pahlaa qadam hai insaa;N paa-maal-e marg honaa
kyaa jaane raftah raftah kyaa ho ma))aal teraa

1) the first footstep is for man to be trampled underfoot by death
2) {no telling / would anyone know}, going along, what would be your end/destination?



raftah raftah : 'Going on, in the act of going, in process of time; step by step, by degrees, gradually; leisurely, easily'. (Platts p.595)


ma))aal : ''A place (and a state or condition) to which a person or thing returns, and to which he (or it) ultimately comes'; end, aim, event, consequence, termination, issue, tendency'. (Platts p.983)

S. R. Faruqi:

It's usually thought that the world is a tangle of difficulties, death is a restful sleep, and what comes after is the true destination. Mir has certainly depicted death as an occasion of fatigue and a sign of the ongoing journey. But in the present verse the thought is entirely new and astonishing.

Death tramples man under its feet. Now if the next life would begin with a trampling underfoot by death, the Lord knows where it would end, and what various difficulties it would be necessary to endure! To call being mauled underfoot the 'first footstep' of man's journey is also fine.

The meaning of ma))aal is 'result, outcome', but this word is usually used in a bad sense: that is, a bad result or a bad outcome is called a ma))aal . No one says, 'The ma))aal of virtuous deeds is heaven'; it's definitely said, 'The ma))aal of sins is hell'. Thus the word ma))aal too bolsters the idea that has been established by 'trampled underfoot by death'.

There's wordplay between qadam and raftah . Between paa-maal and ma))aal there's the verbal device of 'doubt about derivation'.



It's a witty but sinister verse, isn't it? And at the very end the teraa suddenly leaps upon you, with its direct address and especially its intimacy. This one little word takes the verse to a whole new level of ominousness. It's all very well to contemplate what happens to mankind in general-- but then, suddenly, it's your fate that's at issue, and you are being addressed intimately, without any respect or formality, and you realize with a jolt that things don't look so good for you.

And as SRF says, the wordplay is wonderful in its own right. To go with qadam and paa-maal and especially raftah raftah he could also have mentioned jaane , which looks as if it could have come from jaanaa , although of course it has actually come from jaan'naa . Perhaps as we first encounter the verse there's a moment of 'doubt of derivation' here too.

Compare Ghalib's very different treatment of that 'first step' of human progress: