Ghazal 174, Verse 4


be-:talab de;N to mazah us me;N sivaa miltaa hai
vuh gadaa jis ko nah ho ;xuu-e savaal achchhaa hai

1) if they/he/she/we would give without a request, then in it extra pleasure is obtained
2) that beggar who would not have a nature/habit of asking is good


sivaa : 'Besides, other than, over and above, further than'. (Platts p.690)


;xuu : 'Nature, disposition, temper; habit, custom; way, manner'. (Platts p.494)


Among the Delhi nobility there was one gentleman who was a very close friend of Mirza's, and who had become very badly off after the Rebellion. One day, wearing a [cheap] chintz quilted cloak [far;Gul], he came to visit Mirza. Mirza had seen him wear only Kashmiri lamb's-wool or embroidered, etc., robes [chu;Gah], never such low-class garments. When he saw the chintz cloak on his [friend's] body, his heart filled [with compassion]. He asked him, 'Where did you get this chintz? Its style pleases me extremely much; please order some chintz, for a cloak to be made for myself as well.' He [=the friend] said, 'This cloak has been made and sent to me only today, and this is the only time I've worn it. If it pleases you, then it's at your service [as a gift].' Mirza said, 'This is exactly what my heart desires-- that I would snatch it away from you and put it on right now! But it's very cold outside, what will you wear to go from here to your house?' Then he looked around here and there. He took down his own new Kashmiri lamb's-wool robe from a peg and put it on him. And so beautifully he presented this robe to him.
==Urdu text: p. 63 in Hali, Yadgar-e Ghalib


In the ghazal and ode one should keep in mind that after the opening-verse no such similarity would be created as has come about in this verse of the author's, such that someone who had not heard other verses would consider it an opening-verse. That is, miltaa and achchhaa -- these two words seem to be rhymes, and hai the refrain . The person who has a correct taste will certainly recognize that from it looseness is created in the construction of the verse, since after the opening-verse the rule is that both lines should be different. Undoubtedly, with regard to the ground this verse has sufficient difference, but if there were not even as much similarity as it has, then it would be better. The meaning of the verse is clear: that if something is given when it's asked for, then what good is that-- whatever is in one's fate, that will certainly be obtained. If something is given without being asked for, then what a thing [kyaa puuchhnaa]-- how happy the heart becomes-- how well he has expressed contempt for the asking! (195)

== Nazm page 195

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, the bitterness of asking spoils the taste of the sweetness of bestowing. The thing that would be bestowed without being sought-- its pleasure is inexpressible. That beggar whose habit would not be of asking, is good. In this verse the 'seating' of the refrain has been done so masterfully that it's impossible to praise it enough. (252)

Bekhud Mohani:

That thing that would be acquired without asking-- the one who gets is obtains more pleasure. That Faqir is good who would not wish to ask. [Or:] That giver is good who would not wait to be asked, that Faqir is good who would not ask. (341)



The first line is arranged for maximum ambiguity. Who is doing the giving? The masculine plural subjunctive is as broad as possible: it could go with 'they', with 'you', with 'we' (which of course is often used for 'I'), or with 'he' or 'she' as applied to someone receiving the plural of respect.

Nor does the first line tell us who would receive the 'extra' pleasure, the giver or the recipient (or possibly both).

And depending on how we interpret the subject in the first line, the second line can be either a thought or observation by that same subject, or else part of a two-line reflection provided by an unspecified speaker.

What with all these quibbles, nuances, and fastidious refinements, the tone of the verse becomes amusingly aristocratic. We are at several removes from the idea of begging in order to get food to satisfy real hunger-- that would be commonplace and vulgar. In this verse begging is a kind of esthetic as well as moral experience, and is being evaluated as such. It is almost an art form: both giver and receiver should perform with grace and sophistication, in order to maximize their pleasure.

Of course, the risk is always quite clear: the beggar who doesn't ask is very likely to receive nothing, so in what sense is he a 'good' beggar? Perhaps only in the eyes of the selfish potential giver, who is then not harassed or importuned?

Note for fans of ghazal technicalities: Nazm's complaint is that this verse could be taken as a kind of 'false opening-verse'; it could confuse the person who saw it in isolation into thinking that it came from a ghazal with a rhyme of aa and a refrain of hai . (By contrast, a second 'true' opening-verse is quite permissible, and is a flashy sign of extra virtuosity.) But really, how much of a problem is that? Who even notices such small details? I'm not sure that anybody cared even then, except for people with a serious commitment to nit-picking.

Compare Mir's equally brilliant use of a very similar theme: M{1337,1}