kare kyaa kih dil bhii to majbuur hai
zamii;N sa;xt hai aasmaa;N duur hai

1) what might/would/can it do? for even/also the heart is oppressed/constrained
2) 'the earth/ground is harsh/hard, the sky is far away'



majbuur : 'Compelled, constrained, forced, necessitated; helpless; oppressed'. (Platts p.1002)

S. R. Faruqi:

The opening-verse is apparently simple. But it also has an interesting ambiguity-- that what is being discussed is what the heart might or might not do. One possibility is that the matter under discussion is that the heart is undergoing trouble, it is enduring sorrow and hardship. But it is not resorting to death. That is, the lover endures trouble, and prefers life over death. From an intellectual perspective this is proper behavior, but it's also contrary to the status of lover-ship. Therefore in his defense it's being said, 'What can I do-- death just doesn't come! If the ground were not hard, then I would enter into it; if the sky were not far away, then I would go and hide myself there. Now I have no choice, I am compelled to pass a life of sorrow.'

The worldliness of this argument is obvious. But under the surface there might be sarcasm as well. That is, apparently the speaker is defending the heart, but in reality he's laughing at it, he's looking at it with contempt and scorn: 'You set out to be a lover-- you fear death and hide from life, and make the excuse that you have no choice, you can do nothing, death won't even come!'.

A second possibility is that the heart has now resolved that death has not been vouchsafed, nor is the beloved available-- so now it will seize the beloved's garment-hem audaciously [;hariifaanah], and try its fortune.

The theme of seizing the beloved's garment-hem audaciously is not as farfetched as it might seem, because although Ghalib made it famous, it's Mir's own theme. Thus in the first divan itself he says [{521,7}],

kis din daaman khe;Nch ke un ne yaar se apnaa kaam liyaa
muddat gu;zrii dekhte ham ko miir bhii ik naa-kaarah hai

[on which day did he seize her garment-hem and get his desire from the beloved?
we watched for some time; Mir is quite a useless type!]



The second line is also a well-known proverb. I'm sure SRF must know it, since even I know it; he probably just neglected to mention the fact. The form I know is zamiin sa;xt hai aur aasmaan duur ; a very similar form, zamiin sa;xt aur aasmaan duur hai , is given (though with incorrect diacritics) in Fallon's 'A Dictionary of Hindustani Proverbs' (Banaras 1886, p. 263).

Assuming that Mir knew the proverb too, why would he strip away the aur and make the proverb into two separate statements? Not because of metrical constraints, since aur could perfectly well fit where the first hai does. Perhaps so as to turn it into two independent excuses, to give the effect of whining?

What does it add to our understanding of the verse, to know that the second line is a proverb? Chiefly perhaps a resonance, a sense of increased depth and flexibility of meaning. SRF reads the second line literally (the earth is too hard to bury oneself in, the sky is too far away to escape to), but when we encounter a proverb we at once sever its connection to its literal sense ('every dog has his day' is not about canine behavior). It's not hard to think of melancholy and fatalistic ways in which that line could be read and interpreted.

That second line also makes me think of a second line of Ghalib's that is perhaps a riff on this proverb: