Ghazal 214, Verse 8


har sang-o-;xisht hai .sadaf-e gauhar-e shikast
nuqsaa;N nahii;N junuu;N se jo saudaa kare ko))ii

1) every stone and brick is an oyster-shell of the pearl of breaking/defeat/loss
2) it's no loss/harm, when/if from/with madness, someone would do trading/madness


shikast : 'Breaking, breakage, fracture; a breach; defeat, rout; deficiency, loss, damage'. (Platts p.730)


saudaa : [Persian] 'Goods, wares; trade, traffic; marketing; purchase, bargain'. (Platts p.695)


saudaa : [Arabic] 'The black bile (one of the four humours of the body), atrabilis; melancholy; hypochondria; frenzy, madness, insanity; love; desire, concupiscence; ambition'. (Platts p.695)


In taking the saudaa of madness upon one's head there's no loss, because each stone and brick that the boys throw at your head is an oyster-shell, the pearl of which is breaking/defeat. (243)

== Nazm page 243

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, when boys throw bricks and stones at one's head, it is, so to speak, an oyster-shell [vuh goyaa ek .sadaf hai], of which the pearl is considered to be a wound in the head. Thus in taking the merchandise of madness upon one's head there's no kind of harm involved at all. (301)

Bekhud Mohani:

What Nazm and Hasrat and Shaukat have written doesn't seem apparently to be very bad. But attention has not been paid to the fact that after 'breaking', Mirza has not said 'head' or any other such word. When that is the situation, then why wouldn't the whole verse be considered to be expressed through similes? In this state of affairs, the stones and bricks are the blame of the people of the world.... By 'breaking' is meant [the breaking of] 'human pride', by 'madness' is meant 'passion for the Divine'. (436)


Compare {91,9}. (277)


An early analysis of this verse from 'A Ghazal by Ghalib', in The Secret Mirror, 1981.


MADNESS: {14,3}

Bekhud Dihlavi seems to be saying the lover's head is the oyster-shell, and that's both so apt (because the breaking open of the oyster-shell is what exposes the pearl) and so grotesque (because of the vision of the whole head suddenly split in half like an opened oyster) that it's a bit of a shock. But fortunately the verse says clearly that it's each stone and brick that is an oyster-shell. So probably Bekhud Dihlavi just phrased his commentary clumsily; but even if he's actually saying what he might seem to be saying, he's wrong.

But still, to make every one (as the verse carefully emphasizes) of the solid, unbreaking stones and bricks an 'oyster-shell' seems to be pushing the imagery pretty hard-- or at least, using it very selectively. It's true that an oyster-shell produces a pearl, and that's what the verse wants us to think of. But it's also true that the oyster-shell generates the pearl from within itself, and that the pearl is revealed only when the oyster-shell itself is broken open (and the oyster killed); and this is far from the situation of the stones and bricks.

So each stone and brick is an oyster-shell in the sense that it helps, in its indirect fashion, to provide the pearl of shikast -- a word that means both 'breaking', which is appropriate for the procurement of a pearl (and which is what might happen to the lover's head if boys throw stones and bricks at him; on this see {35,10}), and 'loss, damage', which anticipates the commercial imagery in the next line. For in fact this is a verse of thoroughgoing and complex wordplay. And at its heart, the imagery of madness (as in the Arabic word saudaa ) is effectively fused to the imagery of commerce (as in the Persian word saudaa ). (See the definitions above.) For another use of this ideally multivalent word-pair, see {58,5}.

When it comes to madness, we have the boys throwing stones and bricks at the madman, and the madman's pursuit not of a real pearl but of the crazy-sounding, or at least paradoxical, 'pearl of breaking/defeat'. Thus if someone acts 'from/with madness' in doing 'madness' (or 'commerce'), what's the harm? He has nothing to lose, and a remarkable pearl to gain.

When it comes to commerce, we have the claim that there's no 'loss' if one would do 'business' (or 'madness') even in a dubious state of sanity-- after all, one might end up with an apparently valuable 'pearl'.

Might 'Madness' even be a semi-personification, someone with whom one might do business? One might bargain 'with' him; one might buy a pearl 'from' him. If the se can be made to stretch that far, the commercial sense of the verse becomes even more enjoyable.

For another-- and powerful-- use of shikast , see {71,1}; the Persian infinitive shikastan itself appears in {37,5x}. And for another convergence of 'loss' and 'madness', see Arshi's recommendation, {91,9}. Some other oyster-shell-and-pearl verses: {237x,5 and 7}; {242x,4}; {316x,1}; {344x,6}; {418x,2}.