Ghazal 219, Verse 8


mu;habbat me;N nahii;N hai farq jiine aur marne kaa
usii ko dekh kar jiite hai;N jis kaafir pah dam nikle

1) in love, there's no difference of living and dying
2) having seen only/emphatically her, we live-- that infidel over whom the breath would 'emerge' [and depart]


dam nikalnaa : 'Breath to leave (the body), to breathe one's last, to expire; to die (for, par ), be deeply in love (with)'. (Platts p.525)


That is, the one having seen whom, we began to die for-- from seeing that very one we live; and to die and to live became one thing. (250)

== Nazm page 250

Bekhud Dihlavi:

In love, no distinction has remained between dying and living. The one having seen hom the spirit is freshened-- over that very infidel our breath/life too emerges. He's composed a 'high point of the ghazal' verse. (308)

Bekhud Mohani:

That is, the one through whose airs and graces, through whose tyrannies, the heart is in a bad state-- if we would not see her, then for us to live would be impossible. (452)



Well, this verse has a very strong central 'punch' effect in its clever play with the ideas of living and dying. The first line states a general thesis, and the second line proceeds to exemplify it and/or to demonstrate its truth.

This demonstration is not without some subtleties. The first half of the second line may be read as merely temporal: 'we began to live only after we saw her' (our real life didn't start until we fell in love). Alternatively, it can be causative as well: 'we live only from the effect of seeing her' (the sight of her is like a life-sustaining drug). And the 'she' who inspires such life-giving effects is also, paradoxically (or not), the one for whom our breath would leave us, for whom we would 'die of love'.

The whole thing is nicely organized, almost tied up with a ribbon. Bekhud Dihlavi considers it the 'high point of the ghazal'. And yet I've never cared much for it. It's a 'well-made' verse in a formal and technical sense-- it makes a seemingly paradoxical statement, then proceeds to demonstrate its truth. But how cut-and-dried, how mechanical it seems, compared to a brilliantly unfathomable verse like {219,6}. It also feels both too perky and too thumping in its rhythm, as other verses in this ghazal do not. It feels superficial, finite, limited-- terrible things to say about a verse of Ghalib's, especially one so apparently cute and amusing.

This verse is in fact one of a set: there are a number of other verses in the divan that play with back-and-forth imagery about living and dying. The most similar of them include {95,6} (on 'living on hope' and 'hoping to live'); {161,9} (on 'dying to die'); {164,8} (on 'dying' as a form of 'living'). Compared to them all, however, {210,5} comes far more hauntingly to mind; I do think it's the pick of the lot.