Ghazal 116, Verse 1


;Gunchah-e naa-shiguftah ko duur se mat dikhaa kih yuu;N
bose ko puuchhtaa huu;N mai;N mu;Nh se mujhe bataa kih yuu;N

1) don't show from afar an unopened bud-- 'like this'
2) I ask about/for a kiss-- tell me with your mouth: 'like this'



That is, when I asked, 'how do people kiss?', you showed me from afar an unopened bud: 'look, this is the way to kiss'. Not like this! Come near, and tell me with your mouth how people kiss. (124)

== Nazm page 124

Bekhud Mohani:

I asked how people kiss. You fell silent. Although silent lips too are the image of a kiss, I don't want only this much. Tell me with your lips. (235)


Note that in the first line the complaint contains two elements: ;Gunchah-e naa-shiguftah and duur se ; both of them have been neatly taken care of in the second line by the phrase muu;N se . (1972, p. 13)


The meaning of bose ko puuchhtaa huu;N can also be 'I ask for a kiss'. Then in the first line the meaning of yuu;N can be, 'We give an answer to your command, like this: we show a bud, or turn our mouth aside'. (1989: 199) [2006: 220-21]



This verse was constantly recited to me by ordinary people in Lahore, when they learned that I was studying Ghalib. It was always recited with at least a big smile, and usually with laughter. And the verse well deserves it, because it's enjoyable on so many levels.

'CUTE' VERSES: This ghazal contains the largest concentration of 'cute' or 'coy', comically and haplessly flirtatious, verses in the whole divan. And even here, there are only four: {116,1}; {116,3}; {116,4}; {116,6}. Just take a look at them and see if they don't stand out a mile from his usual style. They're not of course really grouped together, and in fact are combined with some rather heavy-duty mystical ones. Perhaps it's partly the effect of the refrain: kih yuu;N might well push one's imagination toward non-verbal effects, either humorous (sitcom situations) or transcendent (forms of beyond-words-ness or inexpressibility).

Since this verse is an opening-verse, it has two occurrences of kih yuu;N to play with. Ghalib has carefully arranged the verse so that each occurrence may represent an unspoken gesture (do it like this), or may be put in the mouth of either the lover or the beloved (as quoted speech: 'Like this!').

And how cleverly the first line has been contrived! The speaker objects to something in it, but there are a number of things his objection might apply to, so that the range of meanings becomes considerable. Here are the main possibilities:

= don't show a pursed little 'unopened bud', show me an 'open' or blooming flower, by smiling or laughing (or kissing me)

= don't show me an unopened bud (or pursed lips) from 'afar', show it to me from very near

= don't just 'show' me a kiss, demonstrate it with your mouth, by kissing me

= don't just show me things by gestures, 'tell' me them in words ('like this!'). (And as my students have pointed out, the pursed-lip shape of saying yuu;N is ideally suited to the purpose.)

The lover's preferred alternative, the fix for all these problems, is mu;Nh se mujhe bataa kih yuu;N . Among its multiple possibilities are all the lover's desires: an opened mouth; direct physical contact; a kiss itself; words about kisses.

This is one of Ghalib's rare verses of genuinely erotic suggestion; for others, see {99,4}. This is also a verse in which the beloved seems not to be God; for others, see {20,3}.

The lover may be witty and clever in his presentation of his faux-naif demand for a kiss, but the verse shows us clearly that the beloved is an equally adroit tease: she has used a deft little pursed-lips gesture either to implicitly define a kiss, or to mimic the giving of a kiss. She has thus contrived to frustrate the lover's desires, even while amusingly pretending to fulfill them. Owen Cornwall points out the number of o and uu and u sounds in the verse, which cause the reciter's lips to pucker like a ... bosah .

An enjoyable verse for comparison is {193,3}, which also obsesses over the movements of the beloved's lips.