Ghazal 38, Verse 1


tuu dost kisii kaa bhii sitamgar nah hu))aa thaa
auro;N pah hai vuh :zulm kih mujh par nah hu))aa thaa

1) you had not become, oh tyrant, the friend of anyone at all!
2) on others is that cruelty-- which on me had not occurred



In the first line, 'tyrant' is a vocative. (37)

== Nazm page 37

Bekhud Dihlavi:

In this verse the apparent meaning is that to this day you have not become the friend of anyone at all, and your oppression was not used on me alone; rather, you used more cruelty toward others than toward me. But to some extent a deeper meaning of this verse is that the tyranny you never used on me at all, you are now using on others. Here 'others' is a special indication of the Rival. That is, by using more cruelty toward the Rival than toward me, you lit such a fire of envy in my heart that oppression and cruelty are nothing at all by comparison. This manner of yours has shown that with regard to me, your renunciation of oppression and cruelty betokens enmity. (72-73)

Bekhud Mohani:

We had understood that you don't love us, therefore you use cruelty. But seeing even more cruelty than this against the Rivals, we realized that you are no one's friend.... You didn't use as much cruelty toward us, as now you are using toward others-- and I can't bear to see this. (89)



ABOUT A SMALL GRAMMATICAL MISMATCH: Because of the refrain, this whole ghazal has verbs in the past perfect tense. Although formally speaking the Urdu past perfect tense corresponds very nicely to the English past perfect, in colloquial usage it often doesn't. For example, someone will tell you, kal mai;N ne film dekhii thii , but no one will normally say in English (as a free-standing statement), 'Yesterday I had seen a film'. Thus the Urdu is often marking something other than greater past-ness-- something more like emphatic completedness or one-shot 'over'-ness. In this ghazal I translate literally, to provide analytical help to students, but colloquial adjustment will sometimes need to be made. In the present verse, it should be made especially in the first line.

The same mismatch occurs in the perfect form itself, which often need to be colloquially adjusted to the English present perfect. Cases in which such colloquial adjustment is needed (and is usually but not always made in my translations) include: {30,2}; some of the verses of {41}, with its refrain of nahii;N rahaa ; {49,12}; {59,2}; {62,5}; {78,4}; {110,8}; {111,3}; {111,16}; {124,5}; {126,4}; {158,2}* (and others); {162,11}; {163,1}; {164,2}; {169,2}; {181,7}; {187,2}; {234,1}; {234,13}. An intriguingly different mismatch: {126,5}. Just for contrast, a perfect match: {187,5x}.

What a clever, witty verse! The cruel beloved turned out not to be anyone's friend. She showed a special kind of cruelty ('that cruelty') to others that she didn't show to the speaker/lover. In this way, she was able to kill two birds with one stone.

First, she made the others wretched, since they are low-grade, commonplace, lustful types who don't have the stamina and devotion of a real, classic lover. The word for others is merely aur , a bland, neutral word that seems to emphasize their unimpressiveness. They don't even rate being identified as the Other or the Rival, their usual epithets.

And second, she made the speaker/lover wretched at the same time, since he had been forced to see them receive that cruelty-- which, as Bekhud Dihlavi explains, made him suffer terribly with jealousy. To see them given a higher place than his own in her (even hostile) attention was far crueler than ordinary cruelty. In addition, unlike them, he could actually have relished her cruelty, and could have made use of it in his capacity as a true lover. For the true lover interprets all attention from the beloved as a mark of favor, and cruelty is infinitely preferable to neglect; cruelty can also be a form of testing, which itself is a highly desirable compliment.

After all, being cruel is almost her job, as a beloved. (However, it's not her job to be cruel to all and sundry; on this see {60,3}.) It's unbearably cruel of her to deny the lover her cruelty, as becomes clear in {60,6}. See for example {148,2}, in which the lover asks for anything, including enmity, rather than a loss of connection. The beloved's casual pity, disdain, or indifference is thus more painful than any amount of overt torment.

Very simple vocabulary, and the bouncy effect of the long-long-short-short-long-long meter-- the result is a rhythmic swing that gives the verse a feeling of energy and briskness. The lover is undaunted, he reproaches the beloved with vigorous determination. She may be cruel, but she hasn't silenced or cowed him.

And in this verse the lover has not lost connection with the beloved-- he addresses her with the intimate tuu , and doesn't hesitate to call her a tyrant. Indeed, it's quite possible that she knows all about the psychology of the situation, and that her refusal to show cruelty to the lover was even a deliberate, supreme piece of cruelty to him! What more could the lover want? No wonder he sounds so energetic and brisk.