Ghazal 120, Verse 11


su;xan kyaa kah nahii;N sakte kih juuyaa ho;N javaahir ke
jigar kyaa ham nahii;N rakhte kih khode;N jaa ke ma((dan ko

1a) can we not compose/say poetry-- that we would be a seeker of jewels?
1b) what's the idea?! you can't say that we would be a seeker of jewels!
1c) it's hardly [mere] poetry!-- can we not say that we would would be a seeker of jewels?

2a) don't we have a liver-- that we would go and dig in a mine/quarry?
2b) don't we have the guts/courage to go and dig in a mine/quarry?


su;xan : 'Speech, language, discourse, word, words; --thing, business affair (syn. baat )'. (Platts p.645)


That is, to abrade the liver and bring out damp/fresh [tar] verse is better than to dig in a mine and bring out jewels. (129)

== Nazm page 129

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, to make metrical verses through trouble/anxiety [jigar-kaarii] is of a higher rank than to dig in a mine and bring out jewels. (183)

Bekhud Mohani:

He has beautifully said that verses are better than jewels and trouble/anxiety [jigar-kaarii] is better than digging in a mine. (244)


JIGAR: {2,1}
SPEAKING: {14,4}

The parallelism of structure suggests the obvious meanings (1a) and (2a), two indignant rhetorical questions that are hard to translate both accurately and lucidly in English. Can't we compose poetry?! (Of course we can!) So why would we do an inferior thing like seeking jewels? Don't we have a liver?! (Of course we do!) So why would we do an inferior thing like digging in a mine? The commentators all paraphrase the implication: that composing poetry is better than seeking jewels, and digging into one's liver (for poetic emotions or effects) is better than digging in a mine (for jewels).

But surely no one who knows Ghalib expects the verse to stop with anything so one-dimensional. The first line begins after all with the doubly multivalent su;xan kyaa , which is open to at least a couple of alternative readings. If the expression is taken to be like kyaa baat [hai] (1b), then it marks an exclamation of astonishment or even indignation. And it's then very plausible to imagine the rest of the utterance addressed to someone else, since no subject is present in the verse, and the masculine plural verb could easily apply to some aap -- someone who has insulted us, perhaps, by suggesting that we were mere jewel-miners. Alternatively, the phrase can suggest that what you call 'poetry' is really hardly just a form of words at all (1c), but something much more valuable-- something like jewels, mined with trouble and pain from deep within. (For a comparable usage see {20,6}.)

Similarly, in the second line the obvious first interpretation can be reimagined so as to yield another possibility: jigar rakhnaa can mean 'to have heart/courage/guts' (for something). So we might also be indignantly refuting the idea that we didn't have the guts to go dig in a mine (2b), perhaps in order to wrest from the depths the real 'jewels' of poetry (1c).

In short, the search for poetry either isn't, or is, like the search for jewels. (And even if it is, the search for jewels itself at once becomes a metaphor for the search for poetry.) More permutations could be devised, but the ones I've outlined at least suffice to show the complexity of the possibilities. Here's Ghalib being Ghalib, and in magnificent form.