Punjabi word ‘ganDholi’ means an unbecoming ‘seedpod’, and can easily expand to include ‘weed’ as undesirable vegetation. Poet Shah Madhulal Hussain (1539-1599) uses it to say this about himself:
BaghaN de vich phul ajaib, tooN ve ek ganDholi
‘Awesome flowers in gardens, you are a seedpod too’

This reminds me of an Urdu couplet by Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib (1797-1869), who wrote it for a protege of the last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar. Ghalib says:
bana hai Shah ka musahib phhiray hai itrata
wagarna shehr maiN Ghalib ki abroo kia hai

‘walks with pride/arrogance as a protege of the emperor
else what value/honor Ghalib has in the city’

The Emperor, imprisoned in Rangoon by the British, wrote a poem that made him immortal as a poet. This is the last couplet of that heart-wrenching ghazal where the Poet mourns the inaccessibility of his favored burial grounds in Delhi.
Kitna hai bad-naseeb Zafar, dafan ke liye
do gaz zameen mil na saki, ku e yaar main

‘how unfortunate you are Zafar, for burial
two yards of land could not be had, in the lane of the beloved’

Bahadur Shah Zafar passed away in prison November 1862, and this is his death anniversary month.

Regarding death, Madhulal Hussain is intriguing in his Kafi Aithay rehna nahiN, koi baat chalan de ker vo ‘Here not going to stay, say something about leaving vo’

Kahay Hussain hyati loReiN, murn theiN aggay mur vo
‘Hussain says if you need your life, die before your death vo’

Fauzia Zohra Rafique


2 thoughts on “Gandholi

  1. I cannot find the connection between Shah Hussai’s couplet and those quoted from the rest . “Maran theen aggay mar vo ” is oft repeated in Hussain , as metaphor for radical change .


    • Nadir Ali Jee, buhut mehrbani tussein yaad keeta.

      Its just a contemplation on life and death; a few perspectives that have touched me in Urdu and Punjabi poetry.

      Haan jee, as a metaphor of radical change, physical/emotional/spiritual transformation, to access another level of consciousness, to view life from a different/new perspective. And not just in Hussain, we can see it in most South Asian poets/movements/ideologies that were critical of the prevalent cultures/ideologies; bhikshoos, sadhoos, sufis. ‘Marn theen agay mar vo’ is a critical and profound departure of consciousness that allows for a higher understanding of the nature/impacts of life, and of death. To me, this changed perspective on life signifies the onset of a state of ‘nirvaan’, if i may say so just to communicate the feeling, blooming in a more fulfilling life span.


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