Ghazal 13, Verse 4


.sarfah hai .zab:t-e aah me;N meraa vagarnah mai;N
:tu((mah huu;N ek hii nafas-e jaa;N-gudaaz kaa

1) expenditure/profit is in the restraint of sighs, otherwise I
2) am food of/for only/emphatically one soul-melting breath


.sarfah : 'Expending, expense, expenditure; economy; utility, profit; addition, surplus, excess, redundance, profusion'. (Platts p.744)

.zab:t : 'Keeping, taking care of, guarding, defending, watching over, ruling, governing; regulation, government, direction, discipline; restraint, control, check'. (Platts p.748)


In this verse he means to express his weakness and debility, and the intensity and sharpness of his sighs; that is, if I don't restrain myself then with one single sigh I would dissolve and vanish. (14)

== Nazm page 14


Urdu text: Vajid 1902 {13}

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, I am controlling my sighs; I consider that this is to my advantage, otherwise with one single soul-melting breath my feeble body would melt away and become a morsel for the fire of passion. That is, the way a candle melts and flows away, my sigh is enough to consign me to oblivion. (27)

Bekhud Mohani:

I don't want to deceive the world. The reason I restrain my sighs is not fortitude. Rather, if I would sigh, then my burning sigh would finish off my feeble life. Mirza has, in a veiled way, shown the extremity of his weakness and of the soul-burningness of his sighs, although outwardly this purpose is not evident. (28)



The point of this verse eluded me. Most of the commentators just paraphrase it in prose, which doesn't much help. The wordplay of .sarfah and .zab:t in the first line is there, of course, but is that all? Surely there ought to be some wordplay or connection between the two lines, but I couldn't find anything much. So I asked S. R. Faruqi for his analysis (March 2003), and here it is:

Well, there is connection. Connection is not the problem, the problem is that there isn't much in the verse to raise it above the level of a rather plain theme of the sigh that destroys the sigher, by virtue of (a) the sigh being soul-searing; and (b) the sigher being physically weak and emaciated. Ghalib tries a bit of trickery here to explain why he is not sighing away his life, for that's what a lover does. So he says: I am not sighing, because I am so weak that if I let my breath out, I won't have the strength to bring it back.

The piquancy of the verse lies in the double meaning of .sarfah , as 'expense', and also 'saving'. The primary sense here is saving, but since it is also expense, it reinforces (in an ironical way) the sense of expense that is implied in :tu((mah , which means food or a mouthful of food-- hence, a mode of expense. When you eat something, you spend it; or, when you eat something, you first spend money to get it. Thus the .sarfah which is the aim of the whole exercise, becomes expenditure anyway.

This helps, of course, but I still don't really see much in the verse. I don't think it's at all up to Ghalib's usual standard.