Ghazal 136, Verse 2


khulegaa kis :tara;h ma.zmuu;N mire maktuub kaa yaa rab
qasam khaa))ii hai us kaafir ne kaa;Ga;z ke jalaane kii

1) in what way will the theme of my letter/writing be revealed/opened, oh Lord?
2) that infidel has taken a vow against/'of' burning the page/paper!



That is, there's no hope at all of her opening the letter-- now she's even sworn off burning them! If only she had burnt it and flames would have arisen from the writing, then the theme of the writing would have been revealed, and the state of the burning of grief would have become manifest to her. That is, if on her part there was any chance of my letter being revealed/opened, then it was only this-- that she always used to burn them. Now, not even that hope remains. (145)

== Nazm page 145

Bekhud Dihlavi:

In two situations the theme of my letter would be clear to her. One would be that if she would open and read it, then she would become aware of its purport. From that infidel there's no hope of this-- how would she open my letter and read it? The second situation would be that in anger she would burn my letter; then she would become aware of the burning of my passion and the fire of separation. But she's sworn off burning the page-- this hope too has been cut off. (201)

Bekhud Mohani:

Where there is a fear of a secret being revealed, letters are written on the skin of an onion or something like that, so that when they are brought near fire they are read, and outwardly it seems to be a blank paper. (267-68)


VOWS: {20,2}
WRITING: {7,3}

As a proper mushairah verse, this one not only withholds its punch-phrase, jalaane kii , until the last possible moment, but actively misdirects us. Everything in the verse leads us to expect that what she's vowed not to do is to 'read' the letter; only at the last possible moment (after the usual tantalizing delay during performance) do we learn that the lover's lament is, instead, that she's vowed not to 'burn' it. At once, with a burst of surprise and amusement, we go back and reconfigure the verse in our minds, and for the first time understand and relish the real importance of the word 'theme' in the first line.

If she would 'open' the letter and read it, then the meaning would be 'opened'/revealed to her; but she won't, of course. If she would burn the letter, then the meaning would still be 'opened'/revealed to her, as the flame became an expression of its fiery theme of burning passion. Bekhud Mohani even comes up with the metaphor of invisible ink that can only be read when the paper is heated. But she won't burn the letter either, and that's what the lover is lamenting; it doesn't even cross his mind that she might possibly read it.

Why won't she burn it? Is it because she's showing the kind of deadly indifference, far more terrifying than anger, that's described in {134,1}? In this case, perhaps not, because the verse doesn't feel at all bleak. The lover refers to the beloved, with affectionate exasperation, as 'that infidel', and adds to our enjoyment by rolling his eyes and asking the 'Lord' to take note of her behavior (thus providing another fine example of wordplay as meaning-play).

So probably she's acting out of sheer perversity, just to aggravate the lover. After all, she's not coolly refraining from burning the letter, she's indignantly (and unnecessarily) 'swearing off' burning it-- and that kind of strong emotion from her is not such a bad omen for the lover. (On qasam khaanaa as 'to swear off', see {89,3}.) She has a 'fiery' attitude toward that letter; in at least that sense, the lover has already gotten something of his message across.