Ghazal 189, Verse 10


;Gaafil un mah-:tal((ato;N ke vaas:te
chaahne-vaalaa bhii achchhaa chaahiye

1) oh heedless one, with regard to those moon-{like/faced} ones
2) even/also a good/beautiful desirer/lover is needed


:tal((at : 'Appearance, aspect, countenance, face'. (Platts p.753)


What-- with that face/aspect [.suurat], do you desire moon-like ones? The word chaahiye is, in the idiom of the people of Lucknow, used for plural and singular both, but in Delhi the idiom has now become itnii chiize;N chaahaahi))e;N . (211)

== Nazm page 211

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, 'Oh heedless one, for these moon-faced ones a desirer too ought to be beautiful and stylish'. (271)

Bekhud Mohani:

Oh foolish one, lovers of these beautiful ones too ought to be good/beautiful; not that every 'man in the street' [har kas-o-naa-kas] would begin to love/desire [them]: {158,6}. (370)


It is entirely clear that the beautiful ones [;xuub-.suurat] of the world are usually attractive and are drawn toward lovers. Who feels attraction for ugly ones [bad-.suurat]? According to Dagh :

daa;G kii shakl dekh kar bole
aisii .suurat ko pyaar kaun kare

[having seen Dagh's form, she said
who would love such a face/aspect?] (744)



This verse marks the end of a two-verse verse-set that includes {189,9-10}; for discussion, see {189,9}.

And in fact, it doesn't work at all well on its own; it really needs to be read in conjunction with {189,9}. It's true that it has the wordplay of chaahne-vaalaa and chaahiye , but by Ghalibian standards that's hardly exciting. The address to a 'heedless one' really only makes sense in the light of {189,9}.

The idea of the lover's (physical) unattractiveness, as humiliatingly and reprehensibly contrasted with the beloved's attractiveness, underlies this verse-set; it's not the only possible idea, but from the two verses taken together it emerges very markedly. I've found myself vexed by it, and have been thinking about it lot. I realized that I couldn't come up with any other classical ghazal verses in which the lover's physical unattractiveness was particularly invoked. Then I noticed that Chishti had come up with one by Dagh-- but that particular one simply reinforced my feeling that such a theme was aberrant, uninspiring, trifling, silly, vulgar. (Take a look at the verse and see if you don't agree.)

I asked myself if this feeling was just some kind of puritanism or strict traditionalism on my part. That's possible, of course, but I think I can also defend my view on what might be called ghazal-theoretical grounds. A concern over the lover's physical appearance has several disadvantages as a ghazal theme:

=Because one's appearance lends itself to remediation and endless fussing, such a theme risks turning the eager lover into an implied physical self-improver: a reader of beauty magazines, a buyer of cosmetics, a fashion maven, etc.; this way lies silliness and vulgarity. (See for example {18,4}.)

=Because this concern implies that the beloved is so cheaply won, so 'normal', that she can be put off by physical unattractiveness-- and, conversely, can presumably be won by a better appearance and physical facade. This is unworthy of the radically bitchy and/or inaccessible beloved whom we know so well.

=Because this concern would implicitly lead to the beloved's potentially loving the lover's beauty just as he loves hers, it creates a strong symmetry between the two, and thus 'normalizes' their relationship even further. It thus flies in the face of the radical-- and absolutely necessary-- inequality of lover and beloved in the ghazal world.

=Because only a human beloved would use such superficial criterion of judgment, it rules out the hovering possibility of a divine Beloved.

Thus I've been careful to bring out alternative possibilities. For {189,9}, it wasn't hard to do. But for this verse, I don't have all that much to work with. Perhaps the verse is speaking of an ideal world? Oh heedless, foolish lover, do you think that someone ordinary (not actively ugly, just normal-human) can ever win such a radiant beauty? She deserves nothing but the best! No wonder you can't get her attention. (Granted, this isn't very interesting, but it's something.)

If Ghalib wrote this kind of simplistic and unappealing verse very often, I'd be outta here. But then, as we all know, he doesn't.