Ghazal 90, Verse 5


dhaul-dhappaa us saraapaa-naaz kaa shevah nahii;N
ham hii kar bai;The the ;Gaalib pesh-dastii ek din

1) 'slapping and cuffing' is not the practice/custom of that entirely coquettish one
2) only/emphatically we insisted on precedence/'being beforehand', Ghalib, one day


dhaul dhappaa : 'Thumping and slapping, mutual cuffing, a fight, row'. (Platts p.551)


pesh-dastii : 'Pre-eminence, precedency, excellence; anticipation, the being beforehand'. (Platts p.299)


kar bai;The the : This compound verb conveys a sense of wilfulness, stubbornness, insistence in the doing of some action.


That is, our own insolence alone has made her shameless. In place of ham hii and tum hii , the idiom is hamii;N and tumhii;N. Mir has said [a verse using tumhii;N].... The author has said ham hii because of the necessity of the verse. In prose, to speak this way is absolutely improper. (89)

== Nazm page 89

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, in the jest of that informality, first it happened from our side. (141)

Bekhud Mohani:

This verse seems to be by way of reply. Somebody has said,'Your beloved is not civilized'. In reply to that he says, 'Although she's coquettish from head to foot, she's not uncivilized. One day we ourself did it first. For this reason her hand too was lifted.'....

[Contrary to Nazm's assertion,] the author has not done it out of the necessity of the verse. Rather, if the poetry of Mirza's contemporaries Momin, Zauq, Sheftah, and Zafar would be looked at, then it will be clear that they casually used both forms-- hamii;N and ham hii , and vuhii and vuh hii , and yihii and yih hii . (184)



I like Bekhud Mohani's notion that the verse might be imagined as a reply to someone's sneer at the beloved's unrefined, unladylike behavior. The indignant lover defends her honor: 'Slapping and cuffing indeed! Why of course that's not her style! It was all my fault-- I did it first!'

Which is doubly amusing because first, even if true it doesn't present the lady as a picture of refinement (if someone slaps her, she'll retaliate by involving herself in a vulgar slapping contest); and second, it might not even be true, and she might even have slapped him first, for we know the lover will bend over backwards to blame anybody else, including himself, rather than recognize imperfections in the beloved. The whole episode makes lover and beloved sound like two children squabbling in a vulgar and undignified way. In any case, the unusual, un-ghazal-like dhaul-dhappaa surely deserves 'fresh word' credit.

But the most enjoyable part of the verse is pesh-dastii , which offers us several kinds of highly amusing wordplay. This phrase is the hinge on which the verse turns; as is proper for a good mushairah verse, it is withheld until the last possible moment, so that it suddenly illumines the whole verse with a great flash of pleasure. Its amusing features are several:

=It could literally mean 'presenting-handness', so the image is perfect for someone preparing for a slapping match.

=It means to 'anticipate', to 'be beforehand'-- so that she might have been ready for a slapping match anyway, but he, so to speak, 'beat her to it'. (I won't apologize, since the pun actually works here!)

=It also means to show 'preeminence' or take 'precedence' over someone-- so it might be that he had outdone her in something, or shown himself more effective in something, or demanded some kind of priority in something-- which was a sufficient provocation in her eyes (and his too) to justify her 'slapping and cuffing' him.

One final delight of this verse is the unexpected and amusing sound effects with which the verse begins: dhaul-dhappaa us saraapaa-naaz . The term dhaul-dhappaa is a rustic, vulgar-sounding phrase from the Indic side. By contrast, saraapaa-naaz is an elegant, formal, classic Persian ghazal epithet for the beloved, 'one who is coquetry from head to foot'. Naturally, they sit oddly and piquantly together. But even better is the harmony of sound: dhappaa and saraapaa are made to echo each other with a wonderfully humorous effect. The first metrical foot of the line ends with ap-paa , and the second metrical foot ends with aa-paa, so that the rhythm works to reinforce the parallelism.