Ghazal 111, Verse 11


baskih rokaa mai;N ne aur siine me;N ubhrii;N pai bah pai
merii aahe;N ba;xyah-e chaak-e garebaa;N ho ga))ii;N

1a) although I stopped them, more/others welled up one after another in the breast
1b) I stopped them to such an extent-- and they welled up one after another in the breast!

2) my sighs became the stitching-up of the tearing of the collar


pai bah pai : 'Step by step; one after another, in succession, successively, consecutively; repeatedly, continuously, incessantly'. (Platts p.294)


ba;xyah : 'Stitching; back-stitch; sewing with long stitches, basting, tacking; sewing very thick and strong; quilting'. (Platts p.138)


In this verse, he has given for the welling up of sighs again and again, and their suppression again and again, the simile of stitching; that is, a moving thing is the simile of a moving thing, and the cause of similitude is movement. But for a sigh, such movement is only a poetic supposition. For this reason, this simile is not really eloquent [badii((] the way other such verses are that have passed by. And with regard to theme, the verse is meaningless. Persian and Urdu poets compose such themes with their eyes closed. Here, the .zil((a he has said of ba;xyah and siinah is not devoid of pleasure. (119)

== Nazm page 119

Bekhud Mohani:

The tearing of the collar is done to allow air to reach the heart. The poet says that the result of sighs constantly welling up, and my suppressing them, was that they became the stitching for the torn collar. That is, tearing the collar became the same thing as not tearing the collar, and the breath began to be choked. How sighs welled up, and how they were suppressed-- this mood was not apparent to the eyes. But Mirza, having given a simile for the stitching up of the torn collar, has made the imperceptible perceptible, and shown it to us. (222-23)


[Some meaningful points that emerge from the various commentators' explications:]

1) Because the sighs that repeatedly well up were stopped, something like a chain of sighs was created.
2) Because of the sighs' welling up and being suppressed, the tearing-open of the collar (which is a means for bringing air to the heart) became useless, and the breath began to be suffocated.
3) I suppressed the sighs, as if I stitched up the torn-open collar.

All this is very well in its place, but there's still much more remaining in the verse. Consider the following points:

1) Despite the suppression of the sighs, they couldn't be suppressed (they welled up one after another)-- the sighs welling up one after another in this way, and their suppression, assumed the form of the stitching-up of a rip. The subtlety in this is that the stitching-up of the tear in the collar outwardly shows that madness is diminished (because the madman consented to the stitching-up, or came into the power of the stitchers-up), but in reality it is the prelude to an increase in madness, because when the sighs were suppressed, then they welled up again and again-- that is, they became even swifter. Because-- consider the first line of {62,10}....

2) If a sigh would come to the lips, then it becomes diffused. But when it is again and again suppressed and stopped, then it takes on the form of a chain, as if it had become stronger and slower and more heart-rending.

3) The madman's collar is closed; people consider that the rips in the collar have been stitched up. He himself considers, 'No, no such thing! Rather, because of the sighs' again and again welling up and being suppressed, the sighs have become settled in the breast the way the collar that was torn to pieces has been sewn up together with the breast and has come to have the shape of a stitched-up collar. A sigh is heart-lacerating; thus it can be sharp-tipped like a needle. Thus the sigh has been called 'liver-piercing'. And because of this sharp-pointedness, they give for it the simile of a dagger, an arrow, a dart, etc. From the affinity with sewing, they also give for the sigh a simile of 'thread' (meaning sewing thread); see [the dictionary] bahaar-e ((ajam ). Thus this verse must be considered a high-quality example of 'elegance in assigning a cause'....

4) The tearing of the collar is a symbol of wildness and madness. To suppress sighs is a symbol of calm and awareness. When the wildness was upon us, then we tore open our collar. When we entered a state of calm and awareness, we suppressed the sighs. They kept on welling up, and we kept on suppressing them. In this way the sighs became stitching, and stitched up our torn collar. We no longer needed a tailor....

5) A sigh is a symbol of diffusion, and stitching-up is a symbol of control and restraint. Here the enjoyable thing is that stitching-up has been established as a symbol of extreme diffusion-- that is, of extreme sighing. This is Ghalib's special style of paradox. As if to suppress sighs is to suppress madness and distraction, and the symbol of this is the stitching-up of the collar. But Ghalib tells us that the stitching-up of the collar is a result of the sighs' welling up again and again. And in this way, as is his custom, he shows that for something not to exist is the proof of its existence.

== (1989: 177-79) [2006: 199-201]



In line one, as so often, the use of baskih generates the two meanings of 'although' and 'to such an extent', both of which are relied upon by the commentators. The positioning of aur also conveniently means that it can be used to suggest 'more', or 'other[s]', or 'and'.

The wordplay in this verse is a treat: 'sewing' [ba;xyah] and 'tearing' [chaak] are bumped up right against each other; as Faruqi notes, sighs too are often poetically constructed as either sharp like needles, or connected like a thread. Above all, as Nazm points out, the punning on 'to sew'-- siinaa , suggested by siinah or 'breast'-- is marvelous icing on the cake.

As the commentators make clear, there's such a range of readings possible! Does the 'sewing-up of the rip in the collar' by the sighs constitute an actual sewing-up, or merely a warped parody of it that in fact worsens the situation? Does the lover seek out, or control, or desire this special form of 'sewing-up', or does he suffer under its onslaughts? Does this 'sewing-up' increase the lover's madness, or diminish it, or merely show its steady-state endlessness?

However we view the implications of the process, it seems to be one that, in principle, can go on forever. In that sense the verse evokes {19,1}, in which the fingernails gouge out a wound, and are then forcibly trimmed; the wound heals, the fingernails grow back, and the whole cycle starts again. But the ambiguous 'sewing-up' makes this verse more complex. Do the speaker's sighs, and his suppression of them, really constitute any kind of 'repair' of his torn collar?

It could also be that this process is the (so-called) 'stitching-up' of the the collar only in the sense that the collar won’t get any other stitching-up than this. Think of {17,9}, after all; and of another, more despairing verse about stitching things up, {113,1}.