Ghazal 228, Verse 3


hai ;zarrah ;zarrah tangii-e jaa se ;Gubaar-e shauq
gar daam yih hai vus((at-e .sa;hraa shikaar hai

1a) the vexation/'dust' of ardor is, through narrowness of place, [in the form of] sand-grains
1b) every single sand-grain is, through narrowness of place, the vexation/'dust' of ardor

2) if this is the net, the breadth/scope of the desert is the prey


;Gubaar : 'Dust; clouds of dust; a dust-storm; vapour, fog, mist, mistiness; impurity, foulness; (met.) vexation, soreness, ill-feeling, rancour, spite; affliction, grief; perplexity'. (Platts p.769)


shikaar : 'Hunting, the chase; prey, game; plunder, booty, pillage, spoil'. (Platts p.729)


vus((at : 'Latitude; amplitude; spaciousness; capacity; space, extent; space covered, area; dimensions; bulk; --convenience, ease; opportunity, leisure'. (Platts p.1192)


That is, the dust of ardor didn't get room to fly; for this reason, it remained as individual sand-grains; and the sand-grains spread and became a net, of which the prey is the expanse of the desert. That is, the dust of ardor has spread over the whole desert like a net. (255)

== Nazm page 255

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, 'Because of the narrowness of place, the dust of ardor has become sand-grains and has spread out; and many sand-grains, having become scattered, have become a net, the prey of which has become the expanse of the desert'. The meaning is that the dust of ardor has spread over the desert like a net. (312-13)

Bekhud Mohani:

When the dust of ardor didn't obtain a place in which to fly, then it became sand-grains and spread in the whole desert. As if it is a single net, in which the whole desert, like prey, has been entangled. That is, the dust of ardor has spread like a net over the whole desert. (463)


DESERT: {3,1}
ZARRAH: {15,12}

This is the kind of verse that the commentators basically just paraphrase; in fact they tend to boil it down into a single prose sentence. And how much help is that? In this case, not much at all.

What is the 'dust/vexation/grief of ardor' [;Gubaar-e shauq]? The most obvious reference would be to the actual dust of the body of the lover, that incarnation of ardor, after his death; see for example {61,7}, {68,4}, {158,4}. But although the literal meaning of ;gubaar is 'dust', Ghalib is also perfectly capable of using the word metaphorically for (the lover's) 'vexation, grief', as he does in {27,10x} and {170,4}.

It's the power of the i.zaafat that makes it impossible to pin such a reference down. For the 'dust of ardor' may perfectly well mean (1) the dust that is ardor; (2) the dust that is produced or possessed by ardor; or (3) the dust that pertains (in some unspecified way) to ardor. And since 'dust' may always be replaced be either 'vexation' or 'grief', the possibilities become very sweeping-- like the desert itself, in fact.

There's one more verse in which 'ardor' and 'narrowness of place' are combined: {27,1}. In that verse, the contrast is one of sheer scope: 'ardor' feels cramped 'even' within the heart (which, we are to imagine, has a vast scope). In the present verse, the problem is not just one of scale, but also of form: how and why has the 'dust of ardor' turned itself into countless tiny sand-grains (or how and why have the sand-grains become expressions of the 'dust of ardor')?

We are told quite plainly in the line itself: because of 'narrowness of place' [tangii-e jaa]. Does this mean that the 'dust of ardor' finds itself intolerably cramped in the desert, and is obliged to condense itself into the tiniest possible particles in order to find expression? Does this mean that the 'dust of ardor', accustomed to the larger (though still no doubt cramped) quarters of the heart, is obliged to shrink itself down when it first enters the desert?

Or does this mean that the sand-grains of the desert, passionately expressive as they are, are unable to find scope within the desert, and thus find themselves becoming the 'dust of ardor'? Every sand-grain is, after all, a 'wineglass of the wine-house of fascination', as in {42,2}; and 'desert-{knowing/powerful}'', as in {42,3}; and a sharer of the radiance of the sun, as in {95,3}.

Before we can even begin to sort out these complexities, the second line ensnares us hopelessly in a new one: we learn that if 'this' is the net, then the breadth or scope of the desert itself is the prey. But what exactly is the 'this'? The sand-grains themselves? The 'narrowness of place' (cf. {3,1}), that has such a powerful effect on them? The 'dust of ardor'? Whatever it is, we are supposed to think of it as a net, and it's seeking to entrap the 'expansiveness of the desert' itself.

The irritating aspect of the verse is right here. To think of all the sand-grains as composing a 'net' just doesn't work very well; the objective correlative never becomes clear in our minds. Even if we struggle to envision such a net, how would it then go about ensnaring the 'breadth/scope of the desert'? And what would it do with it if it did ensnare it? Would it enlarge it? Destroy it? Change its nature somehow? Cage it and sell it in the marketplace (the usual fate of birds trapped in nets)?

The unresolvableness is patent, and I'm not going to waste my energy vainly trying to resolve it. But the verse is compelling, and its power is in that second line, so resonant and evocative. Doesn't it create a feeling of mood, doesn't it make you want to say it again a time or two, doesn't it start to bounce around in your mind? If {228,2} is made of inert carpet-fibers, this one is made of hot dry sharp restless glitters, and slides like a sand dune in the wind.