Ghazal 81, Verse 2


ma;hfile;N bar-ham kare hai ganjifah-baaz-e ;xayaal
hai;N varaq-gardaanii-e nairang-e yak but-;xaanah ham

1) he makes gatherings confused/jumbled/entangled, the card-player of Thought
2) we are the page-turning of the wonder/miracle/trick of a single idol-house


bar-ham : 'Confused, jumbled together, turned upside down or topsy-turvy, entangled, spoiled; offended, angry, vexed, enraged, sullen'. (Platts p.150)


kare hai is an archaic form of kartaa hai (GRAMMAR)


ganjiifah : [of which ganjifah is a variant spelling]: *Glossary*


ganjiifah-baaz : 'A card-player; —a knave, trickster, cheat'. (Platts p.917)


gardaanii : 'Turning, revolving, &c. (used as last member of compounds)'. (Platts p.903)


nairang : 'Fascination, bewitching arts, wiles; magic, sorcery; deception; —deceit; trick; pretence; evasion; —freak; —a wonderful performance, a miracle; anything new or strange'. (Platts p.1166)


The gist is that gatherings of beautiful ones that have been broken up, always remain in our memory, as though we are the page-turning of the wonder of an idol-house. In this verse the page-turning of the cards has been given as a simile for the breaking up of pleasure gatherings, and it's a fresh simile. (82)

== Nazm page 82

Bekhud Dihlavi:

The meaning is that gatherings of beautiful ones that have already been broken up, are still in my thought, and constantly remain in my thought. The 'page-turning' of cards means the way card-players repeatedly spread out the cards with their fingers and keep looking at them.... This simile is entirely new, and up to this day hasn't been seen in anyone else's poetry. (130-31)

Bekhud Mohani:

He has called Thought a card-player and himself a 'page-turning', so that an interpretation of uncontrollableness has been created. That is, there is a sequence of pictures of former enchanting gatherings that uncontrollably pass before the gaze and then disappear. The way in an idol-house the glimpse of beautiful ones is now here, now gone. (170)


IDOL: {8,1}

As in so many verses, the first line gives no clue where the second one might go. We are told of the activity of the 'card-player of Thought'-- and what he really does is shuffle the cards. He is endlessly absorbed in laying the cards out, gathering them up, reshuffling them, and laying them out again in a different but equally arbitrary order. The result can only be incoherence-- images of beauty and elegance, in an order that conveys no larger meaning whatsoever.

The first line might be considered a bit reassuring-- there is control over the incoherence. We might identify ourselves with the powerful card-player, and imagine ourselves revisiting all the scenes of beauty and delight stored in our minds. But of course, bar-ham karnaa also means 'to confuse, to spoil, to make angry' and so on. So it's equally possible that the card-player of Thought breaks up our gatherings-- either retrospectively (by confusing them while we try to remember them), or even while they're happening (by somehow alienating us from the group, or the group from us).

Either way, under mushairah conditions we'd have to wait as long a time as can be managed, before we were provided with the second line. And even after we'd heard it, we'd be left to decide for ourselves how it fits with the first line. (Are they two metaphorical views of the same situations? Two similar situations? Two contrasted situations? One cause and one effect-- and if so, which way round?)

Alas, that brilliantly bleak second line! The grammar is all too clear, and I can't see any way to escape it. We are not the card-player, we are not Thought itself (whoever or whatever it may be). What we are is the 'page-turning' process. We are random, blindly mutating assemblages of scenes, memories, images. Even if these images are real memories rather than fantasies, and even if they are of wonder and (perhaps illicit) delight, our helpless incoherence and passivity can't be overcome.

We're not the shuffler, and not even the cards. We're the shuffling. The momentary little patterns of our selves are constantly, meaninglessly rearranged by powers outside our comprehension. As a final touch, the scenes we consist of are not necessarily comprehensible (they are 'wonders' or perhaps 'deceits' or 'tricks'), and not even well-grounded-- they come from a 'single idol-house', a home of beautiful but false gods.

For a less terminally bleak perspective on a 'wine-house of thought', see {169,5}. For a thread that can bind together scattered pages (or even cards?) of our lives, see {10,12}.

Compare Mir's take on humans as chess-pieces in an amateurish game being played by the sky: M{1297,2}.

The cards used for ganjifah were varied in style. Here's a set that belonged to Warren Hastings:

And here's a set of Mughal-style ones, perhaps from the Deccan, c.1850: