Ghazal 123, Verse 1


vaa;N pahu;Nch kar jo ;Gash aataa pa))e-ham hai ham ko
.sad rah aahang-e zamii;N bos-e qadam hai ham ko

1) having arrived there, {since / in that} we constantly/successively/sorrowfully faint--

2a) in a hundred ways/'roads', we have the design/manner of ground-kissing of the footstep
2b) in a hundred ways/'roads', the design/manner of ground-kissing is a footstep, to us


paiham (of which pa))e-ham is a variant): 'Successively, one close upon another, close together, thick'. (Platts p.302)


ham : [Arabic] 'Melting (fat); causing (one) to melt or waste away (as disease); hushing (an infant) to sleep; grief, care, solicitude; purpose, design'. (Steingass, p.1507) [retrievable under hum ]


raah (of which rah is a short form): 'Road, way, path, passage; journey, progress; means of access, access; manner, method; custom, fashion'. (Platts p.585)s


aahang : 'Design, purpose, intention; method, manner'. (Platts p.111)


That is, seeing the behavior of the foot-- that it would carry me into the street of the beloved, in order to kiss it-- I constantly faint, and there are a hundred aspects of the faint. The gist is that my inner self wants in a hundred ways to perform the ground-kissing of the footstep. The word paiham is correct either with or without an i.zaafat , but the Urdu idiom is that they say this word without the i.zaafat . However many words of Persian and Arabic are adopted, it is necessary for them to follow the idiom of Urdu; otherwise it will be a disruption of eloquence. (131)

== Nazm page 131

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, 'The faint that always overtakes us when we arrive in the beloved's street-- the reason for it is that in our weakness and feebleness, our feet have brought us here. In gratitude for this kindness, with an intention of kissing the feet, we fall down-- at which we assume the form of a footstep.' (185)

Bekhud Mohani:

When, having arrived in the street of the beloved, we begin to faint over and over again, then is not a faint but rather, we want to kiss the feet again and again to express our gratitude for their having brought us to her street. That is, in the happiness of arriving there, we don't remember anything. But the heart, in order to fulfill our obligation, in the guise of fainting expresses gratitude to the feet. (247)


[A note about how this ghazal was probably composed in early 1827, during his stay in Lucknow]. (244)


They have all ignored the point that here ham can also mean 'grief and sorrow'. In this way pa))e ham can mean 'because of grief and sorrow'. ham can also mean 'to melt away, from sickness or some other cause'....

The defect in this interpretation [of the speaker as kissing his own footsteps] is that both the emotion and act of kissing one's own footsteps are particularly uncouth and artificial and unrealistic. And then, in the verse there's no mention of gratitude-- only of fainting and footstep-kissing....

The best meaning of the verse is that having arrived in the beloved's street we faint again and again, because of grief and sorrow, or continuously; and time after time we arise from the ground and fall, fall and arise. This, for us, has the effect of kissing the beloved's footsteps. How could we attain such fortune as to be able to kiss the beloved's feet-- perhaps we aren't even privileged enough to be able to kiss the earth of her street. We only faint and fall again and again, and this for us is sufficient, for in this way we kiss its ground. For us, ground-kissing is equal to kissing the beloved's feet.

But there's even one more aspect-- in it the meaning becomes even more refined/enjoyable [la:tiif].... If we take aahang-e zamii;N bos to be a phrase, and qadam to be separate, then an extraordinary pleasure is created.... Now the interpretation of the verse will be that we have somehow or other arrived at the beloved's street, but have no strength to go on. We are constantly fainting; now we can't even lift a foot. A hundred times we rise, and fall. This alone is our 'footstep', this alone is our journey. It's clear that this meaning is better because in this way force is created in the word 'footstep', and the theme becomes broad....

In the verse there are many materials for .zil((a and wordplay which the commentators have not noticed. 'Arrive', and 'comes'. pai (meaning 'foot'), and 'footstep'. 'Arrive', and rah (from rahnaa . 'Ground', and 'footstep'. 'We' [ham], and ham (meaning 'grief and sorrow'). paiham (meaning 'continuously'), and .sad rah (meaning 'again and again').... 'Arrive', and 'footstep'. To make the words act as [inseparably as] 'hand and collar' like this, and make them seem suitable in so many ways, or to use words that will be suitable in many ways, was Ghalib's special accomplishment.

== (1989: 228-30) [2006: 250-32]



Unusually, Ghalib chose all the verses (rather than just a few) from the original ghazal for inclusion in his selection called Gul-e ra'na (c.1828). He did, however, replace the original closing-verse, {123,14x}, with the present one, {123,11}; for discussion, see {123,14x}.

Faruqi has done another lovely job on this one; his reading is very persuasive. And of course he's right that the wordplay in this verse is simply extraordinary. So many words are meshed with so many other words that the effect is an astonishingly complex and enjoyable network.

But in terms of meaning, the verse really is a damp squib. The idea that the speaker 'constantly' or 'successively' keeps fainting is not only highly artificial but also grotesque and (what's almost worse) silly or ludicrous. The question of exactly how the speaker's fainting, then getting up, then fainting again, makes him resemble the 'ground-kissing' of a 'footstep' could of course be parsed in detail; the second line provides an amply multivalent grammar. But I can't muster enough interest to even bother. It's evident that lots of small permutations can be generated, but that nothing with any larger meaning is likely to emerge. Whatever possibilities emerge are destined to be trivial, partly because the premise (that the speaker keeps on constantly fainting, reviving, and fainting again) is so unappealing.

For a more effective use of the footprint as role model in the beloved's street, see {116,8}.