jab raat sar pa;Takne ne taa;siir kuchh nah kii
naa-chaar miir ma;N;Dkarii sii maar so rahaa

1) when last night head-beating created no impression/effect
2) helpless(ly), Mir curled up in fetal position and fell asleep



S. R. Faruqi:

ma;N;Dkarii marnaa = to bring the hands and feet up to the chest, bow the head, and remain curled up; that is, to assume a fetal position

An unusual quality of Mir's is that although he too uses the customary exaggeration in describing the pain of passion and separation, on some occasions he uses an entirely unexpected kind of extreme realism; and in addition to being on an emotional level, his realism is also connected to ordinary, outward life. For an expression of realism on the emotional level, see


in which there's mention of the wound of the heart becoming 'cold/dispirited'.

In the present verse, realism on an emotional level has been made more solid by means of a scene from common outward life. There's no effect in sighs and laments; this is a traditional thing. Its next stage is that the lover would smash his head open, or give up his life, or become mad, etc. All these stages are stages of traditional hyperbole. In this verse, Mir abandons all those stages and expresses something that really happens in life. That is, that the lover becomes worn out and falls asleep.

In smashing the head open there was hope for three types of effect-- either that the beloved would come, or that the lover would somehow find some endurance, or else that the lover's head would burst open and the whole story would be ended. None of the three things happened, but personal and bodily life continues. Thus the lover rests his head on his knees and contents himself with going to sleep.

Experts in psychology say that curling up in fetal position and going to sleep, or wrapping oneself up, suggests that a person wants to go back again into his mother's womb, where for him there was no fear or danger, no trouble of any kind, and no mental or practical responsibility. It's clear that Mir knew nothing about all this. In his time psychology didn't even exist; and possibly if it had, he might not have considered it worth a lot of trouble. But as Freud has said, 'The garland for investigating the unconscious is in reality on the poets' heads; I have only presented that investigation in an organized form'. The poet's mind arrives directly at those secrets of the human spirit and of creation, at which science arrives only after various stages of inquiry and investigation.

In addition to all this, notice also that even at the time of expressing a theme that is the bearer of so much deep and intense psychological reality, Mir didn't fail to provide wordplay. When a snake curls itself into coil upon coil, this too is called ma;N;Dakrii marnaa ; Mir has taken advantage of this wordplay between the ma;N;Dakrii and the maar [which means 'snake' in Persian]. Between maar and sar pa;Takne there's also wordplay, because when a snake is in a state of agitation, then it strikes its head. It's a devastating verse.

[See also {1750,4}.]



Did Mir deliberately decide to stop banging his head, and just to call it a night and go to sleep? Or did he find himself 'helpless' before sleep, or 'helplessly' falling asleep (since naa-chaar can be either an adjective or an adverb)? Did he choose a fetal position deliberately, for the childish comfort of it, as though to take refuge from the sorrows of adulthood? Or did he just happen to end up sleeping in that position?

We have to decide for ourselves, since the verse shows us Mir only from the outside. This is another of Mir's 'neighbors' verses, that show the mad lover's behavior as it would appear to a normal person outside the ghazal world. The speaker is telling someone else-- in a tone solicitous, or melancholy, or wry, or possibly even a bit amused-- the latest on Mir's crazy behavior.

SRF rightly points to ma;N;Dkarii marnaa as the center of the verse. Who but Mir could think of taking 'to curl up in fetal position' and building a verse around it? Despite its clunkiness, the verse incorporates it very naturally, with no sense of ostentatiously showing off an oddity. I wonder whether this might be the only occurrence of this idiom in the whole of the Urdu ghazal world. Or if there are others, there can't be very many!