is var:te se ta;xtah jo ko))ii pahu;Nche kinaare
to miir va:tan mere bhii shaayad yih ;xabar jaa))e

1) from this whirlpool/destruction, if some plank/board would arrive at the shore
2) then, Mir, to even/also my homeland, perhaps this news might/would go



var:tah : 'Destruction, ruin; —a precipice; labyrinth, maze; any danger or difficulty in which one is embarrassed; any situation of danger or difficulty; embarrassment; —a whirlpool, vortex'. (Platts p.1188)

S. R. Faruqi:

For word of some death of oppression, or death of helplessness, to reach those at home-- this theme Mir has versified a number of times. For some such verses, see


Then in the second divan, there's this verse as well [{990,4}]:

kis ko ;xabar hai kishtii-tabaaho;N ke ;haal kii
ta;xtah magar kinaare ko))ii bah'h ke jaa lage

[who has news about the condition of the ship-destroyed ones?
but/perhaps some plank might float to the shore and lodge there]

Mir's love for themes about the sea, we have already seen, in




and we will see it again in the future too. Mir never saw the sea, but his control over forceful images based on typhoon and storm-waves and drowning gives proof of his uncommon imaginative effectiveness and the victory of his creative power. In {990,4}, the freshness of the phrase kishtii-tabaaho;N is an additional charm, and in his usual style Mir has avoided self-pity and unnecessary 'dramaticness'.

In the present verse, other aspects as well create freshness. Consider these points:

(1) The verse has been spoken by a single person, so that effect of the ship's destruction and the intensity of the whirlpool has become immediate. It seems that the speaker's ship is now about to break into pieces, and seeing the intensity of the whirlpool he thinks that now it would be difficult for the ship to escape, but perhaps if some plank might become free from the swirling of the whirlpool, and then might even reach the shore, then it's possible that news might reach his family that he had drowned.

(2) In Urdu, the meaning of var:tah is 'whirlpool, vortex'. But it has several meanings (see Platts) and among them the following ones are appropriate to the present verse: (1) destruction; (2) labyrinth, maze; (3) a tall cliff that would be difficult to descend or ascend; (4) difficulty or anxiety. According to nuur ul-lu;Gaat , its original meaning is 'a slaughter-place; ground where there would be no road'. Obviously if we keep these meanings in mind, then Mir's verse increases in depth.

(3) With regard to 'ground where there would be no road', for a plank to arrive at the edge of it is fine.

(4) The whole verse is pervaded with an atmosphere of melancholy dignity, but its actual meaning is not clear. On one level the meaning is that the speaker's journey of life ends with shipwreck and drowning, and he longs for news to reach his loved ones. On another level, the meaning is that the speaker travels in some strange land, on some strange sea, and drowns there. This strange sea can be the sea of passion, and can also be that of some strange land where he has been forced into exile.

In T. S. Eliot's poem 'The Waste Land' [section III], the river in whose depths worldly things do not remain symbolizes the teaching of Mahatma Buddha, that in the river ( = the ocean of life) one should travel in such a way that no attachment to places remains:

The river bears no empty bottles, sandwich papers,
Silk handkerchiefs, cardboard boxes, cigarette ends...

There's no other suggestion or sign at all of the existence of spring nights. But moving along, in the same poem there's a reference to drowning and death [in section IV]:

A current under sea
Picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell
He passed the stages of his age and youth
Entering the whirlpool.

Gentile or Jew
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.

Here we arrive near Mir's verse, and it can be said that whenever news of the drowning of Mir's speaker would have reached his homeland, then perhaps the people there might have mourned him in words similar to the lines above. But there's also the fact that according to Richard Allman, if some people take Phlebas's death to be a symbol of rebirth and renewed flourishing, then others take his death to be futile, sterile, and without result.

In Mir's verse too, there's no vision of the speaker's death as accompanied by any rebirth, or any new wave of life after death. He doesn't even have confidence that news of his death will be able to reach anyone. That is, his death has been absolutely futile/wasted. The way when Eliot's Phlebas enters the whirlpool, then voices echo in the air, 'Whether you are an infidel or a believer, remember him, who was handsome and tall like you'-- in the same way Mir's speaker too, when he enters the whirlpool, longs only for a memory. Except for that, his death has no result/fruit.

It's not necessary to point out that the scope and breadth of Eliot's poem extend very far. In it very far-reaching experiments with the nature and scope of modern poetry have been made, and its subject is not such as can be expressed in two lines. But it's also true that in this part of the poem Eliot's revelatory and melancholy theme, and Mir's melancholy, both are the same kind of thing.

[See also {950,9}.]



It's such a severe and matter-of-fact verse. Whatever 'mood' it has is built up only in the reader's mind, from the image of the solitary plank that might (or might not) float to shore, weeks or months later, to testify to the speaker's doom in the whirlpool. (And even if it did, would people be likely to recognize which ship it had come from?) The poignancy is all the greater because in Indo-Muslim culture such a value was placed on a proper burial, with proper death rituals; drowning at sea, with no body recoverable and not even any word to those waiting at home, was considered an especially deadly fate.

What is there to shore up (so to speak) one's spirits? I keep thinking of the other people on the doomed ship. The speaker spares not a thought for them; they might as well not exist. Of course, Sufistically and allegorically speaking, this is very proper; the lover's life and death are almost perversely his own. But for the rest of us? I think that ship would have been missed, and known to be lost, and mourned for, whether or not that single plank ever floated to the shore. Human solidarity is limited, but even if it's not all we need, it's all we've got, and over time we often manage to make it work. Even the speaker, in the last moments of his life, thinks not of some unattainable beloved or mystical quest, but of reaching out to his homeland.