Ghazal 166, Verse 7x


asad juz aab ba;xshiidan z daryaa ;xi.zr ko kyaa thaa
;Dubotaa chashmah-e ;haivaa;N me;N gar kishtii sikandar kii

1) Asad, except for bestowing water from the river, what was it to Khizr
2) if he had sunk in the Fountain of Life, Alexander's {begging-bowl / boat}?


ba;xshiidan : 'To give, grant, bestow; to remit; to pardon, forgive, spare'. (Steingass p.160)


;Duubnaa (of which ;Dubonaa is the causative): 'To dive; to sink, drown, be drowned; to drown oneself; to be immersed, be submerged, inundated, deluged, or flooded; to be lost, be sacrificed (as capital, reputation, &c.); to be destroyed, be ruined; to sink, go down, set (as the sun); to sink, faint (as the heart); to be absorbed, be engrossed, be lost'. (Platts p.568)


kishtii : 'A ship, vessel, bark, boat, ark, canoe, skiff; a tray; a beggar's plate or pot (so called from its boat-like shape)


Oh Asad, except for the expenditure of a little water from the river, what harm would it have done to Khizr if he had sunk/drowned Alexander's boat in the Fountain of Life? That is, when he had to sink the boat itself, he could have sunk it in the Fountain of Life. Here too in the word kishtii there's an iihaam -like pleasure.

== Asi, p. 225


That is, what would Khizr have lost, except for a begging-bowl [kashkol] of water that he would have given to Alexander?

Here too a childlike taste is apparent, such that because of the river he brought in the word kishtii , and then sunk that kishtii in the river, and didn't understand that a king like Alexander could hardly have any connection with a begging-bowl! If he had not had his eye on verbal wordplay, then he could have said, bujhaataa tishnagii gar aab-e ;haivaa;N se sikandar kii [if he had quenched Alexander's thirst with the Water of Life]. Then, the construction aab ba;xshiidan too is based on this love of exoticness [;Guraabat-pasandii] that was Ghalib's 'hobby' in his early years.

== Zamin, p. 335

Gyan Chand:

kishtii ;Dubonaa = to destroy someone, to make someone fail in his purpose. Two meanings are possible for the verse.

(1) If Khizr took Alexander to the source of the Water of Life, then what real courage did he show? If, having arrived there, Alexander had also been destroyed, and had also been drowned, then Khizr would only have needed to bestow on Alexander some water from the river of the Water of Life, and he would have come to life again.

(2) When Khizr sank Alexander's boat, then why didn't he sink it in the Water of Life? From out of that river only a little bit of water would have been necessary to sink the boat.

== Gyan Chand, p. 343



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, here is a textbook case of a mushairah verse based on an elegant little example of wordplay. In the usual mushairah-verse style, the first line is tantalizing but incomplete, leaving us to wait in suspense until (after a suitable delay) we are permitted to hear the second line. Even then, the verse remains quite uninterpretable we hear the last words. With kishtii sikandar kii , suddenly the whole verse, with both its enjoyable possibilities, bursts upon us at once-- along with the strong closural effect of the rhyming elements. How could the audience have failed to be delighted?

Asi finds in the work kishtii 'an iihaam -like pleasure', and quite rightly-- as long as we understand the term a bit more loosely than Mir does. For the verse activates both meanings of kishtii (see the definition above), 'boat' and 'begging-bowl'. When in the second line we first hear ;Dubotaa , then when we hear kishtii we can hardly fail to think of Khizr as possibly 'sinking the boat' of Alexander-- especially in view of the idiom noted by Gyan Chand.

But then, where is the 'connection' with the first line? The idea of 'bestowing water from the river' resonates only with the meaning of kishtii as 'begging-bowl'. (And in fact that Persianized ba;xshiidan has given rise to the modern ba;xshiish .) So, with a most enjoyable cleverness, the verse is knotted together by the two senses, both fully operative, of kishtii . For other such tours de force of 'double activation', see {120,3}.

It's thus impossible to tell whether the reproach levelled against Khizr is that he didn't kindly let Alexander fill his begging-bowl from the river, or that he didn't just hostilely 'sink his boat' and get rid of him entirely. It's also impossible to tell whether 'the river' is the same as 'the Fountain of Life' (on this concept see {49,6}), or a different body of water entirely. So as usual, Ghalib has left us with more to chew on than simply some clever wordplay.

Zamin here not only takes a 'natural poetry' line, disdaining such spectacular wordplay, but actually rewrites the line to show Ghalib how much better-- or rather, how much flatter and more limited-- it could have been. He must be channeling my old friend, the commentator Shadan.