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

1) to open/bloom {little by little / a very little}, the bud has learned
2) it is 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. Moreover, the second line contributes its own ambiguity. Grammatically it has the form of 'X is'-- which can be given the sense of 'X exists', but that isn't very satisfactory. A better, more fruitful assumption is that the subject has been colloquially omitted: 'it is X'; this is how I've translated the line.

Then the question arises, what is the 'it'? And then it becomes clear what a brilliantly 'A,B' structure the verse has, for grammatically and semantically the two lines are entirely independent. Thus when we look in the first line, no possible antecedent for the 'it' appears. We have to devise our own. 'The content of what the bud learned'? 'The means by which the bud learned'? 'The cause that induced the bud to learn'? 'The un-learnable secret that thwarted the bud'? 'The slow opening of a bud'? All these are quite eligible candidates for 'it', with their own particular pleasures; and they remain forever, unresolvably, jostling for position.

Thus this extremely short and simple-looking little verse turns out to be as effective a generator of multiple meanings as any of its apparently more complex cousins. And all the more irresistibly so, for its deceptively soft and sweet facade.