a;hvaal bahut tang hai ay kaash mu;habbat
ab dast-e tala:t:tuf ko mire sar se u;Thaa le

1) things are very tough/tight-- oh, if only love
2) would now lift up the 'hand of favoring' from my head!



tang : 'Contracted, straitened, confined, strait, narrow, tight; wanting, scarce, scanty, stinted, barren; distressed, poor, badly off; distracted, troubled, vexed; dejected, sad, sick (at heart)'. (Platts p.340)


tala:t:tuf : 'Favouring, showing kindness; favour, kindness, obligingness; blandishment'. (Platts p.334)

S. R. Faruqi:

This verse is a masterpiece of sarcasm and freshness of style. When passion favors someone, it does not leave him until it has ruined him. This is an entirely commonplace theme. Mir's accomplishment is that he has devised for love the metaphor of the dast-e tala:t:tuf , and in the first line he has said an absolutely homey thing, like an instance of everyday life: a;hvaal bahut tang hai . The omission of meraa , apnaa , etc. before a;hvaal brings the tone of the first line every closer to everyday life.

The phrase a;hvaal bahut tang hai is a superb example of lightness/swiftness of expression, and in the second line the word 'now' also suggests that when love would first have placed the dast-e takalluf on the speaker's head, then because of inexperience he was probably happy to receive such a fine thing. How would he know that the result of this tala:t:tuf would be heart-lacerating?

The meaning of tala:t:tuf is 'to bring pleasure/favor/elegance [lu:tf]'. [A discussion of additional meanings in Persian.] It's clear that this final meaning of 'friendship, guardianship, support' is very interesting-- that the one whom love would support, or to whom it would reach out a hand in friendship, is beyond all help, and comes to be in a very wretched situation.

Hafiz too has well versified [in Persian] this kind of sarcastic theme:

'I present my passion, in the hope that this noble art
Will not, like other skills, become a cause for despair.'

In Hafiz's verse, the result of passion has been said to be only 'despair'-- which is a commonplace idea. Mir, by saying a;hvaal bahut tang hai , has seemingly said nothing-- and has said everything. Indeed, in Hafiz's verse to call passion a fan-e shariif and a hunar is very fine and, as with Mir's verse, introduces the 'affairs of passion' into daily life.

Now the questions remains, of what is meant by dast-e tala:t:tuf . In Greece the blind god of love, Cupid, makes people's hearts a mark for his arrows, but here love is some venerable, kindly friend who cherishes/caresses people with his dast-e tala:t:tuf . Thus the one whom love would cause to increase [in passion] every day , would cause to be absorbed in love itself-- on him will be the dast-e tala:t:tuf .

Then, there's also the fact that in the Western imagination, the god of love neither sees nor hesitates; he simply shoots an arrow and takes his leave. By contrast, in Mir's verse the vision is that between love and the lover there's some personal relationship, a mutual action and reaction. That is, love is some especially human power, and acts among humans. In Mir's verse love has been personified, but in fact Mir has here given to love a human individuality. In this there's an immediacy and a 'dramaticness'.

Passion is some extraordinary power, but in the human world it is eager to act, the way humans are. This idea Mir has expressed with supreme beauty and excellence at the beginning of two masnavis. From shu((lah-e ((ishq :

mu;habbat ne kaa;Rhaa hai :zulmat se nuur
nah hotii mu;habbat nah hotaa :zuhuur

[love has drawn forth light from darkness
if love did not exist, there would be no manifestation]

The masnavi begins with this verse. In the introduction there are thirty-two verses. The last of this is this one:

zamaane me;N aisaa nahii;N taazah kaar
;Gara.z hai yih u((juubah-e rozgaar

[in the age, there is nothing fresh like it
in short, this is the wonder of the era]

Right after this masnavi is [the masnavi] daryaa-e ((ishq , which begins like this:

((ishq hai taazah kaar taazah ;xayaal
har jagah us kii ik na))i hai chaal

[passion has fresh deeds and fresh thoughts
in every place it has a new gait/movement]

It's entirely clear that the theme on which the introduction to shu((lah-e ((ishq ends (the fresh deeds of passion and its action in the world of men) is the same theme as at the beginning of daryaa-e ((ishq . In this second introduction too there are thirty-two verses. And the final three verses act, so to speak, as a commentary on the present verse:

kaam me;N apne ((ishq pakkaa hai
haa;N yih nairang-saaz yakkaa hai

[passion is accomplished in its action
indeed, this wonder-worker is unique]

jis ko ho us kii iltifaat na.siib
hai vuh mihmaan-e chand-rozah ;Gariib

[the one to whom would be destined its favor
he is a 'guest of a few days', a stranger]

aisii taqriib ;Dhuu;N;Dh laataa hai
kih vuh naa-chaar jii se jaataa hai

[it seeks out and brings a means/contact
such that that wretch leaves his life]

A final point is that in the present verse, in the longing for the renunciation of love (that is, the breaking off of a relationship with love) he has created a fresh aspect-- that the speaker himself wants to do nothing, he wants the relationship to be broken off first by passion. He's composed a fine verse.



'...and if there has been a fault, let the Hand of Friendship turn aside the Whip of Calamity', Kim writes to Mahbub Ali in Kipling's famous novel. Similarly, the dast-e tala:t:tuf is part of a set of formal Persianized idioms with which Mir enjoys playing.

The locus classicus for such idioms in Mir is the 'foot of seeking' (which has gone to sleep!):


Further discussion and more examples will be found there.

Even more fundamentally, however, the gesture of putting the hand on someone's head is an archetypal form of blessing in South Asia. It is done by older and senior people to younger and junior ones. Ideally the young person bends to touch the elder person's feet, and then is intercepted about halfway down by the elder person, who places a hand on the younger person's head (which is then at a convenient height) and says some suitable words of kindness and blessing (the simplest form seems to be jiite raho , be;Te ). In the present verse, 'Love' is behaving like a well-intentioned (?) elder, and giving a blessing (?) to the lover. But of course, perhaps it's a little too much of a good thing; the speaker ruefully wishes that the hand would be lifted up off his head as soon as possible.