Ghazal 24, Verse 1


pa))e na;zr-e karam tu;hfah hai sharm-e naa-rasaa))ii kaa
bah ;xuu;N-;Galtiidah-e .sad-rang da((v;aa paarsaa))ii kaa

1) by way of an offering to/of generosity/kindness is a gift of the shame/honor of failure/unworthiness
2) having writhed in blood in a hundred ways/colors, is a claim of purity


na;zr : 'A vow; an offering, anything offered or dedicated; a gift or present (from an inferior to a superior)'. (Platts p.1128)


karam : 'Generosity, liberality; nobleness, excellence; goodness, kindness, benignity; beneficence; bounty; grace, favour, clemency, courtesy, graciousness'. (Platts p.826)


sharm : 'Shame, bashfulness, modesty'. (Platts p.725)

naa-rasaa))ii : 'Unworthiness, unfitness, incapacity; want of reach or power; inability; failure; unskilfulness; --ill-breeding, unmannerliness'. (Platts p.1110)

paarsaa))ii : 'Abstinence, temperateness, continence, chastity, purity, virtue, holiness'. (Platts p.217)


That is, in order to give an offering to the generous one, my shame and humility go bearing the gift of that claim of abstinence, at the hands of whose hundred-strandedness they have already turned to blood. 'The gift of the shame of failure' is the subject of 'is', and the second line is entirely informative, about the reason and extreme extent of the giving of the gift 'by way of an offering of/to generosity'. (24-25)

== Nazm page 24; Nazm page 25


Urdu text: Vajid 1902 {24}

Bekhud Dihlavi:

Because of my sins, I could not obtain access to the Court of God. And despite my sins, God Most High has bestowed on me many kinds of grace and favor. Now, in return for those benefits, I present the gift of 'shame of failure'. That is, even despite my sins, with those vain longings for sins that have turned to blood in my heart, and are of hundreds of kinds-- with them I present the claim of purity as well. (49)

Bekhud Mohani:

The gist is that to make attempts [at mystical achievement], and also to be ashamed in the state of failure-- those two things were within my power. Those things, I did. Now it's not impossible that the Lord, out of his mercy, would forgive my sins. (59)


[The commentator Suha says:] rang also means 'ardor'. Thus the dark deeds of debauchery may also be intended. (87)


I'm convinced that I'm deficient in understanding the poetry of Ghalib. If I consider any verse too difficult for my understanding, I copy its meaning from Hasrat and Nazm. (153)


This verse is an extremely fine example of Ghalib's difficulty-loving style. The matter is very commonplace, but he has expressed it in such a way that the hearer would be struck with astonishment. This is ;Gaalibiyat ['Ghalibness']. (327)



This one makes me sympathize with the hapless Shadan; I feel like lamenting too. Yet Shadan of all the commentators, once he gets going, is most inclined to rewrite Ghalib's verses in his own inimitable style. See {1,1} for a splendid example of what he himself calls 'applying a canvas patch to satin'.

Above all, this verse takes great advantage of the multivalence of the i.zaafat construction; it also provides a fine example of how readily the kaa / ke / kii possessives can be made to show exactly the same flexibility. Just consider the following range of alternatives:

= na;zr-e karam can be an offering 'to' graciousness (to God, etc.); or an offering 'of' graciousness (the speaker offers up his gracious behavior)

= sharm-e naa-rasaa))ii can be the shame 'of' failure or unworthiness (an emotion the speaker feels about some kind of failure of which he has been guilty); or a shame that itself consists of unworthiness or failure (a sense of unworthiness that is itself a source or a kind of shame)

= sharm-e naa-rasaa))ii kaa tu;hfah can be the gift 'of' that shame (that particular kind of shame is given as a gift); or a gift given 'by' that shame (that shame is the giver of some gift)

= paarsaa))ii kaa da((vaa can be a claim 'of' purity (someone is claiming to be pure); or it can be a claim made by Purity)

= bah ;xuu;N-;Galtiidah-e .sad-rang can describe the state of the 'claim of purity' (the claim happens to be in a dire condition, writhing in colorful blood); or it can define the 'claim of purity' (the claim itself is constituted by being in a dire condition, writhing in colorful blood)

The gift of the 'shame of failure' is what the speaker presents by way of an offering to Generosity or Graciousness (God?)-- or, an offering born 'of' his own generosity, which reflects his own open-handedness. Since he couldn't succeed in some task, or since he generally feels unworthy, his 'shame of failure/unworthiness' is all he has to offer, and it indeed is a gift, because it shows the valuable rightness and humility of my attitude. For more discussion of shame/honor issues, see {3,5}.

In a related(?) and/or parallel fashion, the claim of purity is 'in a state of having writhed in blood in a hundred ways/colors'. There could be the parallelism of having both lines refer to the same situation: the speaker's guilt, shame, and humility before God, which nevertheless results in a perverse sort of 'purity' or virtue. This virtue seems to derive from his intense awareness of his own sinfulness-- thus he not only feels the shame of failure, but literally 'writhes in blood', which sounds like an extreme form of squirming in embarrassment.

The second line, apart from showing Ghalib's great love of paradoxical lines, reminds me of the second line of {230,7}, dast-e tah-e sang aamadah paimaan-e vafaa hai -- a hand trapped under a stone is a proof of faithfulness. There's an element of helplessness and compulsion that is only superficially cynical; it's really part of the genuineness of the claim. Similarly here, the claim of purity is not severe and austere, but in a blood-drenched, writhing, struggling, flailing, wounded condition. In both cases, the humanness of the means to superhuman ends is what comes through.

This verse's paradoxical line of thought is continued in the next verse, {24,2}, in which the very same daav;aa paarsaa))ii kaa is proved by the 'seal' of a hundred glances.