Ghazal 201, Verse 7

{201,7}*

u;Nhe;N savaal pah zu((m-e junuu;N hai kyuu;N la;Riye
hame;N javaab se qa:t((-e na:zar hai kyaa kahiye

1) she, at a question, has the assertion/assumption of madness-- why would you fight?
2) we, from the answer, have our eyes averted-- what can you say?

Notes:

zu((m : 'Asserting, assertion; thinking, presuming, speaking from belief; --self-assertion; presumption, assurance, arrogance; pride, vanity'. (Platts p.616)

 

qa:t((-e na:zar : 'Turning away the eyes, averting the regard or attention (from); leaving off attending (to) or considering; abstraction'. (Platts p.786)

Nazm:

By the 'assertion of madness' is meant that on hearing my question she says, 'you've gone mad'. And by 'averting the eyes' is meant, what reply would I give to her words? This theme is not the reason for the excellence of the verse; rather, the similarity of construction in both lines has created beauty in the verse. (225)

== Nazm page 225

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, that mischievous one, having cast a glance at me and my question, has considered, this person has gone mad, who asks me such a foolish question! And I have absolutely no hope of a reply; after the question I don't even long for her to graciously bestow on me an answer to my question. To whom else is it vouchsafed to make the two lines parallel [do-la;xt], with such construction, such trimness, such naturalness of speech? (283)

Bekhud Mohani:

The structure of both lines is similar; for this reason the verse seems pleasing. (395)

FWP:

SETS == IDIOMS; INEXPRESSIBILITY; PARALLELISM
MADNESS: {14,3}

The commentators point out the wonderful, unforced parallelism of structure between the two lines, and the idiomatic fluency with which they're put together. I'd only add that the kyuu;N la;Riye at the end of the first line, though it's grammatically a polite imperative, has a shrug-of-the-shoulders idiomatic effect like that of kyaa kahiye , in that it's a generalized expression, and it's not clear who might say it, or about whom. It can also be said about oneself. Thus the beloved might be saying to herself, 'he's a madman, why bother to quarrel with him?'; or of course she might say or think 'he's a madman', and he then thinks 'why quarrel with her?'.

And do we avert our eyes from any possibility of an answer (we're so sure we won't get one, that we've given up on it in advance)? Or do we avert our eyes from the particular answer she gives us, out of despairing self-preservation (since it's such a dire and discouraging one)? Or do we avert our eyes out of genuine indifference (since we're stubbornly determined to keep on loving her no matter what she says)? Or do we avert our eyes out of courtesy (since we're almost embarrassed for her sake at her hostile overreaction)? This ambiguity of tone is a classic Ghalibian effect.

It's the eyes we avert, rather than the ears, so perhaps we already know that we won't get an answer in words, but in some non-verbal way-- gestures, shows of indifference, nasty looks? Thus the 'what can you say?' at the end becomes all the more piquant, since it applies to an impossible response to an unexpressed, unsaid answer to a hopeless question. It's thus part of the semantic flow of the line, and also an expressive invocation of the 'inexpressibility trope'. As Bekhud Dihlavi says, who else but Ghalib can make all this look so easy?