Ghazal 209, Verse 2


nah kahyo ta((n se phir tum kih ham sitamgar hai;N
mujhe to ;xuu hai kih jo kuchh kaho bajaa kahiye

1) don't say again/then, by way of a taunt, that 'we're a tyrant'
2) I have a habit/disposition that whatever you would say, one would/should say 'right'!


;xuu : 'Nature, disposition, temper; habit, custom; way, manner'. (Platts p.494)


The occasion of this speech is that the beloved had said by way of a taunt, 'We're a tyrant'. He said, 'You're right'. At this she became angry: 'God is great-- he really considers us a tyrant!' To excuse himself, he becomes angry and is saying, 'Don't say again/then', etc. The great pleasure in this verse is that from her addressing him he became so entranced that he considered the speech and the address meaningless and began to say 'Right, correct', and with every such word she grew angry. (237)

== Nazm page 237

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, you are well aware of my habit: that my habit is always to say to every word of yours 'Correct' and 'Right'. So why did you say, as a taunt, 'We're a tyrant'? According to my habit, from my tongue there emerged 'Right, correct'. Now why are you displeased with me without cause? From now on, don't tauntingly call yourself a tyrant, otherwise I will still, without pausing to think or reflect, say 'Right'. (294-95)

Bekhud Mohani:

From the second line the etiquette of the beloved's gathering becomes clear: that people who sit there can't, when the beloved speaks, say anything at all except 'Right, correct'. (422)



The lover urges the beloved not say 'again/then' [phir], 'by way of a taunt', that 'We are a tyrant'. But why exactly should she not? Which part of that behavior described in the first line is the objectionable part? Here are some possibilities:

=You shouldn't say that you're a tyrant if you don't want me to agree with you, because I automatically agree with everything you say

=You needn't repeat again that you're a tyrant, because I already know it and accept it completely

=You needn't continue to taunt me by gloating about your tyranny, because I'm already as humble and submissive as I can possibly be

=You shouldn't waste your energy trying to get a rise out of me with taunts-- it's useless, because you've so vexed me and/or worn me down that I don't even listen to you any more, I just automatically mumble some vague agreement

For after all, what a wonderfully multivalent response it is, simply to say 'right' [bajaa]-- literally, 'appopriate' or 'in place'. Like 'right' or 'of course' in English, it can sound completely humble and submissive, completely bored and inattentive, or completely hostile and sarcastic. Do I even need to point out that Ghalib allows us, and thus compels us, to decide for ourselves about the tone?

On the idiomatically flexible use of kahiye , see {209,1}.