har qadam par thii us kii manzil lek
sar se saudaa-e just-juu nah gayaa

1) at every footstep was his/her/its {halting-place / destination / dwelling}, but
2) from the head, the madness of searching did not go



manzil : 'A place for alighting, a place for the accommodation of travellers, a caravansary, an inn, a hotel; a house, lodging, dwelling, mansion, habitation, station; a mansion of the moon; story or floor (of a house); deck (of a ship); —a day's journey; —a stage (in travelling, or in the divine life); —place of destination, goal; boundary, end, limit'. (Platts p.1076)


saudaa : 'The black bile (one of the four humours of the body), atrabilis; melancholy; hypochondria; frenzy, madness, insanity; love; desire, concupiscence; ambition'. (Platts p.695)

S. R. Faruqi:

When the Lord, or the beloved, was present in every place, then why did the speaker not obtain him/her? Why, in the head, did the madness of searching nevertheless remain? By not providing an answer to this question, he has created an interesting tension in the verse. A number of answers are possible. For example, one is that in reality we weren't even searching for anybody-- the goal of our life was just to casually wander around. If we had found the Lord (or the beloved), then we would become his/hers and would be forced to remain so, and this stability was contrary to our temperament.

Or else, that it was only after great delay that we obtained the information that he/she was present in every place; we kept wandering from door to door in ignorance. Or else, that at every footstep, in every place, we definitely saw him/her, but we didn't believe that he/she could be found so easily, so we kept searching for our whole lifetime.

Or else, again, that at every footstep was his/her/its halting-place, but that was not our destination, we were in search of something else (for example, ourselves).

From the second and third themes, a new theme is created, which he has versified with great excellence in the second divan [{849,3}]:

((ajab kii jagah hai kih us kii jagah
hamaare ta))ii;N hii bataate hai;N log

[it's a place/occasion of wonder-- that his/her place,
people tell us, is only/emphatically our own]

See {705,5}.



As SRF notes, we're left to decide for ourselves who or what is the subject, the 'that one', in us kii . Candidates include: the foot or footstep itself; the head; the search; the object of the search. Each of these possibilities of course generates its own enticing set of possible readings.

Moreover, there's the exquisitely perfect word manzil , which either can be a (temporary) stopping-place at the end of a single day's journey, from which one will promptly set out again in the morning, or else can be a (permanent) 'destination' or settled habitation (see the definition above). Emerging from the former sense is also the Sufistic meaning of a 'stage' on the mystical path. Obviously, the choice of readings here will interact with the us kii ambiguities to create a surprisingly large number of permutations.

Then of course, what's the madness 'of' searching? A madness that consists of searching? A madness, a mad desire, to make a search? A madness that is generated by, or otherwise pertains to, searching? The versatility of the izafat makes even more permutations possible. Is it desirable, or undesirable, to have such a case of madness? Does the madness compel the search to continue, or does it remain even after the search has stopped? We ourselves have to do even more of the heavy lifting than usual; as so often, the verse gives us no clue.

Mir surely wanted us also to notice the artiful placing of the 'footstep' in the first line, and the 'head' in the second line-- they provide both wordplay and meaning-play (between the two they invoke the whole body).

Ultimately, we really can't tell what's being said here. It could be a report of a terrible pathology, or a triumphant account of mystical achievement, or a flat description of a bungled investigative project, or a number of other things. This is truly a 'meaning-machine' kind of verse.