Ghazal 84, Verse 1

{84,1}

luu;N vaam ba;xt-e ;xuftah se yak ;xvaab-e ;xvush vale
;Gaalib yih ;xauf hai kih kahaa;N se adaa karuu;N

1) I would borrow from [my] sleeping fortune a single happy dream/sleep, but

2a) Ghalib, there is this fear, that-- how/'from where' would I return/pay [it]?
2b) this fear is dominant, that-- how/'from where' would I return/pay [it]?

Notes:

vaam : 'Debt; loan; —credit; —lending; —borrowing'. (Platts p.1177)

 

;Ghaalib : 'Overcoming, overpowering, victorious, triumphant, prevailing, predominant, prevalent; superior, surpassing, excelling; —most probable, most likely; —s.m. The most, the most or greater part, the generality'. (Platts p.768)

 

adaa karnaa : 'To perform; accomplish; fulfil; discharge; liquidate, pay; to effect or accomplish satisfactorily, properly, &c.'. (Platts p.31)

Nazm:

Fate is sleeping, and I am sleepless/dreamless. If it's in my power to borrow a happy dream, then I can have one. But from where will I repay this debt? I am deprived of the 'wealth of a dream'. (83)

== Nazm page 83

Josh:

In the grief of lack and poverty, it never befalls one to sleep in peace. One wants to borrow a little happy-heartedness from one's 'sleeping' fate. But the fear is, how will I be able to return this debt, and when will the wealth be available to me to pay this debt? Mirza always remained indebted; it's as if this verse is about his own situation. (169)

Faruqi:

In the second line, ;Gaalib is by way of a pen-name, but it also has its dictionary meaning too....

[In saying] vaam instead of qar.z, yak instead of ik, and vale instead of magar, Ghalib has demonstrated his Persianization. But in place of qar.z, vaam also has more of an affinity because it gestures toward qar.z vaam karnaa; this idiom is used to express compulsion. [An example is given.]

My fortune is asleep, but I am sleepless. I would borrow from the sleeping fortune one ;xvaab-e ;xvush (= (1) deep sleep; (2) sweet dream), but then from where would I return the debt? There are a number of difficulties in paying a debt. (1) The poor man's fortune remains asleep. My fortune is sleeping, and I am so poor that I can't even repay the debt of a sleep. (2) A debt of sleep can only be repaid with sleep [which is exactly what I don't have, and won't want to lose if I should get it]. (3) The meaning of giving sleep back to fortune is to put the fortune to sleep. But my fortune is already asleep-- now who would be able to put a sleeper to sleep?

Let's consider some further points. My fortune is to be wakeful day and night, and my fortune's fortune is to sleep day and night. My wakefulness and my fortune's sleeping are two names for the same thing. A second point is that when I borrow a sleep from my sleeping fortune, then as long as that sleep lasts the fortune will awaken-- but then the fortune awakens, then I will go to sleep. If I go to sleep, then I won't be able to take advantage of the awakened fortune. A third point is that the awakening of the sleeping fortune is meaningless for this reason too: that afterwards I will be compelled to repay that debt-- that is, I will be compelled to myself put my awakened fortune to sleep. [Further discussion of such paradoxical possibilities.]

The final point is that a metaphor for life is 'to be awake' and a metaphor for death is 'sleep'. [Thus the paradox of my seeking to borrow 'death' in order to enhance my 'life'.] Because waking is life, and sleep is death. I can borrow either life or death; I can't take both at one time.

== (1989: 103-04) [2006: 126-28]

[See also his comments on Mir's M{1504,1}.]

FWP:

SETS == CATCH-22
DREAMS: {3,3}

The commentators assume that we know that a 'sleeping fortune' is a common idiomatic expression for a negligent, inattentive, badly behaved fortune that is not treating one well. (Thus boys are sometimes named Bedar Bakht, or 'Awake Fortune'.) When people speak of their luck improving, they say their sleeping fortune has awakened. For a 'sleeping heart', see {129,3x}; and for a 'sleeping gaze', see {145,5x}.

Here, of course, Ghalib is taking the worst-case situation and using it to make one of his plays with paradox. If my fortune is deeply and hopelessly asleep, one result might very probably be perpetual wakefulness for me-- because sleep is a good, and ill-fortune would naturally include loss of many such goods; and because ill-fortune would include many other losses and anxieties, such as poverty and debt, that would keep me awake with worry.

Because sleeplessness in itself is such a miserable state, and also because dreaming (in a wonderful example of word- and meaning-play) offers an escape from a world full of ill-fortune, I would like to borrow a ;xvaab-e ;xvush that, as Faruqi points out, can mean either a good sleep or a happy dream (since ;xvaab means both 'sleep' and 'dream').

And from whom could I borrow it, except my own fortune, the giver or withholder of all aspects of my destiny? And yet-- when I think of borrowing it, all the problems, confusions, impossibilities, and paradoxes so well spelled out by Faruqi are bound to arise. This is one of those really tangled verses that can be translated (overlooking the ambiguity in line two, of course), but can hardly be explicated in any concise way.

Vasmi Abidi points out the striking repetition of the letter ;xe -- especially in all four parts of the two i.zaafat phrases in the first line. Is it too fanciful to think that this might create a slightly soporific mood?