aatish-e ;Gam me;N dil bhunaa shaayad
der se buu kabaab kii sii hai

1) in the fire of grief the/a heart has roasted, perhaps
2) for some time, there's been a smell like that of a kabob



bhun'naa : 'To be fried, roasted, grilled, parched; to roast or burn (mentally), to be in pain, to grieve' (Platts p.192)



On the special status of this ghazal, see {485,1}.

Whence comes that kabob-like grilled-meat smell? The lover can only speculate, but he makes a plausible guess. He's so accustomed to the constant pain in his burning heart that he can notice only through external clues that it might have finally gotten cooked through. Or alternatively, it might be some other poor lover's well-roasted heart that he's been smelling.

The way a kabob is skewered through its middle or 'heart' and slowly rotated over a fire is a wonderfully appropriate image for the sufferings of passion. And the juxtaposition of lofty sufferings with appetizing, aromatic street-food smells is amusing in itself.

At least, to my mind. But I recently (Aug. 2017) visited an Urdu class taught by my friend Mehr Farooqi at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, and when we discussed this verse she said very firmly and sincerely that she didn't find the verse funny at all. In the class as a whole, some people found it funny and some did not. The same was true for the previous verse, {485,6}, only more so-- in that case, only a couple of people agreed with me that it was funny. This divergence of opinion somewhat astonished me, though perhaps it shouldn't have. After all, I've gone on discussing Ghalib and Mir and pointing out verses that I find humorous, but I've rarely had occasion to check my judgments and see whether others commonly agree. But of course, such discrepant judgments are encountered all the time, in contemporary humor as well, so I really can only claim to be reporting my own subjective response. And of course, none of us can know whether the original audiences would have agreed. For discussion of more general issues of 'mood' and 'tone', see {724,2}.

Note for grammar fans: This little verse illustrates some very common temporal-sequence discrepancies between Urdu and English. In English, we have an X that 'has been' happening 'for a long time'. In Urdu, we have an X that 'is' happening [hai] 'from a long time' [der se]. One result is the hybridized Indian English expression 'since long'. And in the first line of this verse, we also encounter the common fact that Urdu tends to be one step further in the past than English; thus the present perfect 'has roasted' sounds much more idiomatic than would the perfect 'roasted' [bhunaa]. For discussion of these and other such issues, see my grammar notes, *section 19*.