Ghazal 127, Verse 1


rahye ab aisii jagah chal kar jahaa;N ko))ii nah ho
ham-su;xan ko))ii nah ho aur ham-zabaa;N ko))ii nah ho

1) let's go now and live in such a place, where there would be no one
2) there would be no speech-sharer, and there would be no language-sharer



The word 'now' is saying that the people who are companions [hamdam] and speech-sharers [ham-su;xan] and language-sharers [ham-zabaan] and neighbors [hamsaayah] and compatriots [ham-va:tan]-- from them he has received grief. (137-38)

== Nazm page 137; Nazm page 138

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, 'From my friends, compatriots, neighbors, companions, and speech-sharers I have received so much grief and sorrow that now I want to go and live someplace where all these fine people won't be.' (193)

Bekhud Mohani:

He's come to feel extreme distaste for the people of the world. He says, 'Now I ought to spend my life in a place where there would there wouldn't be anyone even to speak to me.' (257)



This is one of only a handful of ghazals from which Faruqi has selected every single divan verse as superior. (Of course, it's also an extremely short one.) It's also remarkable for its internal coherence of attitude and tone; it feels like a small 'continuous ghazal' [;Gazal-e musalsal]. For another ghazal with the same internal coherence and an even more negative view of things in general, see the earlier, unpublished {280x}. And for an even more explicitly misanthropic verse, see {365x,4}, which condemns all human relationships as fruitless.


Two commentators, Bekhud Dihlavi (193) and Chishti (611), label this little three-verse ghazal a verse-set. None of the rest of the ones whom I'm reading do; and of course Arshi does not, which for me is decisive. Still, it's easy to see why the temptation is there. They certainly feel like a verse-set, in tone and mood and content and even perhaps narrative sequence. And I argue in {127,3} that Ghalib surely meant us to read them that way, at least in practice if not in theory.

Nazm points out all the other Persian-derived ham words that lurk behind those singled out for rejection in the verse. Undoubtedly, Nazm maintains, the speaker is also rejecting friends, neighbors, and compatriots, since he's even rejecting anybody who shares his 'speech' and 'language'. This makes sense, and is borne out by the direction of the two other verses (if I may cheat a little and consider them somewhat relevant in this unusually short and unified ghazal).

But still-- look at the verse structure. The speaker courteously invites himself (and/or somebody else) to go and live somewhere where three conditions apply: there will be no (1) person; (2) speech-sharer; (3) language-sharer. But what is the relationship among those three conditions? Obviously, if there are no (1)s, there will be no (2)s or (3)s either. So why does he even need to mention (2) and (3)? And are they the same group, simply reiterated or paraphrased? Or are they two different groups? Group (2) might consist of people who talk to him, but don't know his language; group (3) might consist of people who know his language, but don't talk to him. Ghalib leaves us, as so often, with a set of building blocks, but no indication of how to fit them together.

The very fact that the speaker has to mention, and rule out, two different (?) groups of people defined in terms of word-usage, even after he's already ruled out all human beings, is surely significant-- but of what? Are the two word-usage groups simply the first categories that present themselves to his irritated mind? Are they the groups from whom the speaker is most deeply alienated? Are they groups so supremely important that ruling them out is simply a restatement of the ban on all human beings? Is he simply savoring the prospect of escaping from all words, speech, language?

Apart from these metaphysical questions, the verse has a wonderful incantatory power. Its extreme amount of repetition (10 words in the verse occur once, 11 are repetitions) and especially its triple repetition of the whole phrase ko))ii nah ho , is part of the reason. Another part is the elegant fitting of words to meter, such that the phrasing corresponds well to the foot-patterns; and the meter itself, = - = = / = - = = / = - = = / = - = , is one of the most hypnotically repetitive ones available.

The result is a real wonder: a simple-looking verse you can say to yourself that may start out in exasperation, but is so rhythmic and harmonious that it ends up almost being soothing.

Here's an attempt I made at a translation (1985).

A cautionary note: Rakhshanda Jalil writes in the Indian Express (July 31st, 2019), 'There are, for example, the three couplets Ghalib wrote in 1862, possibly in response to the Nawab of Farrukhabad being picked up by the British for aiding the rebels, and abandoned on an island off the shore of Arabia. These verses reflect the hopelessness and escapism that afflicted many Muslims of his generation; they reflect the despair many experience today as the world one knew is slipping away before one’s very eyes'. She then presents these three verses. However, this ghazal was composed in 1833. She was perhaps misled by Ghalib's words in a letter from 1862, in which he quotes {127,3}.