Ghazal 206, Verse 2


nah jaanuu;N kyuu;Nkih mi;Te daa;G-e :ta((n-e bad-((ahdii
tujhe kih aa))inah bhii var:tah-e malaamat hai

1) {no telling / 'I wouldn't know'} how the scar/brand of the reproach/taunt of false-promising would be erased
2) for you-- since even/also the mirror is a whirlpool of reproach/blame


var:tah : 'Destruction, ruin; --a precipice; labyrinth, maze; any danger or difficulty in which one is embarrassed; any situation of danger or difficulty; embarrassment; --a whirlpool, vortex. (Platts p.1188)


malaamat : 'Reproof, rebuke, censure, reprehension, reproach, accusation, blame; reviling; disgrace; opprobrium; contumely'. (Platts p.1063)


No telling with what water the stain of false-promising will be removed. Now, to you, even/also the mirror is a whirlpool/maze of reproach/blame, for in the mirror you adorn yourself so as to show yourself to the Others, which is precisely false-promising. In this verse instead of kih , there ought to have appeared to ; and [as the verse stands] even the meaning is not expressed in a good way. (233)

== Nazm page 232; Nazm page 233


The simile of the whirlpool/maze for the mirror is obvious. (158)

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, no telling with what water the stains of your false-promising will be removed. With regard to you, now even/also the mirror is a whirlpool/maze of reproach/blame. That is, you always look into it and adorn yourself in order to show yourself to the Others, which in reality is a form of false-promising. The meaning is that the false promises that are made to us-- they too are fulfilled for the Others. (290)

Bekhud Mohani:

You are so modest that you consider even the mirror a whirlpool [girdaab] of reproach/blame. That is, from looking at the mirror you become embarrassed. Thus I am astonished: how will the stain of false-promising be removed from your garment-hem of virtue? That is, she who would be so modest that she would feel shame when looking in the mirror, how will she be able to perform false-promising? Her being a false-promiser is an astonishing thing. (He wants to make use of a reproach/taunt.) (413)


Having looked into the mirror, she becomes drowned in the whirlpool [girdaab] of reproach/blame; the simile of whirlpool/maze has been given for the mirror. (497)


For her, even/also the mirror is a whirlpool [bha;Nvar] of reproach/blame: 'Why did you commit false-promising'? (491)


The meaning is that when your self-adornment is always for the Others, even/also the mirror blames/reproaches you-- and reproaches/blames you so much that its shiningness [aabdaarii] becomes a whirlpool [girdaab]....

In place of kyuu;Nkar he has said kyuu;Nkih . Now this is rejected [matruuk]. (333)


Through the wordplay of the mirror's aab ('glitter'), he gives to the mirror the simile of the sea. The mirror's polish-lines [jauhar] are in the form of a circle. Thus through the affinity of the mirror's aab , those polish-line circles can be called whirlpools. People call blame a whirlpool because the way once trapped in a whirlpool it's difficult to emerge, in the same way blame too surrounds one from all four sides. The 'circle of blame' is a famous figure of speech. Thus in the beloved's eyes, the act of gazing into a mirror is such that it envelopes the mirror-gazer in blame, because the mirror is among the devices of self-regard, and self-regard is a flaw.

The result emerges that the beloved is a limit case of a strict and sincere person. Now if anybody would for any reason taunt me with breaking a vow (for example, if someone would say, you're not a true lover, because you're still alive), then even if this taunt is false, in the eyes of the stern beloved this will be a stain on my character. I don't know how this stain will then be erased from the hem of my garment, because the beloved is extremely strict. She expects from her lover a character that would be entirely stainless. If someone would level this accusation of breaking a vow against me, then in the beloved's eyes I'll be stained for life.

The second aspect is that we may suppose the taunt of breaking a vow to be addressed to the beloved herself. Let the interpretation of the second line be the same as I have expressed above-- that is, the beloved is strict and sincere to such an extent that she considers even looking into the mirror to be a flaw. Now suppose 'stain' to have the meaning of 'grief', as in this verse of Mir's: M{25,2}.

Thus the 'stain of the taunt of false-promising' means 'grief at the taunt of false-promising'. That is, somebody has taunted the beloved with breaking a vow. Although the taunt was false, still its grief was felt, that 'I have been taunted in this way'. The speaker is in astonishment and sorrow: that beloved who avoids even looking into a mirror-- how will she be able to erase this stain?

Now both meanings of daa;G come into play. (1) that beloved who doesn't even like to look in the mirror, will grieve greatly that the taunt of breaking a vow has been levelled at her. The more the taunt is false, the more it will grieve her. The taunt is absolutely false, therefore the beloved's grief too will be absolute-- that is, a grief that can never be erased. (2) To erase a 'stain', people look in the mirror, especially if the stain would be on the face, or on the breast, where the gaze usually can't reach. But when the beloved doesn't even look in the mirror, how will that stain be able to be erased?....

I consider this second interpretation [in which the taunt is addressed to the beloved] preferable.

== (1989: 330-32) [2006: 358-61]


MIRROR: {8,3}
VOWS: {20,2}

What kind of a scar or brand is it that would be difficult to erase? According to the commentators, it's a scar left on the person who receives the 'taunt of false-promising'-- namely, the beloved. But the i.zaafat grammar also opens the possibility that it's a mark or scar left on the person who gives the 'taunt of false-promising'-- namely, the lover.

What if the scar or mark is left on the beloved? The lover does undoubtedly tease or taunt the beloved about her false-promising and her radical indifference to vows and pledges (see for example {20,2} and {20,3}). It's even conceivable, though barely so, that the beloved might possibly feel guilty, but her 'guilt' is usually presented in an ambiguous or cynical style (see {46,1}). As a rule, she receives the lover's barbs with either irritation or (much more painfully for the lover) complete indifference. Thus I have trouble accepting Faruqi's second interpretation, which he actually prefers, and which attributes to the beloved an awesome and entirely implausible concern with the strictest sincerity and purity, even to the degree of experiencing perpetual grief over totally false taunts-- more grief, Faruqi claims, over false taunts than over true ones. Is this the beloved that we know so well from the rest of the classical ghazal world? Not hardly!

It seems to me much more possible that the present verse is another, all too familiar case of indifference on the beloved's part-- the lover goes nattering on about blame and reproach, and the beloved entirely ignores him. After all, we have no evidence that she actually has any such scar; we only know the lover is muttering ominously about it. On this reading, the mirror as a 'whirlpool of reproach' is just part of what he's muttering about; and the other meanings of var:tah also become relevant (see the definition above). But probably she's not even listening.

What if the scar or mark is left on the lover? Here the scar would represent the dark stain of guilt he incurred in the eyes of the beloved, when he accused her (whether rightly or wrongly) of false-promising. (See {177,1} for his casuistical reflections on how touchy she is, and how desperate he is to placate her.) On this reading, the mirror as a 'whirlpool of reproach' is just another evidence of her ill-temper and quickness to blame: she'll feel anger even at her own mirror. (See {64,4} for another example of her irrational suspiciousness and hostility.) Why will she blame the mirror? The verse gives us no way to know; nor do we really have hints enough for useful speculation. (Though there's always the idea of her basic 'ungazeability', as in {214,7}.) If we consider her wrath against the mirror to be probably petty or even groundless, we realize afresh how dire are the prospects of the hapless lover who was rash enough to actually 'taunt' her.

But as Nazm says, the verse is not well-framed, its complexity is obscure rather than enticing; whatever meaning(s) Ghalib had in mind are 'not expressed in a good way'.

Note for meter fans: In the first line kyuu;Nkar , meaning 'how, in what way', has been shortened for metrical reasons into kyuu;Nkih ; this latter form looks just like the normal word for 'because', though it isn't the same of course. As Josh observes, such shortening of this particular word is no longer accepted. On the ambiguities of kyuu;Nkar , see {125,1}.