Ghazal 59, Verse 8


bahraa huu;N mai;N to chaahiye duunaa ho iltifaat
suntaa nahii;N huu;N baat mukarrar kahe ba;Gair

1) if I am deaf, then kindness/regard ought to be twofold/redoubled--

2a) I don't hear speech without [your] saying [it] repeatedly
2b) I don't hear speech without saying, 'Again!'


iltifaat : 'Regard, attention, countenance; respect, consideration, courtesy, civility, kindness'. (Platts p.74)


mukarrar : 'Repeated, reiterated; — adv. Repeatedly; a second time, again'. (Platts p.1058)


As if the beloved has said in response to something, have you gone deaf? And she herself has made him deaf, and she herself has also become angry. (55)

== Nazm page 55

Bekhud Dihlavi:

This verse is according to Mirza Sahib's own circumstances (toward the end of his life, his difficulty of hearing had greatly increased). (103).

Bekhud Mohani:

The beloved said something, the lover did not hear; at this she grew angry and said, 'Are you deaf?'. And with these words, she became annoyed. At such a point the lover excused himself-- and in a way that suited his purpose. (131)


In old age, Mirza could hear only raised voices; thus, in addition to mischievousness of expression, this theme is according to his situation. Praise be to God, praise be to God, what an utterance he has brought forth! (138-39)


SPEAKING: {14,4}

Some of the commentators love this verse because it's possible in this case (as in extremely few others) to connect the verse to Ghalib's actual life; he indeed had a real problem with deafness in his old age. They disregard the fact that this verse was composed before his serious deafness made itself felt. (And there's {85,8} with its mournful complaint of physical decline-- a verse composed when the poet was in his mid-twenties.) Since the classical ghazal is one of the least autobiographical of all literary genres, the real charm of the present verse in any case lies elsewhere.

As Nazm observes, the beloved may have scolded the lover for inattention: 'Are you deaf?'. Cunningly, the lover replies, 'Well, if I'm deaf, you ought to be extra kind to me, and say any sweet things twice!'. As Bekhud Mohani notes, this clever reply is designed to suit the lover's purpose: he has an opening, and can try to wheedle her into providing a little extra attention. The possibility of less attention from him has been made into a pretext for demanding more attention from her. And that too so charmingly that unless she has a heart of stone she would surely smile at his remark. (But of course, she does have a heart of stone, so who knows?) Compare {162,9}, with its equally witty but more general appeal to her compassion.

The first line sets up a general truth: people with disabilities should be treated with redoubled kindness and concern. Then the second line unexpectedly converts that general truth into a direct bit of flirtation. The ambiguity of kahe ba;Gair means that we cannot tell who might be the subject who does the 'saying'. The reading in (2a) offers a straightforward explanation of the problems of deafness. But the enjoyable reading in (2b) suggests that the lover may not be deaf at all, but simply taking advantage: every time he hears a (rare) kind word from the beloved, he at once feigns deafness and demands to hear it again. This sudden, witty 'punch', and not the alleged biographical accuracy, is surely what makes Josh express such marked delight in the verse.

On the structure of kahe ba;Gair , see {59,1}.