Ghazal 145, Verse 16x


bah sa((ii-e ;Gair hai qa:t((-e libaas-e ;xaanah-viiraanii
kih taar-e jaadah-e rah rishtah-e daamaan-e .sa;hraa hai

1) with a strange/alien effort/purpose, is the cutting-out of the clothing of house-desolation

2a) kih the string of the path of the road is the thread of the garment-hem of the desert
2b) kih the thread of the garment-hem of the desert is the string of the path of the road


sa((ii : 'Endeavour, attempt; exertion, effort; enterprise, essay; purpose'. (Platts p.661)


;Gair : 'Other, another; different; altered, changed (for the worse); bad; strange, foreign;—another person, an outsider, a stranger, foreigner; a rival'. (Platts p.774)


qa:t(( : 'Cutting; a cutting, section; intersection; a segment; a portion, division; a breaking off; intercepting; traversing or passing over (a road, &c.); cut, shape, form, make, fashion, style; stamp; model'. (Platts p.793)


The 'string of the path of the road' cannot here mean the weave of the garment-hem of the desert; those pieces of the foothills of the desert that are scattered here and there on the path-- the stitching between them can be meant. And it's clear that this path itself was not made by the desert; rather, it is created by the effort (coming and going) of people.

But the meaning of qa:t(( as 'cutting' does not remain; rather, the meaning of 'sewing, stitching' becomes created. At this time, we will be able to take the meaning as that the clothing of the desert becomes stitched from the efforts of others; after this, we will have to take the meaning of 'house-desolation' too as 'desert'.

After all this, what will be the meaning of the verse? This: that 'house-desolation'-- that is, the 'clothing of the desert'-- others prepare; because the string ('thread of the path of the road') from which the garment-hem of the desert is sewn is the effort of others. But this is no meaning at all. Though indeed, the metaphor of the string of the path for the thread of the garment-hem of the desert is a good one.

== Zamin, p. 362

Gyan Chand:

By 'cutting-out of the cloth' he has here meant not only the cutting out of cloth, but rather the sewing as well, as if the 'cutting-out of the clothing' is the 'preparing of the clothing'. The desert is a desolate house. It wanted to cause the 'clothing of house-desolation' to be prepared. In the garment-hem of this clothing the strand of the path has done the work of thread. He has given for the path the simile of thread-- and then, for that thread with which the garment-hem would be sewn. Since for the desert, the path is strange/alien, thus in preparing the garment-hem of house-desolation the desert has resorted to the help of a stranger/alien.

== Gyan Chand, p. 369


DESERT: {3,1}
ROAD: {10,12}

For background see S. R. Faruqi's choices. For more on Ghalib's unpublished verses, see the discussion in {4,8x}. This verse is from a different, unpublished, formally identical ghazal, {359x}, and is included for comparison. On the presentation of verses from unpublished ghazals like this one along with formally identical divan ghazals, see {145,5x}.

This is another 'A,B' verse that exploite the radical, full-spectrum ambiguity of kih : with different line-sequences, it can mean 'so that, as a result'; 'because, since'; 'in that, such that, while'; 'or'. For an illustrative discussion, see the identically-structured {145,12x}.

Wherever the word jaadah appears, it seems to signal extreme abstraction; on this see {9,4}.

The desert is basically roadless by definition; the roads that run along beside it or on its borders, and the paths that run through it, are dwarfed by its trackless immensity; they are thus 'strange, alien' to it (though this is not the only use that can be made of ;Gair ). Thus these desert-bordering roads resemble the (decorated) hem of the desert's garment. And the paths through the desert, in their length, thinness, distinctiveness, twistingness, and abundance of small stitch-like footstep-marks, may well be seen as the stitching that holds the garment together, or even as the embroidery that adorns it.

Thus we have strings, threads, paths, roads. (For more on thread and string imagery, see {10,12}.) Together these are (actively or passively) part of the 'cutting-out' (or defining, or preparing) by or for the desert, of the 'garment of house-desolation'-- 'house-desolation' being a condition in which clothing, like every other domestic comfort, is destroyed or otherwise lacking.

So: what's actually going on here, where is the agency located? The grammar is so cleverly framed that the path-thread, the road-garment-hem, the cutting-out, the garment, and the desert itself can all be seen either as active entities, or as passive parts of a process external to them. The 'with' [bah] in the first line is so vague that it doesn't yield any further information.

Compare {17,9}, another verse about the cutting-out of garments.