Ghazal 176, Verse 7

{176,7}

qasam janaaze pah aane kii mere khaate hai;N ;Gaalib
hameshah khaate the jo merii jaan kii qasam aage

1) she makes a vow against/of coming with my funeral-procession, Ghalib--
2) she who always used to make vows by my life, formerly

Notes:

Nazm:

Once [yaa], such love that she always used to swear by my life; now [yaa], such hatred/contempt that she refuses to come with my funeral procession. (198)

== Nazm page 198

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, once [yaa] there was love and oneness to such an extent that she always used to swear by my life; now [yaa] such hatred/contempt has arisen that a clear refusal is made even of coming to with my funeral procession. (256)

Bekhud Mohani:

Here, 'takes an oath' has two meanings: (1) Now we will never come during your lifetime. (2) We won't even come on your funeral procession. (348)

FWP:

SETS
VOWS: {20,2}

This is one of a set of verses based on idiomatic wordplay involving qasam (for the whole list, see {89,3}). Both lines are based on the nuances of this single word.

The first line entertains us with a certain kind of idiomatic ambiguity that Ghalib has explored elsewhere as well: the fact that to take an oath 'of' [kii] something, or of doing something, can have two senses. It can mean to swear not to do something (that is, to 'swear off' it). But it can also mean to swear to do something. Here, the beloved may have taken an oath not to come with the lover's funeral procession, in order to show her rejection of him, as the commentators say. But her oath may also have been something like 'I'll dance on your grave!', meaning that she vows to outlive him, to hasten or even contrive his death, and to celebrate that happy event by taking part in his funeral procession.

Under mushairah performance conditions, we're given a good long time to enjoy the witty back-and-forth ambiguities of this first line before we get to hear the second line. And once we do-- the mood changes immediately. For in the idiomatic uses of qasam , if there's no verb involved, but only a person or thing, then the effect is to invoke that thing as a symbol of extreme value (to 'swear by' it), in order to solemnize an oath in the most impressive manner possible. She used to 'swear by' the lover's life, as her dearest possession. What bleakness, what pathos, in the degree of the change from then to now! Our mental pleasure has suddenly been undercut by a reminder of the most intense emotional love, hatred, and suffering.

For more examples of such cleverly multivalent uses of qasam , see {123,6} and also {170,7}. Both are light-hearted, witty, and amusing, without the sudden bleak reversal that we see here.