Ghazal 163, Verse 4


:zaahir hai kih ghabraa ke nah bhaage;Nge nakiire;N
haa;N mu;Nh se magar baadah-e doshiinah kii bo aa))e

1a) it's obvious-- won't the Recording Angels become flustered/agitated and run away?
1b) it's obvious that the Recording Angels won't become flustered/agitated and run away

2a) perhaps from my mouth, indeed, might come the smell of last night's wine
2b) but indeed-- from my mouth might come the smell of last night's wine!


ghabraanaa : 'To be confused, confounded, flurried, or flustered (by, or in consequence of, -se); to be perplexed, bewildered, or embarrassed (by); to be perturbed, disturbed in mind, agitated, disquieted, distracted; to be alarmed, scared, dismayed'. (Platts p.930)


baadah-e doshiinah , that is, wine drunk last night, which he had drunk before dying. Only by way of mischievousness he says that there is no device for escaping the interrogation of the two recording angels except this: that he should die having drunk wine, so that the two recording angels, averse to its smell, should leave without interrogating him.
==Urdu text: pp. 157-58 in Hali, Yadgar-e Ghalib


By way of a joke he's said they will run away [bhaage;Nge]; the meaning is that [more colloquially] they will run away [bhaag jaa))e;Nge]. And baadah-e doshiinah is the 'wine of last night'. In the idiom, people use bo , pronounced with an o , to mean 'bad smell' [badbuu]. The theme of a bad smell coming from the mouth was not worthy of being used in poetry. (176)

== Nazm page 176

Bekhud Mohani:

In a rakish humor he has said it, and has said something new. Munkar and Nakir and those two angels who, according to the Muslims' belief, come into the grave of every dead person and ask some questions. It's obvious-- how would Munkar and Nakir feel anxious and run away from my grave? But indeed-- there's one situation-- if from my mouth comes the smell of the wine drunk last night, then because they're pious, they'll become anxious and run away. If there's any situation for escaping from them, then this alone is it.

[In response to Nazm's criticism:] Mirza has said, along with 'smell', 'smell of last night's wine'. He hasn't spoken only of a smell from the mouth. But other elders have said not merely this much, but more as well. The late Shaikh Nasikh:

aap apne ((aib se vaaqif nahii;N hotaa ko))ii
jaise buu apne dahan kii aatii hai kam naak me;N

[no one is himself acquainted with his own fault
the way a smell from one's own mouth comes very little into the nose]

[Or:] That in the grave the Recording Angels wouldn't ask questions-- there's no other situation except that from our mouth would come the perfume of the wine of the divine presence [baadah-e alast]. That is, when they perceive that the perfume of the wine of the divine presence is still in our mouth, and that we've spent our whole life in divine intoxication, they'll say 'Why have we come? Let's go, there's no need to ask him anything'. (316)


WINE: {49,1}

How cleverly and amusingly Ghalib creates his effects! The first line offers us two very clear, very colloquial readings that are direct opposites of each other. He doesn't, in this verse, even deign to use any of the interrogatives like kyaa that are so conducive to such effects. If we take the first line as one short exclamation followed by a question (1a), we have the Recording Angels probably fleeing; if we take it as one long single sentence (1b) we have them definitely not fleeing.

Then in the second line, the creative use of magar (along with the colloquially exclamatory 'indeed!' [haa;N]) also generates two senses. If we take it as 'perhaps', we have a kind of embarrassed, vaguely apologetic recognition (2a) that one might have bad breath; if we take it as 'but' (2b), we are presenting the information with a flourish, connecting it in some strong logical or other way with the first line.

It seems to me that in this classic 'A,B' verse, all of the four permutations work:

=(1a) plus (2a): Oh how embarrassing, I must have made a social gaffe with my bad wine-breath and offended the Recording Angels-- naturally they've run off.

=(1a) plus (2b): I have a great plan for running off the Recording Angels! It's obvious that this will chase them off: I'll just arrange for my mouth to smell of wine.

=(1b) plus (2a): The Recording Angels are tough and determined, nothing will discourage them-- not even if, indeed, my breath smells of wine.

=(1b) plus (2b): The Recording Angels are tough and determined, nothing will discourage them! But wait-- there's one last hope-- what if my mouth might smell of wine?

Among these alternatives, the second and fourth (which the commentators prefer), have the additional enjoyable feature that the plan requires the speaker to drink wine every night as a precaution, so that in case he dies suddenly, he'll be prepared!