;Tuk sun kih sau baras kii naamuus-e ;xaamushii kho
do chaar dil kii baate;N ab mu;Nh par aa))iyaa;N hai;N

1) just listen a bit, for having lost a hundred years of the honor/shame of silence
2) two or three ideas/utterances of the heart now have come to the mouth



naamuus : 'Reputation, fame, renown; esteem, honour, grace, dignity; —disgrace, reproach, shame'. (Platts p.1118)


khonaa : 'To cause to be lost or destroyed; to lose; to fail of; to part with, get rid of; to do (or make) away with, to throw away, to waste, squander'. (Platts p.884)


aa))iyaa;N hai;N is an archaic form of aa))ii hai;N

S. R. Faruqi:

This verse Mir indeed created [nikaalnaa] in such a way that hundreds of ghazals can be sacrificed for it. The construction naamuus-e ;xaamushii itself is extremely superb and meaning-producing, because to remain silent is a guarantor of the honor of passion, the lover, and the beloved, all three; and it protects all three from disgrace/disclosure. The second interpretation is that silence had an honor, an esteem, that will be ruined by the opening of the lips.

Then, sau baras kii is an extremely superior phrase, because in it there's hyperbole-- but not an excess of hyperbole, but rather instead a refusal to delimit the interval. That is, this interval of 'a hundred years' can be one of a few years, or even of a few months. But to the speaker, this interval seems to be a hundred years. If Mir had said ;Tuk sun kih ((umr bhar kii , then this effect would not have been created.

Then, in comparison to 'a hundred years', what are 'two or three ideas/utterances of the heart'? That is, the speaker isn't saying everything, and there's also the fact that the silence was of a hundred years, but he'll say only 'two or three things'. For the ideas/utterances of the heart to come to the lips [mu;Nh par aanaa] is also fine.

There are also two meanings for ;Tuk sun : (1) 'Listen', in the sense of hearing; and (2) to cause someone to pay attention, as in suno falaa;N sha;x.s kyaa kahtaa hai , as in this opening- verse of Atish's-- its whole magic is in the first three words alone:

sun to sahii jahaa;N me;N hai teraa fasaanah kyaa
kahtii hai tujh ko ;xalq-e ;xudaa ;Gaa))ibaanah kyaa

[listen, will you-- what is your story in the world?
what do people ['the Lord's creatures'] secretly call you?]

But Mir's ;Tuk sun is better than Atish's sun to sahii , because in Mir's tone there's not any suspicion of challenge or combativeness, and still both meanings are present.

[See also {68,8}; {500,2}.]



Grammatically speaking, it seems that it's the do chaar dil kii baate;N themselves that have lost the naamuus-e ;xaamushii , rather than the human speaker (though if we really wanted to, we could declare it to be the speaker). Since they've also 'come to the mouth', they do appear to have some agency. But does that part really matter? It's the use of khonaa that's wonderfully and potently ambiguous here (see the definition above). Have the ideas/utterances of the heart (or the speaker himself) 'lost', or 'failed in', or 'destroyed' or 'wasted' all that honor/shame of silence? Has the process been accidental (they've lost it), or involuntary (they've been unable to maintain it), or foolish (they've squandered it), or unspecified (they've simply got rid of it)? Perhaps they have renounced it in principle; perhaps they've just gotten sick of it; perhaps they've painfully sacrificed it.

The dual sense of naamuus as 'honor/shame' (see the definition above) only adds to the possible interpretive range. And of course, we have no idea what those 'ideas/utterances of the heart' might be, that would come bubbling up (or running along, or escaping) to appear 'on' the mouth after so many years. Are they full or the 'honor/shame' of worldly reputation, or that of passion (which is so often the opposite)? For a discussion of this special 'honor/shame' duality, see {1896,9}.

Note for translation fans: How to do do chaar ? Of course it's literally 'two four' but the idiomatic effect is 'a few'. In English, the literal-sounding counterpart phrase is of course 'two or three', with the more general alternative of 'a few'. As usual, I decided to go for the literal; but I rejected the unhelpfully literal (because so strikingly unidiomatic) 'two or four'. But in English we can also say 'three or four'. Which way should 'two four' run? The reason I chose 'two or three' was partly the rhetorical thrust of the verse, and partly the fact that in Urdu do tiin also exists (in a way that tiin chaar really doesn't), and is equated by Platts with do chaar . Looking at Platts is a useful tactic, when you're trying to think something through; he often gives possible translations that you haven't thought of, even for words you know well. But the real moral, as always, is that you can never get it all, you will always have to (knowingly, painfully, sacrificially) throw things overboard (to khonaa them, in fact), and you'll always be sorry for it. But even though failure is inevitable, it's also relative (some translations are in fact better than others), and it doesn't at all invalidate our work.