Ghazal 172, Verse 5x


;xaak-e fur.sat bar sar-e ;zauq-e fanaa ai inti:zaar
hai ;Gubaar-e shiishah-e saa((at ram-e aahuu mujhe

1) the dust of the interval/occasion/leisure-- on the head of the relish of oblivion/death, oh Waiting!

2a) the sand/'dust' of the hour-glass is the flight/panic of a deer, to me
2b) the flight/panic of a deer is the sand/'dust' of an hour-glass, to me


;xaak : 'Dust, earth; ashes'. (Platts p.484)


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


;xaak ;Daalnaa : '(- par ), To throw dust (on); to bury, to conceal (an affair, or anything disgraceful); --to heap curses (on), to execrate'. (Platts p.485)


;zauq : 'Taste, enjoyment, delight, joy, pleasure, voluptuousness'. (Platts p.578)


fanaa : 'Vanishing, passing away, being ended and finished; being old, frail; annihilation, mortality; frailty, transientness, fleetingness'. (Steingass p.939)

;Gubaar : 'Dust; clouds of dust; a dust-storm;... impurity, foulness; (met.) vexation, soreness, ill-feeling, rancour, spite; affliction, grief; perplexity'. (Platts p.769)


shiishah-saa((at : 'An hour-glass'. (Platts p.740)


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


fur.sat = the interval of a lifetime; for it he has made 'dust' a metaphor, and he has put that dust on the head of the 'relish of death', since it is in no way [habitually] fulfilled. The point is the waiting-- the waiting for death-- and this very 'relish of death' is that same waiting for death. In this way, in other words, he has addressed 'Waiting'. Then he has called this 'relish of death' the flight/panic of a deer.

And the flight/panic of a deer is the sand of an hourglass because the sand of an hourglass keeps continually moving from here to there, its destination is never reached. In just the same way, the lifetime is passing in waiting for death (life is an interval absorbed in the flight/panic of a deer), but he does not die (the destination is not achieved).

== Zamin, p. 340

Gyan Chand:

On the portion of ground of the age/world, I am waiting for the relish of death/oblivion. In the hourglass, sand is passing from one chamber to the other for me with as much speed as dust that would be flung up by a fleeing deer. The swift passing of the sand is a sign of the swift passing of time-- that is, the lifetime. I am about to attain oblivion, the lifetime is swiftly becoming finished.

== Gyan Chand, p. 347



For background see S. R. Faruqi's choices. For more on Ghalib's unpublished verses, see the discussion in {4,8x}.

Strikingly, the first line contains no verb. Because of the generally extravagant and emotive associations of 'dust on the head', it's tempting to supply a subjunctive ('may dust be on the head!'); but a present is also possible ('dust is on the head'). Either way, the effect feels exclamatory and dramatic.

But what exactly does it mean to put 'dust on the head' of someone or something? In its literal meaning, it describes a widespread traditional ritual of mourning (to express the extremity of their grief, mourners tear their clothing, beat their breast, fling dust or ashes on their head, etc.). Then idiomatically it can also mean 'to heap curses on, to execrate' or 'to bury, to conceal' (see the definition of ;xaak ;Daalnaa above).

These varied meanings are augmented by the complex possibilities of both fur.sat and ;zauq (see the definitions above). And as if so many permutations weren't enough, both words are enmeshed in even more ambiguous i.zaafat phrases. We're offered the radical abstractness of the 'dust of the interval' [;xaak-e fur.sat] ('the dust that is the interval'? 'the dust that belongs to the interval'? 'the dust that results from the interval'?). Similar use is then made of the 'relish of oblivion' [;zauq-e fanaa] ('the relish for seeking oblivion'? 'the relish that is oblivion'? 'the relish that results from oblivion'?).

Having no choice, we must wait impatiently (and of course, under mushairah performance conditions, must wait as long as conveniently possible) for the second line to bring what we hope will be clarification.

As so often, the second line then starts completely afresh in its imagery. It also shows what I call 'symmetry'-- since it claims 'A is B', it equally claims that 'B is A', so that in a radically abstract verse like this we can't tell whether the line is really talking about an hourglass (through the metaphor of the flight/panic of a deer) or about the flight/panic of a deer (through the metaphor of an hourglass).

In either case, it seems safe to say that the verse is about the brevity of life and the imminence of death-- but how far beyond that very unhelpful level can we really go? Just to take the two most extreme cases, perhaps the verse expresses a radical eagerness and 'relish' for death, so that it curses, or grieves over, 'Waiting', and heaps scorn on the foolish 'interval' of one's lifetime, which misbehaves and runs madly along like the panic/flight of a deer. Or perhaps the verse expresses fear and horror at death (as for example does {7,2}), so that it curses any possible 'relish' for death by heaping on its head the pathetically scanty 'dust' of the interval of the lifetime; thus during the condemned person's helpless waiting, the hourglass seems to move with the madly fast rush of a panicky deer.

For another intriguing use of ram-e aahuu , see {172,4x}.

Compare {229,4}, another 'dust on the head' verse.