Ghazal 14, Verse 9

{14,9}

kyaa rahuu;N ;Gurbat me;N ;xvush jab ho ;havaadi;s kaa yih ;haal
naamah laataa hai va:tan se naamah-bar ak;sar khulaa

1) how would I remain happy in a foreign land! --when there would be this state of occurrences/misfortunes:
2) the Messenger usually brings the letters from the homeland-- open

Notes:

;Gurbat : 'Travelling (to foreign countries), going abroad; emigration; --being far from (one's) home or native country; the state or condition of a stranger, or foreigner, or exile; wretchedness, misery; humility, lowliness'. (Platts p.770)

 

;havaadi;s : 'Accidents, occurrences; misfortunes, calamities'. (Platts p.482)

Nazm:

The custom is that when they write news of a death in a letter, they send it off open. (15)

== Nazm page 15

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, to escape from troubles in my homeland, I came abroad, but even in exile there is so much bad news that the letters the Messenger brings from home are usually open. That is, they contain news of the death of one or another dear one. In this difficulty, how can I live happily even here? (31)

Josh:

The letter in which news of a death would be recorded-- the custom was to send it off open. (68)

FWP:

SETS == MUSHAIRAH
WRITING: {7,3}

HOME verses: {6,14x}; {10,7}; {14,9} (vs. abroad); {15,10}; {17,2}; {18,3}; {25,2}; {31,1}; {35,8}; {40,3x}; {53,3}; {54,3}; {57,9}; {58}, most verses; {59,1}; {66,6}; {67,4x} (homeland); {79,4x}; {83,1} (vs. abroad); {87,11} (vs. abroad); {91,9}; {91,13x}; {99,5}; {101,3}; {101,10} (vs. abroad); {106,2}; {113,2}; {114,6}; {130,3}; {135,1}; [{139,1} (unpub. verse quoted); {140,6}; {149,1} (vs. abroad); {156,1}; {201,3}; {202,4}; {223,5x}

This is the kind of verse that I imagine as fitting in well in a mushairah situation, when the audience had already been delighted by the poet's creative uses of this particularly meaningful refrain. Here is one more unexpected, witty, perfect facet of khulaa . The verse doesn't have to do any more than this to be entirely satisfactory; after all, it's only two lines long, and will serve very well to break the mood of some of the heavier verses.

As so often, he's fixed it so that you can't tell from the first line alone what is coming in the second. This of course is perfect for the oral poetics of mushairah performance. Even today, the mushairah poet flirts with the audience, repeating the first line once or twice, letting the suspense grow before providing the closure of the second line. To maximize its effect, the ideal mushairah verse withholds the 'punchy' word until as late as possible in the second line-- in this case, unusually, it's even made to be the refrain-word. (Since we know what refrain-word is coming, perhaps the element of surprise is lessened; but the enjoyment of this fresh, unexpected use of the refrain-word surely compensates.) A final trait of a 'mushairah verse' is that what you hear is what you get: you 'get' it all at once in a rush, the first time through, and don't feel any need to brood about it or re-examine it at length.

The secondary meaning of ;Gurbat as 'wretchedness' or 'lowliness' shows the association of travel abroad with the dangers of exile, friendlessness, alienation, loss of status. This rich double meaning makes the word useful for Ghalib's sometimes ironic purposes.