Ghazal 203, Verse 2


hai kushaad-e ;xaa:tir-e vaa-bastah dar rahn-e su;xan
thaa :tilism-e qufl-e abjad ;xaanah-e maktab mujhe

1) the expansiveness/'opening' of the restrained/'bound' temperament is under the pledge of speech/poetry

2a) the enchanted-world of a combination lock was a school-room, to me
2b) the school-room was the enchanted-world of a combination lock, to me


kushaad : 'Opening, loosening, untying; expansion; cheerfulness'. (Platts p.835)


vaa-bastah : 'Bound; restrained; --referred back (to); related, connected (with), depending (on)'. (Platts p.1171)


dar : 'In, into, within, among; on, upon; per; at, near, close by; under; of, concerning, about'. (Platts p.508)


rahn : 'Pledging, pawning; a thing deposited as a pledge, a pledge, a pawn'. (Platts p.610)


He says, it's as if my school was the enchantment of a combination lock, or a factory in which combination locks are cast, so that in my heart, from the effect of that school, a combination-lock chamber has grown up. Thus it always remains closed, and if it ever opens, then it's through poetry. The way when the letters of the setting of a combination lock are dialed it successfully clicks and opens, and until that is done the lock remains closed....

In the structure too of this verse Persianness has disproportionately prevailed; the i.zaafat constructions don't seem so bad, but the one word dar has greatly intruded into the simplicity of the verse. But one excuse on the author's side is well warranted: that Persianness had become so prevailing [;Gaalib] over him that he no longer distinguished between Urdu and Persian. (228)

== Nazm page 228

Bekhud Dihlavi:

That is, at the time of composing a verse, or at the time of hearing a good verse, the bud of my temperament opens into flower. (286)

Bekhud Mohani:

The happiness of my sad heart depends on poetry. Because for me, even the school was the enchantment of a combination lock. That is, even in childhood, when I wasn't absorbed in poetry and composition, my heart never used to open out. (402)


The meaning of the first line can also be that we have pledged/pawned the 'opening of the bound temperament' in order to obtain poetry. That is, we only obtained poetry when we had sacrificed the 'opening of the bound temperament' and the repose of the heart. That is, because of poetry we have obtained mental sadness and melancholy of heart.

Now the meaning of the second line becomes, that to me the school-room was the enchanted-world of a combination lock. That is, in school there were no doubt letters and speech, but they were like a combination lock, and a combination lock is like an enchanted-world, since it can't be opened by every individual. For this, the 'conqueror of the enchanted-world' is needed. Thus the letters and speech that I obtained in school could not result in the opening of my temperament. I wasn't able to become the 'conqueror of the enchanted-world'. If the combination lock had opened, then I would have succeeded. That was not able to happen, and now by means of poetry, that is by using letters and speech, I am expressing my knowledge. That is, the thing that I didn't obtain is exactly what I am using. I am compelled to pay for it by washing my hands of the 'opening of the temperament'....

The word dar [in its other sense of 'door, gate'] is a wonder, because it is a word of .zil((a with 'opening', 'bound', 'lock', and 'room'.... He's composed an uncommon verse.

== (1989: 324-25) [2006: 352-54]



This is the kind of verse I call a 'generator', because it can be put together in such a remarkable number of very different ways. Here are some of the main ones for the first line:

=The happiness of a suitable, pre-destinedly 'bound, connected' poetic temperament depends upon its being pledged to poetry.

=The happiness of a melancholy, 'bound' and constrained ,temperament depends upon its being pledged to poetry.

=The melancholy temperament's (chance of) happiness has been, in my case, pledged or pawned for the sake of poetry (and thus lost to me).

And for the second line:

=The enchanted-world of the combination lock was a school-room to me, because it taught me a positive lesson: that the right set of letters and words can achieve a sudden, powerful, magic effect.

=The enchanted-world of the combination lock was a school-room to me, because it taught me a negative lesson: that in the very act of successful operation the instant result is separation and isolation of the formerly united parts of the lock (as in {48,2}).

=The school-room was the enchanted-world of a combination lock to me, because it taught me a positive lesson: that one who learns the right set of letters and words can achieve a 'magic' poetic effect.

=The school-room was the enchanted-world of a combination lock to me, because it taught me a negative lesson: that no amount of learning of mere letters and words can succeed unless one somehow has special 'magic' access to the predestined opening formula.

All these excellent and fascinating ambiguities-- and more besides, if you care to generate some-- are created by the juxtaposition of a number of extremely suggestive metaphorical words: 'pledged', 'poetry', 'enchanted-world', 'combination lock', 'school-room'. Each of these words has nuances and associations that spin out in a number of possible directions, from the very cheerful and affirmative to the entirely bleak and negative (see the definitions above).

Moreover, they're joined by the vaguest and most minimal grammatical links: 'is', 'was', dar , and a few i.zaafat constructions. In the second line in particular, 'A was the B of C' (or equally 'the B of C was A') can go in so many directions! And as so often, needless to say, we're left to decide for ourselves exactly how the two lines are to be connected to each other. Additionally, the 'to me' suggests the further qualification that the speaker might be totally wrong about everything, and all these notions were simply generated by his madness or despair.

As Faruqi observes, the wordplay (and meaning-play too of course) in this verse is also astonishing. He makes the point about the multiply appropriate double meaning of dar as 'door, gate'. Then, we have the 'opening' [kushaad] of a 'bound' [vaa-bastah] temperament (and the vaa in vaa-bastah , if taken in isolation, means 'open'). We have an 'enchanted-world' [:tilism] (translated this way to avoid the ambiguities of the English word 'enchantment') that is, in the stories of Amir Hamzah and other such dastans, very difficult to 'open' and enter-- and all but impossible to get out of once you are 'closed' inside it (unless you are the predestined breaker of the enchantment). We have a combination lock that, when its dials are aligned so that the mechanism meshes or 'closes' on itself most perfectly, instantly 'opens'. We have a school-room, a 'closed' world into which children may go reluctantly, but which may 'open' out before them a new world of knowledge.

Thank you, all my teachers in many 'school-rooms', for making it possible for me to have poetry like this in my life, and thank you, Ghalib, for 'opening' to us such magic worlds.