Ghazal 157, Verse 5

{157,5}

ranj-e rah kyuu;N khe;Nchiye vaa-maa;Ndagii ko ((ishq hai
u;Th nahii;N saktaa hamaaraa jo qadam manzil me;N hai

1) why endure the sorrow/trouble of the road? there is passion from/for laggingness
2) it cannot rise up, our foot/footstep which is {'in' / on the road to} the destination

Notes:

vaa-maa;Ndagii : 'The remaining or lagging behind (esp. from fatigue); -- openness, exposure'. (Platts p.1177)

 

qadam : 'The foot; sole of the foot; a foot's length; a footstep, step, pace; --a going before'. (Platts p.789)

Nazm:

In this verse it seems that to put ko in place of kaa is an error of the calligrapher [kaatib], and in this case the meaning is clear. But it wouldn't be strange if he had composed ko itself, because then the meaning will be a bit more elaborate. That is, fatigue has come to have a passion for my footstep, and doesn't release it so that I might go toward the desired destination. In the verse the author has intended by 'destination' the 'road to the destination'; the word 'in' proves this. That is, in the idiom, when people say it with 'in', they mean the 'road to the destination'; and when they say it with 'to', they mean the destination itself. And in the idiom of the Persian-speakers ((ishq means 'peace and acceptance' [salaam-o-niyaaz], and in that case ko is correct. That is, we accept fatigue, and thanks to it our footstep which is in the road cannot be lifted. (169)

== Nazm page 169

Bekhud Dihlavi:

Why would the troubles of the road be undertaken, and why would an inappropriate attempt be made? Fatigue has come to have a passion for us. That is, unsuccessfulness and non-attainment are in love with us. And when it has been proved that fatigue is absorbed in us, and we will never be able to reach the desired destination, then our every footstep has come to weigh hundreds of pounds. That is, our inner self has absolutely turned aside from going along the road. (225)

Bekhud Mohani:

vaamaa;Ndagii raa ((ishq ast [in Persian]= that is, I am a lover of fatigue, or fatigue is a lover.... We are madly in love with weakness and helplessness. Now our foot cannot be lifted to go further. Weakness and helplessness are in love with us. (302)

Arshi:

Compare {11,1}. (166)

FWP:

SETS == WORDPLAY
ROAD: {10,12}

Why can't our foot or footstep rise up? Two possible reasons seem to be proposed:

=Because it's already at the destination, since it is in love with laggingness and/or laggingness is in love with it, and only the place where the beloved is can be the lover's true destination; so that where 'laggingness' is, is where the foot should be.

=Because it's being detained on the road to the destination, by its love for laggingness and/or laggingness's love for it

As Nazm says, that ko is a wild card. In normal Urdu usage, alif ko be se ((ishq hai would mean that A loves B; on this reading, it is laggingness that loves our footstep. But especially in Persian, as Bekhud Mohani points out, it can work the other way, so that if ko is a translation of the Persian raa , it can suggest a usage in which B's love is directed toward A. Surely Ghalib means for us to consider both possibilities. Although a semi-personified 'Laggingness' would seem to be a peculiar lover, it is no stranger than many of Ghalib's other highly abstract personifications.

But the real complexities surely center on qadam . Since it comes from the Arabic root q-d-m , which means 'going before' (Platts p.789), it has its own enjoyable wordplay with 'lagging'. And its meanings include 'foot'-- something that would definitely be expected to rise up-- but also, through 'footstep', veer toward the idea of 'footprint'-- something that would never be expected to rise up, but would by definition always be 'lagging' or left behind.

This latter sense emerges clearly in {123,1}, in which the 'ground-kissing of the footstep' is part of the lover's literal collapse and prostration on the ground. Compare also {116,8}, in which the behavior of the footprint [naqsh-e paa] is a guide for the lover's own behavior. And this sense of 'footprint' becomes a perfect lover and/or beloved for 'laggingness' to have, since the two are inseparable by definition. Arshi cites {11,1}, another very abstract verse in which the footprint [naqsh-e qadam] is compared to a bubble.

So there we have it. One can assemble all the parts, and enjoy all the wordplay. But behind it there's not as rich a network of meanings as in his truly great verses. I don't consider this one as problematical as the previous one, {157,4}, but it's certainly far from the top of Ghalib's game. This one reminds me in fact of {8,2}, in its ostentatious metaphysicality with no real world of meaning behind it.

Compare the much more successful {190,1}.