Ghazal 99, Verse 6


chaltaa huu;N tho;Rii duur har ik tez-rau ke saath
pahchaantaa nahii;N huu;N abhii raah-bar ko mai;N

1) I go along a little way with every single swift-mover
2) I do not now/yet recognize a guide


pahchaan'naa : 'To perceive, know, comprehend, understand; to recognize, identify; to distinguish, discern, discriminate'. (Platts p.284)


ab : 'Now, presently, just now.... --ab-bhii , adv. Even now, yet, as yet, still'. (Platts p.1)


The situation that the seeker of the path of the Lord initially finds himself in has been given this illustration. The seeker at first decides to obtain initiation at the hands of whomever he sees to posses charisma or mystical attributes or passionate enthusiasm. And he goes along with him. Then when somebody more attractive comes into view, he follows him, and so on. And the reason for this agitation and movement is that he cannot recognize an accomplished one.

==Urdu text: Yadgar-e Ghalib, p. 150


From the word abhii the meaning is created that the calamity of being out of the homeland, the desolation of being a stranger, have very newly fallen upon him. The gist is that I have freshly left the homeland and don't know the road to the destination.... The excellence of the verse is that he has created a picture of a restless wanderer who has lost his way. (103-04)

== Nazm page 103; Nazm page 104

Bekhud Mohani:

Seeking the road (the road to the Lord, or the road to the attainment of some goal, or the road of spiritual inquiry and investigation), I go along for a little way with every fast-mover, because he himself seems to be wandering. And he says that the reason is that now I don't recognize a guide. When I recognize a guide, this will no longer happen. (201)


The world is full of false leaders. I still do not know who the real leader is. I get deceived by every appearance of rapidity and movement. Every time I see someone proceeding with rapidity I think him to be the guide and walk after him a little way. But that little experience tells me that the man is not the guide I seek. Or is it that I am restless and get quickly drawn to another rapid-mover?

== Naim 1970, p. 41



Oh the elegant ambiguities! This verse can be read as a grim, resolute claim of agnosticism, or a poignant plea for spiritual help, or simply the classic Ghalibian adjuration to use one's own resources under all circumstances, and never borrow from others. Just consider some of the remarkably many questions raised by the verse, depending on what aspects of it we emphasize:

=If the speaker 'walks a little way with every swift-mover', is this good or bad, desirable or undesirable, something he chooses or something he would change if he could?

=Are the 'swift-movers' swift because they do in fact know something about the path, or because they are are even more madly lost and desperate than the speaker?

=If the speaker walks 'a little way' with each one, does he cease to accompany that one when another swift-mover appears, or when he becomes dissatisfied with his guidance, or just after a certain (fixed?) amount of time?

=If the speaker doesn't 'recognize' a guide, is this because there are no guides? Or because there are guides, but only in disguise, and he hasn't yet penetrated the disguise and learned to recognize them? Or because there are self-professed 'guides' aplenty, but he doesn't acknowledge their specious claims? (The sense of 'recognize' as 'acknowledge' or 'accept' is familar to us from English as well.)

Moreover, it requires only a little nudging to bring out in abhii the possibilities of ab bhii (see above definition)-- which would give it precisely the versatility of hanuuz (on this see {3,4})..

And since Urdu conveniently has no articles, is it a question of 'a' guide (that is, anybody with some helpful local knowledge), such that there could be a number of them, or 'the' guide (that is, the unique, predestined mystical figure who will enable the seeker to find the true path)?

How fascinating and suggestive this verse is! Surely no one can fail to find in it some echo of his or her own experience of life. On the difficulty of finding a trustworthy guide, compare {215,9}. This verse also a real similarity to {438x,3}.