Ghazal 209, Verse 1

{209,1}

kahuu;N jo ;haal to kahte ho mudda((aa kahiye
tumhii;N kaho kih jo tum yuu;N kaho to kyaa kahiye

1) when I would say my condition, then you say, 'Please say your purpose'
2) only/emphatically you say: if you would {say this / speak like this}, then what can one say?

Notes:

Ghalib:

[See his discussion of this ghazal along with {201,1}.]

Ghalib:

[1858:] kyaa kahiye , bhalaa kahiye -- this ground had once here become the pattern. But the meter was different. kahuu;N jo ;haal , etc. [{209,1}]; rahe nah jaan , etc [{209,8}].; safiinah jab kih , etc. [{209,11}].
==Urdu text: Khaliq Anjum vol. 2, p. 714
==another trans: Daud Rahbar, p. 91

Nazm:

'You'-- that is, not anybody else, you who are well acquainted with my purpose, you who having heard my condition say ignorantly, 'please say your purpose'. In answer to this, what would I say first? (237)

== Nazm page 237

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, if I say my state of restlessness in ardor, then you say, 'Please say your purpose'. Although you're very well acquainted with and aware of the purpose of my heart, and then feign ignorance. Now I ask of you yourself: in answer to this question of yours, what ought I to say? (294)

Bekhud Mohani:

If when understanding the meaning of this verse we keep in our minds a picture of some bad-tempered, powerful person and some oppressed, helpless person, then this verse is understood with the greatest ease. When I begin to tell you the state of my heart, then you grow angry and say, 'What are you babbling about? Say your purpose-- after all, what do you want?' Now you yourself do justice: when this state of affairs exists, then what would I say, and with what hope would I say anything? This verse too is like what Mirza has said in another place: {178,9}. (421)

FWP:

SETS == DIALOGUE; REPETITION; WORD
SPEAKING: {14,4}

Here's a remarkable riff of what I call 'word-exploration' based on the word kahnaa , 'to say', which is used no fewer than six times in two lines, in a variety of complex ways, including quoted dialogue, anticipated dialogue, and idiomatic forms.

In the first line, the subjunctive 'I would say' [kahuu;N] excellently conveys the sense that the speaker would try to say something, but would then be at once cut off: 'you say' [kahte ho] is in the habitual, so perhaps this scenario occurs over and over again. And what you say is something like 'Please state your case' or 'Please get to the point' [mudda((aa kahiye]; the polite imperative verb here suggests not real courtesy but a dismissive, semi-bureaucratic indifference. Here are some of the possible ways to read it:

=when I try to talk about my situation/condition, you insist on hearing instead about my purpose/goal
=when I try to say something, you interrupt me and reject my words
=when I speak, you pretend not to have heard me, and demand that I speak up

In the second line, the speaker appeals for justice: 'only/emphatically you say' or 'you yourself say' [tumhii;N kaho]. And what is the problem being presented? The complaint has two readings, thanks to the versatility of yuu;N : 'if you would say this' suggests that the problem is that you would say the words quoted in the first line, mudda((aa kahiye . And 'if you would speak like this' suggests that you would say a variety of other dismissive, indifferent things as well.

But the best part is the final phrase, kyaa kahiye . Here are some of its possibilities:

=something like 'what can I say?'-- an all-purpose colloquial response, the verbal equivalent of a shrug of the shoulders
='what can anyone say? what words are there for such a situation?'-- a colloquial form of the inexpressibility trope
='how remarkable! how extraordinary!'-- an exclamatory idiom that's often used for praise, perhaps sarcastic praise of what astonishing behavior you get by with
='what should one say?'-- a request for information: in such an untenable situation, please tell me what kind of reply I should make

This verse-- and this whole ghazal in general-- offers a case study in the idiomatic uses of kahiye (and sometimes other polite imperatives as well). Grammatically kahiye is the polite imperative of kahnaa , of course, and it's certainly used that way, but very often it's used idiomatically, to apply to proposed or approved behavior by a variety of grammatical persons, in a variety of situations. (The same thing is done with baniye in {209,5}.)

When it's part of the even more pithily idiomatic kyaa kahiye , its expressive possibilities are further expanded; for examples of such colloquial flexibility, see almost all the verses of {201}.

For a similarly complex treatment of batlaanaa , 'to tell', see {46,7}.