yaa qaafilah dar qaafilah un rasto;N me;N the log
yaa aise ga))e yaa;N se kih phir khoj nah paayaa

1) either in caravan after caravan people were on those roads
2) or they went from here in such a way that then, having searched, one did not find them



S. R. Faruqi:

By beginning both lines with yaa , he has bestowed on them an extraordinary 'mood'. In the verse the fact that death follows life, or the theme of the insubstantialness of life, occupies a secondary place. The real theme is that of the change in state/circumstances. Imagine some city or town, where at one time there was a great hustle and bustle. Then for some cause the city was ruined, or people left that city. By saying 'caravan after caravan' and 'roads' he's also created the effect of travel.

In this way it's as if he's killed two birds with one stone. 'Then/again having searched, didn't find them' also suggests that in the city there aren't even any graves, through which one could guess that the people who once lived here had been buried in these places. Another point is that the city's desolation is a symbol of its decline. But in the verse there's no direct mention of that decline.

How to use this theme in a modern style-- in order to see this, listen to the verse of the young poet Muhammad Iz'har ul-Haq:

vuh ghaas ugii hai kih kahte bhii chhup ga))e saare
nah jaane aarzuu))e;N ham ne dafn kii hai;N kahaa;N

[so much grass has grown that everybody, in the midst of speech, fell silent
no telling where we have buried the longings]

In Mir's verse there's a cosmic melancholy; and although the speaker of the verse is solitary and worn out, he searches for the lost ones. In Muhammad Iz'har ul-Haq's verse, there's a personal melancholy. Nevertheless, the expression of the personal melancholy is such that a cosmic style has entered into it, because the speaker of the verse can also be a metaphor for all human beings.



See how cleverly Mir is able to pique the imagination! SRF has read this verse as the story of a desolate city from which the population had (mysteriously?) all departed. Until I read his commentary, that possibility had never even crossed my mind, since there's nothing at all in the verse about a city. I took yaa;N se to mean 'from here' in the sense of 'from this life, from this world', so that to me this verse seemed to be a meditation on death.

The verse reminded me of Dard's similar meditation:

dard kuchh ma((luum hai yih log sab
kis :taraf se aa))e the kiidhar chale

[Dard, as if there's any knowing!-- all these people,
from which way they came, in which direction they went]

Except that in Mir's verse we do know one thing about all the people: we know that they die (or, literally, 'go from here') in one of two explicitly alternative ways. One way is collective-- people die while they are all on the same roads, in long caravans designed for comfort and at least the illusion of security. Caravans must necessarily be well-organized; caravan members must follow certain rules; caravans must have customary religious rituals and practical procedures for dealing with death and with the dead.

The other way that people 'go from here' and die is radically private-- they go off by themselves, untraceably, in the deepest solitude. Nor do they do anything to record their life and their death, or to assist a seeker: even if you search, you won't be able to find them. The Sufistic overtones of self-transcendence are heavy here, and also the isolation of the desperate, mad lover wandering alone in the desert.

But the verse endorses neither choice. It points out the contrast between the communal solitarity of a 'public' departure, and the private solitude of someone who in death becomes entirely unfindable. Perhaps part of the thought we're meant to take away with us is that the outcome is the same in either case. But is it, really? As so often, we're left to create the mood, sensibility, and implications of the verse for ourselves.