Ghazal 98, Verse 7


hai mushtamil namuud-e .suvar par vujuud-e ba;hr
yaa;N kyaa dharaa hai qa:trah-o-mauj-o-;habaab me;N

1) encompassing/involving the appearance of forms/shapes, is the existence/presence of the sea

2a) here, as if there's anything in drop and wave and bubble!
2b) here, what a lot there is in drop and wave and bubble!
2c) here, what is there in drop and wave and bubble?


mushtamil : 'Comprehending, comprising, containing, including; enclosing, surrounding, encompassing; involving; extending (over)'. (Platts p.1038)


namuud : 'The being or becoming apparent, visibleness; appearance; --prominence, conspicuousness; --show; --affectation; --display; --pomp; --honour, character, celebrity'. (Platts p.1154)


.suvar is the plural of .suurat . (Platts p.747)


.suurat : 'Form, fashion, figure, shape, semblance, guise; appearance, aspect; face, countenance; prospect, probability; sign, indication; external state (of a thing); state, condition (of a thing), case, predicament, circumstance; effigy, image, statue, picture, portrait; plan, sketch; mental image, idea; —species; specific character, essence'. (Platts p.747)


An allegory for the oneness of Being and the multiplicity of illusory forms is the triviality and worthlessness of drop and wave and bubble. In a common idiom it is put like this: yahaa;N kyaa dharaa hai [here, of what use are they?]. It is the height of rhetoric [balaa;Gat].
==Urdu text: p. 150 in Hali, Yadgar-e Ghalib


That is, the drop and the wave and the bubble have no existence; their appearance and existence are comprised within the sea. In short, from this illustration [tam;siil] it appears that the existence of possibilities is comprised within a necessary existence [vujuud-e vaajib]; if this were not the intention, then the verse would remain meaningless.

And this style of expression, in which he would mention only the illustration and reject [the mention of] that which is illustrated, is more eloquent [balii;Gtar] than one in which both the illustration and that which is illustrated would be mentioned. The way a metaphor is usually more eloquent than a simile. But the way in a metaphor the condition is that the mind ought quickly to turn toward its purport, in the same way the illustration too ought to be such that upon hearing it, the mind turns toward that which is illustrated. For example, if someone says 'as is the seed, so is the fruit you'll eat', then it's clear that you'll receive the results of your deeds. And the rejection [of mentioning] that which is illustrated is usually better, because a kind of uncertainty after which awareness at once dawns gives pleasure to the mind of the hearer. And this pleasure is greater than the pleasure that comes from mentioning that which is illustrated. (101-02)

== Nazm page 101; Nazm page 102


Despite all its outward simplicity, this verse is extremely convoluted.... [Most commentators agree with Nazm about its meaning.] Although Shaukat Merathi has indeed produced a completely new meaning. He says that ultimately the sea has no existence, there are only forms/shapes one after another. If we keep on removing one thing after another from this collection, then finally nothing will be left. That is, the world is a thing based on belief, and is mortal. This meaning is very fine, but it doesn't do full justice to the word numuud (meaning 'scene, appearance'). In the verse it's clearly being said that the existence of the sea is dependent on those things through the appearance of which the guise of the sea is assumed. That is, those shapes/forms too are only an appearance. It's not necessary for them to be real. In order to understand the meaning of numuud, keep this verse of Ghalib's [from an ode, Hamid p. 198, Arshi p. 155] in mind:

vuh bhii thii ik siimiya kii sii numuud
.sub;h ko raaz-e mah-o-a;xtar khulaa

[that too was a silvery-ish appearance
in the morning, the secret of moon and stars was revealed]...

The sea-- that is, all creation-- is nothing. These are only shapes/forms that we see and are deceived by. Sense-perceptions are nothing, there is only the gaze of the perceiver. If there would be no perceiver, then the senses are nothing. The action of the senses itself changes the reality of the thing observed, because sense-perceptions are dependent on the perceiver. You people consider the assemblage of drop and wave and bubble to be a sea, although the existence of drop and wave and bubble is dependent on your mind.... There's nothing anywhere. Whatever might exist, it would be you alone. (1996: 136-37) [2006: 158-59]


DROP/OCEAN: {21,8}

For Nazm and most of the other commentators, the elements (drop and wave and bubble) are meaningless, and only the whole (the sea) has meaning. For Faruqi, not only are the elements meaningless, but the whole that depends upon them is therefore meaningless too. I agree that these conclusions can indeed be drawn from the verse.

But what I really enjoy about it is the back-and-forthness, the ambivalence of its perspective. Look at the range of meanings of mushtamil , and of numuud . What exactly is the relationship of the vast sea to the tiny drops, waves, bubbles? Putting everything together, here are some of the main possibilities I think the verse opens up.

1) The drop (and, by extension, the wave and the bubble) happily surrenders itself to the warm embrace of the sea, knowing its tiny personal 'self' is nothing apart from the great original whole. 'Here', in the sea, it joyously and mystically merges with its origin. Or perhaps it continues to have a limited and contingent life upon which it sets no value. This is the mood of {21,8}.

2) The drop and wave and bubble are remorselessly swallowed up by the omnipotent sea. They are deprived of their individuality and their very being, so that there's literally nothing left of them and their own desires, and only the sea exists, impersonally rolling on forever. 'Here', in the sea, all lesser phenomena have been obliterated-- in them, what worth is there, kyaa dharaa hai ?

3) The sea itself is the reverse of omnipotent. In fact, it's nothing-- it's just a name for a collection of drops, and waves, and bubbles. To avoid the trouble of having many names for the parts (and what use are such names anyway?), we just give them the collective name of 'sea'. 'Here'-- that is, as we in the human world observe the sea that surrounds us-- we don't need to use the specialized names of the parts.

4) The drop, wave, bubble, sea-- all are nothing, 'here' in the state of mystical transcendance in which we observe them. How foolish to worry about minor, evanescent concepts and entities! Of what use are any of them, anyway, compared to the worlds to which one has access as one approaches the divine presence?

5) When you try to grasp or pick up a drop, wave, bubble, it runs out of your fingers before you even have time to close your hand. What can your hand retain of any of these visible, fascinating, even powerful, entities? And if your hand can't grasp them, can your mind really grasp them either? Don't they all melt away into the sea, into sheer water? And of course, you can't grasp water either.

So where does that leave us? In the usual Ghalibian mystical / emotional / intellectual quandary, ricocheting around among irreconcilable and unresolvable possibilities, savoring the mental pinball game. With wonder and admiration for what this poet can achieve.

As Hali points out, the idiom of kyaa dharaa works beautifully here, both colloquially as its primary meaning (what value, what use?) and literally (what is grasped/held?).

And in this connection, it's also a pleasure to notices the well-incorporated nuances of the 'kya effect' in the second line, since as we have seen, each of the three possibilities has significant resonances of its own.

Although he likes waves and bubbles too, Ghalib is especially partial to drops.

Compare Mir's own brilliant questions about the parts of the sea: M{760,8}.