mah-vashaa;N puuchhe;N nah ;Tuk hijraa;N me;N gar mar jaa))iye
ab kaho is shahr-e naa-pursaa;N se kiidhar jaa))iye

1) the moon-faced ones wouldn't ask/inquire at all if, in separation, one would die
2) now tell me-- from this city of 'non-inquirers', which way would/should one go?!



pursish : 'Asking, questioning, interrogating, inquiring, inquiry (generally after health)'. (Platts p.248)

S. R. Faruqi:

Apparently in this verse there's nothing except for the fresh construction shahr-e naa-pursaa;N , but if we consider for a bit, then we realize that its theme too is very fresh. The speaker/lover is in some strange city, clearly he is very far from his beloved there. Now what should he have done-- remembering the beloved, he heaves sighs and dies of the shock of separation, or is close to dying. But what's happening is that he feels additional grief at his solitude and the 'non-inquiry'. He longs for the moon-faced ones (beautiful people) of that city to ask about him, or at least that when he would be dying from the shock of separation they would most certainly ask about him. But the beautiful ones of that city are so stony-hearted that they don't give the least thought to the living or dying of a separated lover.

In the second line another fresh aspect of the theme can be seen-- that the speaker/lover is solitary and grieving not in the wilderness and desert, but in that city of 'non-inquirers'. He should have left that city of ones unsympathetic to his condition, and taken the road to some desert. But what is happening is that he is complaining of the city of non-inquirers, and is also asking 'now where would/might I go from here?'. From this we can conclude that the speaker/lover has been forced to leave his city/beloved and come here, and he has no other recourse/refuge. But we also cannot refrain from pointing a [reproachful] finger at his fickleness (or spiritual weakness)-- that is, that he is absorbed not in longing for union with the beloved, but rather in longing for the favor of other beloveds.

For shahr-e naa-pursaa;N there are two meanings: (1) a city of people who do not inquire; and (2) a city that is non-inquiring, devoid of compassion. In both cases, the cleverness/trickiness of the speaker's tone, which is covered by a veil of innocence, is very interesting.

Muhammad Husain Jah, in :tilism-e hoshrubaa , vol. 1, p. 65, has spoken of a city called shahr-e naa-pursaa;N . Probably he picked up this name directly from Mir. In the account he's given of the city, powerful sarcasm is directed at acceptance of English ways. Possibly this might be his own invention, because in the wide field of the volumes of the dastan of Amir Hamzah, here and there contempt for the English, or sarcastic nit-picking directed at them, can be found. In any case, the situation of the shahr-e naa-pursaa;N is this:

Asad said, 'What is the name of this city?' He [=a halwah-seller] replied, 'It is called the City of Non-inquirers, and paper rupee notes are used here'. With these words, he pulled out a rupee from his money-box and showed him: this coin is used here. The Prince saw that on the slip of paper a picture of a king had been made. On the other side of the paper were some drawings and letters. The halwah-seller said, 'If you give me just such a rupee then you'll get the goods; otherwise, be on your way'. When he heard these words, he went from there to another shop and wanted to buy some goods. There too he found this same answer. Asad was hungry; he became extremely angry and said [to himself], 'After all this is called the City of Non-inquirers, nobody asks/cares. Go ahead and loot the bazaar, create a riot in the whole city!'.

If we look it in one way, then the answer to Mir's second line is in this quotation. It's surprising that the English government placed no restriction on this part of the dastan. In any case, in the light of this quotation one more meaning of shahr-e naa-pursaa;N can be understood: a city in which no one is informed/vigilant, anybody goes around doing whatever he might want. In the light of this meaning, Mir's verse comes to bear a very different kind of sarcasm-- at a city in which there would be no supervision, where the moon-faced ones would do whatever they might wish, and our speaker/lover would do whatever he might wish-- he might die or be disgraced, no one would ask/care.



The speaker finds himself in a city where people do not 'inquire'. In its usual social sense, this means that no one checks on anyone or shows any sign of concern about anyone; see the definition of pursish above. It's not clear what the relationship is between the 'moon-faced ones' and this 'city of non-inquirers'. There seem to be two possibilities: (1) The moon-faced ones behave as they do because everyone in their whole city behaves that way. (2) The group of moon-faced ones themselves collectively constitute a kind of 'city'.

In the first case, the verse is about a city. SRF shows in his fascinating dastan example that Jah clearly envisioned the range of 'non-inquiry' to include a lack of supervision or policing, and a general moral indifference: nobody monitors people's behavior. But we could also push the same idea of 'non-inquiry' in a more practical direction. If you're in a strange city and want to leave it, then of course (since in the ghazal world you have no maps), you ask the locals in which direction ( kidhar ) you should go to reach the main city gate and get out, and then what neighboring cities you could reach. But if it's a city of 'non-inquirers', in which no questions are asked, will anybody be willing, or even able, to tell you? Might not such a city have in place a 'don't ask, don't tell' code of some mysterious kind?

Along these lines the ab kaho becomes especially meaningful and enjoyable. For the speaker is asking someone to give him the necessary information about how to move out and onward-- and that someone is surely a friend or companion, rather than one of the indifferent 'moon-faced ones' of the city. The ab gives it a certain urgency ('I'm in a fix-- now what do I do?'). And the kaho begs for an answer-- 'tell me, speak to me!'-- in a way that emphasizes the silence and opacity of the city, and the speaker's desperate need for words, for sympathy, for human responsiveness.

In the second case, if we push the abstraction level a bit higher, then the question in the second line can also be rhetorical. If we consider all the beautiful beloveds in the world to form a kind of 'city', then it's a devastating city in which the poor lover can hardly survive, much less thrive. But where would, should, can he go from this city? Nowhere, of course. Having had the mad romantic and mystical experience of 'self-lessness', can the lover even imagine seeking anything else, or consenting to live at a lower level of passion? In his heart he knows that the only way out of the city of passion passes through the strait of death.

Note for grammar fans: The jaa))iye is of course not really acting as a polite imperative; rather, it's a kind of polite future subjunctive referring to a possible future action by some (generalized) person(s).