Ghazal 124, Verse 1

{124,1}

tum jaano tum ko ;Gair se jo rasm-o-raah ho
mujh ko bhii puuchhte raho to kyaa gunaah ho

1) {you would know / it's your affair} what friendly relations you might have with the Other--
2) if you would keep inquiring even/also about me, then what sin would it be?

Notes:

Ghalib:

[1860:] My heart very much wants to see you. And seeing you is dependent on your coming here. If only you had come with your venerable father, and had seen me before you left! I've brought the Urdu divan from Rampur, and it has gone to Agra; there it will be printed. One copy will be sent to you too: {124,1}. (Arshi 247)
==Khaliq Anjum vol. 1, p. 366
==another trans.: Russell and Islam, p. 246

Nazm:

'It's your work, it's up to you' (literally, 'You might know, your work might know') [tum jaano tumhaaraa kaam jaane]-- we have no entree into it. But while meeting the Other, why do you renounce meeting me? (133)

== Nazm page 133

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, as well as keeping up friendly relations with the Other, if you also keep up a connection with me, it would be no bad thing. What's to be gained by ceasing to meet with me? (187)

Bekhud Mohani:

Now the beloved absolutely won't listen to a thing he says. Desperate, he says, you're in control of your own behavior, we don't say anything to you about the Rival. But why have you abandoned us? From 'would it be a sin?' comes the aroma of complaint. (250)

FWP:

SETS == IDIOMS

Nazm points to the idiom 'X jaane Y jaane ' (literally, 'X might know, Y might know') that is used to mean 'it's nobody's business but X's and Y's'. In the verse, the idiom is truncated so that it's nobody's business but the beloved's (and the Other doesn't seem to come into it at all), which is amusingly appropriate to the situation. The implication is that the beloved is significantly involved with the Other, and the speaker is bending over backwards to disavow all right to inquire, or interest in inquiring, about this involvement.

The speaker uses this disavowal as leverage to imply that the beloved ought also to show some concern for him (as a former lover? as a fellow-lover and peer of the Other?). This is not a large request-- the beloved ought to show concern only to the very mild extent of kisii ko puuchhnaa , 'to inquire about someone['s wellbeing]'. To 'keep on' doing this would mean nothing more than occasionally making a friendly (but perhaps formal and perfunctory) inquiry about someone's health, as one might dutifully inquire about the condition of a sick friend. The use of 'keep on' also suggests that perhaps this is all the interest the beloved has ever shown, and the lover is concerned about losing even this.

Then there's the idiomatic kyaa gunaah ho -- 'would it be a sin?' or 'what [kind of] sin would it be?'-- that conveys more than a touch of sarcasm. Far from being a sin or wrong, the speaker implies, it would be only right and proper for the beloved to maintain at least a show of concern.

The result is a verse that is completely in the future subjunctive-- a verse that does its work through implication and insinuation. This makes the wordplay of 'to know' [jaan'naa] and 'to inquire' [puuchhnaa] all the more piquant.

Compare {71,9}, which also uses kisii ko puuchhnaa , and also combines it with sarcastic hyperbole ('it wouldn't do any harm').