Ghazal 22, Verse 2


bandagii me;N bhii vuh aazaadah-o-;xvud-bii;N hai;N kih ham
ul;Te phir aa))e dar-e ka((bah agar vaa nah hu))aa

1) even/also in servitude we are so free and self-regarding that we
2) turned and came back if the door of the Ka'bah did not open


;xvud-biin : 'Self-conceited, vain, proud, arrogant, presumptuous'. (Platts p.495)


In 1842 the English government decided to reorganize the affairs of Delhi College. Thomason Sahib, who for a number of years had been Lieutenant Governor of the Northwestern Province, was Secretary at that time. He came to Delhi to interview the teachers. And just as there was a teacher of Arabic at one hundred rupees a month, he wished for there to be such a teacher of Persian also. People told him the names of some accomplished ones. Mirza's name too was among these. Mirza Sahib came, as he had been invited to do. Announcement was made to the Sahib. Mirza Sahib came out of his palanquin, and stayed there waiting for the Secretary Sahib to come, according to long custom, and receive him. When neither the one went in, nor the other came out, and quite some time passed, then the Secretary Sahib asked his doorkeeper about it. That man came out again and asked, 'Why don’t you come in?' Mirza Sahib said, 'The Sahib has not come out to receive me. How can I go in?' The doorkeeper again went and reported.

The Sahib came outside and said, 'When you come to the governor’s court in your capacity as a nobleman, then you will receive the customary honor. But at the present time you have come for employment. You are not entitled to this honor.' Mirza Sahib said, 'I consider government service a reason for additional honor, not something in which I would lose my ancestral honor also!' The Sahib said, 'I am bound by regulations.' Mirza Sahib took his leave and came away.

==this trans.: Pritchett and Faruqi, pp. 487-88
==Hali's version, which he attributes to Azad: Yadgar-e Ghalib, pp. 28-29
==a trans. of Hali's version: Russell and Islam, pp. 62-63


That is, then why would we accept ill-treatment from anyone else? (23)

== Nazm page 23

Bekhud Dihlavi:

;xvud-bii;N [normally means] 'to consider another less than oneself', but here Mirza Sahib has used it for 'self-respect' [;xvud-daarii]. The meaning of the verse is that even in worship of God, I so bear myself that if I don't find the door of the Ka'bah open, then I consider it contrary to my dignity to knock on it and cause it to be opened, so I turn around and come back. The truth is that Mirza Sahib, in his life, was a lofty example of self-respect. (47)

Bekhud Mohani:

Compare {68,3}. (151)


This is what they call supreme excellence of expression, that behind the screen of his self-regard and freedom, an aspect of the greatness of the Ka'bah has also emerged: that it is a court of which the door is never closed. (82)


A declaration of man's dignity and of the desire to preserve the integrity of his self in the face of the bondage put upon him by his Creator. One may speculate that the bondage forced him into making the pilgrimate to the Ka'bah, but his self-respect and his independence of mind restrained him from knocking on the closed door and begging admittance, for that would have been beneath his dignity.

A similar attitude is expressed by Ghalib in another couplet [not present in the muravvaj diivaan], but in a manner that may appear at first as a reverse statement [from a ghazal in an ode, 1852, Hamid p. 199, Raza p.308]:

ham pukaare;N aur khule yuu;N kaun jaa))e
yaar kaa darvaazah paave;N gar khulaa

"We should call and then the door should be opened. / Why should I go in on finding the beloved's door left open inadvertently?" Beside the fact that in the first verse the door is of the House of God while in the second that of the beloved's house, we should also bear in mind the poignant truth (within the Urdu poetic tradition) that if the beloved's door is left open it is for the sake of the poet's rival, and that it is extremely unlikely for that door to open at the call of the poet-lover. (1970, 17-18)


BONDAGE: {1,5}
ISLAMIC: {10,2}

Azad's anecdote above seemed so appropriate to the mood of this verse that I couldn't resist including it.

This is a rather simple and straightforward verse. The key to its impact is the lover's self-contradictory status: he doesn't deny being in a state of servitude, in fact he emphasizes it-- bandagii me;N bhii , 'even in bondage' or 'in bondage too'. Yet he also emphasizes his being aazaadah , 'free', and ;xvud-bii;N , literally 'self-regarding', to a degree that certainly makes him a very dubious 'servant'. If God doesn't meet him halfway and offer an opened door, he simply turns around and goes back; he's not one to beg and plead, or hang about humbly and try to slip in later. In short, he announces that he has treated God somewhat the way he treated Mr. Thomason during the famous Delhi College employment interview.

The vuh is here an emphatic colloquial expression, more like aisaa (*Grammar*).

Baqir points out that the door of the Ka'bah is in fact never closed, and that the verse serves to remind us of this. For more verses that explicitly refer to the Ka'bah, consult the Names index. Baqir's point may be well-taken, and a pious reader might even come away with such an impression. But the grammar of the verse clearly emphasizes a change of state, 'did not become open' [vaa nah hu))aa], rather than a steady-state 'was not [in a state of being] open' [vaa nah thaa]. In other words, the speaker seems to demand that the door should become open especially for him, just at the point when he arrives. Ghalib rarely endorses any kind of conventional piety; {161,4} brings it all down to a question of :tabii((at , of 'temperament'.

Other verses about 'self-regardingness': {6,13x}; {12,4x}; {15,17x}; {208,6}.

Compare Mir's even more drastic solution to the same problem: M{1679,8}:

dar pah ;haram ke kushuud nahii;N to dair me;N jaa kar kaafir ho
qashqah khe;Ncho pothii pa;Rho zunnaar gale se ba;Ndhaa))o tum

[if at the door of the Ka'bah there's no opening, then go sit in a temple and become an infidel,
put on a forehead-mark, read a holy-book, have a sacred-thread tied around your neck]