naa-saazii-o-;xushuunat jangal hii chaahtii hai
shahro;N me;N ham nah dekhaa baaliidah hote kiikar

1) discord and harshness require/desire only/emphatically the forest/'jungle'
2) in cities, we haven't seen a 'babul tree growing up'



naa-saazii : 'Discordance; dissension; —adverseness; opposition, contradiction; —indisposition; —ill-behaviour; —dissimulation'. (Platts p.1110)


;xushuunat : 'Roughness, harshness, asperity, severity; rigidness, austereness, austerity; animosity; fierceness; indignation; disdain'. (Platts p.490)


baaliidah : 'Grown, increased; grown up'. (Platts p.125)


kiikar : 'The tree Acacia (or Mimosa) arabica (syn. babuul )'. (Platts p.889)


babuul : 'The gum-acacia tree, Mimosa arabica (the wood of which is commonly used in making cart-wheels, agricultural implements, tent-pegs, &c.; and the bark, being a powerful astringent, is used in tanning: syn. kiikar , mu;Giilaan ): — babuul ke pe;R bonaa , lit. 'To plant a babul tree'; to do something conducive to harm or to a bad end'. (Platts p.130)

S. R. Faruqi:

;xushuunat = roughness, harshness
kiikar = a kind of babul tree

In the first line there's a fine style of generalization, as if someone would be mentioning the kind of truth of which everybody is aware, or with which everybody will agree. Now the second line (which is basically a proof of the claim that was made in the first line) adopts the style of a personal observation. Another meaning of baaliidah is 'arrogant'. Thus there's also a suggestion that even if the kikar tree would grow in cities, then it remains ashamed of itself for keeping unsuitable company.

Now the question arises, which people is this verse about? If it's about the lover (since he has an ardor for the jungle), then discord and harshness are not at all the qualities of the lover. This verse cannot be about the beloved. If it is about some world-renouncing faqir, then for him too the qualities of discord and harshness are not suitable. Thus it's clear that this verse is about the ill-natured and harsh-tempered people of the ordinary everyday world.

And if this is the case, then the first line becomes not only a claim, but also a normative prescription: that people in whose temperament is discord and harshness can flourish only in the jungle. That is, they ought to go and live in the jungle. Their place is not in the civilized world of the city.



The babul or gum acacia tree is thorny; it has tough wood, and bark with strong astringent properties. It's also used in incense: 'Smoke from Acacia bark is thought to keep demons and ghosts away' (wikipedia). In general, it's easy to see how it might become a symbol of harshness and abrasiveness.

And in particular, Platts gives an idiom that seems to offer the real key to the verse's wordplay: babuul ke pe;R bonaa , 'to sow babul trees', meaning 'to do something conducive to harm or to a bad end' (see the definition above). Without using a single word from the actual idiom, the speaker of the verse nevertheless clearly evokes it.

Of course a generalized meaning emerges from the verse: that discord and harshness thrive in the forest, but never in cities. But what a weird meaning! Mir certainly knew, as we all know, that cities too are full of discord and harshness of all kinds. Why would he even bother to compose a verse so obviously false and so pedantically prosy, if he weren't counting on us to recognize, and then savor, the concealed idiom? (After all, we savor it so much largely because we pride ourselves on our own enjoyable cleverness in detecting it.) And he presents the idiom right at the end of the verse, just where the 'punch-word' (or 'punch-phrase') comes in what I call a 'mushairah verse'.

Invoking the concealed idiom doesn't suffice to make the verse really excellent, but it does lift it a few steps above mediocrity. It explains the peculiar first line (since 'thorny' babul trees can thrive only in wastelands, rather than cities), and the even more bizarre second line (since the proverb invokes an actual thorny babul tree, which would never be allowed to grow in a city). I think SRF included the verse for its oddness and even virtual uniqueness, rather than any genuine brilliance.

Note for grammar fans: This is a really conspicuous case of an omitted ne . It's flagrant because the dekhaa is so clearly governed by the omitted ne . (In other words, we can't make it be a participle.) If Mir had only omitted the ham as well, to our eyes it would have looked much more normal.