Ghazal 114, Verse 4


bhalaa use nah sahii kuchh mujhii ko ra;hm aataa
a;sar mire nafas-e be-a;sar me;N ;xaak nahii;N

1) for goodness sake-- if not she, then so be it; at least I myself should have felt some pity/mercy!
2) effect, in my ineffective breath/sigh/lament-- none at all


a;sar : 'Footprint; sign, mark, token, trace, track, vestige, shadow; impress, impression, influence; effect; result, consequence'. (Platts p.22)


nafas : 'Breath, respiration; — the voice or sound from the breast; — a moment, an instant'. (Platts p.1144)


To call the nafas ineffective and then say that it has no effect is, from the point of view of meaning, mere repetition. But in the idiom it's good. As in [the Arabic] 'He who kills the killed one, his is the killed one's dress' [man qatala qutailah falahu salbihi]. Turning this theme into a line, the author has made it fresh. (123)

== Nazm page 123

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, if she didn't feel pity, then so be it-- at least I myself should have felt pity at my dire condition, in which I can't refrain from lamenting! But it's become clear that in my ineffective lament there's no effect at all. (173)

Bekhud Mohani:

In my sighs there's not the least bit of effectiveness. If the beloved had no pity for my situation, then at least I would have had pity! That is, I myself would not have looked on my dire situation and lamented. Because if that lamentation continued, then one day it would be the end of me. (231)


How conceitful a conceit!

I can understand if the beloved does not respond to my cries, she is acknowledged to be heartless and cruel; I cannot expect my cries to make any effect on such a person. But what about me, I don't respond to these pitiful cries either; I keep torturing myself by pursuing hopeless love. Indeed, my cries are ineffective. (Of course, the argument can now continue as follows: my cries are ineffective; I must make them effective; I must suffer more.)

Note the fact that no such word as 'cry' or 'lament' has actually been used. The poet shows his disdain for his 'ineffective cry' by calling it simply 'ineffective breath'. (1972, pp. 10-11)


[Nazm's complaint about repetition is unwarranted.] It's important that despite this repetition the verse feels effective and meaningful and beautiful. Thus we can say, so what if there's repetition, as a whole the verse is beautiful. [But we need to think further about this.] We know that in Ghalib's poetry there are many uses of iihaam and different kinds of verbal and semantic devices and wordplay. Because they overlook this point, most of the commentators and critics have remained unsuccessful in providing suitable praise and interpretation of Ghalib and other classical poets.

In the present verse, it's entirely clear that in the word be-a;sar there is an iihaam . Take a;sar to mean 'trace' [nishaan], and be-a;sar to mean 'without a trace'; now see what the verse says. nafas means 'breath'; its metaphorical [majaazii] meanings are 'melody' [na;Gmah], 'lament' [naalah], 'mourning' [shevan]. Breath is a silent action, so it makes the interpretation of nafas as a 'melody' or 'mourning' that is 'without a trace' well-grounded. Thus nafas-e be-a;sar comes to mean 'silent melody' or 'voiceless lament, silent lament'....

'I had no pity' can have two meanings. One is that there was no effect on me myself, that is, I felt no sympathy for myself. The other meaning is that I myself had no pity on the dire condition of my heart; seeing it shattered, I would have ceased lamenting....

If it would be viewed in this way, then this verse presents the theme of the denigrating of silent laments, and the praising of loud laments. After this, the stage comes in which-- {6,6}.

== (1989: 197) [2006: 218-19]



Faruqi points out the multivalence of a;sar as suggesting not only 'effect' but also 'trace' or 'sound', so that the verse can also have a sort of 'objective correlative' for the lament's futility-- its inaudibility. (On the possible confusions of nafas , see {15,6}.)

As he also observes, in the first line mujhii ko ra;hm aataa can mean either that 'I would have had pity for myself' (in a general way); or that 'I would have felt sorry for my heart, and stopped those (literally) heart-rending laments'. Putting ra;hm aataa in the contrafactual is a clever touch, because it forces us to decide for ourselves how the two lines connect; nothing in the grammar itself tells us. (Why would/should the speaker have felt pity? If there had been effect/sound in the lament, which there unfortunately wasn't, then the lament would have moved him to pity.)

The real pleasure of the verse as a listening experience is surely its wonderful colloquialness and naturalness. It manages to fit in three different idiomatic expressions: bhalaa (for more on this see {21,11}; nah sahii (on this see {9,4}); and ;xaak nahii;N (on its idiomatic sense see {114,1}). Yet they don't at all feel contrived or awkward. On the contrary: the verse has such a sense of gusto! It is energized by the vigor born of sheer exasperation and the explosive relief of venting one's feelings. Isn't it only right that the lover should have at least this much satisfaction?

Nazm's point, which he doesn't make very clear, seems to be about the rhetorical uses of repetition, with the Arabic example cited not for its meaning but for its use of repetition.