Ghazal 225, Verse 4x


;xudaa yaa kis qadar ahl-e na:zar ne ;xaak chhaanii hai
kih hai;N .sad-ra;xnah juu;N ;Girbaal diivaare;N gulistaa;N kii

1) oh Lord, to what an extent the people of vision have 'sifted dust'--
2) that hundred-holed, like a sieve, are the walls of the garden!


chhaan'naa : 'To sift; to strain, to filter; — to search minutely, to investigate; to canvass; to explore'. (Platts p.457)


;xaak chhaan'naa : 'To sift dust,' to labour or exert oneself to no purpose, to go through laborious and fruitless toil or search; to beat the air'. (Platts p.485)


ra;xnah : 'A breach in a wall, a fracture, notch (in a sword or knife), hole, crack, chink; a loop-hole; window'. (Steingass p.572)


;Girbaal : 'A sieve; a riddle'. (Platts p.770)


Oh Lord, how much the people of vision have wandered around, 'sifting dust'! And in strolling through the garden, how much dust they have caused to fly! Such that in the walls of the garden cracks have appeared, which are telling of their digging/investigation for sight.

== Asi, p. 223


By 'people of vision' lovers are meant-- that is, spectators of beauty.... ;xaak chhaan'naa = to cause dust to fly, to waste time in some fruitless task.

Through the 'dust-sifting' of the people of vision, it's not necessary that cracks should appear in some wall. But the wordplay 'like a sieve, there are a hundred holes' was necessary; thus he brought in the idiom 'to sift dust'. This verse too is an example of the early practice of a difficulty-loving temperament, since there's no control over the extravagant use of subtleties of meaning and expression, and the inner-self wants to compose something unique. A number of verses of this ghazal are of just this kind.

== Zamin, pp. 331-332

Gyan Chand:

In the wall of the garden holes are appearing, like cracks. The people of vision have presumably made holes in the wall, for a sight of the flowers. How much difficulty they endured, how much they 'sifted dust'! In order to make holes in a mud wall, they will in truth [literally] have 'sifted dust'. To 'sift dust' is also an idiom.

A subtle meaning can also be this: that there's no telling where-all the people of vision, searching for flowers, have wandered around stumbling and colliding with things. The garden walls that blocked their sight are sorrowful at their wretched plight. Through grief, cracks have appeared in their breast. The holes in the wall are piercings made by grief.

== Gyan Chand, p. 340



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

As we hear the first line, we naturally take the common expression 'to sift dust' in its idiomatic sense (see the definition above). Under mushairah performance conditions, we're left with an interval of time in which to wonder what kind of laborious and futile task the 'people of vision' sought to perform.

Not until we are finally allowed to hear the end of the second line do we realize that the 'people of vision' have actually been digging and poking through the dust of the (mud or mud-brick) garden walls, 'searching minutely' and 'exploring' it in a very literal sense (see the definition above). In their determined pursuit of 'vision', they have managed to perforate the wall of the garden in so many places that it's now as full of holes as a sieve. But if they have been 'sifting dust' in the idiomatic sense, will this really bring them the 'vision' they seek? A typically Ghalibian move-- to use an idiom in a way that invokes both its idiomatic and its literal meanings, and leave us to decide for ourselves how, and in what sense(s), it applies.