shaayad kabaab kar kar khaayaa kabuutar un ne
naamah u;Raa phire hai us kii galii me;N par saa

1) perhaps she gradually made kabobs, and ate the pigeon--
2) a letter flutters around in her street like a wing



S. R. Faruqi:

The un in the first line and the us in the second line ought not to be considered a hodgepodge. Both lines could easily have had either one. In fact, in Mir's time they also used to use un with the meaning of us . The present verse is a good example of the 'mood' of Mir's expression when with with extreme pitilessness he laughed at himself, or at his condition. That he would send a letter addressed to the beloved, and that the beloved would be so indifferent and such a jester that she would slaughter the pigeon and eat it, and would cause the letter to flutter around in the breeze-- this is the sort of thing that an enemy can laugh at, but that the person to whom it happens wants only to conceal.

Here, Mir himself is saying, it seems that this is what the beloved did to my messenger-pigeon. And how risible the thing itself is, that the very pigeon through which a letter is sent, the beloved would slaughter and eat! Such a thing could occur only to a person like Mir. In the slaughtering of the pigeon, and the letter of ardor being considered to flutter around like a wing, the affinity is also fine.

And the enjoyable thing is that if the the letter is fluttering around in the beloved's street like a wing, then it's not proven that the pigeon has actually been slaughtered. But since he already feels his own contemptibleness and lack of dignity in the beloved's eyes, for him to see a letter flapping and fluttering in the breeze and think of a wing, and then to suppose that the beloved would have slaughtered the pigeon-- this is as natural as it is engaging.

Mir has presented exactly this same theme in the sixth divan [{1885,9}]; his wit remained established into his old age:

sau naamah-bar kabuutar kar ;zab;h un ne khaa))e
;xa:t chaak u;Re phire hai;N us kii galii me;N par se

[having slaughtered a hundred messenger-pigeons, she ate them
the letters, torn, flutter around in her street like wings]

A similar theme Vajid Ali's son (but a commonplace poet) Hizbar Lakhnavi has versified well:

parii-ruu ko likkhaa bhii naamah agar
to ((anqaa jahaa;N me;N kabuutar hu))aa

[even if we wrote a letter to the fairy-faced one,
then the pigeon became an Anqa in the world]

Ahmad Husain Qamar has recorded dozens of Hizbar Lakhnavi's ghazals in his dastan homaan naamah , but only this verse of his, on which the grace of Mir has fallen, is of any use. All the rest of his poetry is uninspiring [be-kaif]. But this verse of Hizbar's too has been directly borrowed from Atish:

ek din pahu;Nchaa nah dast-e yaar tak maktuub-e shauq
:taali((-e bad ne kabuutar ko bhii ((anqaa kar diyaa

[the letter of ardor didn't arrive in the hand of the beloved on a single day
ill-fortune made even the pigeon an Anqa]

But the enjoyableness of roasting the pigeon and making it into kabobs-- where is that, in making it into an Anqa? The theme of a messenger-pigeon's becoming an Anqa was perhaps invented by Naziri [in Persian]. How well he has composed it:

'This is a fresh custom among the non-succeeders of our age,
Otherwise, before this age, whose messenger was the Anqa?'

Mir has abandoned the theme of the Anqa, and has found his own path toward incorporating an additional aspect of laughing at himself. In this verse by Mirza Jan Tapish, because there's no humor the very same theme has remained pallid [phiikaa]:

;haal-e dil-e birishtah le jaa))e kaun us tak
jo mur;G-e naamah-bar ko kar kar kabaab khaave

[who would take to her, the state of the roasted/broiled heart?--
she who would turn the messenger-bird into kabobs and eat it]



Well, Tapish's verse may not be as fine as Mir's, but let's not consider it entirely bland and boring. Doesn't the word birishtah do something enjoyable in its own right? It opens up the imaginative possibility that the carnivorous beloved would enjoy feasting on the already-cooked 'roasted' or 'broiled' heart-- perhaps even more than the pigeon kabobs on which she so greedily snacks?

Actually, the finishing touch would be if the letter fluttering around in the breeze had grease-stains on it, to show that it had been pressed into service as a napkin during the kabob-fest. But as SRF points out, we don't actually know for sure that the beloved ate the pigeon. The poor paranoid lover just sees (something like) a letter fluttering in the breeze, and jumps to what seems to him (or perhaps really is) the most plausible conclusion.

The vision of the kabob-munching beloved, personally grilling chunk after chunk [kabaab kar kar], eating with relish, and then licking her henna-ed fingers, is truly funny. And then kabaab kar kar khaayaa kabuutar contains such a remarkable string of disruptive, unstoppable 'k' sounds, almost all followed by only a short 'a' and then another consonant; and the string begins with a kab-aab and ends with a kab-uutar . Really, a brilliantly attention-grabbing set of sound and script effects.

But then the second line actually almost succeeds in shifting gears. The vision of the wing-like (but wingless) white letter, whirling here and there in the wind, can indeed evoke the helpless fluttering of a white wing, and the poignancy of a slaughtered bird. Or perhaps even after the bird has been slaughtered, the letter itself can't bear to leave the beloved's street? Thus it itself keeps fluttering around, urgently seeking access to her presence.

This is really a very amusing verse. But it's not only amusing; it's amusing, but also with a certain dignity or subtlety of feeling. The first line is truly funny-- and then the second line adds more complex emotions. It adds qualities of thought and feeling that are hard to decipher, and hard to pin down, but are most definitely felt by the reader. Yet still it's funny! Way to go, Mir!

Note for grammar fans: The letter literally 'in a state of having flown, wanders'. The u;Raa , short for u;Raa hu))aa , is a perfect participle. Then phire hai is an archaic form of phirtaa hai . The birdlike quality of 'having flown' is what I was trying to capture in 'flutters', though I admit that it's not as literal as it might be.