Ghazal 190, Verse 5

{190,5}

a;sar-e aablah se jaadah-e .sa;hraa-e junuu;N
.suurat-e rishtah-e gauhar hai chiraa;Gaa;N mujh se

1) from the effect of blisters the path of the desert of madness
2) {like / in the form of} a string of pearls is {illumined / a light show} through me

Notes:

chiraa;Gaa;N : 'Lamps; lights; a display of lamps, a general illumination'. (Platts p.428)

Nazm:

From the blisters on my feet the road of the desert has become illumined like a string of pearls. The phrase 'the effect of blisters' is intended to mean that blood drips onto the road of the desert, which has made it a light-show and like a string of pearls. (212)

== Nazm page 212

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, 'In desert-wandering, the blisters on my feet have burst. Blood drips from them onto the road of the desert of madness. That road becomes a light-show like a string of pearls.' (272)

Bekhud Mohani:

The way in a string of pearls is found a state like that of a light-show, in the same way the road of the desert of madness too is becoming a light-show through the blood of my blisters. (373)

FWP:

SETS == GROTESQUERIE
MADNESS: {14,3}
ROAD: {10,12}

Well, here's an example of what I call 'grotesquerie'. As the mad lover wanders barefoot in the desert, his blistered feet are pierced by thorns. They then ooze drops of liquid so radiant that the road seems to have lamps placed along it, it seems almost to be a carefully planned illumination, some kind of a 'light-show' (for more on chiraa;Gaa;N , see {5,5}).

The commentators, one and all, firmly insist that the liquid in question is blood. But of course, in that case it wouldn't be appropriate to compare it pointedly to a 'string of pearls', which would be white rather than red. (Ghalib could have used rubies quite as easily.) It seems more probable that the reference would be to the clear serum or fluid with which blisters are often filled. For after all, it's hard to believe the verse would be imagining an infected blister full of whitish-yellow pus; that would surely be too grotesque even for the radically abstract world of the ghazal.

Ugh, you'll be saying, why does she have to go into such unappetizing detail? But of course that's exactly my point-- verses like this are not so effective, because we have trouble 'poeticizing' what to us (though maybe not to Ghalib) is a sort of yucky, 'too much information' vision of bursting blisters leaking fluid all along the road. Maybe, as S. R. Faruqi would gallantly maintain, the problem lies only with us moderns, or us Westernized types. Certainly there's nothing inherently problematical about blister imagery-- it forms part of a seamless continuum with burning hearts and bloody tears and so on. But there's something about the degree of detail that becomes off-putting in some cases-- though not in others. It's an intriguing case study in the poetics of audience response.