hai tiirah roz apnaa la;Rko;N kii dostii se
is din hii ko kahe thaa ak;sar pidar hamaaraa

1) our day is black/dark/unfortunate, through/from the love of boys
2) only/emphatically this day, our father often used to talk about



tiirah-rozii : 'Misfortune, adversity'. (Platts p.351)


la;Rkaa : 'Boy, son; child, infant, babe'. (Platts p.955)

S. R. Faruqi:

An uncommon verse of the love of youths/boys [amrad-parastii] has already come before us in


The present verse too is uncommon, but its novelty is of a different kind. I have no hesitation in saying that on this subject no other such verse has been composed in Urdu.

Andalib Shadani has declared the love of youths to be a fundamental inclination of Mir's. I don't deny this importance, but I also don't call it fundamental. Unlike Abdul Haq and Sardar Jafri [in their intikhabs], I've given space in my intikhab to good or novel verses about the love of youths. Disagreeing with Shadani, Ralph Russell and Khurshidul Islam have given no importance to Mir's love of youths. But as the American critic Frances Pritchett has explained in an essay, Mir's inclination toward the love of youths is entirely in accordance with the tradition of the ghazal-- that is, with the tradition of our romantic poetry, and there are a number of reasons for this.

The way a verse based on open, crudely-expressed rakishness isn't usually a good verse, in the same way a verse about love of youths that is an expression of crudeness or uncouthness isn't usually a good verse. In everything, according to Mir, taste/discernment [.saliiqah] is the necessary condition. In the present verse, first of all the interesting thing is that the father advised his son against the love of boys. The meaning of this is that it was the kind of subject that father and son were able to talk about.

If this is not the case, then the speaker is simply joking, and he actually feels no sorrow that the love of boys has brought him to this pass, but rather mentions his father only out of shamelessness, the way on occasions when false remorse is being expressed people often say 'Indeed, sir, our elders forbade us to do this'. Or we can assume that the father didn't directly forbid him from the love of boys, but rather said a common thing: 'If you keep on behaving like this, then you'll come to a bad end'.

In the second line there are a number of aspects. One is sarcasm, and that sarcasm itself has two aspects. The first is sarcasm directed against himself-- that as he sowed, so he reaped. The second aspect is sarcasm directed against his own shamelessness, because no intention of renouncing the love of boys is expressed in the verse.

Another aspect of the second line is that the advice about the love of boys having a bad result, might be on the basis of the father's own experience. A third aspect is that in 'the love of boys' he's created an ambiguity as to whether we loved the boys, or the boys loved us. Then he's also created the affinity of tiirah roz and us din .

Some aspects of this verse, Mir composed in a verse from the latter part of his life, from the sixth divan [{1903,10}]:

ma((quul gar samajhte to miir bhii nah karte
la;Rko;N se ((ishq-baazii hangaam-e kuhnah-saalii

[if he had understood wisely then even/also Mir would not have
played the love-game with boys in the season of old age]

One final point is that this theme might have been borrowed from [the Persian of] Khan-e Arzu:

'Oh Arzu, to fall for the tricks of beautiful boys is the custom of the world.
Our father, in the light of his experience, said this to us.'

But Khan-e Arzu's theme is limited and low. In it there's only jesting, or a kind of barefaced attempt to make falling for the tricks of beautiful boys seem commendable or at least permissible. In Mir's verse there are various kinds of mental reservations, as has been explained above.



As SRF notes, verses in which the beloved is a beautiful boy have often been seen as problematic and have thus often been omitted from intikhabs of Mir's ghazals. This kind of reaction results from the reifying, biographicalizing process that has been applied to this profoundly unreifiable, unbiographicalizable genre of poetry over the past century. In terms of the classical ghazal, the whole 'natural poetry' movement has a lot to answer for. I've discussed it in Nets of Awareness, and in the essay mentioned by SRF above, and over and over again elsewhere, as of course has SRF himself. Yet as we both know, it's like punching a sponge. Over time things will improve, but the time may be measured in decades.

In any case, the word 'boy' [la;Rkaa] can be especially off-putting, so it's important to remember that what's being talked about here is not some kind of child abuse, but flirtatious and/or sexual activity by young teenagers who are envisioned as fully in control of their own sexuality. The time of their greatest charm is right before their beards start to appear; the appearance of the lines of down on the cheek marks the end of the beautiful youth's attractiveness-- as for example in


or in Mir's sympathetic, consoling verse from the first divan, {102,2}:

;husn thaa teraa bahut ((aalam-fareb
;xa:t ke aane par bhii ik ((aalam rahaa

[your beauty was greatly world-ensnaring
even when the down on your cheek came, a single/particular/unique/excellent 'world' remained]



Mir has depicted the mutual sexual play of two such youths. (The discussion of that verse also includes a list of other verses in which the beloved is a beautiful boy.) Thus SRF often uses the term amrad ('a beardless, handsome youth') for the beloved 'boys' in the ghazal world, and numerous verses depict their wiles, their cruelties, their demanding arrogance, and other beloved-like behavior; such 'boys' are never imagined as childlike, passive, helpless.

The antecedents of such boys, and of their lovers, are to be found in the Symposium; except that the ghazal world is far more extravagantly, blatantly unrealistic in its hyperbole than anything Plato ever composed. In short, the beautiful youth of the ghazal world is no more 'real' than is the beautiful female beloved; biographical or sociological concerns are equally misplaced in both cases.

Note for grammar fans: As for the odd-looking kahe thaa , which resembles some kind of perfect or participial form, my linguist friend Peter Hook says it's an archaic form of either kahtaa thaa or kah rahaa thaa , and still survives as a past habitual or past progressive in Haryanvi. Peter adds, 'In most of Indo-Aryan the habitual and the progressive share the same form. Hindi-Urdu with its dedicated progressive in rah- is the exception' (--Sept. 2010). Moral: pay attention to linguistics, dear reader; sometimes intuition will lead you down the garden path.

Another note for grammar fans: Normally a reference to one's father would have plural verbs and adjectives to show respect, so why the singulars here? Because apparently pidar is not used in the plural. This is just a fact of idiomatic usage, according to SRF (Oct. 2010).

Compare the amusingly ambiguous treatment of the subject of rakish boys in