ab jaan jism-e ;xaakii se tang aa ga))ii bahut
kab tak us ek ;Tokrii mi;T;Tii ko ;Dho))iye

1) now the spirit has become greatly vexed with the dust-made body
2) how long will one bear/carry that single basket of dirt?



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


;Tokrii : 'A small basket (without a lid)'. (Platts p.360)


mi;T;Tii : 'Earth, soil, land, clay, loam; —dirt, filth; excrement; sweepings, rubbish, trash; —lifeless clay, corpse; carcass'. (Platts p.1000)


;Dhonaa : 'To take or bear up (a load), to carry, transport, remove'. (Platts p.574)

S. R. Faruqi:

This verse is in no need of explanation. For the spirit to be vexed with the body is a commonplace theme. The spirit is a prisoner and the body a prison-house-- this theme came into our poetry through the Sufis, and became very well accepted. There's no expectation that anything new will be possible in it. But Mir, by calling the body ek ;Tokrii mi;T;Tii , has touched the height of the metaphor, and has also showed a mastery of pithiness of speech. No matter how beautiful and delicate the body might be, in any case it's still dirt. Thus in the metaphor the 'vehicle' remains entirely suitable, and he has also shown complete disdain for the body. In this way the 'vehicle' is more powerful than the 'tenor', but here its power is in the fact that it is more contemptible and low than the 'tenor' (the body).

Then in the first line, by calling the body ;xaakii he has also arranged a complete affinity. Otherwise, several forms for the line were possible that would have conveyed the meaning:

(1) ab jaan jism-e kuhnah se tang aa ga))ii bahut
(2) ab jaan jism-e zaar se tang aa ga))ii bahut
(3) ab ma;hnat-e badan se hai jaa;N tangiyo;N me;N qaid

And so on. But the pleasure of the affinity would have drained away. In the same way, since we assume that the spirit is imprisoned in the body, in the first line tang too is a word with affinity.

In mi;T;Tii kii ;Tokri ;Dhonaa an image of hard labor, and especially the forced labor of begaar (that is, for which there would be no pay), is created. The spirit, carrying the body, wanders around, and it's clear that the spirit gets nothing from this; thus the spirit has been seized for 'begar'. This theme belongs to Maulana-e Rum; in the 'Masnavi' the Maulana says [in Persian]:

'But the 'begar' of the body full of bones--
Don't always keep imposing it on the spirit.'

Atish, profiting from Mir's verse (and possibly that of Maulana-e Rum) has well composed:

us mashqat se use ;xaak nah hogaa ;haa.sil
jaa;N ((aba;s jism kii begaar liye phirtaa hai

[from that practice it will get nothing/'dust'--
the life/spirit vainly goes around doing the 'begar' of the body]

The rareness of the metaphor, the 'dramaticness' of the tone, and the insha'iyah style, all raise Mir's verse far beyond Atish's. But Atish too has well used the word ;xaak , and his verse can definitely be placed over against Mir's.

Yaganah too has changed the image, and composed a fresh idea:

yaas ab tang aa ga))e is malgajii poshaak se
jaamah-e tan dhajjiyaa;N lene ke qaabil ho gayaa

[oh despair, we have now become vexed with this filthy garment
the robe of the body has become fit for tearing up]



Note for translation fans: Isn't it a pity that for ;xaakii we can't just say 'dusty'? It would be perfect in a literal sense. But of course in English it has come to mean 'covered with dust', while the Urdu has the general sense of 'pertaining to dust', or (in view of Islamic theology) 'made of dust'. So even though 'dust-made' is awful-sounding, I've forced it to happen.

And to make up for that frustration in the first line, in the second line English has given us a nice punchy little gift. The meanings of mi;T;Tii include both the neutral 'earth, soil', and the negative 'filth, excrement'. English offers us 'dirt'-- a word that elegantly straddles the border between them.