Ghazal 118, Verse 4


;Gaalib kuchh apnii sa((ii se lahnaa nahii;N mujhe
;xirman jale agar nah mala;x khaa))e kisht ko

1a) Ghalib, from my own effort there's no benefit/profit at all to me
1b) Ghalib, I don't have a fate/destiny that's at all [derived] from my own effort

2) the harvest would burn-- if the locust wouldn’t eat the crop!


sa((ii : 'Endeavour, attempt; exertion, effort; enterprise, essay; purpose'. (Platts p.661)


lahnaa : 'To find, get, experience; --v.n. To get on well, to prosper, flourish; --to accrue; to avail... [to] signify; --s.m. Profit, gain... --lot, portion, fortune, fate, destiny'. (Platts p.973)


lahnaa : ' na.siib , qismat , bhaag '. (Farhang, vol. 4, p. 231 )


On an occasion of complaint, he calls the fruit of the harvest lahnaa . (127)

== Nazm page 127

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He said, 'Oh Ghalib, it wasn't written in my destiny to obtain benefit from my efforts. If the locusts don't eat my crop, then the harvest of grain would catch fire.' (179)

Bekhud Mohani:

We cannot receive any benefit from our own efforts. This matter is in the power of the Lord. (239)


Compare {31,1}, {120,7}, {234,6}. (184, 248, 250, 311)



This is a verse in which tone is everything-- and yet it gives no hint of what the tone should be. Is it a general lament over the sheer perversity of things? A show of wry, rueful humor? A fatalistic statement renouncing all future endeavors? A despairing rejection of life itself? A clinical report, with a neutral observation of the facts? By now it comes as no surprise to see that Ghalib is using one of his classic ways to force us to create multiple meanings out of two small lines.

The center of the verse is the relatively uncommon word lahnaa . This is its only occurrence in the divan, and it surely deserves 'fresh word' credit. Platts gives a wide range of meanings for it, centering on 'benefit' or 'profit', but the Farhang-e Asifiyah focuses the term on a sense of 'fate, destiny' which to Platts is only secondary (see the definitions above). The result is two distinct readings for the first line: either 'benefit, profit' doesn't come to 'Ghalib' from his effort (1a), or 'fate, destiny' doesn't come to him from his own effort. On the first reading, the emphasis is on a complaint about particular results: if anything can go wrong with his harvest, it will! There's even a kind of humor in the catalogue of problems-- the locusts and the fire (presumably caused by lightning) are lined up, competing to be the first to ruin the harvest.

On the second reading, the level of abstraction is higher: his fate doesn't come to him from his own efforts. As proof, just look at the intervention of outside entities in shaping his fate: the lightning, the locusts, and of course numerous other intervenors of which they are only the representatives, lie in wait for him, no matter what he does. And, as all the evidence chillingly suggests, their intervention takes the essential form of thwarting his efforts. They shape his destiny to some large and hostile purpose-- one that he can perhaps discern, but can never hope to escape.

Arshi suggests several verses for comparison, but I have my own favorite: take a look at {10,6}, which gives a slightly different twist to what is basically the same problem.