Ghazal 11, Verse 3x


rah-e ;xvaabiidah thii gardan-kash-e yak-dars-e aagaahii
zamii;N ko sailii-e ustaad hai naqsh-e qadam meraa

1) the sleepy/drowsy road was {insolent / 'neck-lifting'} from a single lesson of awareness
2) to the ground, my footstep is the slap of an Ustad


gardan-kash : 'Proud, haughty, vain; insolent, refractory, rebellious, disobedient; stubborn, obstinate'. (Platts p.903)


dars : 'Reading, learning to read; a lecture; a lesson, exercise'. (Platts p.512)

Gyan Chand:

For the road, the message of awareness is that people's footsteps would fall on it, and it would be aware of them. That empty road on which no one used to travel, and which used to rebel against acquaintance with footsteps-- I went on it. My footsteps fell on it like the slap of an Ustad, and it became aware of human footsteps. It's possible that 'sleepy road' might be a metaphor for the tradition of poetry. By footstep may be meant his path of poetry. In this aspect, the ground would be the 'ground' of poetry.

[Or:] A long road prided itself on being acquainted with many people's footsteps. My footstep acted on the ground of the road like the slap of an Ustad, and broke its pride. My swiftness or 'heat' of movement told it that until it was acquainted with this gait, it had no cause for pride. (84)



For background see S. R. Faruqi's choices.

The road, like a lazy student, is drowsy or heedless; and with the attainment of 'a single lesson of awareness', it becomes vain and insolent as well. But the speaker is at hand to chastise it and 'put it in its place': his footsteps fall with a series of firm thumps that act on the 'ground' like punitive slaps from an Ustad (who may be teaching poetry, or some other art).

But what is that 'single lesson of awareness' of which the road becomes so prematurely and annoyingly proud? Perhaps it is road's the acquaintance with one (new?) person, presumably the speaker-- this sudden new attention makes the untraveled, long-neglected road feel uppity and put on airs. But the cure is 'the hair of the dog'-- now those new footsteps fall firmly and regularly, like an Ustad's disciplinary slaps. If the road 'pulls its neck' up, these regular footsteps will, as is only proper, slap it right down again.

The road must thus realize that 'a little learning is a dangerous thing'. Its first heady awareness, its new acquaintance with footsteps, must be gradually converted into systematic training, into the disciplined sequence of regular footsteps and virtuous self-control. Just so must the Ustad, with disciplinary slaps and other techniques, instruct pupils in the 'lessons' of poetic composition.

Since we're left to figure out for ourselves the relationship between the two lines, we might alternatively decide to read them separately, as contrastive: the road learns a basic thing, and then gets uppity. Perhaps an effect of its arrogant behavior is that it doesn't learn anything more, because the speaker ceases to walk on it. By contrast, the ground is much better disciplined than the road, for it receives many 'slaps' from the feet of the Ustad. Perhaps this extra disciplinary attention results from the fact that the speaker prefers the ground to the road. It's possible to think of quite a number of ghazal-world reasons for such a preference on his part.