Ghazal 121, Verse 3


bhaage the ham bahut so usii kii sazaa hai yih
ho kar asiir daabte hai;N raah-zan ke paa;Nv

1) we had fled immoderately/excessively; thus the punishment for only/emphatically that is this:
2) having become bound/imprisoned, we press/massage the highway-robber's feet


bahut : 'Extremely, exceedingly, excessively; immoderately, immeasurably; sadly, sorely, grievously; marvellously; notably; singularly'. (Platts p.182)


daabnaa : 'To press down; to suppress, repress; to rule; to restrain; to snub'. (Platts p.499)


Mirza's most intimate pupils and friends, among whom there was no formality, often used to come and sit with him in the evenings, and at such times Mirza, in a state of intoxication, used to say extremely enjoyable things. One day Mir Mahdi Majruh was sitting with him and Mirza, lying on a cot, was groaning. Mir Mahdi began to press his feet. Mirza said, 'Brother, you're the son of a Sayyid, why do you make me a sinner [by freely performing such a lowly service for me]?' He [Mir Mahdi] didn't accept that, and said, 'If that's your view, then please pay me for pressing your feet.' Mirza said, 'Indeed-- there's no objection to that'. When he [Mir Mahdi] had finished pressing his feet, he asked for his payment. Mirza said, 'Brother, what payment? You pressed [daabe] my feet, I 'pressed'/suppressed [daabe] your payment-- the account has balanced out!'

==Urdu text: Yadgar-e Ghalib, pp. 71-72


If the meaning of this verse is religious [;haqiiqii], then it doesn't seem to be the poet's speech. But indeed, if we consider all these things to be metaphors, even then it's not clear. (130)

== Nazm page 130

Bekhud Mohani:

That is, with great difficulty we were ensnared in the beloved's clutches; thus now she practices on us, as compared to other lovers, a great deal of cruelty. She greatly debases us. Probably we claimed that we couldn't be captured in anyone's snare. As he has said in another place: {83,2}. [Contrary to Nazm's complaint], the metaphor of the highway-robber for the beloved is as clear as the shining sun. (245)


Why should the 'highway-robber' be understood as a metaphor for the beloved, or the verse as about cruelty and oppression? Why should it not simply be said that its theme is the 'cruelty-enjoyment' [sitam-:zariifii] of fate, or the stony-hearted pleasantries of the working of destiny and fortune?....

In the first line is a reference to running very fast; that is, the speaker prided himself greatly on his swiftness of movement, or he was very independent and free-spirited, he wandered this way and that. He didn't like captivity (to be ensnared in anything, not only prison). Swift running and wandering tired out his feet. The necessary result of the feet becoming tired is being captured. If we flee swiftly from something, and then it comes and seizes us; this is a common belief (or rather, observation too). When we are captured (have been forced to become ensnared in the thing we were fleeing), we end up belonging to it entirely.... The captive is assigned the task of pressing the feet of the captor. The speaker was the needy one, but what he needed has been made a need for another; the needy one himself has been assigned to to fulfill the other's need....

In this way the verse is not based on separate metaphors, but rather the whole thing is a metaphor. The point of the verse is that the deeds of divine destiny are strange.... We can call this a verse of amusement, or of mischievousness, or of sarcasm/irony. In every case, it is revealed as poking fun at the human condition, and testifying to human oppressedness.

== (1989: 224-25) [2006: 246-47]


BONDAGE: {1,5}

I don't have much to add to Faruqi's comments, except to point to the enjoyableness of the word-and-meaning-play: after having fled on foot, the speaker has been (re)captured and punished by being made to press the feet of his captor, the highway-robber. For more on foot-pressing, see {193,5}.

The following verse, {121,4}, has the same 'can't win for losing' tone; though as Faruqi emphasizes, it's paradoxical rather than wry or ironic.

Here's a depiction by Francois Valentijn (Amsterdam 1726) of 'Nur Jahan, the Queen of Bijapur' having her feet pressed: