Ghazal 108, Verse 11x


qaid me;N bhii hai asiirii aazaad
chashm-e zanjiir ko vaa baa;Ndhte hai;N

1) even/also in confinement/bondage, the captive is free
2) the eye of the chain/shackle we/they versify/'bind' as 'open'


qaid : 'A shackle, fetter, bonds; bondage; confinement, imprisonment; control; restraint; restriction'. (Platts p.796-97)


asiir : 'Bound, tied, made captive; —s.m. Prisoner, captive'. (Platts p.55)


asiirii : 'Imprisonment, captivity'. (Platts p.55)


vaa honaa : 'To be or become open; to open; to be freed or liberated; to be relieved of sorrow, to become cheerful'. (Platts p.1171)


The prisoner, even the state of imprisonment, is free, because when someone versified the 'eye' of the chain, he versified it as open. Thus captivity is, so to speak, freedom.

== Asi, p. 167


The 'eye' of the chain-- that is, the circle/link-- is never closed; thus for the 'eye' of the chain to remain open is to remain free. The chain is related to captivity, so for the eye of the chain to remain open is the freedom of the captive. The verbal affinity is fine, but the meaning is nothing at all.

== Zamin, pp. 243-244

Gyan Chand:

They call the circles of the chain the 'eyes' of the chain; thus these eyes are 'chains' and they 'bind'/versify them in the verse. Thus he is in captivity. But they are 'open'. For them to be 'open' makes it clear that he is free of captivity and bondage. Thus the 'eyes' of the chains have proved that even while he is in chains, he can remain free.

== Gyan Chand, p. 270


BONDAGE: {1,5}
EYES {3,1}

For background see S. R. Faruqi's choices. For more on Ghalib's unpublished verses, see the discussion in {4,8x}.

On the literary use of baa;Ndhnaa as 'to versify', see {108,1}.

Here's another little verse with absolutely nothing going on in it except wordplay-- but then, in twelve words, what more does it need for an enjoyable effect? Bondage versus freedom, the captive as free, captivity as freedom, the poetic act of 'binding' or versifying, the chains as 'eyes' that are 'bound' or versified as 'open'-- the mind ricochets among these abstract oppositions.

The central metaphor of the (round) chain-links or shackles as 'eyes' is what energizes the whole clever paradox. For only if 'eyes' are open and vigilant can they be effective. But if these chain-eyes are open, then by that very fact their effectiveness is gone.

Moreover, the mad lover, the persona of the poet/speaker in the ghazal world, is the one who is invariably chained up. Yet, as an extra paradox, not only do the chains ineffectively 'bind' him-- but he much more effectively 'binds' the chains, by 'binding' them into a verse in whatever way he chooses. The implication is that if poets wished, they could 'bind' the chain-eyes as closed.

Note for grammar fans: This verse seems to take asiirii to mean the same thing as asiir (see the definitions above). Elsewhere (for example, in {1,5}), Ghalib does follow the dictionary definition.