Ghazal 31, Verse 1


ghar hamaaraa jo nah rote bhii to viiraa;N hotaa
ba;hr gar ba;hr nah hotaa to bayaabaa;N hotaa

1) our house-- even/also if [we] hadn't wept, then it would have been desolate
2) if the sea hadn't been the sea, then it would have been the desert


bayaabaa;N : '(be + aab + aan), s.m. Desert, wilderness'. (Platts p.204)


That is, because of weeping the house is becoming a sea; if we did not weep, then it would be a desert. (31)

== Nazm page 31

Bekhud Dihlavi:

In short, ill fortune never under any circumstances refrains from manifesting itself. (61)

Bekhud Mohani:

If I had not stayed at home and wept, then madness would have taken me into the desert, and in that home I would have spent my time sifting the dust. It's necessary for the drying up of tears to mean becoming a desert; otherwise there wouldn't be any reference to the sea. (76)


Compare {118,4}, {120,7}, {234,6}. (184)


Thus in the whole verse two pictures emerge. One is the overruling command of inescapable fate-- that is, the chain of destiny-- which is made of water. And the second is the picture of some oppressed one or madman who is imprisoned by the desolation he has brought on himself.

But the outcome of the verse is not hopelessness or sorrow or regret, but rather there's a sort of pride in it, a contentment and joy at his condition.... Ghalib got a lot from Mir, especially this tone: the talk is of destruction, but the style is one of cheerfulness or dignity. (1989: 48-49) [2006: 64-66]


DESERT: {3,1}
HOME: {14,9}

Compare {17,2}, in which weeping and desertification are linked in an equally evocative way.

Once again the famous Ghalibian pattern: two abstract statements, one in each line, with no logical link supplied. In this case the degree of parallelism is considerable as well. Let's consider some possibilities.

1) These might be two independent statements about similar conditions in very different places. How interesting-- our house has certain perverse tendencies involving water and desolation, and the sea has similar ones.

2) Or the second statement might be a kind of explanatory analogy, helping us interpret the first. Just as the sea is so inherently desolate that if it were not a wet desolation it would be a dry one, the same is the case with our house. (And just as it seems impossible for the sea not to have been the sea, it would be similarly impossible for us not to have wept.)

3) Or the second statement might be meant to be directly mapped onto the first. Our house is a sea, because of the turbulence, volume, and saltiness of our tears, and it has the same irresistible tendency toward desolation that the sea does, such that if it were not a sea it would be a desert. That is, neither our house nor the sea would ever be a place where people could live.

One reason this verse feels so flowing is that the rhythm of the phrases seems to correspond well with the rhythm of the metrical feet. Also, notice that, in a wonderful example of affinity, the word bayaabaa;N , meaning 'desert', is derived from the literal be + aab , 'without water'. Here is a verse all about the wild powers of water-- and the only place where 'water' itself appears is in a word that denies its presence. That second line is mesmerizing to say, isn't it?

The same line of thought, about the irremediable perversity of the house, continues in the next verse, {31,2}.

Compare Mir's take on the relationship between tears and desertification: M{1103,7}