Ghazal 81, Verse 6x


baskih hai;N bad-mast-e bishkan-bishkan-e mai-;xaanah hai;N
muu-e shiishah ko samajhte hai;N ;xa:t-e paimaanah ham

1) {although / to such an extent} we are deeply-intoxicated by the revelry of the wine-house
2) we consider the 'hair' of the glass/bottle [to be] the 'line' of the cup/bowl/goblet


bishkan-bishkan : 'A great feast with every requisite for enjoyment, a revelry'. (Steingass p.189)


shiishah : 'Glass; glass-ware; a glass bottle; a looking-glass, mirror'. (Platts p.740)


;xa:t : 'A line, a streak, or stripe, a mark; lineament; —writing, character, handwriting chirography; a letter, epistle'. (Platts p.490)


paimaanah : 'A measure (for dry or wet goods) ... ; a cup, bowl, goblet'. (Platts p.301)


Since we are deeply intoxicated by the revelry of the wine-house, the hair that falls (in that condition) into the wine-glass, we consider to be the 'line of the glass'. And the second meaning of bishkan is the act of breaking. Thus from the effect of this name, the 'hair of the glass' that is an effect of revelry and is a bad thing-- that too seems pleasing to us, like the 'line of the glass'. The 'line of the glass' is those traces of lines that are usually in glasses, etc. (156-57)


The clash of the breaking of the glassware for wine-drinking has made us so deeply intoxicated (because there's a mood of melody in it, and melody creates joy) that we have taken the hair of the glass to be the 'line of the glass'. (223)

Gyan Chand:

Because of the festivity of the wine-house, we are deeply intoxicated. Even if some hair falls into the bottle, we still don't care about it-- we consider it to be like the line that is inside the glass/cup, and ignore it. The dictionary meaning of bishkan is 'breaking'; the result of it will be the 'hair' of the glass. For there to be a line in the glass used to be the special quality of the Cup of Jamshid; now, it's brought in for every glass.

== Gyan Chand, p. 252


WINE: {49,1}
WINE-HOUSE: {33,6}

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 For more on Ghalib's unpublished verses, see the discussion in {4,8x}.

ABOUT THE 'LINE' OF THE GLASS: According to S. R. Faruqi (Aug. 2008), a line was commonly engraved into wine-glasses to mark the maximum level to which they should be filled; a well-bred person would never pour himself wine beyond the level of that line. Other examples of the same image: {28,1} a line on a jaam ; {33,2}, a line on an ayaa;G ; {199,1}, a line on a piyaalah . There are also {117,4x} and {145,7x}, with a line on a miinaa ; though that is identified as 'the sacred-thread of the wine-flagon' and explained by Gyan Chand as an idiomatic way of describing the level of wine in a vessel that's half-full and half-empty. The 'line of the glass' thus seems to be a somewhat abstract concept about which commentators have different theories (for example, Asi seems to think it refers to small scratches in the glass; Gyan Chand thinks it is something borrowed from the Cup of Jamshid). Faruqi's suggestion is more lucid; it works as a ghazal convention, even if it wasn't actually a real-world custom.

The second line of the present verse juxtaposes a 'hair' of the 'glass, bottle' to a 'line' of the 'cup, bowl, goblet'. (For more about Ghalib's various terms for wine-containers, see {28,1}.) What about the relationship between the 'line' (discussed above) and the 'hair'? The 'hair' might be taken to be a 'hairline crack' in the glass; for another example of this usage, see {192,4}, which similarly features a muu-e shiishah , and even locates it at the same point in the verse. In the present verse, both Asi and Gyan Chand assume that an actual, undesirable hair has somehow fallen into the wine. My intuition is against this literal reading, and in favor of the 'hairline crack'.

Moreover, the two readings of baskih also yield piquantly opposite possibilities:

=Although we're extremely drunk, we still clumsily try to do the elegant thing: we treat any old hairline crack in the wine-glass as though it were the 'line', and confusedly refrain from filling our glass beyond that level; perhaps we're even making that error of judgment on purpose, and pouring out less wine in order to help prevent ourselves from becoming any drunker.

=We're so drunk, we're impaired to such an extent, that we actually confuse a random hairline crack in the wine-glass with the 'line' that should mark the limit of the wine-pouring.

Gyan Chand points out the wordplay: bishkan is related to shikan ('breaking, crushing, overthrowing, routing', Platts p.731), so that there's an enjoyable affinity with the 'hairline crack'. (And with the English idiom of being very drunk as being 'smashed'.)