kahaa;N tak bhalaa ro))oge miir .saa;hib
ab aa;Nkho;N ke gird ik varam dekhte hai;N

1) how long, for heavens sake, will you weep, Mir Sahib?!
2) now, around your eyes, we see a single/particular/unique swelling



bhalaa : 'adv. & intj. Well, very good; how fortunate! forsooth, in sooth, of a truth; strange'. (Platts p.190)


varam : 'A swelling; inflammation; a tumour, an imposthume'. (Platts p.1189)

S. R. Faruqi:

Muhammad Hasan Askari often used to say that Mir presents his humanity more than his ego, and that even in commonplace things he creates the dignity of melancholy. In this connection, in his essay 'Mir-ji' he has noted this opening-verse of Mir's, from the first divan [{537,1}]:

jab rone bai;Thtaa huu;N tab kyaa kasar rahe hai
ruumaal do do din tak juu;N abr tar rahe hai

[when I sit down to weep, then what deficiency remains?
my handkerchief, for two or three days, like a cloud, remains wet]

Then Askari Sahib writes (and he writes absolutely correctly),

In this verse the 'tragedy' that is created is not because of the weeping, but rather from the mention of the handkerchief. This one word, with lightning-like swiftness, brings the whole scene before us-- of what kind of place this world is, of who the people here are, of what is expected from them, and of the kind of grief Mir feels in the face of all this.

After this, Askari Sahib notes the present verse, and says that here Mir 'with the aid of a commonplace thing, has created a tragedy'.

Undoubtedly, in the present verse is a strange, melancholy sadness. And one cause of this 'mood' is that in it the swelling of the eyes has been mentioned-- that is, a kind of reality that is taken from ordinary life.

But in {537,1}, the theme is more important, not the mood. If Askari Sahib had given more emphasis to the aspects of 'theme-creation', then he would certainly have arrived at the conclusion that despite the mention of the handkerchief, in this verse the power is created by the presentation of a new style/aspect of the theme of tear-shedding.

In fact long before, Vali had already versified this theme, and Mir had advanced beyond Wali's theme:

nah puuchho ((ishq me;N josh-o-;xarosh-e dil kii maahiiyat
barang-e abr daryaa-baar hai ruumaal ((aashiq kaa

[don't ask about the essence, in passion, of the turbulence of the heart
like a cloud, the handkerchief of the lover bears a river]

It should be kept in mind that in {537,1} the 'mood' has been created by the simple and apparently innocent exaggeration of do do din tak . Mir's verse is better than Vali's, partly because Vali's is verbose, and partly because it has included the homey expression do do din tak . In terms of theme, the primacy is in any case Vali's.

Indeed, the theme of the present verse is Mir's own. In this 'ground' and meter, ghazals by Ghalib [G{96}] and Sauda at once come to mind. The ghazal of the young Ghalib is better than those of Mir and Sauda, but neither Ghalib nor Sauda had the courage to versify varam .

Mir has composed this theme at least two more times. From the first divan [{330,9}]:

aa;Nkho;N ne miir .saa;hib-o-qiblah varam kiyaa
;ha.zrat bukaa kiyaa nah karo raat ke ta))ii;N

[your eyes, Mir Sahib, Your Lordship, have made a swelling
Your Excellency, please don't always weep in the night!]

From the fourth divan [{1343,7}]:

bukaa-e shab-o-roz ab chho;R miir
navaa;h aa;Nkho;N kaa to varam kar gayaa

[now leave off weeping night and day, Mir
the edges of your eyes-- you've made them into a swelling]

The first line of {330,9} is fine, and the second line of {1343,7}. But both lines of the present verse are extremely well-measured and trim. The rhetorical question in the first line is fine, and the style of address too is fine. In this style of address there's informality, and a judicious [panchaayatii] feeling. In {330,9} the style of address is comparatively artificial; and in {1343,7} the style of address is a bit imperious and formal.

In addition, in the present verse, in dekhte hai;N there's the implication that the speakers are many people. The zila between aa;Nkho;N and dekhte hai;N too is very fine.



As SRF points out, the unusual (and therefore 'fresh') word varam is the pivot point of this verse. The reason that it's unusual is no doubt that it's fairly unpleasant (see the definition above). This distasteful, unpoetic quality is why SRF says that neither Ghalib nor Sauda 'had the courage' to use it as a rhyme-word.

As always, we should notice the elegant little word ik . Probably the speakers don't mean to describe the swelling as 'excellent', but do they mean to emphasize its 'single' quality (the eyes are so vastly and symmetrically swollen that they seem to be surrounded by unbroken puffy rings), or its 'particular' quality (the eyes are swollen to a degree, or in a way, that couldn't result from any ordinary weeping), or its 'unique' quality (the eyes are more swollen than anyone would have believed possible)? After all, if Mir didn't intend for us to notice the ik , why didn't he just stick to into the same little metrical slot instead?

What I find problematical is Askari's description of the verse as showing the use of a commonplace image (a wet handkerchief, swollen eyes) to create 'a tragedy' [;Traija;Dii]. SRF cites this judgment approvingly and finds it quite correct. But I don't buy it. In my view this verse does not evoke 'the dignity of melancholy', nor is it 'a tragedy'. On the contrary, in fact: it's a classic 'neighbors' verse, the kind in which Mir specializes, in which the ordinary common-sense perspective of the mad lover's concerned neighbors is brought to bear on his behavior, with results that are often both poignant and enjoyable.

These neighbors are worried and affectionately reproachful: 'With all this crying, look what a mess you've made of your face!' The lover is being treated like a child who has had a tantrum and needs to be soothed. (They have a handkerchief, and if they get the chance they might even wipe his eyes.) Of course, Askari would say that within the lover's weeping fits can be seen the whole nature of the human condition ('what kind of place this world is') and the lover's inexpressible sorrow ('what kind of grief Mir feels').

To which I reply, those things can be seen only if the commentator himself spells them out and explicitly inserts them into the verse. They are not in the verse. What is in the verse is that the lover is seen as behaving like a wilful self-harming child, so that he inspires parent-like behavior (affectionate, concerned reproach) in his neighbors. Not only does the verse not give the lover any special 'dignity' [vaqaar] of melancholy-- it deliberately deprives him of dignity, by emphasizing the funny-looking and unattractive puffiness, the varam , that his incessant weeping has made around his eyes.

Of course, I can't prove that one should not adopt Askari's reading. I can't disprove his reading, and he couldn't (if he were alive) disprove mine. (Verses like this are nothing if not hospitable to interpretation.) But I do mean to argue that his interpretation is not the only one possible; it doesn't come built into the verse, it doesn't automatically impose itself on any reasonably competent reader. This argument that I'm making is part of my ongoing attempt to grapple with SRF's view of 'tone' as a baked-in feature of some of Mir's verses; for more on this, see {724,2}.