Ghazal 183, Verse 8

{183,8}

dahan us kaa jo nah ma((luum hu))aa
khul ga))ii hech-madaanii merii

1) {when / since / in that} her mouth did not become apparent/'known'
2) my 'knowing-nothing-ness' was revealed/'opened'

Notes:

hech-madaan : 'Knowing nothing, perfectly ignorant; --an ignoramus'. (Platts p.1244)

Nazm:

Since the beloved's mouth is nonexistent/nothing [hech], the person who would not (?) know her mouth is a 'nothing-knower' [hech-madan]. (205)

== Nazm page 205

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, 'Her mouth is nonexistent/nothing [hech]. Thus it didn't become apparent to me, and I don't know it; and the one who would not know her mouth is a 'nothing-knower' [hech-madan]. Thus my 'knowing-nothing-ness' became apparent to everybody.' (266)

Bekhud Mohani:

When the beloved's mouth was not able to be known by me, then the secret of my 'know-nothing-ness' became apparent. (363)

Faruqi:

[See his comments on Mir's M{1039,1}.]

FWP:

SETS == WORDPLAY

This verse offers a spectacular display of paradox. If the speakerdoesn't know something as crucial and desirable as the beloved's mouth, then he is a hopeless 'know-nothing', an ignoramus, one who doesn't know what should be known. (This is the reading of the two Bekhuds and many other commentators.) On the multivalence of jo , see {12,2}.

In the ghazal world, the beloved's rosebud mouth is so exquisitely small that it's in fact nonexistent; on this 'beloved has no mouth' motif, see {91,4}. So that if the speaker indeed knows her mouth, which itself is 'nothing', then he is a 'know-nothing' in exactly the opposite sense: he is one who knows what is there to be known-- namely, that same 'nothing'. I think this is Nazm's reading, though in that case there's an error of calligraphy: the 'would not know' should really be 'would know', without the nah . (If this is not Nazm's reading, then I don't understand what Nazm is saying.)

There's also a lovely secondary word- and meaning-play with which most commentators content themselves: the juxtaposition of nah ma((luum honaa and khulnaa . This clever pairing exploits the fact that ma((luum honaa means not only for something to be 'known', but often, colloquially, for something to 'appear' or 'seem' or 'be apparent' (think of ma((luum hotaa hai kih ...). Whereas khulnaa means not only 'to open' but also 'to be revealed', 'to be apparent', 'to become known'. So the not-becoming-apparent of her mouth results in the becoming-apparent of the speaker's 'knowing-nothing-ness'. Which invites us to ask, apparent to whom? Are there observers present, who are testing or judging his degree of knowledge of her mouth?

And of course as a final flourish, khulnaa is something that a mouth does. Her mouth is so small, so ultimately 'closed', that it is invisible or nonexistent-- which caused the speaker's 'knowing-nothing-ness' to become 'open'. How he longed to see her mouth itself become 'open', for words or even for a kiss! Instead, the radical 'closedness' of her mouth was what 'opened' the knowledge of his own state. For more examples of extreme wordplay involving khulnaa , see {14}.