Ghazal 160, Verse 4


de ke ;xa:t mu;Nh dekhtaa hai naamah-bar
kuchh to pai;Gaam-e zabaanii aur hai

1) having given the letter, the Messenger watches the face/mouth

2a) there is some oral message that is more/other
2b) is there some oral message that is more/other?
2c) an oral message is, after all, somewhat more/other!



That is, she has spoken and sent some abuses as well, which the Messenger hesitates to repeat. (172)

== Nazm page 172

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, 'The Messenger gave her letter to me, but from looking at his face it is clear that she has sent some message orally as well, and it is such that in repeating it the Messenger's tongue is unwilling to move.' It seems that she's sent some abuses along with the letter. Mirza Sahib's mischievousness and humor certainly shows its gleams in every ghazal. (229-30)

Bekhud Mohani:

It can also be that after the secret of love becoming revealed, the lover insistently sends a letter to the beloved expressing his love, and in the letter he writes, 'Come to us, we are restless'. And from this the lover's disgrace or pain or murder is intended. (307-08)


SPEAKING: {14,4}
WRITING: {7,3}

This is another one of those little Ghalibian delights, so irreducibly simple and yet so juicy with multiple possibilities. The Messenger has just delivered the letter. Now he is watching the recipient's face (or more literally, and perhaps more relevantly, 'mouth')-- and why? Perhaps because he's preparing to announce that an extra oral message has been sent along with the letter-- one which is 'more' or 'other'. Or perhaps because the oral message he's about to deliver is dire and dreadful in some way, and he hesitates to inflict it without preparation-- it's a message that is 'something else'. Or perhaps because he expects the recipient of the letter to reply with an oral message, and is waiting to hear what it might be.

And then, of course, the obvious question: who is the sender, and who the recipient? The verse carefully doesn't tell us, and it carefully arranges the ambiguities so that the Messenger could be looking at the face of either lover or beloved, and conveying (or preparing to convey) a message from either one of them to the other.

Moreover, the clever grammar of the second line means that it can be read as (2a) something observed or believed by the Messenger about the immediate situation; or (2b) something about the immediate situation that makes the Messenger uncertain; or (3) a general reflection by the poet, the lover, or the Messenger, about the special, unique nature of oral messages (2c).

The Messenger hands over the letter, and then just stands there, watching the recipient's face. It's as instantly ominous as the phone ringing in the middle of the night. This simple-looking little verse generates huge waves of suggestiveness-- it harnesses the power of implication, which means that it can draw its high-octane fuel right out of our imagination.