khulnaa kam kam kalii ne siikhaa hai
us kii aa;Nkho;N kii niim-;xvaabii se

1) to open/bloom {little by little / a very little}, the bud has learned
2) from the half-{asleepness/dreamingness} of her eyes



khilnaa : 'To open, expand (as a flower), to blow, bloom, flower; to open, crack, burst, swell'. (Platts p.879)


khulnaa : 'To open, come open or undone; to open, expand, blow (as a flower; com. khilnaa )'. (Platts p.879)

S. R. Faruqi:

Here, kam kam is an interesting usage. Mir has used it in the Persian sense ('slowly, by degrees'). It's surprising that despite the existence of this verse, the author of the [dictionary] nuur ul-lu;Gaat says that in Urdu this meaning doesn't exist. The meanings that he has given are correct in their way, and some meanings-- for example, 'a little bit'-- are also proper for the present verse. But to ignore the meaning of 'slowly, by degrees' is not proper.

Now consider the following interpretations:

(1) The bud opens gradually. This is the way that sleep-laden eyes open-- especially if the sleeper is young and inexperienced. The bud has learned to open gradually from the beloved's sleep-laden eyes.

(2) Once the eyes have opened after sleep, for some time they remain heavy and half-open. This state too is more so with young people. The bud too remains for some time half-open, then opens.

(3) The beauty of the beloved's style of opening her eyes, does not exist in the opening of a bud. The bud has not learned the art of opening from your half-asleep eyes.

(4) The beloved's eyes always seem to be half-asleep (as often occurs in a state of intoxication). The bud too, having seen this style in the beloved's eyes, learned to remain half-blooming. That is, since the bud saw that the beloved's eyes were half-asleep, it has ceased to open fully and has adopted the style of half-bloomingness. In the light of this reading, there's 'thought-binding' in the verse, because no 'proof' has been given of the bud's always remaining half-blooming-- although the thought itself is interesting.

[See also {1504,1}.]



Another delight of the kam kam , apart from its meaning both 'little by little' and 'a very little', is that it operates as what I call (for want of a better term) a 'midpoint': it can be read adverbially with different clauses, to describe either the process of 'learning', or the process of 'opening'. Thus we end up with four enjoyably different possible readings:

(1) the bud has, little by little, learned how to open

(2) the bud has learned, a little bit, how to open

(3) the bud has learned to open little by little

(4) the bud has learned to open a little bit

And of course, by no coincidence, all these readings work elegantly with the second line.

There's also the excellent semi-overlapping doubleness of khulnaa / khilnaa (see the definitions above). (Another striking example: {12,4}.) For the beloved's eyes, 'to open' [khulnaa] is the perfect verb; for a bud, 'to bloom' [khilnaa] is the perfect verb. When the eyes and the bud are juxtaposed, the choice is up to us. (Though really in the ghazal world the beloved always wins.)