Ghazal 149, Verse 6x


vaa;N rang'haa bah pardah-e tadbiir hai;N hanuuz
yaa;N shu((lah-e chiraa;G hai barg-e ;hinaa mujhe

1) there, colors/moods are in the veil/pardah of contrivance/policy, now/still

2a) here, the flame of a lamp is a leaf of henna, to me
2b) here, a leaf of henna is the flame of a lamp, to me


tadbiir : 'Forethought, judgment; deliberation, counsel; opinion, advice; expedient, contrivance, plan, device; provision, management, arrangement, ordering, conduct, regulation; policy, prudence; skill'. (Platts p.314)


barg : 'Leaf (syn. pattaa ); —warlike apparatus; provisions or necessaries for a journey or march; —a musical instrument; melody'. (Platts p.148)


There, in the pardah of contrivance, colorfulnesses are being prepared; and here, the situation is such that I suspect the leaf of henna of being the flame of a lamp. That is, there is no need for contrivance, and every contrivance is working on me in reverse. (221)


That is, there different kinds of adornments and decorations are being thought of, among which is that henna will be ground up and applied to the hands. But to me, the leaves of henna themselves become the flame of a lamp and are blown upon by the fire of envy/jealousy-- that henna would have access to her hands and feet, and I would remain deprived! After it is ground, henna takes on a radiant red or fiery color; but from the assault of envy/jealousy its very leaves are appearing as flame. (329)

Gyan Chand:

The beloved is now pondering with what coloring and rouge/powder to adorn herself. Various kinds of schemes and contrivances are under consideration-- and the leaf of henna itself is burning me to such an extent, the way one would be burned from putting a hand in the flame of a lamp. When this hidden color itself burns like this, then when the color would become manifest and actually adorn the beloved's body, how much suffering it will cause me!

== Gyan Chand, p. 337


HENNA: {18,4}

For background see S. R. Faruqi's choices. For more on Ghalib's unpublished verses, see the discussion in {4,8x}.

On henna, see {18,4}; and see the wikipedia account of henna for details.

The 'here / there' structure simply juxtaposes the two lines, usually for a cleverly subtle mixture of comparison and contrast. This verse, like so many, leaves it up to us to decide how to understand the juxtaposition of the beloved's world with the lover's.

'There', the beloved's use of henna is carefully calculated and premeditated, planned beforehand for maximum effect. The beloved will measure out her self-display to get the desired results most efficiently. And of course, the application of henna is itself a careful and elaborate process: the intricate design must be chosen and slowly created, then the paste must be allowed to dry over a longish period, often several hours.

'Here', it's a question of the equation of henna with fire. Because of the 'symmetry' built into Urdu grammar, the second line yields two equally possible readings.

The first reading, (2a), says that the flame of a lamp is a leaf of henna, to the lover. Henna itself is made from ground-up green leaves. When first applied it is a deep rich brown; then it gradually dries to orange, turns to red, and eventually fades away. These color changes resemble those of green twigs and branches that are dried and then used to fuel a fire, first flaming brightly, then fading and dying. Are we to imagine that the lover in his passion burns like the flame of a lamp? Does his flaming passion adorn him the way the beloved's henna adorns her?

The second reading, (2b), says that a leaf of henna is the flame of a lamp, to the lover. Zamin takes this to mean that he 'burns' with envy/jealousy over the intimate access that the henna has to the beloved; perhaps he imagines the henna leaf as caressing her hands and feet, and then clinging to them. Or are we perhaps to take barg (see the definition above) as a 'provision' or 'supply'? In that case, while the beloved makes use of red-orange henna, the lover makes (similar? contrasted?) use of red-orange flame? Or is his passion such that the mere sight of a leaf of henna so inflames his imagination that it seems to (try to) illumine the beloved's veiled face, the way a lamp would?

Zamin makes a plausible case, but both Asi and Gyan Chand seem to be flailing. The truth is that the verse isn't very tightly constructed. We can go on speculating, but the puzzle pieces don't ever quite fit. No matter how we put them together, we are never quite rewarded with that thrilling and satisfying 'click' feeling.