Ghazal 98, Verse 11

{98,11}

;Gaalib nadiim-e dost se aatii hai buu-e dost
mash;Guul-e ;haq huu;N bandagii-e buu-turaab me;N

1) Ghalib, from the confidant of a friend comes a whiff [buu] of a friend
2) I am absorbed in Truth/God, in the service/bondage of Bu Turab [Ali]

Notes:

nadiim : 'Pot-companion, boon-companion; intimate friend, familiar, confidant; —courtier; privy counsellor'. (Platts p.1127)

 

mash;Guul : 'Busied, busy, occupied, employed, engaged (in); wholly dedicated (to), diligent; anxious (about)'. (Platts p.1039)

 

bandagii : 'Slavery, servitude; service; devotion, adoration, worship, praise; compliment, salutation; humility, lowliness'. (Platts p.169)

Nazm:

On this theme a verse of Nasikh's is very famous:

bait-e ;xudaa se hai mujhe be-vaas:tah na.siib
dast-e ;xudaa hai naam mire dast-giir kaa

[without relationship, I have been vouchsafed access to the house of the Lord
the name of my supporter/'hand-holder' is 'Hand of the Lord']

In the first line, Nasikh has made a claim, and in the second line an explanation/illustration.

And [by contrast] the author [=Ghalib] has situated the proof within the claim. But in the claim is an iihaam , and in the proof is a disclosure. For this reason, in literary etiquette [aadaab-e inshaa], to have the proof follow the claim is better, for after ambiguity, disclosure is more delicious [ib'haam ke ba((d inkishaaf la;zii;z-tar hotaa hai]. (102-03)

== Nazm page 102; Nazm page 103

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, oh Ghalib, from the companion of a friend the aroma of a friend always comes; for this reason I imagine love for Hazrat Ali, God's blessing be upon him, to constitute worship. (153)

Bekhud Mohani:

'Bu Tarab' is a title of the Commander of the Faithful, Hazrat Ali, God's blessing be upon him. 'Oh Ghalib, if I follow and obey Hazrat Ali, then it's as if in reality I obey the Lord. Because the aroma of a friend is certainly present with the companion of the friend.' That is, if Hazrat Ali is the Lord's friend, then obedience to him is obedience to the Lord. (200)

Shadan:

On one occasion he [Ali] lay sleeping on the ground in the Prophet's mosque, so that his clothes were dust-covered. Then His Excellency the Essence of Prophetship [=the Prophet] addressed him with this title. (271)

FWP:

SETS == MUSHAIRAH; WORDPLAY
ISLAMIC: {10,2}

What is the whole raison d'etre of this verse? What would have caused listeners to say vaah vaah and admire Ghalib's art? Not the piety of its expressed admiration for Hazrat Ali, surely, which even the most mediocre poet could achieve, but the enjoyable wordplay involving the word buu .

Nazm points out in the first line what he calls an example of iihaam . What he means is that we read the first line as a bland general truth-- that a friend reminds us of the people he's friends with. As we read-- or, ideally, hear-- the first line, we think it's unremarkable. The word buu , which literally means 'scent', is being used the way 'whiff' is in English. For another very straightforward example of such a use, see {20,10}.

Then in the second line-- but not till the last possible moment, of course, in proper mushairah style-- we learn that as an example of this general truth there's a specific friend in question-- and not just any friend, but Hazrat Ali, so that the buu also evokes his nickname of Bu Tarab. This can't help but enhance our appreciation of the first line as well, as we see how Ghalib has been setting us up for such an enjoyable trick.

I don't agree with Nazm that this trick should be called iihaam , because we are never actually 'misdirected', and in fact the meaning of buu as 'scent, whiff' is just as necessary as the proper-name meaning. To my mind, the trick is simply a delightfully entertaining and punchy use of wordplay.

Whatever the terminology, however, Nazm points directly to this trick, and discusses it interestingly (though with a critical edge, but by now that can't surprise us). But then-- here's the remarkable part-- not one other commentator of those I've been working with so much as mentions this unmissably prominent feature of the verse (except Shadan, who quotes Nazm). Of those who comment on this verse, Bekhud Dihlavi, Bekhud Mohani, Baqir, Josh, Chishti, and Mihr all write prose paraphrases, as though this major piece of wordplay were not present at all. Since Nazm, whose work most of them knew, had already pointed it out, they could hardly have failed to be aware that it existed. But for whatever reason(s), they don't think it worth mentioning. As a punishment, they are left with a verse that has only the poetically minor merit of pious verbiage.

For the wordplay involving buu is basically all there is in the verse. There's nothing wrong with this, of course-- it's a little light relief after an exceptionally heavy ghazal full of mystical and philosophical rhetoric. It's a perfect 'mushairah verse'-- you 'get it' all at once, at the last possible minute, with a rush of pleasure, and once you get it you've got it, and there's no need for further thought. A piquant closing-verse for a ghazal like this one.