Ghazal 115, Verse 8


haa;N vuh nahii;N ;xudaa-parast jaa))o vuh bevafaa sahii
jis ko ho diin-o-dil ((aziiz us kii galii me;N jaa))e kyuu;N

1) indeed, she does not fear/worship the Lord! all right, granted that she's faithless!
2) the one to whom religion and heart would be dear-- why would he go into her street?!


haa;N : 'Yes, aye; indeed, verily; by the by, forsooth'. (Platts p.1216)


He has taken the beloved's side: 'Come on, if she has no fear of the Lord, then so be it; if you consider her faithless, then very good, let her be faithless! So why would you go into her street?' This verse alone is the 'high point of the ghazal' in this ground. It gestures toward the fact that people are expostulating with him, and he is cutting off their words. (124)

== Nazm page 124

Bekhud Dihlavi:

Since the Advisor has described the evils of passion and the beloved's irreligiousness and faithlessness, in reply to this Mirza Sahib, in a tone of anger, says... 'Oh benevolent Advisor, please don't take the trouble of going there. We can neither leave her, nor refrain from going to her street.' (175-76)

Bekhud Mohani:

From this it necessarily also follows that she is so beautiful that if anyone goes before her, neither can his heart remain within his control, nor can his faith remain secure. Before the excellence of this verse, Purity [va.zaa;hat] prostrates itself. (234)



For general discussion of the structural qualities of this ghazal, see {115,1}.

What a ravishing verse! I can see why the commentators adore it, and I join them. Yet this time I can't blame them too much for not being very analytical, because it's all in the tone; it's an example of the perfect pitch for idiom and colloquial speech that Ghalib could show (when he chose to).

The lover's friend, or the well-intentioned Advisor, is concerned for the welfare of the lover, who is rashly throwing himself away for an unworthy beloved. The friend points out, offering ample proof, the beloved's tricky, untrustworthy, faithless behavior. He then pauses, waiting with satisfaction for his irrefutable arguments to sink in. He knows the lover can't deny the evidence.

The verse is the lover's reply. The tone of the first line is unmistakable: it's a careless, throwaway concession. The speaker is almost laughing at the anxious concerns that have been urged upon him. Far from denying the truth of the charges, he's indulgently and amusedly conceding them all. The little idiomatic touches-- that 'sure' [haa;N], the 'all right' [jaa))o], the 'granted' [sahii] (for more on this see {9,4})-- establish a rakish tone that's impossible to capture fully in translation. He's heard it all before; he's a bit bored; he's amused that anyone could take such reasoning seriously. (For another such careless, casual use of haa;N , see {188,2}.)

And the effect of his indulgent concession works delightfully with the inshaa))iyah second line. When we put the two together, and allow for their rich power of implication, here are some of the possibilities. Since we all know what she's like, the lover says,

=then if I enter her street, I accept the risk to my faith and heart.
=then if I enter her street, it means that I've thrown my faith and heart away already.
=then you, as a prudent person, would be foolish to enter her street!
=then nobody with any prudence would enter her street.
=then why in fact might a (formerly) prudent person enter her street?

The question can be either rhetorical (and even an implied insult) or genuine (meditative and thoughtful); it can apply to the speaker, the listener, or some generalized other(s). The underlying effect is to say, 'I'm a daredevil-- and probably you're not'.

The lover here seems to be an old soldier of fortune, briefly returned from his constant venturing into terrible battles of passion (remember {7,1}), indulgently listening as a friend lectures him on the folly and rashness of his life. But the very evils the well-meaning friend lists (danger, trickery, unpredictability, constant threat) are exactly what the adventurer long ago learned to live with. By now, he's utterly inured to them; or perhaps he even craves the adrenaline rush.

This is a verse in which the beloved seems not to be God; for more such examples, see {20,3}.

One more reading has emerged, proposed by Jordan Borgman (Apr. 2013) and endorsed by a sort of consensus of the 'Readings in Urdu Lit' class of spring 2013 (my last official class-- I greet you all and think of you fondly!). That reading would take the second line as having a conventional jo - vuh clause structure: 'That one to whom faith and heart would be dear-- why would someone [subject omitted] go into that one's street?' In other words, virtuous and faithful beloveds are infinitely less desirable than unfaithful infidel ones. No doubt it's awkward to have an omitted subject in the second line that isn't provided in the first line either; on this reading we have to allow for two different 'that one' subjects, one for each line, on the strength of semantics alone.

But then, on the conventional reading we have to allow for a jo (the prudent person) who is different from all three vuh -s (the beloved) in the verse, and in that case too we're operating on the strength of semantics alone. Although this new reading of the second line sacrifices the glorious rakishness of the conventional reading, it has subtle charms of its own ('is it true blondes have more fun?'). It shows enjoyably how devoted the mad lover is to his own doom: even if he knew where to find a virtuous and faithful beloved, he'd ignore her street entirely, he can't even imagine why anyone would enter it.

I'm happy to have found a way to convey in English the possibility of both readings. In the translation of the second line, the initial 'the one' can refer either to the subsequent 'he' (the lover) or to the subsequent 'her' (the beloved).