ab ke junuu;N me;N faa.silah shaayad nah kuchh rahe
daaman ke chaak aur garebaa;N ke chaak me;N

1) this time/season, in madness, perhaps no distance/separation would remain
2) between the rip in the garment-hem and the rip in the collar



faa.silah : 'Separating; separation; intervening space, interstice, interval; break, gap; space, distance'. (Platts p.775)

S. R. Faruqi:

What Hali says about this verse in his muqaddamah-e shi((r-o-shaa((irii [p.82] is famous:

At Maulana Azurdah's house one day some of his friends, among whom were Momin and Sheftah, were gathered. This ghazal verse of Mir's was recited, and praised beyond measure, and it occurred to them that in this rhyme-scheme everyone should, according to his own craftsmanship and thought, versify a ghazal and present it. They all took up pens, inkwells, and paper, and seated themselves apart from each other, and began to reflect. In the meantime, another friend arrived. He asked the Maulana, 'Hazrat, what are you reflecting on?' He said, 'I am writing a reply to qul ho all;aah [the first word of Suras 112, 113, and 114 of the Qur'an].

Azurdah certainly did justice to the claims of praise; but it's surprising that despite having such a wealth of verse-understanding, Hali said nothing deep about this verse. In the muqaddamah , this verse is mentioned twice. In these places, Hali has contented himself with saying,

Such a tattered theme Mir, despite a consummate degree of simplicity, has expressed in such an extraordinary, novel, and attractive style, that a better style than this can't be imagined. In this style the great excellence is that it's simple, plain, and 'natural' [necharal], and despite this is entirely unheard-of [anokhaa].

In the other place he says,

I have no expectation at all that anyone among the later poets would have versified the theme of the tearing of the collar better than this [p.36].

That is, Hali contents himself with calling this verse 'natural' but 'entirely unheard-of'; he doesn't even try to remove the contradiction-- how can a verse be both 'natural' and 'unheard-of'? Mir's other critics too have given ample praise to this verse, but they too have failed to explain where its beauty lies.

The truth is that it's a verse of 'mood'. There's no abundance of meaning in it. Thus it's easy to feel its beauty, but difficult to express it. But it's not the case that the verse has no depths at all. Let's consider the following ideas:

(1) In the previous season it was only a beginning, he had torn up his garment-hem more or less, and more or less his collar. Because of this incompleteness, the longing remained in his heart: he hadn't yet been able to fulfill the claim of madness. This time, he wants completion. Thus there's the theme of the fervor of madness and the wildness of ardor.

(2) In the previous season, somehow or other his honor survived: his garment hadn't been reduced entirely to threads. This time, the signs are that there will be total madness, and the rip in the garment-hem and the rip in the collar will meet and become one. Thus there's the theme of fear and anxiety, that this time when madness comes then the whole thing will be revealed, and awareness won't remain at all. That is, at this time the speaker is in his senses, but like Baudelaire and van Gogh he sees the signs of madness steadily overtaking him.

(3) He had longed for such a madness that the collar and the garment-hem would both be torn. But perhaps the madness didn't become powerful enough, or the rose-season itself was so brief, that there wasn't time for the madness to increase and spread. Now he has a hope-filled longing that perhaps in this season the thing might be completed.

(4) The madness was because there was distance between lover and beloved. This distance cannot be reduced. He can hope only that the distance between garment-hem and collar can be ended. That is, if union between lover and beloved proved impossible, then let there be union between garment-hem and collar. This theme is of despair and disappointment.

(5) The pleasure/subtlety of implication is that it's possible that the speaker of the verse might be one person, and the subject of it might be some other person. That is, it's not necessary that the speaker of the verse would be talking about his own garment-hem and collar. Now the theme becomes that some other person is expressing some observation or thought, that in the previous season some distance had remained between the garment-hem and the collar of that person (or all those madmen), but this time their madness is at such a boil that the rip in the garment-hem and the rip in the collar are bound to meet.

Despite all these explications, the power of the verse cannot be fully described. There's no telling what Maulana Azurdah wrote as a 'reply to qul ho all;aah ', but Bahadur Shah Zafar gathered his courage:

ay junuu;N haath se tere nah rahaa aa;xir kaar
chaak daaman me;N aur chaak garebaan me;N farq

[oh madness, at your hand there did not remain, finally
between the rip in the garment-hem and the rip in the collar, a distance]

The difference between the original and the imitation is obvious. Though indeed, Amir Mina'i adopted this theme and changed the style and the aspect, and composed a verse of which he could be proud. It's only that in his verse the flowingness is a bit deficient:

ay junuu;N kab se dono;N hai;N mushtaaq
aaj ho jaa))e;N jeb-o-daamaa;N jam((a

[oh madness, for how long have they both been ardent?
today, let the collar and the garment-hem come together]

Mir himself, right in the second divan, composed this theme a second time [{894,12}]:

ab ke junuu;N ke biich garebaa;N kaa ;zikr kyaa
kahye bhii jo rahaa so ko))ii taar darmiyaa;N

[this time, in the midst of madness, why even mention the collar?
even if it's said to remain, then a few threads are between]

The verse is fine. And if the present verse didn't exist, then the verse would seem even better.

For no distance to remain between the rip in the garment-hem and the rip in the collar-- in this expression, in addition to the pleasure of ambiguity, the beauty of the image is uncommon. Bahadur Shah Zafar removed the word faa.silah , and thus removed the true spirit of the verse, because the sense of faa.slah is natural and narrative, while farq does not have these qualities. For example, if we make the line like this: ab ke junuu;N me;N farq hii shaayad nah kuchh rahe , then the same effect is not created. The word faa.silah is, in this verse, a devastating word.



Note for grammar fans: SRF takes ab ke as a colloquial shorthand for ab ke mausam me;N , 'in the present season', which can only refer to spring, the classic time when lovers' madness reaches its peak. This is an obvious thing to do, and it works very well. But it's not the only possible reading. Think of ab kii for ab kii baar , or ab ke for (presumably) ab ke vaqt . Such more neutral time expressions don't invoke the seasons at all. See {85,1} for an example of such an ab ke meaning 'now'.

Nor are time expressions the only option. Grammatically speaking, we could also read 'in the present madness', with ab ke taken as modifying junuu;N . The only difference is that the verse would become slightly narrower, because it then would be only psychological and would have no reference to the seasonal causality that's so potent and evocative in the ghazal world.

Note for translation fans: It's important to use 'rip' rather than 'tear' in contexts like this, because of the ambiguities of English spelling. The possible confusion with weeping and teardrops-- so abundant in the ghazal world-- should at all costs be avoided.