Ghazal 58, Verse 1


balaa se hai;N jo bah pesh-e na:zar dar-o-diivaar
nigaah-e shauq ko hai;N baal-o-par dar-o-diivaar

1) to hell with those that are before-the-sight doors and walls!

2a) to the gaze of passion, doors and walls are wings and feathers
2b) to the gaze of passion, wings and feathers are doors and walls


balaa : 'Trial, affliction, misfortune, calamity, evil, ill; a person or thing accounted a trial, affliction, &c.... (N.B. The word balaa is often used most idiomatically in a manner difficult to be rendered in English; e.g. tumhaarii balaa-se , sc. kaam hai , lit. 'It concerns your evil genius'; it is no concern of yours; what is it to do with you, never mind: -- tuu kyaa balaa hai , 'What awful thing are you?' Who cares for you? You are of no significance: --kis balaa kaa kaam , 'What fearful or trying work'; what a fearful amount of work: -- aaj to balaa mirche;N ;Daalii hai;N , 'They have put in a fearful or tremendous quantity of chillies today.')'. (Platts p.163)


That is, doors and walls are barriers to the gaze. But when it is obstructed by them, passion becomes sharper, as if they had become wings and feathers for the flight of the gaze of passion. (53)

== Nazm page 53

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says these doors and walls that are barriers to the gaze and don't let the glance reach to the beloved-- their interposition does us no harm. Our glance of ardor has begun to reach the beloved in imagination, and the practice of imagination is also the disguise/veil of the door and walls, as if they, by interposing, became wing and feather of the glance of ardor. That is, because of them alone this power has been born in the imagination. (99)

Bekhud Mohani:

For people of ardor, doors and walls are not barriers to sight. Rather, they act as wings for the bird of the gaze. That is, however many restrictions there are, that's how much progress ardor will make. (126)


Compare {62,10}. (203)


GAZE: {10,12}

ABOUT balaa expressions: The colloquial expression balaa se is a generalized malediction, wishing evil on whatever is mentioned. 'To hell with!' is probably the nearest we can get in English. Here are additional examples of this idiomatic usage: {91,9}; {99,4}, in the fuller form merii balaa se ; {107,2}; {234,2}. (It mustn't be confused with bhalaa ; on this expression see {21,11}.) A use of balaa alone, to mean something like 'fearfully much': {6,8x}. Platts really struggles to capture such usages; see his definition above. For contrast, here are some 'straight' uses of the word balaa : {20,8}; {21,13}; {57,9}.

ABOUT refrains in translation: I once did a translation of this ghazal that sought to preserve both rhyme and refrain. Versions of it were published in an article on the ghazal, co-authored with S. R. Faruqi, and also as an appendix to Nets of Awareness. Needless to say, it's not easy to preserve both; it's easier to preserve just the refrain, and most English-knowers will hardly even register the awkwardly-achieved additional presence of the rhyme. Obviously, only a handful of ghazals with unusually suitable refrains will lend themselves at all well to this kind of translation. If anybody wants to try, I recommend {5} ('burned'); {49} ('wave of wine'); {57} ('after me'); {75} ('candle'); and {80} ('rose'). Since 'after me' works, you'd think {208}, 'before me', would work too, but it doesn't (unless you omit some verses); try it and you'll see why. There's also the odd little {127} [ko))ii nah ho].

The phrase dar-o-diivaar is a kind of petrified idiomatic whole: it takes plural verbs, and refers to doors and walls in general, not one single particular door and wall. Thus it also easily becomes a synecdoche (part-for-the-whole metaphor) for a house.

Some modern editors (including Hamid) have yih in lieu of bah . As always, I follow Arshi.

In its apparent simplicity, this verse offers some pleasing word/meaning plays. The 'doors and walls that are before the sight' in the first line may be so described merely casually, to identify them: 'the physical ones, the ones I can see'. But they may also be 'before my eyes' in the sense that they are blocking my vision and preventing me from seeing what is beyond them, the way a blindfold 'before my eyes' would interfere with my power of sight. This irritation would provide an excellent reason for abusing them.

Similarly, in the second line, two readings are possible. If the gaze of passion sees 'doors and walls' as 'wings and feathers', as in (2a) and the traditional commentarial reading, the implication is that these physical barriers and protections merely inspire the lover's imagination to fly beyond them, and empower him to break out of their imprisoning shelter.

If the gaze of passion sees 'wings and feathers' as 'doors and walls', as in (2b) and the 'symmetrical' reading, the sense would be that the lover has no home-- he lives only in flight, in movement, in wandering, so that his habitual surroundings, the 'doors and walls' of his home, would be the imaginative means for rapid motion. (See {18,3}, in which Majnun's house is 'without a door'.) Or it might be that the lover feels confined even by 'wings and feathers'-- his zeal for transcendence, and for imaginative flight even beyond the realm of the 'Anqa (as in {5,3}), is so extreme that he abuses 'wings and feathers' as heartily as an ordinary person might abuse the confinement of 'doors and walls'.

For another great 'doors and walls' verse, see {106,1}.