Ghazal 76, Verse 1


biim-e raqiib se nahii;N karte vidaa((-e hosh
majbuur yaa;N talak hu))e ay i;xtiyaar ;haif

1) through terror/dread of the Rival we do not take leave of consciousness
2) we became compelled/oppressed to this extent-- oh Control, {alas / what a pity}!


biim : 'Fear, terror, dread; danger, risk'. (Platts p.211)


i;xtiyaar : 'Choice, election; preference; option, will, pleasure, discretion; disposal, management, control, power, authority; right; privilege; liberty; office, official position or power, jurisdiction; rule, sway'. (Platts p.30)


;haif : 'Iniquity, injustice, oppression; a pity; --intj. Ah! alas! what a pity!' (Platts p.483)


The cause of the fear is that the Rival, seeing me unconscious, might become acquainted with the secret of passion. This is love at the extreme-- that one is not even in control of his own consciousness, even in that there is fear of the Rival.

Poets nowadays have rejected the word talak, and consider it un-eloquent [;Gair-fa.sii;h]. In place of talak they say tak . But in every language the standard of eloquence is idiom. Both talak and tak are current. Thus there's no reason to reject talak . (78)

== Nazm page 77; Nazm page 78

Bekhud Dihlavi:

The meaning is that my inner self wants me to necessarily become unconscious; and the occasion too is such that I would do so. But with the thought of the revelation of the secret, I can't do such a thing. (124)

Bekhud Mohani:

[Or else I fear unconsciousness because] the Rival will get up to some game with the beloved....

[About talak and tak] I agree with every word Janab [Nazm] Tabataba'i has said. In fact, I want to say this much more: that talak is more eloquent than tak . (160)


In the second line, Ghalib has joined together two antonyms [ta.zaad ul-ma((nii laf:z] and created the excellence of the verbal device of opposition. Force [jabr , source of majbuur , 'compelled'] and control [i;xtiyaar] are opposites. (467)


BEKHUDI: {21,6}

The word biim is stronger than the ordinary ;Dar , and suggests a degree of terror from which one might indeed faint, or vidaa((-e hosh karnaa , 'take leave of one's awareness'. The first line thus becomes amusing and piquant: the lover complains not of fainting with fear, but of being too fearful to allow himself to faint.

Why does the lover have this fear? The commentators generally follow Nazm: it's the fear that the Rival would realize the degree of my passion, and my secret would be revealed. (I would thus be guilty of an indiscretion, and the beloved might be angry; or the Rival might be able to use this knowledge against me.) Or, as Bekhud Mohani suggests, the Rival might take advantage of my unconsciousness to make headway with the beloved.

Why does the lover want to become unconscious in the first place? Perhaps from the extremity of passion, and the nearness of the ravishingly beautiful beloved. Or perhaps a mystical state of self-lessness [be-;xvudii] beckons. If the beloved is imagined as God, these two states of course collapse into one.

The really clever, witty part of the verse is that final inshaa))iyah exclamation, 'Oh Control, alas!' [ay i;xtiyaar ;haif]. Only Chishti even tries to explain its appeal. Here are some possible ways of reading it:

1) Oh Control, alas that you're so strong! (So that I am able to refrain from losing consciousness, even when i long to do so.)

2) Oh Control, alas that you're so weak! (Since I'm so oppressed by fear of the Rival that I don't even have control over when to lose consciousness!)

3) Oh Control, alas for our helpless situation! (You and I are trapped, suffering together, so that whatever we do is a painful, oppressive choice.)

4) Oh Control, shame on you! (Couldn't you have got me out of this somehow? How does it happen that I find myself so oppressed?)

The enjoyable ambiguity of the word i;xtiyaar -- control by whom or what? over whom or what?-- makes all these readings quite possible. It's clear that the lover is lamenting something, and that he feels put-upon, but it's impossible to decide exactly where the blame lies. The lover has set up a paradoxical situation in which because he is (uncontrollably?) forced to control himself, he complains that he lacks control. As usual, Ghalib doesn't let us resolve the situation-- but of course, he makes sure we can see and relish the unresolvability of it.