Ghazal 86, Verse 1

{86,1}*

kii vafaa ham se to ;Gair us ko jafaa kahte hai;N
hotii aa))ii hai kih achchho;N ko buraa kahte hai;N

1) when/if she showed faith to us, then the Others call it oppression/cruelty
2) it has kept on happening-- that they {vilify / call 'bad'} the good ones

Notes:

buraa kahnaa : 'To speak ill (of), to pronounce or call (one) bad, evil, wicked, &c.; to vilify, abuse'. (Platts p.143)

Nazm:

The subject of kii is the beloved. (84)

== Nazm page 84

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, when the beloved treated us with faithfulness, then the Rival calls this oppression/cruelty. This ancient custom comes down to us, that enemies or jealous people always {vilify/ call 'bad'} good people. (134)

Bekhud Mohani:

The first line is the complaint of the Rivals. In the second line he consoles his heart, that if they call faithfulness 'oppression/cruelty', then let them do it. It's nothing new. The people of the world always {vilify / call bad} the good ones. (174)

FWP:

SETS == DEFINITION; MUSHAIRAH; OPPOSITES
GOOD/BAD: {22,4}
SPEAKING: {14,4}

This verse is another example of play with words and idioms. The first line contains an amusing and attractive pair of nouns-- opposites that are separated by only a letter. Those who show vafaa are accused of jafaa . It's a very convenient slippage that involves replacing only one letter, so the Others can readily engage in saying that something is really its opposite.

The second line begins with the soothing truism-markerhotii aa))ii hai , something like 'it's been going on for ages' or 'it's come down to us' or 'by longstanding custom'. And indeed we learn that the longstanding custom is that 'they' vilify or abuse certain people. The expression buraa kahnaa is a stylized one, a 'petrified phrase' with this meaning. But of course, the people who are vilified are 'good ones'. And this at once revitalizes the expression buraa kahnaa -- we are reminded of its literal meaning, to say/call 'bad'. (For more on Ghalib's play with good/bad opppositions, see {6,5}.)

Thus the second line plays on one set of opposites, just as the first line plays on another set. The first line can now be seen as a specific case; and the second line is revealed as the general principle illustrated or proved by it. And of course the verse will be a lovely mushairah one, offering witty and quickly-grasped pleasures, and withholding the final, clinching idiom until the last minute.