thaa pushtah-reg-e baadiyah ik vaqt kaaravaa;N
yih gird-baad ko))ii bayaabaa;N-navard thaa

1a) the sand-heap of the desert was at one time a caravan
1b) the caravan was at one time a sand-heap of the desert

2a) this whirlwind was some desert-wanderer
2b) some desert-wanderer was this whirlwind



pushtah : 'Prop, support, buttress; bank, glacis, dike, embankment; quay; mound, hill, eminence; heap, load, bundle'. (Platts p.263)


baadiyah : 'Desert, wilderness; forest, jungle'. (Platts p.119)


bayaabaa;N-navard : 'Traversing deserts;—one who traverses the desert, wanderer'. (Platts p.204)

S. R. Faruqi:

The 'connection' between this verse and the previous one [in SSA],


is manifest. In particular, the second line of the present verse seems to expand upon the previous one. In the first line of the present verse, through employing a dexterous hand with usage and grammar two meanings have been created. One prose reading of the verse will be like this: 'the sand-heap of the desert was at one time a caravan'. The second prose reading will be: 'the caravan was at one time a sand-heap of the desert'. Thus that which today is a caravan will at some time mingle with the dust (through wandering in the desert, or only through the action of time) and will become a sand-heap of that desert. Or, the caravan that is passing today was at one time a sand-heap of the desert. Death and life are a single cycle, one is born from the womb of the other.

In the second line, the thought veers off in another direction. Seeing the restlessness and turbulence of a whirlwind, the poet thinks, why is there so much turbulence in the dust? This was certainly some desert-wanderer, who has now turned to dust and in the form of a whirlwind is wandering around in search of a halting-place, or of his beloved. It's a fine verse.

Between pushtah and reg-e baadiyah the i.zaafat is omitted [ma;hzuuf]. This is common in Persian; but in Urdu, apart from Mir and Ghalib few people have done it. Allamah Shibli objects that Maulana Rumi has again and again omitted the i.zaafat , and has called this 'of all permissible things, the most displeasing'. He forgets that rules and principles don't form in a vacuum; rather, they are established through the practice and usage of great poets. Even if some critic or metrist would make rules at his own whim, then they have no reality. When great poets like Nasir Khusrau, Maulana Rumi, Khaqani, Anvari, etc. have brought something into use and kept it there, then Shibli's declaring it reprehensible is mere pedantry.

One thing is born from another thing; in particular, from dust man is born, and man returns to dust-- this theme, perhaps Khayyam was the first to use. And if Khayyam wasn't the very first, then certainly he used it most of all. In


we've already looked at a quatrain in which there's a reference to a cup and flask being made of the clay of a man. In Khayyam's [Persian] quatrains below, the aspect of the theme appears that's close to the present verse:

'There is a cup, such that wisdom praises it,
and lovingly impresses on it hundreds of kisses.
The Potter of Time makes such a delicate cup,
and then smashes it down on the ground.'

'When the New Year's cloud bathed the lip of the tulip,
then arise, and fortify your desires with a glass of wine.
Because this greenery that today is on display for you,
tomorrow will sprout from your dust.'

But in Khayyam, there's almost always a despair, and arising from that despair a movement toward a search for pleasure, or for a moral lesson. By contrast, in Mir there's almost always a kind of pride, or only a silent witnessing, and the reader has the freedom to draw a lesson from this, or to consider it merely an expression of opinion, or to construe the theme with regard to the experiences of passion. Compare






The first line in itself is ravishing; it can be read both ways through what I call the 'symmetry' (if A=B then B=A) feature of Urdu grammar. In the second line, the whirlwind and the traveler can similarly be read both ways. We are either looking out at a modern desert scene and thinking of how it came to exist, or else we are imaginatively evoking a former scene, now entirely transformed. Moreover, the transformations go back and forth over immense spans of time: what we now see as a sand dune was once a caravan; eventually it will again be a caravan, and then again a sand dune; similarly, the whirlwind and the traveler will evolve back and forth into each other.

As SRF notes, Khayyam has almost a patent on this kind of bleak cycles-of-time imagery; thanks to Edward Fitzgerald's (transcreated rather than translated) *'Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam'*, Khayyam's patent extends to English poetry too. On the Hindu side we have kalpas and yugas and other vast cycles of time, but they are always, theologically speaking, in the process of decline. Khayyam's universe, evoked in the present verse seems to be a steady-state one. We will depart, and our going will be irretrievable; countless similar people will emerge in their turn, but none of them will be us.

Note for grammar fans: The omission of the izafat of which SRF speaks is something that can be perplexing at first. When we look at the line, we see 'heap - sand - desert'. Clusters of nouns like that require us to look for a fix. One possibility is that one of the nouns may have a secondary meaning as some other part of speech. But more likely is an izafat or two; remember that in ghazal calligraphy an izafat is most often left unmarked. The first thing to do is to consider the meter. In this case, the meter tells us that there's no room for an izafat after the first noun, and one after the second noun is possible but not required. If we put in the possible one, and modify the word order for English, we've got 'sand-heap of the desert'. That sounds fine in English, which has a real genius for compound nouns; it doesn't sound so fine in Urdu, which has no such genius. As SRF notes, it's rare in Urdu outside of Ghalib and Mir. But then, we're now inside of Ghalib and Mir, so we have to take such Persianisms in our stride.