Ghazal 172, Verse 4x


baa((i;s-e vaa-maa;Ndagii hai ((umr-e fur.sat-juu mujhe
kar diyaa hai paa bah zanjiir-e ram-e aahuu mujhe

1) a cause of lagging/fatigue is the {freedom/opportunity/respite}-seeking lifetime, to me
2) it has made me {fettered / 'foot-chained'} to the flight/panic of a deer


vaa-maa;Ndagii : The remaining or lagging behind (esp. from fatigue); --openness; exposure'. (Platts p.1177)


fur.sat : 'A time, opportunity, occasion; freedom (from), leisure; convenience; relief, recovery; respite, reprieve; rest, ease'. (Platts p.779)


paa bah zanjiir : 'Fettered, in chains'. (Platts p.213)


ram : 'Terror, scare; flight, elopement; concealment'. (Platts p.598)

Gyan Chand:

As though if someone would be chained to some fleeing deer, then he too would keep on swiftly running in flight. My lifetime too in this way keeps on flying along swiftly away. I need some respite from it, some moments of peace; from its speed I'm becoming tired. Perhaps the lifetime, running swiftly, is seeking some rest at a stopping-place (347)


BONDAGE: {1,5}

For background see S. R. Faruqi's choices.

'Lagging' or 'fatigue' results in reproach and shame, as in {35,4}. And what has caused the speaker to incur this blame is his very 'lifetime' itself, which is fur.sat-juu -- which seeks 'opportunity', 'freedom', 'respite', 'rest' (see the definition above). Thus there seems to be a division of interests between the speaker, who wants to avoid either 'lagging' or 'fatigue', and his own 'lifetime' with its very different set of priorities. We are left intrigued, waiting impatiently for the suitably (under mushairah performance conditions) delayed recitation of the second line.

The second line is astonishing in its power; it also has a famous English literary counterpart. In 'Sailing to Byzantium' Yeats addresses 'sages standing in God's holy fire', and urges them to

Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

That 'fastened to a dying animal'-- how can it fail to echo in the imagination? In the second line of the present verse the speaker complains of being chained to a panicky, madly-fleeing deer-- or rather, literally, to the 'flight' and/or 'panic' (see the definition above) of a deer. A deer is always instinctively alert, always looking and sniffing around, always seeking food but also always poised to flee from the possible approach of death. To be chained to the flight/panic of a deer means that the speaker is carried along in a deer's headlong flight from death, and afflicted with a deer's panicky hunger for life. This is what the speaker deplores-- but why exactly does he deplore it?

One possibility is the intuitively obvious one: that the speaker wants to move more slowly, while the 'lifetime' is always madly dashing off in one direction or another, dragging him helplessly along. The 'lifetime' dashes around like a panicky deer, leaving the speaker, helplessly carried along, subject to 'fatigue'. No doubt he'd rather stop and smell the flowers, or think about the nature of life-- but the mad rush of his 'lifetime' denies him the smallest chance to do so-- or even to catch his breath. (It may seem paradoxical that the lifetime's mad rush toward 'leisure' would deprive the speaker of leisure, but fur.sat has a wider range of possibilities than does its usual English translation.)

There's also, however, another possibility: that the speaker wants to move even faster than the panic-flight of a deer, or in a different direction. The reason he can't do so is that his human 'lifetime' has chained him to the natural universe, the natural struggle for survival-- and even one of the fastest examples of this process, the panic-flight of a deer, is too slow (or is misdirected) compared to the movement that the speaker has in mind. That's why he complains of 'lagging' in what must surely be a mystical journey or some other kind of transcendent pursuit. In most ghazal verses the little human lifetime passes like lightning (see {148,6} for an example), but in this verse the lifetime seems almost to be dilatory, as it dashes off in wrong directions, or desperately looks for excuses to take side excursions.

There's also an enjoyable wordplay between the 'openness' that's a tertiary meaning of vaa-maa;Ndagii , and the 'concealment' that's a tertiary meaning of ram .

For another intriguing use of ram-e aahuu , see {172,5x}. The fact that Ghalib repeats a conspicuous rhyme-word phrase like this shows once again that unlike some later critics, he wasn't at all averse to the repetition of rhyme-words within a single ghazal.