Ghazal 99, Verse 3


jaanaa pa;Raa raqiib ke dar par hazaar baar
ay kaash jaantaa nah tire rah-guzar ko mai;N

1) I was compelled to go to the Rival's door a thousand times
2) alas-- if only I didn't know your road!



He was forced to go to the Rival's door because the beloved's comings and goings were in that very one's house. (103)

== Nazm page 103

Bekhud Mohani:

Alas, what an ill-fortuned day it was when I became acquainted with your street! Oh, if only I didn't know your street! That is, if only I hadn't become a lover of yours. I was forced to go to the Rival's door a thousand times.

[Or:] You constantly stay in the Rival's house. Thus when we came to your door, then it was as if we came to the Rival's door. This meaning is certainly to some extent subtle, but that effect [as of the previous meaning] doesn't remain in it. Momin too has well said,

us naqsh-e paa ke sijde ne kyaa kyaa kiyaa ;zaliil
mai;N kuuchah-e raqiib me;N bhii sar ke bal gayaa

[how my prostration before that footprint debased me!
I went measuring my length on the ground, even/also in the street of the Rival] (200-01)


'Your road'-- implied meaning: your customary road; the path that you usually take. (Naim 1972, 23)


Consider 'door' and 'road'. The longing is, if only I didn't know your road! And the complaint is that it was necessary to go to the Rival's door a thousand times. In order to join these different things, the commentators have supposed that the beloved is constantly at the Rival's door. Or the Rival has made the beloved's house his home. But those explanations don't fully account for 'road'. Acquaintance with the beloved's road-- that is, street-- doesn't logically imply that in order to meet the beloved he would have to go to the Rival's door. [Bekhud Mohani has rightly pointed out the symbolic meaning of 'knowing your street' as being your lover.]

Bekhud [Mohani]'s commentary is fine, but in addition, other interpretations are possible. For example, if we don't take 'road' as 'street' [galii], we can take it as only 'path' [raastah]. Since the beloved passes along this path, on which the Rival's house is, and if access to the beloved's house itself is impossible, then the lover will be forced to go to the Rival's doorway and stand there, hoping to see the beloved. A second interpretation might be that the path to the beloved's house goes by the Rival's house. Thus in order to meet her or even to see her, he's forced to pass by the Rival's door. A third interpretation can be that every person in your street is my Rival; thus to pass through that street is as if being forced to pass by the Rival's doorsay. A fourth interpretation can be that in order to meet you, meeting the Rival is a condition-- as if the Rival is a middleman. Thus access to your door comes after going by his house.

jaanaa [to go] and jaan'naa [to know] have an interesting alliteration [tajniis] as well, and it creates between the two words a new kind of connection. The going took place because of the knowing. Thus both words are metaphors for each other. (141-42)



We have to wait until Faruqi's commentary to encounter even a mention of the obvious, wonderful, complex, heavy-duty wordplay in this verse. Not a single one of the commentators-- that is, of the ones I'm using-- mentions jaanaa and jaan'naa , despite the fact that they're so prominent, and are linked more closely than just by sound, as Faruqi points out.

Even beyond those, other sounds effects haunt this verse as well, to quite an unusual degree. Of the twelve vowels in the first line, ten of them are short or long alif sounds, and only two are everything else. Then there are the mutually echoing pa;Raa and par , and the other re sounds: dar , hazaar , baar , tire , rah-guzaar . The effect is rhythmic and stark, curtailing the phonetic range the way the lover's movements are curtailed. An especially good effect is created by dar par hazaar baar , with its two rhyming sets-- and with its first and last words subliminally forming darbaar , which has among its meanings 'house, dwelling' (Platts p.510).

In fact, I submit, the wordplay feels like the chief goal, the focal point of the verse. Otherwise, how are the two lines linked, if not by the powerful bonds of jaanaa and jaan'naa ? Worrying about why exactly the lover has to go by the Rival's door gets us ultimately nowhere, because we have no information on the subject, since we don't know how the two lines are meant to connect. It would be different if worrying about it yielded us some rewards in the form of wit or irony or an unexpected punch. But as far as I can see, it doesn't. It's just one of those fidgety, useless, unsatisfying questions like 'how many children had Lady Macbeth?'.

The two lines, though not semantically well-linked, are sufficiently evocative for the purpose, especially the second. And the wordplay-- which is also meaning-play, as Faruqi points out-- carries the ball. What else is there in this verse that would induce an audience to say vaah vaah ? The striking, unusual wordplay is necessary for the purpose, and is also sufficient to achieve it.