maahiyyat-e do-((aalam khaatii phire hai ;Go:te
yak qa:trah ;xuun yih dil :tuufaan hai hamaaraa

1) the essence/quality/'fishness' of the two worlds wanders around straying/lost/'diving'
2) a single drop of blood, this heart of ours, it is a typhoon



maahiyyat : 'Substance, essence, quality; state or form of being, nature, constitution; intrinsic worth, value; —state, condition, circumstances; matter of fact'. (Platts p.987)


maahii : 'A fish; (in Myth.) the fish on which the earth is supposed to rest'. (Platts p.987)


;Go:tah khaanaa : 'To be dipped, to suffer immersion; to dive; —to be deceived; to travel in a miry or treacherous road; —to stray, wander, lose (one's) way'. (Platts p.773)


:tuufaan : 'A violent storm of wind and rain, a tempest, typhoon; a flood, deluge, inundation; the universal deluge; a flood or torrent (of obloquy, &c.); —a commotion, noise, riot'. (Platts p.754)

S. R. Faruqi:



But in the present verse, the first line is such a devastating image that even in Mir's poetry it will be difficult to find its equal. The word maahiyyat is uncommon, because its literal meaning is 'whatever-ness' [jo-kuchh-pan]-- that is, the real nature of the whole circumstances of some substance. And the thing in which is the real nature of something, to establish it as the thing's quality. For example, if the real nature of sugar is in its sweetness, then we ought to establish sweetness as its 'sugar-ness' [shukriyyat]. Thus by maahiyyat-e do-((aalam is meant both the whole nature and the whole quality of both worlds.

The meaning of ;Go:te khaataa phirnaa is 'to remain deceived, to be unable to become aware of the true condition of something, to wander around meditating on something'. Thus in one place Ghalib wrote sarcastically about the author of ;Giyaas ul-lu;Gaat that 'to dive into [;Go:tah maarnaa] problems of menstruation and pulse-counting is one thing, and to discuss the problems of the Persian language is another thing'. In the present verse of Mir's, because of the affinity with 'typhoon', the literal meaning of khaatii phire hai ;Go:te has become appropriate.

And the metaphorical meaning is definitely there in its place too-- that our heart is such a typhoon that in fathoming its true nature even the 'essence of the two worlds' becomes dazed and confused. In :tuufaan hai hamaaraa there's also the aspect that our heart is a typhoon in reality; the typhoon that we've stirred up; that is, hearts are in everybody's breast, but we've done such work with/through our heart that we've made it into a typhoon. A confidence in the grandeur of humankind, Mir has expressed in a number of verses; but in this verse is a qalandar-like dignity, and in fact it's peerless.

It's surprising that despite such verses, people see in Mir's temperament only the aspect of humility, helplessness, tear-stainedness, etc. Thus Firaq Sahib hears in Mir's 'tears', the 'soughing of the winds from the six directions'; he doesn't see Mir's grandeur and imposingness.

The final point is that maahiyyat is Arabic, but in Persian a fish is called maahii . In this regard, among maahiyyat and ;Go:te khaanaa and :tuufaan there's also the pleasure of a zila. If there would be an occasion for wordplay, then Mir would hardly ever miss it. And almost always, by means of that wordplay he also creates some meaningful aspect as well. By means of wordplay, in any case the style becomes playful and blossoming and, in a linguistic way, colorful/variegated.





The irresistible cosmic (and comic) wordplay of maahiyyat , with its lofty meaning of something like 'quiddity' and its sudden, ludicrous, but un-ignorable sense of 'fishness', is surely at the heart of the verse. For after all, if Mir didn't intend to be witty, why cause the fantastically abstract and grandiose 'essence/quality of the two worlds' to be imagined as 'diving' or 'sinking' or 'wandering'? To celebrate this delightful and pomposity-deflating effect, Munster's famous page of sea monsters (with modern hand coloring) is included below.

In the second line, yih dil occupies a 'midpoint' position-- it can be read either with the first half of the line ('this heart is a single drop of blood') or with the second ('this heart of ours is a typhoon'). Similarly, hamaaraa could in principle be made to modify 'drop', 'blood', 'heart', or 'typhoon'. The rudimentary and flexible grammar of the second line thus permits a variety of readings. In this verse none of them seem that different from each other; but it's good to keep our analytical tools sharpened.

In any case, this is an 'A,B' verse, in which the grammar and imagery of the two lines are entirely independent. How are the lines to be connected? Do they describe the same situation, or contrasting situations? Is one a cause and the other an effect? Are some particular elements in them to be metaphorically identified? For example, might the 'essence of the two worlds' in the first line be the same as the 'drop of blood', or the 'heart', or the 'typhoon' in the second line? Since the level of abstractness is so Ghalibian, lots of possible forms of 'connection' are put out there for the reader's choice, to enable the verse to achieve that good old (bad old?) do-it-yourself effect.

And meanwhile, Ghalib makes his own typhoon not from a blood-drop, but from a teardrop: