Ghazal 165, Verse 5x


asad ko boriye me;N dhar ke phuu;Nkaa mauj-e hastii ne
faqiirii me;N bhii baaqii hai sharaarat nau-javaanii kii

1) having placed Asad in a reed-mat, the wave of existence blew on him
2) even/also in faqir-ness, there remains the mischievousness of youth


phuu;Nknaa : 'To blow, blow on (with the breath); to puff; to blow (a wind instrument); to blow up (fire, &c.); to set on fire, inflame, kindle; to blow or breathe a charm or incantation'. (Platts p.293)


faqiirii : 'Poverty, beggary; humility; the life of a religious mendicant, mendicity; the life of a dervish'. (Platts p.783)


The wave of existence placed Asad in a reed-mat and blew on him. In this verse the wave of existence has been, with regard to its wave, a reed-mat. That is, Asad's own existence has ruined and destroyed him; for this reason it has a similitude with the wave of existence. Thus because of the reed-mat too, Asad can be called a faqir. But the wave of existence's blowing in this way tells us that in it there's still the mischievousness of youth. Between 'mischief' and 'blowing' [=inflaming, kindling] there is, because of mischief, an affinity of word and meaning. The mischievousness of youth is the burning of passion.

== Asi, p. 224


The simile of the reed-mat for the wave of existence is successful, but after death the wave of existence wrapped him in a reed-mat and blew on him-- considering him alive? Then, how did the wave of existence blow on him without a fire? Then, after death, when it blew, why did faqir-ness become necessary for death? And when considering him alive it blew on him, even then, what special relationship is there between faqir-ness and youth? In short, this verse too is meaningless, and was rightfully overlooked [for the divan].

== Zamin, p. 333

Gyan Chand:

Faqirs keep with them, for bedding, a reed-mat. Asad is in such a state of house-wreckedness that he burned up along with the reed-mat, and died. A childish game is that children enjoy making a heap of paper, or twigs and straw, and setting fire to it. Even/also in faqir-ness, Asad did this very mischief, although in it he too was compelled to burn. The body can be declared to be a kind of reed-mat. In this way, at the hands of the wave of existence, for the body to burn is to burn wrapped in the reed-mat of the body. Between the reed-mat and the wave of existence, the shared quality is the wave.

== Gyan Chand, p. 342



For background see S. R. Faruqi's choices. This verse is NOT one of his choices; I thought it was interesting and have added it myself. For more on Ghalib's unpublished verses, see the discussion in {4,8x}.

Well, on this one there's obviously no consensus among the commentators. Zamin is right to ask what special relationship there is between faqir-ness and youth (such that it would justify the bhii ). I myself like the idea of reading phuu;Nknaa as 'to blow or breathe a charm or incantation' (see the definition above). The wave of existence wrapped Asad in the reed-mat (=body?) of a faqir (on reed-mats see {10,3}), but it also blew over him a blessing or a magic spell, the effect of which was that 'even/also in faqir-ness, there remains the mischievousness of youth'. Asad may be a faqir, but he's no ordinary one-- he's exceptionally lively, wickedly mischievous, young. (If we accept the traditional birth-date of 1897, the poet may have been in his late teens when he composed this verse.)

Even if the imagery doesn't come together perfectly, it's so vividly unusual, and and so provocatively framed, that the verse invites us to chew on it. There's always the hope of finding that Ghalibian 'aha!' moment. It feels as though there's some cultural practice or ritual or game that the verse is evoking, and we just don't know what it is.