Ghazal 130, Verse 4


yaa mere za;xm-e rashk ko rusvaa nah kiijiye
yaa pardah-e tabassum-e pinhaa;N u;Thaa))iye

1) either please don't make my wound of envy/jealousy notorious/revealed
2) or please lift the veil/curtain of the hidden smile


rusvaa : 'Dishonoured, disgraced, infamous, ignominious; humiliated; open, notorious; accused; one held up to public view, as an example to deter'. (Steingass, p. 576)


That is, either arrange it so that you do not cause disgrace to the 'smile' of the wound of envy/jealousy that affects my heart, or cease to laugh quietly with the Rival behind the curtain. (139)

== Nazm page 139

Bekhud Mohani:

Either do not cause disgrace to the wound of envy/jealousy that has befallen my heart, or lift the curtain of the hidden smile. That is, either cease to meet quietly and laugh with the Rival, or don't disgrace me by saying, 'He is envious/jealous'. In short, as long as you don't stop laughing with the Rival, why would I not feel envy/jealousy? (260)


'Hidden smile' is no established idiom, it is Ghalib's invention. In the light of both verses [this one and {10,10}] a single meaning emerges: 'to laugh furtively, to laugh under one's breath, to laugh in such a way that the laughter would not be revealed'.... If this is the case, then what is meant by 'curtain'? It can have two meanings. (1) This laughter interposes between lover and beloved like a curtain, and creates a feeling of alienation. (2) Behind this laughter something else is hidden. This is not merely an innocent kind of laughter, but rather something is hidden behind it, some secret. If the first meaning is taken, then the interpretation will be: stop laughing furtively, so that the feeling of alienation that is between us would diminish. If the second meaning is taken, then the interpretation will be: reveal the thing that is behind this furtive laughter.

Now please consider the first line. The meaning of rusvaa is not only 'disgraced', but also 'opened, revealed'. Or rather, this is the original meaning; rusvaa meaning 'distgraced' is derived from this 'opened, revealed' meaning. (See [the Persian dictionary] bahaar-e ((ajam , and Steingass; in fact, in bahaar-e ((ajam only 'opened, revealed' is given, with no information about any other meaning.).... There's also a wordplay between 'open' and 'hidden'....

Thus the result is that the lover feels envy/jealousy because the beloved smiles secretly to herself, and the lover suspects that she is enjoying the memory of a meeting with the Rival. The longer she keeps smiling like this, the more the lover's envy/jealousy keeps increasing. So much so that the lover begins to fear that now he wouldn't be able to help showing that envy/jealousy. (Fear because in envy/jealousy is hidden a reproach to the beloved's faithlessness.) The lover says: I feel something like envy/jealousy at your hidden smile. So why don't you say plainly what you're laughing at? Or why don't you stop laughing? Otherwise, the pain of envy/jealousy in my heart will so increase that I will be forced to show it.

The pleasure of the verse lies in the fact that the lover doesn't know the reason for the hidden smile. The smile might not necessarily be connected to the Rival in particular, but the lover is so afflicted with envy/jealousy that he's convinced that 'there's something black in the daal' [that is, there's some cause for suspicion]. [The commentator] Asi has pointed to the wordplay of 'wound', 'infamous', 'hidden', 'curtain'. But he has overlooked the point that because the reason for the hidden smile is not revealed, the verse has acquired a wonderful eloquence [balaa;Gat].

== (1989: 248) [2006: 267-70]


VEIL: {6,1}

Nazm and some others bring in the idiom/image of the wound's 'mouth' to suggest that the wound too, like the beloved, has a 'smile'. But that idea doesn't seem to be developed in the rest of the verse. Faruqi's reading requires the lover to say 'don't make me reveal my wound', whereas the grammar clearly says 'don't reveal my wound'. So I'm not convinced that we've really gotten to the heart of this one yet. I'm not sure my own take on the verse is really satisfying either; but for the present, it's the best I can come up with.

The lover asks the beloved to do one of two things. The second alternative is clear, and is surely his real choice: you should please 'lift the veil/curtain' of the hidden smile. Presumably, as Faruqi argues, this means: she should either explain what she's smiling at, or else stop smiling in that smug, pitying, I've-got-a-secret way. In other words, she should 'reveal' the smile, either by explaining it, or else by unveiling it (and thus turning it into a 'normal', open, appropriate smile).

But what about the first alternative? Since it doesn't involve asking her to stop smiling, presumably her hidden smile continues. So all she is asked to do is, not to disgrace the lover by publically revealing the envy/jealousy that her hidden smile causes in him. (For more on the complexities of rashk , see {53,4}.) Surely one way she can do this is by being careful not to call attention to him-- by refraining from rolling her eyes, or pointing at him, or smiling or laughing openly at his absurd, poorly-concealed displays of envy/jealousy. Thus she's being asked to keep her 'hidden smile' to herself, and prevent others from understanding its cause; which is basically what she's doing anyway.

So on my reading, the beloved is being asked: please, either keep on doing exactly what you're doing, or or else stop doing exactly what you're doing. It seems an amusingly safe request. But of course, we know the beloved: she's more than capable of giving the lover the worst of all worlds. She might continue her secret smiles, but also contrive to share her mockery of the lover with others, thus disgracing him. However, since the lover has been so courteous and humble, perhaps she will relent just this once, and not augment his misery. Anyway, it's surely worth a try?