Ghazal 201, Verse 9

{201,9}*

kahaa hai kis ne kih ;Gaalib buraa nahii;N lekin
sivaa-e is ke kih aashuftah-sar hai kyaa kahiye

1a) who has said that Ghalib's not bad, but
2) except for this: that he's disordered in the head-- what can you say?!

Notes:

lekin : 'But, but still, on the other hand, however, notwithstanding, nevertheless, yet'. (Platts p.975)

Nazm:

That is, if he wouldn't be mad, then what can be said about him at all? [Discussion of the Arabic word sivaa being used with a Persian i.zaafat and also an Indic ke , and the nuances of this in terms of Urdu idiom.] (226)

== Nazm page 226

Bekhud Dihlavi:

The reference of 'who' is toward the beloved. He says, she's said that Ghalib is not a bad man, but it's a pity that he's mad, and about it/him what can be said. (284)

Bekhud Mohani:

Some friend of the beloved's has said something to her about Ghalib. At this she has gotten angry, and the gentleman friend has seen her altered mood and turned the direction of the conversation: 'I didn't say that Ghalib is not bad-- I said that he's a madman, so what can be said about him?' (396)

FWP:

SETS == DIALOGUE; EXCLAMATION, IDIOMS

It's clear that the commentators-- these and others-- can't agree on who's saying what to whom. Which isn't surprising, is it? Ghalib has obviously rigged the verse that way. I can't figure out any one clear reading either. Here are some of the possibilities:

=Who has said, 'Ghalib's not bad, but except for the fact that he's disordered in the head, what can you say?'

=Who has said, 'Ghalib's not bad'? But except for for the fact that he's disordered in the head, what can anybody say?

=Who has said, 'Ghalib's not bad'? But except for for saying 'He's disordered in the head', what can anybody say?

=Who has said, 'Ghalib's not bad'? [He is bad, of course.] But except for the fact that he's disordered in the head-- he's indescribable [in his excellence]! ( kyaa kahiye , like kyaa baat hai , can also be used for the indescribability trope.)

If you see actual quotation marks in an edition of the divan, remember that they're only those of some modern editor trying to 'help' you by ruling out all readings other than his own. Ghalib would never have been so destructive of his own multivalence. But no matter how we choose to parse the implicit quotation marks, one clear and excellent feature remains: the interaction of kyaa kahiye with every one of the possibilities is jaunty, idiomatic, clever, amusing, and absolutely appropriate.

For another treatment of the 'disordered head', see {159,7}. (Isn't it a pity that our 'scatterbrained', which is almost a literal translation, doesn't have the same meaning?) For another multivalent use of kyaa kahiye , see {209,1}.