Ghazal 190, Verse 11x


bastan-e ((ahd-e mu;habbat hamah naa-daanii thaa
chashm-e nakshuudah rahaa ((uqdah-e paimaa;N mujh se

1) the binding/incurring of the vow/promise of love was wholly foolishness

2a) the unopened eye remained a knot of pledge/compact, through me
2b) the knot of pledge/compact remained an unopened eye, through me


bastan : 'To bind, shut, close up; to contract, get, acquire, incur; to congeal, coagulate, clot; to copulate, have sexual intercourse; to form seed-buds, to fructify'. (Steingass p.186)


kushuudah : 'Opened; open'. (Steingass p. 1034)


paimaan : 'Measuring; —agreement, compact, convention, treaty, stipulation, pledge, promise; security; confirmation; asseveration, oath'. (Platts p.301)


((uqdah : 'A knot, tie, bond... ; an entanglement, a complication; entangled things, perplexed affairs, confused words; a knotty problem; a secret, mystery, enigma'. (Platts p.763)

Gyan Chand:

chashm-nakshuudah : That person who, with his eyes closed, takes [baa;Ndhnaa] a vow of love with somebody. This was stupidity, because the knot of that vow remained like a closed eye-- it was never able to open, it was never able to be resolved. (364)


EYES {3,1}
VOWS: {20,2}

For background see S. R. Faruqi's choices.

In Urdu of course one 'ties' a vow [((ahd baa;Ndhnaa], which opens up all kinds of metaphoric possibilities of the vow's being loosely tied (as in {20,3}), or the vow's becoming a tangle, as in {8,2} (where other 'knot' verses are also discussed). Similarly in English we're 'bound' by a vow. In this verse Ghalib has adopted the Persian infinitive bastan , 'to bind', in place of baa;Ndhnaa . (How Nazm would have enjoyed complaining about this!)

People who do something foolish are of course exhorted, 'Open your eyes!', or scolded along the same lines: 'You went into this with your eyes closed!'. The eyeball is round like a knot. Eyes can be opened, and knots can be opened (in the sense of being opened out, loosened, untied). In this verse, the eye remained unopened, and the knot (of the vow) remained unopened. Whichever one is a metaphor for the other (or maybe it goes both ways?), the result is almost the same (as in the two readings of the second line). And of course with a closed eye it is, as Gyan Chand observes, impossible to open a 'closed' knot.

Thus we have a verse almost entirely of wordplay-- though as so often, meaning-play is inextricably present as well. How much does faithfulness depend on the 'closed eye' of ignorance, or on the even more tightly closed eye of a refusal to see?

Note for meter fans: It really ought to be naa-kushuudah ('non-opened'), parallel to naa-daan ('non-wise'), which might perhaps then be shortened to na-kushuudah . But in order the make the line scan, we must not only spell it as na-kushuudah , but also scan it as nak-shuu-dah . I don't care for this kind of thing, but naturally Ghalib gets to do as he pleases.

I also don't care for this comparably abstruse wordplay with eyes and knots by Mir: M{233,16}.