kyaa jaaniye kih chhaatii jale hai kih daa;G-e dil
ik aag sii lagii hai kahii;N kuchh dhuvaa;N saa hai

1) {there's no telling / 'how could one know?'} whether the breast burns, or the wound in the heart
2) something like a single/particular/unique/excellent fire has started, somewhere, there's something like smoke



S. R. Faruqi:

This verse is almost a translation from one [in Persian] by Sa'ir Mashhadi:

'I do not know whether the heart burns from grief, or the liver,
A fire has started somewhere, and smoke arises.'

Sa'ir definitely achieved the theme, but he didn't manage to maintain it. The second line is very fine, but in the first line 'I do not know' and 'from grief' are entirely unnecessary. In contrast to Sa'ir's verse, Mir's verse has a very trim structure. There's not a single extra word, and by adopting an insha'iyah instead of a informative [khabariyah] mode in the first line, Mir has achieved 'dramaticness'.

The second line increases this dramatic atmosphere, because in 'there's something like smoke' and 'something like a fire has started' there's not the kind of direct statement of 'a fire has started' and 'smoke arises'. Then, in the second line the word kahii;N goes both ways: either kahii;N ik aag sii lagii hai , or kahii;N kuchh dhuvaa;N saa hai . By contrast, in Sa'ir's verse the word 'somewhere' goes only with 'a fire has started'. Thus in Mir's verse there's more craftsmanship. For a theme similar to this, see


Another point is that Mir has spoken of the 'wound of the heart' and of the burning of the 'breast'. By contrast, Sa'ir's verse speaks of the burning of the 'heart' and the 'liver'. It's clear that between the 'wound of the heart' and the 'breast' there's a superb affinity, and through the theme of burning too the 'wound' has more affinity than the 'liver'. In addition, in Urdu chhaatii means both 'breast' and 'heart'. In the latter sense it is used as a synecdoche for the heart. That is, by speaking of the container (breast) the contents (heart) is intended.

Fani has, as usual, lowered the level of the theme and said in an extraordinarily feminine tone,

paikaa;N ke bhii ;Tuk;Re hai;N rafuu ke bhii hai;N ;Taa;Nge
siine me;N dhuvaa;N ;xair se u;Thtaa hai kidhar se

[there are fragments of the arrowhead, there are also stitches from the sewing-up
in the breast, well, from which direction does the smoke come?]

Among Fani and his contemporaries there was the same deficiency that we see in a more apparent style in Faiz-- that they didn't have that 'hard core' individuality through which firmness is created in poetry. The case of Mir is such that even in his 'pathetic' verses there is something like a strength which (because there is no other term) I call 'hard core'. In Fani and Yaganah there is nevertheless a bit of 'core' (although my suspicion is that Yaganah's stiffness is only or mostly superficial and conceals a kind of 'insecurity').

Mir and Ghalib, Dard and Iqbal, and so on never seem to be mentally weak or psychologically 'insecure'. In Faiz, Hasrat, Firaq, Jigar, and so on there's a good deal of this flaw of 'insecurity'. Fani too is in this condition; otherwise, he would not have composed verses like the one cited above. Although indeed, Fani and Yaganah, in the matter of 'hard core', are much better than their contemporaries, and Faiz and so on.

Another point is that if a poet himself has sufficient self-knowledge to be aware that he is psychologically 'insecure', and then he uses this consciousness in his poetry, then it's a different matter. Poor Fani, Faiz, and so on did not have this much self-knowledge. Such self-knowledge has been entrusted only/emphatically to Zafar Iqbal.

To see the breadth of Mir's thought and the realness of his imagery, let's consider this verse from the first divan [{251,3}]:

mu;habbat ne shaayad kih dii dil ko aag
dhuvaa;N saa hai kuchh us nagar kii :taraf

[perhaps love has set the heart on fire
there's something like smoke, in the direction of that city]

Mir has often used for the heart the metaphor of a city and a neighborhood/town, but in this verse the implication of the distantness of the heart has an unparalleled beauty. The second line of this verse has been used for the title of a conversation about Mir between Intizar Husain and Nasir Kazmi. For an understanding of Mir, this conversation is almost as important as the essay on Mir by Nasir Kazmi himself. But the way Mir gives to common words an abundance of meaning-- these people have not mentioned it.



The first line begins with a stylized expression of radical perplexity-- not merely 'I don't know', but 'how can anyone know?' (that is, something like 'no telling') what is on fire. And the tone of the first line contributes its own bit of ambiguity. Is the speaker replying pettishly to some physician who has asked him where it hurts? Or is he making a melancholy, or neutral, or even amused observation?

Then the second line does everything possible to increase the uncertainty: not only can the vague 'somewhere' be applied to two different phrases, as SRF notes, but the speaker notices literally only 'a fire-ish thing' and 'something smoke-ish'. This vagueness is enhanced by the multivalent possibilities of the ik . Apparently the speaker is far removed from any real knowledge of what's going on-- just as {251,3} identifies the heart as some distant city, with a plume of smoke rising from it.

Why does the speaker have so little knowledge? Is it because he has withdrawn his concern from his own wretched body, and no longer cares what becomes of it? Is it because there are so many fires all over it, that he can't keep them all straight? Is it because the 'single/particular/unique/excellent' nature of the fire imposes special undecideabilities? As so often, it's left for us to decide.

Note for translation fans: In discussions like this SRF often provides his own English terms, like 'hard core' and 'insecurity'. These are usually (though not always) accompanied by counterpart Urdu phrases (here, sa;xt ma;Gz and ((adam-e ta;haffu:z ). But it's clear that he's really thinking in English, and is providing the Urdu phrases to explain the English terms rather than the other way around. I generally put such words in quotes; but I put other things in quotes as well. With prior thought and care, a translator could devise ways to consistently mark such cases. But in this project I haven't done so. The only way to achieve full clarity in such details is to consult SSA in the original Urdu.