Ghazal 133, Verse 4

{133,4}*

bedaad-e vafaa dekh kih jaatii rahii aa;xir
har-chand mirii jaan ko thaa rab:t labo;N se

1) look at the cruelty/injustice of fidelity! that it kept going away, finally--
2) {although / however much} my life had a connection with the lips

Notes:

har-chand : 'Although, even if, notwithstanding; --how-much-soever; howsoever; as often as'. (Platts p.1222)

 

jaan bah lab : 'At the point of death, dying, expiring'. (Platts p.272)

Nazm:

Although my life was very familiar with my lips-- that is, my life always remained on my lips-- as faithfulness departed, it kept going away, and left behind such familiar and beloved companions as the lips. (144)

== Nazm page 144

Bekhud Mohani:

Although my life always remained only on my lips, now look at the tyranny of faithfulness-- that it couldn't endure, and took its leave. That is, in being faithful, a person doesn't only remain with his life on his lips, but rather washes his hands of his life entirely. As if faithfulness had created separation between two lovers, life and lips. (266)

Faruqi:

The point is really that faithfulness is cruel in the sense that it can't endure the life's having a relationship with anything except the beloved. The claim of faithfulness is that if the life would have a relationship, then it would be only with the beloved. On the basis of this relationship with the beloved, we have come near to death. The life, having come to the lips, has paused there. Faithfulness didn't consent that the life should have even this kind of relationship with the lips. Thus finally the life was compelled to break off its relationship even with the lips. He's composed a devastating verse. To construe jaan bah lab honaa as a relation between the life and the lip is an uncommon theme.

== (1989: 258) [2006: 280]

FWP:

SETS == IDIOMS; MUSHAIRAH

For more on har-chand , see {59,7}.

This is a smashingly in-your-face mushairah verse in its structure. The first line is set up in a way that positively forces us to misread it. For 'faithfulness' [vafaa] is feminine, and the feminine singular verb 'kept on going' [jaatii rahii] not only agrees with it, but also makes for a perfect semantic fit, for naturally the progressive departure of 'faithfulness' would seem indeed to be a case of 'cruelty/injustice' [bedaad].

Not until-- after a delay, of course, under mushairah performance conditions-- we've finally been vouchsafed the second line, can we perceive that the feminine singular thing that 'kept on going' was not faithfulness after all, but the speaker's 'life' [mirii jaan]. And the only way we can perceive this, or indeed make sense of the second line at all, is by recognizing the wonderfully evoked idiom jaan bah lab honaa , 'for the life to be on the lips', meaning for one to be on the verge of death. Even then, we recognize the phrase only by implication, since the idiom on which the whole verse rests is nowhere present in the verse itself.

As Faruqi comments, the idiom 'the life to be with the lip' has here been construed as a relationship, and thus one that must be given up. The 'life' must abandon its longtime companion, the 'lip', even as the lover must abandon his life. Both, in the name of 'faithfulness', are practicing a 'cruelty' or 'injustice'; the verse exclaims at it, calls our attention to it-- perhaps reproachfully, but perhaps with a reluctant (or even unreluctant) admiration.