Ghazal 14, Verse 8


kyuu;N a;Ndherii hai shab-e ;Gam hai balaa))o;N kaa nuzuul
aaj udhar hii ko rahegaa diidah-e a;xtar khulaa

1) why is the night of grief dark?! --there is the descent of disasters!
2) today in only/emphatically that/this direction, the eye of the stars will remain opened


balaa : 'Trial, affliction, misfortune, calamity, evil, ill'. (Platts p.163)


nuzuul : 'Descending; alighting, sojourning'. (Platts p.1136)


In the first line is a question and answer; that is, the reason for the darkness of the night of grief is that even more disasters are coming down from the heights of the heavens, and in order to see the spectacle of their descent, the stars have turned their gaze from this direction to that. That is, they're coming down in such numbers that it's worth seeing, like a fair. (15)

== Nazm page 15


Urdu text: Vajid 1902 {14}

Bekhud Dihlavi:

That is, in the night of separation disasters are descending on me from the sky, and the eyes of the stars are spectators of them. For this reason the stars have turned their faces toward the sky. If the light of the stars were present, and I were able to see those disasters discending from the sky, then perhaps I would be able to make some plan to protect myself. (30)

Bekhud Mohani:

The stars too are watching the spectacle, and today the stars' faces won't be turned toward the earth.

Disasters come from the influence of the stars; thus today the stars are giving orders to the disasters, and the stars' gaze is fixed on their behavior and movement. Tonight the world can't be illumined. Those elders who have read 'in that direction' as 'in this direction', and taken 'the eye of the stars' to mean 'the eye of the stars of fate' have fallen into error. (33)


EYES {3,1}

Disasters in the ghazal world almost always fall from the sky; thus the sky, and/or the stars, and/or one's fate, can be reproached for them, in a way that's not a (direct) complaint against God. (In fact 'disaster' itself etymologically means an 'ill-starred' situation, such as 'an unfavourable aspect of a star or planet' (OED p. 558).)

Bekhud Mohani is referring to the fact that udhar , 'that way', and idhar , 'this way', look just the same in Urdu script unless small vowel markers are added (which they usually aren't). Bekhud Mohani insists on udhar . On this reading, the stars are looking over 'that way', watching the earlier stages of the disasters in their long fall towards us. Only in the final stages would the disasters be near enough to us so that the stars' view would include us, and we'd notice a return of their usual gaze. And, of course, we might notice a huge group of falling balaa))e;N , perhaps made visible by the starlight.

Arshi too goes for udhar , and as a rule I follow his readings faithfully. But Ghalib rarely supplied such short-vowel markers himself, so in this case the vowel marker might very probably have been supplied by Arshi (who after all doesn't hesitate to insert even English-style punctuation at his own pleasure). So I consider it perfectly possible to read the word as idhar as well.

If we read the word as idhar , we have to read kyuu;N as a negative exclamation ('What! Why would it be dark? Who says it's dark? It's not dark at all!'). That kind of exclamatory reading of kyuu;N would be quite possible, and would make delightful use of the second line: tonight won't be dark, because there's a huge fall of disasters, and all the stars will have their eyes turned this way [idhar], riveted on us, watching in shock or horror.

When I first read this verse my immediate reaction was to feel that the stars were averting their gaze from us, out of helpless sympathy for our peril. They couldn't bear to watch, and were prudently turning their eyes elsewhere. That's still my favorite interpretation.