Ghazal 92, Verse 2


shauq us dasht me;N dau;Raa))e hai mujh ko kih jahaa;N
jaadah ;Gair az nigah-e diidah-e ta.sviir nahii;N

1) ardor runs me around in that desert where

2a) the path is not other than the gaze of the eye of a picture
2b) there is no path, except for the gaze of the eye of a picture


shauq : 'Desire, yearning, deep longing, predilection ... affection, love; fancy (for), pleasure (in); taste; ardour, zeal, eagerness, avidity; alacrity'. (Platts p.736)


dau;Raa))e hai is an archaic form of dau;Raataa hai (GRAMMAR)


That is, the ardor for mystical knowledge takes me away toward that desert where there's no path except for the gaze of the eye of a picture. Having set foot in this valley, every person is compelled to become amazement [;hairat] from head to foot. (91)

== Nazm page 91


That is, it [=the path] is nonexistent. The way the gaze of the eye of a picture is nonexistent.

Or this: that ardor takes me away into that desert where everyone is, like a picture, absorbed in amazement. (82)


[The commentator Asi writes another meaning:] The way the eye of a picture is amazed, in the same way if there's any path there, then it's the path of amazement, nothing else. (238)


As a matter of fact, there is no path in that wilderness where the poet is wandering, prompted by the lashings of his shauq , but to establish that non-existence of a path the poet creates an image of a nonexistent thing: the glance from the eye painted in a picture. (42)


The verse's basic image (a path that is the gaze of the eye of a picture) is uncommonly beautiful. But the original foundation of the similitude of the picture is not Ghalib's own, but rather is the shared property of Indo-Iranian poetry. This lineage extends from Sauda:

kaam apnaa hai basaan-e juu-e ta.sviir us ke haath
band rahtaa hai bah ma((nii go bah .suurat hai ravaa;N

[our task/desire is like the river in a picture, at her hand
it remains bound/closed, in fact, although apparently it is moving]

onwards to [modern poets like Adil Mansuri].

One very interesting question is why instead of 'the gaze of the eye of a picture' he has not said 'the gaze of a picture'. Apparently the word 'eye' is unnecessary. But in fact this is not the case. If he had said only 'the eye of a picture', then the interpretation would have arisen that the picture is actually seeing. For example, in the first line of {87,3}, it's clear that the gazes of the sun are engaged in the act of seeing. Through 'the gaze of the eye of a picture', the interpretation becomes that the eye of a picture is an imitation in any case-- now from this imitated eye what gaze will there possibly be?! That is, this is a second level of nonexistence.

In the common interpretations, the theme is one of wildness and lostness from the path. But if we consider 'the gaze of the eye of a picture' to be not metaphorical but in reality some sort of a path, then a different and very interesting meaning appears.

Suppose that the speaker is lost in contemplation of a picture of the beloved. This picture can be in the world of thought, or in the physical world. The beholder (that is, the speaker) is so lost in the beheld (that is, the picture) that nothing else is visible to him. But he feels that from the eye of the picture rays are radiating out that to the beholder are offering guidance-- that is, with the help of this fountain of light-rays it is becoming easy for the speaker to traverse the path of his journey. In this way 'the gaze of the eye of a picture' is not a metaphor for complete amazement or the nonexistence of a road, but rather becomes a metaphor for the roads that open up by means of the beloved's gaze. The picture of the beloved alone is what really exists, it's the key to mysteries and the road to reaching the 'desired pearl'. [The verse has Sufistic implications as well.]

A final point is that the theme of a picture within a picture is in reality Nasikh's-- or rather, the 'ground' itself is Nasikh's, in which Ghalib's present ghazal is composed. Ghalib was influenced by Nasikh-- this fact now needs no proof. In Nasikh's kulliyat there's a 'triple-ghazal' [sih-;Gazalah] from which the following verses should be noted:

kaar-e ;hairat-zadagaa;N me;N hai kahaa;N ;Gair ko da;xl
sham((a-e ta.sviir ko kuchh ;haajat-e gul-giir nahii;N

[in the doings of the amazement-struck ones, how would the Other have entry?
the candle of a picture has no need of a snuffer]

ek ko ((aalam-e ;hasrat me;N nahii;N ek se kaam
sham((a-e ta.sviir se raushan shab-e ta.sviir nahii;N

[in the world of longing, one has nothing to do with another
the candle of a picture does not illumine the night of a picture]

....Ghalib took a step beyond Nasikh, and created the theme that the imitation of something nonexistent will be both existent and nonexistent. Nasikh is a great poet, but because of the 'thought-binding' [;xayaal-bandii] and subtlety of verses like the present one Ghalib has always had supremacy over Nasikh.

== (1989: 141) [2006: 142-44]


DESERT: {3,1}
EYES {3,1}
GAZE: {10,12}
ROAD: {10,12}

This particular word for path, jaadah , is part of Ghalib's repertoire of highly abstract images; it's never used matter-of-factly, when a road is just a road. For more examples of its effectiveness, see {9,4}. Like the other verses that use the word jaadah , this verse too is haunting, suggestive, elliptical. (For another case in point, see the next verse, {92,3}.)

In a way, the verse is easy to understand. It can be turned into prose, it can even be translated. We can easily put together the grammar; since it has enjambment, the two lines are even part of the same thought, which is a further help in constructing its meaning. My two readings of the second line differ only subtly, though that subtlety is potentially (mystically) meaningful-- in (2a) there is a path, even if it is a paradoxical one; in (2b) there may well be no path at all.

For that second line, the commentators offer us three basic possibilities:

(1) The gaze of the eye in a picture is fixed forever in one direction; by extension, therefore, it's petrified with 'amazement' (Nazm). On the basic concept of ;hairat see {51,9x}.

(2) The gaze of the eye in a picture doesn't exist, because there's no eye there to gaze; thus it's an image of nonexistence (Hasrat, Naim, and my reading (2b)).

(3) The gaze of the eye in a picture is a path for the lover who is 'lost' in contemplation of the beloved's portrait. His ardor provides him with this path through the desert and may guide him toward the mysteries of self-transcendence that he seeks (Faruqi, and my reading (2a)). This reading also reminds us of the classic romance and fairy-tale motif of the hero who falls desperately in love when he merely sees a picture of some distant fair one.

Everybody is concerned to resolve the obviously obscure second line, and nobody has much to say about the first line. But there are a couple of points of interest in it too. The first is the vuh , 'that' desert. It's not just any old random desert, but a very particular one. (For a reminder of just how elaborately perverse the deserts of passion can be, see {16,4}.)

Perverse, and even hellish. For the speaker's ardor doesn't just lead him into such a desert, or cause him to wander casually through it. His ardor literally 'runs him around' [dau;Raa))e hai] in it. The suggestion is that whatever might be made of the second line, the lover's position is not a happy or easy one. He finds no rest, no tranquility, no assurance. Is he perhaps even getting-- from his own ardor, of course-- a kind of 'runaround'? Running around in this haphazard way is, after all, just what a person might do if he was stuck in a desert and couldn't find any 'path'.

Compare the equally strange desert imagined in {430x,5}. And for another verse about the power and mystery of the gaze, see {10,12}.

The Urdu inscription at the top of this painting says: 'The portrait of Sahib Jan the inseparable mistress of the Nawwab Shamsher Bahadur; by Uday Ram, the painter in the kingdom of Bundelkand, the site of Banda, on 6 Rajab 1224 of the Hijra [17 August 1809]':