep.

As if to show the equal plausibility of the two readings, Asi endorses (2a), while Gyan Chand endorses (2b). Zamin envisions a third possibility even beyond (2b): that the lover's house itself became a desert.

In any case, the desert seems to be showing special honor to the lover. In courtly politics, such peshvaa lenaa is a carefully calibrated mark of rank and ceremony (how many steps toward the visitor will protocol require the welcomer to advance?). Indeed, the lack of this formal honor once caused Ghalib himself, as Azad reports, to turn down a job interview at Delhi College.

Why would the desert honor the speaker so particularly? Is he, in his extraordinary madness, an especially valuable acquisition? Is he so crazed that he might not even make it to the desert without an escort? Is it simply his destiny, as the first line suggests? Even his being ma((;zuur-e junuu;N can have two readings: either the speaker is 'excused by madness' for anything he may do (since his madness is so extreme that the desert specially pays tribute to it); or else he is 'excused for madness' and can't be reproached with choosing it (since he's a kind of helpless, formal captive of the desert).

And then, his addressing himself as ;xaanah-;xaraab is another beautiful touch. A ;xaanah-;xaraab is either wretched in a helpless, miserable way (his house has been wrecked), or else he is actively a wretch, a 'vain, empty fellow', a 'vagabond', the kind of worthless 'house-wrecker' who destroys a family's fortunes (see the definition above). The first, more passive reading seems richer, but who can rule out the second meaning, which is also quite apropos? For another example of the versatility of ;xaanah-;xaraab , see {28,2}.

Needless to say, these 'house-wrecked' or 'house-wrecker' possibilities both work most enjoyably with the two houses in the second line: the lover's house, and the desert's own house. In all this, who (or what) is the wrecker, and who (or what) is the wrecked? Whose house is destined to suffer the most from the lover's absence, or from his presence? For similar ambiguities of reference between 'desert' and 'home', see {35,8} and {319x,6}.