Naqsh faryaadi hai kiski shokhi-e- tahreer ka
Kaaghazi hai pairahan har paikar-e-tasveer ka
Naqsh refers to an outline or a figure or a shape or a form. Life, whether animal, plant or human, has to have a shape, a form or a figure. Any naqsh has to be a naqal of the asal, in the sense that the asal, that is, the real, in order to manifest itself, has to have a shape. The real, infact , is a concept, realization of which is a shape or a form.
In this couplet the form is complaining and wailing .
One complains or wails when one is in trouble and one wails or complains for help or justice.
Here, the complaint or the wailing is not directed straight. It is not addressed to Him. It is not addressed to His Script. It is addressed to the wantonness of the Script! This, not only reflects Ghalib’s own wantonness in expressing himself but is also an example of his, only of his , way of expressing himself: Kahte hain ke Ghalib ka hai andaaz-e-bayaan aur !
What after all is the thrust of the plaint, the complaint, the wailing? The point of contention is: the covering, the clothing, the attire, the shroud of every figure- in- concept, the façade of every picture, is papery!
One by one, now, let us try to deal with words like: paikar, tasveer, pairahan and kaaghazi.
Paikar relates to the act of appearing, that is, to be present or to be face-to-face. One notices the face first when one comes face-to-face. Therefore, Paikar signifies face also. Paikar-e-tasveer is, therefore, the façade of the picture, that is, the form, the figure, the shape.
In the earlier times tasveer used to have all the three dimensions as it was made by sculpting stone or moulding clay or carving wood. Much later, it was made by drawing and painting on paper. The semantics of tasveer thus enveloped statue or idol also.
Generally, pairahan means libaas. Libaas maintains the limits(maryaada). Libaas covers sharm(look up the meaning in a lughat, that is, dictionary) and hides the reality. That is why clothing or attire or shroud is needed.
Kaaghazi means of paper or like paper. A paper-boat, that is, kaaghazi naanv is made of paper but a kaaghazi baadaam, that is, almond with paper-like shell has no paper in it.The thrust is: whether it is paper or paper- like, it is frail.
In this couplet, as in other couplets of Ghalib, every word is loaded with semantic significance. One needs to remove the layers of meaning to get into the poetic sense that Ghalib intends to pack in every word he uses. This is the poet’s uniqueness and the beauty of it.
Proceeding through the courses of the word-meanings here, the sense, that is, the core message is: every object in God’s creation has a form. This form is an image of the concept. The image is impermanent. As long as this image exists, it wails. Each form, therefore, wails and addresses to the One who is Formless(beyond Form), thus praying to be liberated from the form. The prayers in the form of wailings are, infact, appeals for unification.
Compare this with other couplets of Ghalib’s:
Na thaa kuchh to khudaa thaa, na hotaa kuchh, khudaa hotaa
Duboyaa mujh ko honey ne, na hotaa main, to kya hotaa
Shouq har rang raqeeb-e-sar-o-saamaan nikla
Qais tasveer ke prdey men bhi uryaan nikla