Ghazal 126, Verse 8

{126,8}*

yih fitnah aadmii kii ;xaanah-viiraanii ko kyaa kam hai
hu))e tum dost jis ke dushman us kaa aasmaa;N kyuu;N ho

1a) to lay waste a man’s house, as if this affliction/mischief is insufficient!
1b) to lay waste a man's house, is this affliction/mischief insufficient?

2) he whose friend you became-- why would the sky be his enemy?

Notes:

fitnah : 'Trial, affliction, calamity, mischief, evil, torment, plague, pest'. (Platts p.776)

Ghalib:

[See his praise for this verse in {126,1}.]

Nazm:

That is, your being kind to anyone, and being his friend-- is that insufficient to lay waste his home, that the sky too would become his enemy? 'This affliction' refers to the beloved's becoming a friend. (137)

== Nazm page 137

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, this affliction-- that is, your becoming a friend-- is sufficient to lay waste a house. The one whose friend you become, why would the sky become his enemy? That is, your friendship is in every respect enough to ruin him. Why does the sky then need to add its name to the list of enemies? (192)

Bekhud Mohani:

Your love alone is sufficient to bring a man down into the dust. The one to whom you're kind-- where's the need for the sky to be his enemy? That is, the sky is the bringer of ruin to mankind. When that ruin takes place at your hands, what need does the sky have to take the trouble? (257)

FWP:

SETS == KYA
FRIEND/ENEMY: {4,3}

Everybody dutifully gives the obvious reading, and indeed it's an enjoyable one. We almost have it already in English as a nice punchy insult-- 'With friends like you, who needs enemies?!'. But then the commentators stop right there, with a sigh of satisfaction, and move on to the next verse.

However, this verse is cleverly arranged, in ways that are thoroughly familiar to us by now, to create and exploit multivalent meanings. First (and in-your-face obviously), there's the famous trick with kyaa and its various possible readings: in this case, the indignant denial (1a), and the straightforward yes-or-no question (1b).

And once we start playing around with those possibilities, we realize that 'this' affliction isn't free of ambiguity either. For the second line envisions two doomsday scenarios: your friendship, and the sky's enmity. The meanings of fitnah point at least as much to the traditional disasters that descend upon us from the sky, as to the beloved's romantic cruelties. Because the grammar carefully refuses to provide us a clear link between the two lines, it's up to us to decide which of the two afflictions is 'this' one.

So when we start working out the permutations, (1a) wants 'this affliction' to be the beloved's friendship; for this reading, see the general commentarial consensus. Then the interrogative (1b) also wants 'this affliction' to be the beloved's friendship; on this reading, each of the two lines is a genuine question, meditating on the same situation (Is the beloved's friendship in fact enough to ruin me? Or could there be some further reason why the sky would become my enemy?).

There could also be a (1c) reading: 'to lay waste a man's house, how insufficient this affliction/mischief is!' Such a reading would take 'this affliction' to be the sky's enmity, and the line would then pour scorn on it. How feeble and inadequate the sky's enmity looks, compared to the beloved's friendship! How would the sky even dare to show off its puny little disasters, when the beloved is around! Anybody who can endure her friendship has been so toughened (and/or so ground down) that he can afford to laugh at the presumptuousness of an 'enemy' like the sky. But this dismissive reading of kyaa kam hai does feel less natural and idiomatic than the other two.