Ghazal 44, Verse 3x


;xalvat-e aabilah-e paa me;N hai jaulaa;N meraa
;xuu;N hai dil-tangii-e va;hshat se bayaabaa;N meraa

1) in the privacy of the blister of the foot, is my wandering/coursing

2a) from the distress/'heart-narrowness' of wildness/madness, my desert is blood
2b) from the distress/'heart-narrowness' of wildness/madness, my blood is a desert


;xalvat : 'Loneliness, solitude; seclusion, retirement, privacy; a vacant place, a private place or apartment, a closet, &c. (to which one retires for privacy); a cell (for religious retirement)'. (Platts p.493)


jaulaa;N : 'Wandering up and down, wandering about; moving or springing from side to side (as combatants or competitors in an amphitheatre or place of exercise); moving round (as a horse in a manege), coursing'. (Platts p.398)


;xuun honaa : 'A murder to be committed; to be murdered; --to be wasted, be squandered'. (Platts p.497)


tangii : 'Straitness, narrowness, tightness, closeness; scantiness, scarcity, distress, difficulty'. (Platts p.340)


dil-tangii : 'Distress, grief, sadness'. (Platts p.522)


va;hshat : 'A desert, solitude, dreary place; --loneliness, solitariness, dreariness; --sadness, grief, care; --wildness, fierceness, ferocity, savageness; barbarity, barbarism; --timidity, fear, fright, dread, terror, horror; --distraction, madness'. (Platts p.1183)


My madness-wandering has become limited to the privacy of the blister on the foot; and, so to speak, my desert has become blood through my 'narrowness' of madness. That is, that desert that was special to my madness-wandering has now come within a blister on the foot. And it's clear that in a blister on the foot there's nothing at all but blood. This is only an imagined [;xayaalii] verse. (71)


At one place he says: {141,6}. This verse too reinforces that very one. In that verse, there was an excess of wildness; in this one, wildness is deficient. The lack of enthusiasm shown by wildness has turned the desert to blood, and that blood has been contained within a blister on the foot. Now he is making the rounds within the privacy of the blister on the foot, for the desert has become transferred into this very thing.

To make the rounds within a blister on the foot means that he cannot move around; lying in ine place, he keeps making his thought run around. For the desert to turn to blood and be contained within a blister on the foot is only a poetic wish-- rather, it's a meaningless wish. Well anyway, compare this verse to one of Mirza Bedil's; he says,

kujaa raa;hat chih aasuudan kih az naa-yaabii-e ma:tlab
bah paa-e just-juu chuu;N aabilah ;xuu;N-gasht manzilha

[where is rest, what ease-- since from non-attainment of purpose
to the foot of searching, like a bleeding blister, are halting-places] (82)

Gyan Chand:

In the intensity of wildness/madness, desert-wandering is done. For the one on whose feet blisters appear, after the blisters have appeared on his feet, running ceases to be possible. The poet has put it like this: that I continue to wander, in the privacy of the blisters on my feet. That is, I don't wander at all. Because of this sorrow of my wildness/madness, the heart of the desert has been wasted/'murdered'. The desert feels sorrow: my expanse lies useless, the lover doesn't even pay attention to it. In 'heart-narrowness' there's also a gesture toward narrowness of place.

The second line can also mean that the blood of the blisters on the feet itself has now become for me a desert for wandering in.

== Gyan Chand, pp. 111-12


DESERT: {3,1}
MADNESS: {14,3}

For background see S. R. Faruqi's choices. For more on Ghalib's unpublished verses, see the discussion in {4,8x}.

The verse opens with an astonishing claim: 'in the privacy of the blister(s) of the foot' is my 'wandering' or 'coursing around'. Blister-footedness is of course normally a situation when wandering around is impossible (although {60,9} suggests a remedy). Here, it looks on the face of it as if the speaker actually does his wandering inside a blister, the way one might run on a small private track instead of in the desert (or swim in a small private pool?).

Is this idea grotesque? Yes! The vision of the lover wandering (swimming?) around in the fluid inside a blister, is distractingly gross. Even if we don't think of pus or blood, but of a clear serum, it's still such an unpleasant yet horribly fascinating vision that it both distracts us from, and detracts from, the pleasure of the verse.

No doubt we can invoke the flexibility of the i.zaafat , and take ;xalvat-e aabilah-e paa me;N to mean something like, in the privacy 'pertaining to' blister(s) on the foot'-- that is, in the privacy of the solitude that results from an inability to go out and run around. But that's a rescue job that we undertake by an effort of will; it can't be more than a secondary reading.

The verse invokes the desert's two essential qualities of expansiveness (so inviting to the mad lover's wanderings) and dryness (here it's literally a bayaabaa;N , a be-aab or 'waterless' place). Then the verse juxtaposes these qualities to their opposites: the tight compression of a 'narrow' or sorrowful heart (and the small size of a blister); and also the wetness of blood and of the fluid inside a blister. There's a certain elegant word- and meaning-play here, undoubtedly.

In the second line, what does meraa modify? It can't modify the feminine dil-tangii , so we're left with a choice between bayaabaa;N and ;xuu;N . If we choose the former, as in (2a), then 'my desert' is 'blood' in the literal sense (the way my wandering is within a blister, perhaps even a blood-blister); or else in the idiomatic sense of 'wasted, squandered' (see the definition above): The speaker can't use the desert for wandering in, since his feet are too blistered. Or perhaps 'wildness/madness' itself has even somehow 'murdered' or destroyed his desert (as in {5,4}).

If we take meraa to modify ;xuu;N , as in (2b), then my blood itself becomes a desert, the way my blisters (blood-blisters?) become some kind of wandering-place. This reading works well with the first line, but we have to pull meraa from the very end of the second line, back to the very beginning, which is a stretch when the bayaabaa;N is right there next to it. Still, knowing Ghalib, it doesn't seem impossible.

Compare {3,1}, which plays with the same juxtaposition of expansiveness versus narrowness, and of the desert with physical imagery of the body, but arouses no distaste.