Ghazal 193, Verse 5


asad ;xvushii se mire haath paa;Nv phuul ga))e
kahaa jo us ne ;zaraa mere paa;Nv daab to de

1) Asad, my hands and feet swelled/expanded with happiness
2) when she said, 'just please press my feet a bit'


phuulnaa : 'To blossom, blow, flower; to bloom, flourish, to be in health and spirits; --to swell, be inflated, be puffed out; to swell out, to expand (with joy), to be pleased; to be puffed up (with pride, &c.)'. (Platts p.292)


[He discusses the uses of daabnaa versus dabaanaa .] And in this verse to is redundant [zaa))id]; by redundant is not meant that it's for padding [bhartii], but rather that in this situation to speak redundantly has entered into the idiom. (217)

== Nazm page 217

Bekhud Dihlavi:

The meaning is that the arrival of my hands at her feet is a proof that through good fortune the time of the fulfillment of longing has come. (276)

Bekhud Mohani:

The hands and feet 'swell/expand' with happiness at a time when some such thing would happen for which a person would feel a fierce longing, but for the fulfillment of which there would seem to be not even a possibility. (382)



This verse is a one-trick pony, but at least it's a nice trick. For one's 'hands and feet to swell' is, idiomatically, a sign of great happiness, and in the first line we take it in its usual metaphorical sense. In proper mushairah-verse style, the kicker is withheld until the last possible moment: only at the very end of the second line do we realize that what is making my own hands and feet swell, is the prospect of being able to press on her feet. Thus we have the two occurrences of 'feet', and above all the enjoyable opposition of 'to swell' versus 'to press down upon'. To touch one's hands to someone's feet is an expression of great submission and respect-- and the lover's desperate humility is such that he regards it as an amazing joy.

We non-South-Asians seem to go our whole lives without needing our feet pressed, but traditional South Asians are constantly performing this service on each other: younger people are supposed to do it to their elders as a sign of respect and affection, and rich people have servants do it for them. The pressee usually lies or reclines propped up on a bed, and the presser sits on the foot of the bed (if an intimate) or squats beside the bed (if a servant). The action is a kind of squeezing, pressing, and massaging of the feet, ankles, and legs below the knees. It feels nice, but probably you have to be a traditional South Asian to experience the full cultural flavor. Another foot-pressing verse: {121,3}.

On the double meaning of ;zaraa as both 'a little bit' and 'please', see {177,2}.

Here's an affectionately satirical print by William Taylor (1842), showing the morning routine of a typical East Indian Company 'civilian' (administrator) in Bengal. Amidst other preparations for the day, he's also having a kind of quick foot-pressing:

And here's a depiction by Francois Valentijn (Amsterdam 1726) of 'Nur Jahan, the Queen of Bijapur' having her feet pressed by a handmaiden: