Ghazal 15, Verse 11


naazish-e ayyaam-e ;xaakistar-nishiinii kyaa kahuu;N
pahluu-e andeshah vaqf-e bistar-e sanjaab thaa

1) the glory/exaltation/dissimulation/blandishment of days of ash-sitting-- what can I say?!

2a) the side/flank of Thought/concern was tranquility upon a bedding of ermine
2b) the expedient of Thought/concern was intent upon a bedding of ermine
2c) the advantage of Thought/concern was the endowment of a bedding of ermine


naazish : 'Glory, exaltation, eminence; boasting; dissimulation, blandishment; importunity'. (Steingass p.1371)


pahluu : 'A side; flank, wing; a facet; --utility; profit, advantage; indirect or crooked expedient; dishonourable or fraudulent means'. (Platts p.289)

andeshah : 'Thought, consideration, meditation, reflection; solicitude, anxiety, concern...; doubt, misgiving, suspicion; apprehension, dread, fear'. (Platts p.91)

vaqf : 'Standing, stopping, staying, halting, waiting; pausing (over); being intent (upon), endeavouring fully to understand; --bequeathing for pious purposes; tranquility; firmness; constancy; permanency'. (Platts p.1197)


That is, although I was sitting in the dust, because of my heart's pride at its own contentment, it was rolling around on a bedding of ermine. (16)

== Nazm page 16


Urdu text: Vajid 1902 {15}

Bekhud Mohani:

In the time of prosperity, he is looking back: those things even the thought of which gave pleasure-- now there is no such joy even in their attainment. Zauq:

;hir.s ke phailte hai;N paa))o;N bah qadr-e vus((at
tang hii rahte hai;N dunyaa me;N faraa;Gat-vaale

[the legs of Greed are spread according to the scope
those at leisure remain only/emphatically straitened in the world]. (37)


Because of shared color, wordplay has developed between the 'bedding of ermine' and the 'sitting in ashes'. (54)



INEXPRESSIBILITY: {1,2}; {5,4}; {9,8x}; {10,2}; {15,11}**, with a list of kyaa kahuu;N verses; {16,4}; {16,8x}; {17,5}; {18,4}; {20,8}; {29,5x}; {34,3}; {39,4}; {49,2}; {56,2}; {58,9}; {68,5}; {75,6}; {81,13x}; {86,8}; {87,4}; {88,3}; {91,2}; {92,5}; {92,8x}; {97,2}; {108,6}; {113,4}; {129}*, nah puuchh ; {133,5x}; {136,7}; {147,6x}; {167,4}; {172,3}; {183,2}; {194,6}; {196,8x}*; {197,1}; {199,6x}; {201}; {208,5}; {210,5}; {224,2x}; {227,3} // {261x,6}; {350x}, nah puuchh ; {383x,5}; {398x,4}, nah puuchh

ABOUT kyaa kahuu;N : That irresistibly idiomatic phrase kyaa kahuu;N is a form of the 'inexpressibility trope' of which Ghalib makes excellent use. What more convenient way could there be to both suggest and avoid description, in a poem fifteen or twenty words long? It's expressive, like 'What can I say?!' I've translated it accordingly (though literally of course it's 'What might I say?'). Other examples: {39,4}; {88,3}; {92,8x}; {97,2}; {136,7}; {194,6}. Ghalib seems not to use kyaa kahe;N .

Structurally speaking, the verse is a tribute to the powers of the i.zaafat construction. To take one crucial example, what is an endowment 'of' a bedding [vaqf-e bistar]? Is it an endowment bestowed by a bedding? An endowment bestowed on a bedding? An endowment that consists of a bedding? An endowment that resembles, or is somehow otherwise related to, a bedding? In a verse so full of abstractions forcibly yoked together, we're not able to be at all sure.

Ashes and ermine-- how different are they, really? Both soft, both a mottled greyish whitish, both capable in some sense of being slept on. By careful and subtle word choices, Ghalib has made possible a variety of readings of the second line. Three of them are shown above; they all can be appropriately associated with the pride-in-humility described in the first line:

=(2a) is at least initially physical, with a body lying in bedding. The body of Thought, apparently, which is in fact lying in ermine even while (or precisely because?) the physical body lies in ashes.

=(2b) is ambitious: while sitting in ashes, proud Thought is focused upon (and scheming about) riches to come.

=(2c) is religious: Thought has been endowed by religious bequest with the ability to see ashes as ermine, and ermine in ashes.

In a few words the verse is thus able to set up a picture which might be that of ostentatious religious hypocrisy, coquettishly pluming itself on its austerities; or that of ambition, busily scheming about how to move from present rags to future riches; or that of a genuine religious sensibility, which finds luxury in simplicity. Or, of course-- especially if we think of the 'days' as those of youth-- something of all three together. And how excellently the possibilities of the (Persianized) naazish (see the definition above) resonate with these various alternatives!

Another verse that also somewhat oddly combines a vaqf and bedding: {194,1} (which also discusses the nature of bistar ). Another abstract vaqf verse: {200,4x}. Another, less powerful invocation of ;xaakistar-nishiinii : {73,4x}.

Consider also the piquant but maddening {18,7x}.

And then compare Mir's own nostalgic (?) vision of the good old days: M{115,1}.