Ghazal 17, Verse 1


baskih dushvaar hai har kaam kaa aasaa;N honaa
aadmii ko bhii muyassar nahii;N insaa;N honaa

1a) it's difficult to such an extent for every task to be easy
1b) although it's difficult for every task to be easy

2) even/also for a human, it's not attainable/attained/easy to become humane


baskih : 'although'; [also short for:]

az bas kih : 'To such an extent that; --inasmuch as, whereas'. (Platts p.154)


aadmii : 'A descendant of Adam; a human being; man; individual, person; adult; a sensible, or honest man'. (Platts p.33)


muyassar : 'Rendered easy, facilitated; easy, feasible, practicable; favourable; --ready, prepared; --obtained, attained; attainable, obtainable, procurable: -- muyassar honaa or aanaa (- ko ), To be attained, or attainable (by); to come (to), to be within the reach (of)'. (Platts p.1105)


insaan : 'Man, mankind, human being, mortal (= aadmii )'. (Platts p.92)


At first glance, this seems a commonplace idea; but if examined attentively, it is an entirely unprecedented thought. The claim is that in the world, even the easiest task is difficult. And the proof is that man, who by definition is human-- even for him to become human is difficult. This is not a logical proof; rather, it is a poetic proof, a proof better than which no poet can offer.

==Urdu text: Yadgar-e Ghalib, p. 120


That is, to reach the rank of complete humanness [insaaniyat] is not simple. (17)

== Nazm page 17

Bekhud Mohani:

No task in the world is easy. Thus for a man to create human [insaanii] qualities and become a 'perfect human' [insaan-e kaamil] is not at all possible. Because a 'perfect human' is one in whom divine morality of a lofty order would be found. (40)

S. R. Faruqi:

[See his discussion of M{302,3}.]

Also, in another connection the subject came up, and Faruqi offered (June 2020) the following thoughts:

The distinction between admi and insan has always been there, though it wasn’t perhaps so tellingly expressed before Ghalib. Admi was supposed to mean an ordinary human being, of light brown (gandum gun) complexion, and made of clay, etc. Insan was supposed to have its etymology in uns (affection, love). Or some people even believed it somehow came from nisyan (forgetfulness). So insan was something intellectual and internal. Admi is more physical. In the Qur’an, insan is used most frequently, and always in the meaning of a member of the human race.

So the distinctrions have always been there, but never so sharply stated. I don’t recall admiyat in Persian, in the sense of human-ness = some sort of nobility of mind. This, I think, is an Urduism and has been known for some time. In Urdu, it means good, gentle conduct, general nobility of mind, etc.

Thus the distinction made by Ghalib may be credited to him, in the sense that he expressed it like an aphorism.



The verse turns on the pivot of baskih , which can also be short for az-bas kih (see the definitions above), and thus yields two distinct readings for the first line that stand in two quite different logical relationships to the second line. The 'to such an extent' reading is: 'it's remarkably difficult for seemingly easy tasks to be easy, and the proof is that man doesn't even manage to become human' (1a). The 'although' reading is: 'although it's difficult for every task to be easy,' you'd think that it would be easy for man to become human, but surprisingly this is not the case' (1b).

Ghalib is fond of playing on the easy/difficult dichotomy. In this verse he also plays on the distinction between aadmii , a child of Adam who is probably conceived as simple but may (or may not) be good at heart, and insaan , a person in society who may be expected to behave according to a more sophisticated standard. These two complex words, both derived from Arabic, are sometimes used almost as synonyms (as Platt shows them to be), but Ghalib emphasizes their differences; although the nuances may be hard to pin down, it's clear that to be insaan is a superior achievement.

Whose fault is it that an aadmii doesn't manage to become an insaan ? The excellently chosen verb muyassar honaa balances right on the edge (see the definition above), leaving it up to us to decide whether the task is not 'attainable' (in which case people can't be blamed if they don't achieve it), or whether it's not 'attained' (in which case the situation is left in doubt), or whether it's not 'easy' (in which case people can be blamed for not trying hard and achieving it).

Nowadays aadmii is often used to mean masculine in gender (a man as opposed to a woman), but in principle (see the definition above) and also in the usage of Ghalib and his contemporaries, women could quite readily and unselfconsciously be described as aadmii .

Compare Mir's juxtaposition of aadmii and insaan in M{502,3}.