Ghazal 110, Verse 1

{110,1}*

daa))im pa;Raa hu))aa tire dar par nahii;N huu;N mai;N
;xaak aisii zindagii pah kih patthar nahii;N huu;N mai;N

1a) I am not always lying/fallen at your door
1b) am I not always lying/fallen at your door?

2) {woe to / dust upon} such a life!-- {in that / since} I am not stone

Notes:

Ghalib:

[1866:] When the King of Delhi retained me as a servant, and gave me a title, and assigned me the duty of writing chronograms for the Sultans of the House of Timur, then I wrote a ghazal in a fresh style [:tarz-e taazah]. [He quotes all the verses in order, but omits the closing-verse, {110,8}.] (Arshi p. 237)
==text: Khaliq Anjum vol. 3, p. 1226-27

Nazm:

That is, it would have been better for this life not to exist-- for perhaps I could have been your doorsill. And the gesture toward this idea is that I always remain lying like a stone, but am far from your door. I am not a stone, that I would be pleased to remain lying like this. (114-15)

== Nazm page 114; Nazm page 115

Bekhud Mohani:

If only I were of stone, so that I could become a doorsill and remain always lying at your door! That is, that stone is more fortunate than I, for it always kisses her feet.

[Or:] Don't I always remain lying at your door? That is, I always remain at the door, and cannot obtain access to the inner chamber of coquetry. Woe to such a life! I am a human, not a stone, that to remain lying on your doorsill would be enough. (217)

Faruqi:

This verse is outwardly as simple, as inwardly it is full of meaning.... [Bekhud Mohani has obtained his] subtle meaning through attention to the word 'door'; most commentators have made the word 'stone' the center of attention. A third word that has a right to attention and investigation is 'always'.... If we connect the word 'always' to the word 'life', then what aspect develops?.... If only I were a being made of stone, then for hundreds of years I could have the auspicious fortune of remaining lying at your door. And then, in stone is the excellence that when it falls, then it remains lying there. It doesn't have to move and get up, the way men do. If instead of this human life I had come into the world with the life of a stone, then it would have been better.... [And the sparks of passion and longing within me would have lasted far longer than the duration of a mere brief human life.]

In the course of the discussion, I also want to call attention to the wordplay of 'dust' and 'stone'. This point too has escaped the eye of most of the commentators. (1989: 162-63) [2006: 184-85]

FWP:

SETS == GENERATORS; KIH; STRESS-SHIFTING

Is lying always at the beloved's door something the lover fails to achieve (1a) or achieves (1b)? Is it something desirable (as the lover's supreme goal), or undesirable (as a sign of neglect and rejection)? Does the lover wish (1) to be a stone doorsill for the beloved; or (2) to have a stony heart himself; or (3) simply to express his human suffering (since he's not made of stone)? Here are only a few of the many possible permutations, in this wonderfully 'simple-clever' (see {108,8}) verse:

=Am I not always lying at your door? (I am, of course.) 'Dust upon such a life', in which I'm not a stone! (What I want is to be a stone, and to be your doorsill.)

=Am I not always lying at your door? (I am, of course.) 'Dust upon' such a life, because after all I'm not made of stone! (What I want is better treatment from you.)

=I'm not always lying at your door. (Sometimes I'm driven or forced away, and have to return later.) 'Dust upon such a life', in which I'm not a stone! (What I want is to be a stone, and your doorsill.)

=I'm not always lying at your door. (Sometimes my restlessness overpowers me, and forces me to wander.) 'Dust upon' such a life-- after all, I'm not made of stone! (What I want is better treatment from you.) See the next verse, {110,2}, for a similar thought about restlessness and constant movement.

As Faruqi, alone among the commentators, points out, the wordplay of 'dust' and 'stone' is also powerfully effective and enjoyable-- especially since the primary meaning of 'dust [be] upon such a life' [;xaak aisii zindagii pah] is as a form of malediction or curse. A person lying on a doorsill, or acting as a doorsill, is down in the dust by definition. In addition, a life that is not 'stone' is cursed to be 'dust'. Could there be a bleaker summary of human choices?

For more verses of 'stone' wordplay, see {62,5}.