This is the 9th verse of Ghalib’s 18th ghazal.
Haif oos char-girah kapDe ki qismat ‘Ghalib’
Fie, the misfortune of that four-fist long cloth, oh! Ghalib
Jis ki qismat meiN ho, aashiq ka garibaN hona
That is destined becoming collar of a lover’s shirt.
Haif = fie, contempt girah=knot, a fist length garibaaN=shirt collar, shirt cloth at neck line
Meaning: Ghalib says, “I pity the misfortune of that four–fist long piece of cloth that is destined becoming lover’s shirt collar” Under spell of love-excitement the collar will be always ripped to pieces; viz. during union with lover, beloved will rip it in hurry in uncontrollable emotions; when away from her, the lover would tear it apart in passion. In the book ‘Aab-e-Hayat’ it is narrated that when Ghalib, after serving time in jail for the crime of gambling when set his foot out in open, his shirt was so dirty that lice were crawling on it. At this moment, Ghalib ripped apart his shirt, threw it away, and recited this verse.
Finer aspects: In just two verses, Ghalib tells a history. Old testaments, new testaments, and Quran, talks about Joseph, the Son of Prophet Jacob. Joseph stepbrothers threw him in a well. A passing caravan found him. The merchant took him to Egypt and sold him in slavery to pharaoh’s palace. Joseph was young and very beautiful. Beautiful Zulaikha, wife of Potiphar got obsessed with this slave, Joseph. One day, in the palace passage, Zulaikha grabbed Joseph and Joseph struggled to free himself. During struggle, Joseph’s shirt or collar was ripped. For concealing shame, Zulaikha ripped her clothing and accused Joseph of grabbing her. Joseph was thrown in a dungeon. A long time passed by. Finally, his case came for hearing. The Qazi ruled that the rip was on back of shirt. It proved that Joseph was running away and Zulaikha grabbed him from behind. Joseph was set free. This narration is more than three thousand year old. It proves that collar’s bad luck is prevailing for past millenniums. Ghalib pities on this misfortune.
“Hasrat’s” opinion: The verse is very good but repetition in both lines of verse has created a bad flavor.