Ghazal 217, Verse 11x


maah-e nau huu;N kih falak ((ajz sikhaataa hai mujhe
((umr bhar ek hii pahluu pah sulaataa hai mujhe

1) I am a new moon, such that the sky teaches me weakness/helplessness
2) for a whole lifetime, it puts me to sleep on only/emphatically one side


((ajz : 'Powerlessness, impotence, weakness, helplessness, submission, wretchedness'. (Platts p.759)

Gyan Chand:

The new moon is thin, as though it would be weak and oppressed. It shows itself as always lying only on one side. If a man would lie on one side and bend his feet so some extent toward his stomach, then he will resemble the crescent moon. He says, 'The sky has made me weak and feeble like the crescent moon; and it causes me, like the crescent moon, to lie always on only one side. (520)


SKY {15,7}

For background see S. R. Faruqi's choices. This verse is NOT one of his choices; mostly for the sake of completeness, I have added it myself.For more on Ghalib's unpublished verses, see the discussion in {4,8x}.

This is a second opening-verse to the ghazal.

Sometimes babies are put to sleep only in particular positions, and when they're very little they can't do anything about it. But very soon they learn to turn over. Turning oneself over seems to be an altogether basic skill, one of the most fundamental kinds of physical autonomy. Adults turn over many times in the course of a night-- both in their sleep, and also when wakeful and restless. But if the 'new moon' is a baby, it remains 'weak' and 'helpless' forever. Controlled by the sky; it is never able even to turn from one side to the other. The sky, far from helping the moon to gain autonomy, dominates and micro-manages the hapless moon for the whole of its life.

Astronomically speaking, of course, the imagery is based on the fact that the moon always shows the same side or face, the same pahluu , to the earth. The speaker too is, through his predestined fate, dominated by the sky to such an extent that he cannot even turn over in bed, but helplessly lies in the same wretched position the sky has put him in.