Ghazal 136, Verse 5


hamaarii saadagii thii iltifaat-e naaz par marnaa
tiraa aanaa nah thaa :zaalim magar tamhiid jaane kii

1) it was our simplicity, to die over the kindness/'apostrophe' of coquetry
2) yours wasn't an arrival/coming, cruel one, but a preliminary/'preface' to leaving/going


iltifaat : 'Regard, attention, countenance; respect, consideration, courtesy, civility, kindness; (in Rhetoric): An apostrophe. (74)


tamhiid : 'Arrangement, disposition, adjustment, settlement, management; confirmation; preliminary, preamble, introduction, preface'. (Platts p.337)


That is, you came in order to leave after a little while; and we in our simplicity considered it kindness, and began to die over this very 'kindness'. (146)

== Nazm page 146

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, it was our simplicity-- that is, stupidity-- that we became infatuated with your 'kindness of coquetry'. In our house your coming was not coming, but rather a preliminary to going. The meaning is that you came with the intention that you'd go back in a little while, and we'd writhe for months in separation from you. (202)

Bekhud Mohani:

Even your kindness was beloved-like coquetry; we were wrong when we considered it an enduring kindness. (268)



The commentators explicate the meaning that's right there on the grammatical and semantic surface. But there's another level that they ignore: an enjoyable layer of poetic misdirection and subtle literary wordplay. Under mushairah performance conditions, when we hear the first line, we take iltifaat to mean something like 'kindness, regard'. That's its normal meaning, and it suits perfectly with the general sense of the first line. When we finally (after the proper tantalizing delay) are allowed to hear the second line, we notice that it contains, conspicuously deferred till almost the end of the line, the word tamhiid , with its well-known literary meaning of a 'preamble, introduction, preface' (see the definition above).

And if we have the kind of sophisticated literary knowledge that Ghalib longed for in his audience, we then at once are cued to notice that in the first line, iltifaat too has a literary meaning, although a much less well-known one. In rhetorical terminology, iltifaat is an 'apostrophe', a 'figure of speech which consists in addressing a dead or absent person, an animal, a thing, or an abstract quality or idea as if it were alive, present, and capable of understanding' (Princeton Handbook of Poetry and Poetics, 1974 ed., p. 42).

We now have the pleasure of going back and reinterpreting the whole verse along much more complex lines. 'Alas', says the lover, 'When you addressed me it was just a kind of set piece, a literary exercise, an address to someone or something who is not necessarily even there; it was a small particular insertion into a larger ongoing work of art and coquetry that wasn't necessarily connected with it at all. So when you spoke to me, you weren't really speaking to 'me'. And when you came, you didn't really visit 'me'; in fact you didn't really come at all-- you just prepared and practiced a literary 'preface' for your departure, as part of your larger ongoing work of coquetry that obviously has no place for me at all.'

The lover is left behind, dying for the beloved, and her attention is already elsewhere-- if it was ever on him at all. He doesn't blame her, however, cruel though she is. He laments that it was his own simplicity and naivete that made him trust her; and he now 'dies' (metaphorically or literally) as a result.