Ghazal 192, Verse 3


hai shikastan se bhii dil naumiid yaa rab kab talak
aab-giinah koh par ((ar.z-e giraa;N-jaanii kare

1) the heart is hopeless even/also of breaking, oh Lord-- for how long
2) would a mirror/glass make a claim [of superiority] over a mountain in 'heavy-lifedness'?


aab-giinah : 'Lit. 'Possessed of lustre or clearness'; mirror, looking-glass; drinking-glass; bottle; --wine; diamond'. (Platts p.2)


giraa;N : 'Heavy, weighty, ponderous; great, important, momentous; difficult; burdensome, grievous;--precious, valuable; dear, expensive'. (Platts p.901)


'Mountain' is a metaphor for the harshness and intensity of grief, and he has given for the heart the simile of a glass. The word shikastan has made the verse clang: he takes into an Urdu construction other Persian words, but the use of a Persian verb is considered undesirable, and besides the late author's I haven't seen it in anyone else's work, whether poetry or prose. (216)

== Nazm page 216

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, 'How long will we sit and build castles in the air, from the longing that our stony-hearted beloved will one day or another break the glass of our heart with the stone of cruelty? We despair even about that-- that she would devote any attention to the breaking of our heart.' (275)

Bekhud Mohani:

giraa;N-jaanii = 'tough-lifedness' [sa;xt-jaanii] ...

How long will this glass, like a mountain, express its 'tough-lifedness'? The image for grief, with regard to intensity and harshness, is a mountain; and in comparison to it, the heart with regard to its delicacy is a glass.

The verse expresses a mystery of human nature: that although from the world's griefs and difficulties the delicate human heart endures the most extreme suffering, still for it to entirely despair is extremely difficult. From 'even' [bhii] the meaning emerges that it is not contented with the failure of a whole world-full of longings. It despairs even about becoming completely hopeless-- because from becoming hopeless, too, a kind of peace comes, because a person no longer remains restless in pursuit of a goal. (378)


MIRROR: {8,3}

In classic mushairah performance style, this verse withholds its punch-word until the last possible moment. The first line begins to ask a question that, with enjambement, is only answered in the second line. But even before we get the whole sense, the first line is confusing. For what does it mean to be hopeless 'of' or 'from' [se] breaking? That the heart longs to break, but is unable to do so? That the heart has already broken, but has found the results insufficient to its more radical death-wish? That the heart doesn't care whether it breaks or not, because it knows despairingly that it won't make any difference? We hope for some clarification in the second line; but we also suspect, this being Ghalib, that we may not get it-- and in this case we're right.

Even as the second line moves forward, only at the last moment, when we hear giraa;N-jaanii , do we suddenly get the full jolt. The verse is organized around the multivalent possibilities raised by that one superbly chosen compound word.

Although I've translated it as literally as possible as 'heavy-lifedness', the giraa;N in the phrase can also mean, by different kinds of intuitively plausible extensions, 'important', or 'grievous', or 'precious' (see the definition above). Each of these three senses is beautifully appropriate in the context, and each works elegantly, though of course differently, with the first line.

Most of Ghalib's mirrors are metal; for a glass one, see {16,2}. But the mirror in {16,2} is already broken, while the mirror in this verse seems almost provokingly reluctant to shatter as it ought to. Or if it's not a mirror, then it's a wine-glass or drinking-glass of some kind, and thus equally shatterable. (We have something of the same ambiguity in (older) English: a 'glass' can be a looking-glass, or else a drinking glass.)

At first glance, the question looks rhetorical: how long can a 'glass', the most fragile thing in the world, claim superiority in toughness, in unbreakableness, over a dense, invulnerable mountain? Not for a moment, of course: it would shatter instantly under stresses that the mountain would never even notice. And yet when we link the glass to the heart, it may claim superiority over the mountain not necessarily-- or not only-- in toughness, but in 'importance', or 'grievousness', or 'preciousness'. Thus the question may not be rhetorical at all, for the heart may indeed outrank the mountain by some of these criteria. In that case, the 'how long?' becomes a real question, to which the answer is uncertain; and so, as usual, Ghalib leaves us to chew on the question in our minds.

Moreover, if the heart is the 'glass', what is the 'mountain'? A brilliantly suggestive verse for comparison is the second one in the divan, {1,2}, which offers us not only the (implied) vision of a dark mountain, but also sa;xt-janiihaa , 'tough-lifednesses', which as Bekhud Mohani notes is a more extravagant (though less elegantly multivalent) cousin of giraa;N-jaanii .