Ghazal 167, Verse 9


naale ((adam me;N chand hamaare supurd the
jo vaa;N nah khi;Nch sake so vuh yaa;N aa ke dam hu))e

1) in the realm of nonexistence, some laments were [in a state of having been] confided to us
2) those that couldn't get expressed/'drawn' there-- they, having come here, became breaths


khichnaa : 'To be drawn, dragged, or pulled, &c.;... to be drawn out, be extended, be stretched; to stretch; to be extracted'. (Platts p.872)


That is, to perform some laments had already been decreed for us from eternity. We were not able to 'draw' them there; having come here, we are drawing those very laments, and the coming and going of the breath is that very lament-drawing. From this verse it is also learned that as with Nasikh, in the author's language in response to jo it is necessary that there be a so . If you remove the so from the line, and instead of yaa;N read yahaa;N , the line remains metrical. And the author's rank is great-- the person who has practice [mashq] in the versifying of words, when he thinks about composing, such matters do not remain hidden from him.

Then though both forms are proper, in fact vahaa;N is more correct than vaa;N , and yahaa;N than yaa;N . If the author had rejected so , then there would also have been the advantage that in place of yaa;N , there could have been yahaa;N . But in order to bring in so , he chose to accept yaa;N as well. And the structure gives testimony that this action is deliberate. In this verse dam hu))e is not good, but the theme of the verse is extremely refined/subtle [la:tiif]. (186-87)

== Nazm page 186; Nazm page 187

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, we're predestined to ill-fortune. From all eternity, the responsibility of heaving laments had been bestowed on us. Those laments that didn't get 'drawn' there, remained-- having come into the world, they became breaths for me. The meaning is that neither were we happy in nonexistence, nor were we happy having come here. For us, even a breath has the power of a lament. (243)

Bekhud Mohani:

Oh heedless one, what you consider to be a breath-- the truth of its nature is that in nonexistence, some laments had been bestowed on us. Some I did there, those that remained have here been named 'breaths'. That is, our lamenting is not of today-- in nonexistence too this was our pursuit. That is, we are ill-fortuned forever. (326)



Like the previous verse, {167,8}, this one rests on a sort of semantic meaning-play and wordplay between two senses of the verb khichnaa (or khi;Nchnaa ), the intransitive of khe;Nchnaa , 'to draw'. One 'draws' a breath; fortunately we have the same idiom in English. But in Urdu one can also easily and colloquially 'draw', or 'draw out', a lament: utter it, sigh it, heave it, prolong it, drag it forth, etc.

And just as in the previous verse, it's up to us to make this connection: the verse gives us naalah khichnaa , and we ourselves pair it with dam khichnaa , and recognize the enjoyable subtleties thus created. In the wake of this equation come many other implications adduced by the commentators: that our every breath is a sigh, and so on.

There's also the elegant and suggestive affinity between dam and ((adam .

Note for grammar fans: Nazm's argument is petulant rather than persuasive. Ghalib's use of so in this verse cannot, and does not, prove that he considers it an indispensable complement to jo . {12,2} and {20,9} are only two of the many verses that use jo but not so . In fact, the majority of jo verses do not use so . Nazm must have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed (as my mother used to say) the day he wrote this commentary.