hai;N musht-e ;xaak lekin jo kuchh hai;N miir ham hai;N
maqduur se ziyaadah maqduur hai hamaaraa

1) we are a handful of dust, but whatever we are, {Mir, we are / we are Mir}
2) greater than our capacity/power/presumption, is our capacity/power/presumption



maqduur : ''What one is able to do or accomplish,' &c.; power, ability; capacity; —means, resources; —presumption, presumptuousness'. (Platts p.1055)


maqduur : 'Predestined, decreed; fatal; fate; possibility, power, whatever one is able to do'. (Steingass p.1292)

S. R. Faruqi:

Man is called a 'handful of dust'. If it's taken in this sense, then this verse is a proclamation of man's rank and the loftiness of his courage. And if the 'handful of dust' is taken to refer to his own individual existence, then this verse establishes the dignity, or at least the existence, of the individual as opposed to society. Or again, this can be a verse of straightforward self-glorification. In all three aspects, the tone of the verse bears a royal dignity.

It's surprising that some critics say that Mir's temperament was one of humility and helplessness. The point of saying 'whatever we are, Mir, we are' and of maintaining a capacity 'greater than capacity' is that a single individual, or some particular single individual, might be unable do more than his capacity; but as for us (that is, I myself, or the whole of mankind)-- beyond those limits whatever universe there is, exists only because of mankind. The prose reading of jo kuchh hai;N miir ham hai;N can also be 'whatever we are, we are Mir'-- that is, in the verse is self-glorification.

Then, it's also interesting that in the first line he's said an apparently meaningless thing-- as if someone would say 'A is equal to A'. But in the second line he's given a 'proof' of it in an entirely new aspect-- that 'A is equal to more than A'. The answer to the illogic of the first line was possible only in such a way.

[See also {545,10}.]



What a spectacular verse! It feels very Ghalibian to me, but it doesn't have any obvious Ghalibian counterparts that I can recall. When Ghalib gets grandiose he tends to go off into obscurity and flaunt himself in the lofty realms of hyperbole and 'nonbeing'; while here Mir has gotten truly stunning effects through the extreme simplicity of paradox.

SRF points out the 'equational' structure of the two lines, and the excellent effect that Mir has created through juxtaposing them-- and then unbalancing the equation.

It's also possible to reduce the paradoxicalness of the second line by taking maqduur in two different senses (see the definitions above) and reading the line as, for example, 'Greater than our capacity is our presumptuousness' (that is, 'we overvalue ourselves'). This reading would go well with the 'handful of dust' in the first line; and then the second half of the first line would then look like a sort of rueful self-knowledge (the speaker recognizes that he's incurably inclined to boast). Alternatively, we could read the second line as 'Greater than our presumptuousness is our capacity' (that is, 'We undervalue ourselves'). This reading would go well with the first-line reading of 'whatever we are, we are Mir'.

But really, removing the paradox isn't half as satisfactory as savoring it. It should be allowed to melt slowly in the mind, releasing an endless variety of subtle flavors.

Compare Ghalib's


which offers a similarly radical vision of self-affirmation and autonomy.