Ghazal 88, Verse 3


mai;N aur .sad hazaar navaa-e jigar-;xaraash
tuu aur ek vuh nashaniidan kih kyaa kahuu;N

1) I, and a hundred thousand liver-rending songs/voices
2) you, and that single non-hearing, such that-- 'What can I say?!'


navaa : 'Voice, sound; modulation; song; air'. (Platts p.1157)


shaniidan : 'To hear, listen, attend to; to obey'. (Steingass p.764)


From this verse one ought not to wrongly think, 'A person like Ghalib-- and to make this kind of error in Urdu and Persian! One which the rawest of beginners, and the most rustic of rustics, would not consider correct!' In a context of sarcasm, the shortening of words seems good. Consider that the author has here said nah shaniidan -- but this interpretation is far-fetched, there's no doubt of that. (88)

[See also his comment in the discussion of {194,4}.]

== Nazm page 88

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, 'I am, and hundreds of thousands of liver-rending laments. You are, and a single obliviousness [sunii an-sunii] that I cannot express.' (139)

Bekhud Mohani:

When 'in a context of sarcasm the shortening of words seems good', then what's the meaning of declaring this interpretation to be 'far-fetched'? Nor has any reason at all been presented [by Nazm] for declaring that nashaniidan is only Hindi. (181)


JIGAR: {2,1}
SPEAKING: {14,4}

The clever hatchet job done by Nazm, as he pretends to defend Ghalib against other critics, is amusing to read. As usual, it's duly objected to by Bekhud Mohani. The issue here is that Ghalib has converted the Persian naa-shaniidan, 'non-hearing', which begins with a long syllable, into his own invented form nashaniidan , which does not. This is the kind of obviously rule-breaking liberty that native speakers take when they feel playful or innovative. Since Ghalib always claimed for himself (and for no other Indian) the creative freedom of a native speaker of Persian as well as Urdu, such a liberty is not surprising.

This one would also make a good mushairah verse, since it packs such a terrific wallop right at the end. The two lines contrast each of their elements: 'I' versus 'you'; 'a hundred thousand' versus 'one'; powerful utterances versus a radical refusal to hear them. And all this extreme contrast yields a single conclusion, the inexpressibility trope: 'What can I say?' Literally, the phrase is kyaa kahuu;N , 'what would I say?', but it has the same idiomatic force and resonance as its English counterpart.

And just as in English, the phrase 'What can I say?' can be applied to any kind of impossible, indescribable situation, so that our first impulse is to read it in that generalized way, as a marker of helplessness, a verbal counterpart of hand-wringing. But in another flash we also see how its literal meaning too is ideally relevant here-- 'Because you refuse to hear me at all, how can I speak? What can I say? What can I say other than 'What can I say?'?' Such a simple, colloquial, ruefully amusing verse-- and such an elegant expression of inexpressibility. For more on kyaa kahuu;N , see {15,11}.

Or, alternatively, the 'What can I say?' could be the evasive, indifferent response of the beloved herself, who hasn't been listening at all and thus can't come up with more than a vaguely snide exclamation in response to the lover's plea.

For more on 'you and I' verses, see {71,2}.