Ghazal 97, Verse 2

{97,2}

kab se huu;N kyaa bataa))uu;N jahaan-e ;xaraab me;N
shab'haa-e hijr ko bhii rakhuu;N gar ;hisaab me;N

1) how long have I been-- what can I tell you?!-- in the wretched world
2) if I would put even/also the nights of separation in the account/reckoning

Notes:

;hisaab : 'A numbering, counting, reckoning, calculation, computation; arithmetic; account, accounts; bill (of charges); rate, price, charge; — measure, measurement; proportion; rule, standard'. (Platts p.477)

Nazm:

The poet, having grown disaffected with life, says, for how long an interval have I been living? Every single night has passed like thousands and thousands of years-- and I've kept on living. (98)

== Nazm page 98

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, 'I can't give a correct estimate of my age. I've spent many nights of separation such that every single night was equal to thousands and thousands of years. If I bring into the count all those nights and do the addition, then I've lived so many years that they can't even be counted.' (148)

Bekhud Mohani:

In times of difficulty, time becomes like a mountain. Thus there are nights-- and there are nights of separation. (194)

FWP:

SETS == INEXPRESSIBILITY == TRANSLATABLES

We all know that the lover's nights of separation are endless, and hideously black with despair. Perhaps the consummate verse along these lines is the lovely, painfully evocative {1,2}, the second verse in the whole divan.

The present verse is energized by the colloquial eruption of 'what can I tell you?' [kyaa bataa))uu;N] into the midst of the first line. Before and after it, the grammar makes up a coherent whole-- the grammar ignores the interruption, so to speak. This positioning makes the outburst doubly powerful, since it gives it an air of spontaneity, almost involuntariness. Right in the midst of his own calm, well-organized sentence, the speaker can't help but show his desperate state; right in the midst of expressing things, he complains of the inability to express things. Another verse that does the same trick is {5,5} (if we adopt meaning 2b). But in that verse, the inserted phrase is the verbal equivalent of a languid, skeptical shrug of the shoulders. In this one, it's the verbal equivalent of a cry of pain and helplessness. For more examples of this phrase, see {15,11}.

This verse is so simple and straightforward that it's even translatable. And like a good mushairah verse, it refuses to reveal its central thrust. The distracting 'what can I say?' suggests that the second line might take us in quite a different direction. Only at the last moment, with the rhyme-word ;hisaab , can we really know how to put it all together.

A page from an Arabic manuscript on fiqh (legal theory), copied out in 1736: