us but kii kyaa shikaayat raah-o-ravish kii karye
parde me;N bad-suluukii ham se ;xudaa kare hai

1) what complaint will one make about the ways/habits of that idol?!
2) behind/within a veil, the Lord treats us badly



raah-o-ravish : 'Manners, habits, ways, customs; conduct, behaviour'. (Platts p.585)


pardah : 'A curtain, screen, cover, veil, ... secrecy, privacy, modesty; seclusion, concealment; secret, mystery, reticence, reserve; screen, shelter, pretext, pretence'. (Platts p.246)


suluuk : 'Journey, road, way; institution, rule, mode, manner; behaviour or conduct (to or towards), treatment, usage'. (Platts p.670)

S. R. Faruqi:

In this verse, the word pardah is devastating. Here the following meanings of it are appropriate: (1) having hidden; (2) having gone into cover/ambush; (3) as a pretext; (4) in appearance. Dagh had arrived only this far:

hai vuhii qahr vuhii jabr vuhii kubr-o-;Guruur
but ;xudaa hai;N magar in.saaf nah karne vaale

[there is the very same violence, the very same force, the very samd grandeur and pride
idols are Lords, but non-doers of justice]

But Mir (that is, the speaker of the present verse) has on the one hand established idols themselves as the Lord, and on the other hand said that God has made idols so that he could create severe difficulties for us lovers. On yet a third hand, Mir (or his speaker) is saying that idols too are the glory/manifestation of the Lord, or are bearers of that glory.

Then, another aspect is also that the Lord does not work straightforwardly. Rather, he creates things because of which lovers' lives would be difficult. Sardar Ja'fri has rightly written that 'sometimes Mir's 'beloved' becomes lost in the essence of the Divine Beloved ... when he complains about the ways/habits of that beloved, Mir becomes shameless and says that behind a veil, the Lord treats us badly'.

But we ought also to keep in mind that in Mir (or in the classical poets) expressions of this kind are also with regard to the theme, and to declare them to be entirely personal expression is to limit their meaning. Thus the same Mir who establishes idols as the veil of the Lord, also says on the contrary that whether we complain about the age or about the sky, the implication is of the very same beloved. From the second divan [{1032,6}]:

dahr kaa ho gilah kih shevah-e char;x
us sitam-gar hii se kinaayat hai

[whether the complaint would be of the universe, or of the behavior of the sky/sphere
the allusion is only/emphatically to that tyrant]

Shaikh Attar has written in the ta;zkirat ul-auliyaa that when God lifted up [in death] Hazrat Zu'l-nun Misri, then on his forehead people saw these words written [in Arabic]: 'This is a lover of God, he died in the love of God; and he is slain by God, he died through God's insistence'. It's clear that Mir's verse doesn't attain to this 'mood'. But its context is the same: that whatever comes to the lover, he would consider it to be from the True Beloved.

In Mir's verse there's impatience, such that he is construing the difficulties of passion as 'bad treatment'. Or again, perhaps the heart-breaking and bad treatment from the human beloved, he establishes as (1) the divine decree/fate; or (2) based on a sign/gesture from God. Or again, (3) he establishes the human beloved as a veil for the Lord. In every case, the sign/gesture from the Divine Beloved and the human beloved remains shared.

This depth-possession is a special feature of our ghazal. On the basis of it, various kinds of ambiguities are created. Qadar Bilgrami sent a ghazal of his to Ghalib, for 'correction'. The opening-verse was,

laa ke dunyaa me;N hame;N zahr-e fanaa dete ho
haa))e is bhuul-bhulaiyaa;N me;N da;Gaa dete ho

[having brought us into the world, you give us the poison of oblivion
alas, in this maze, you betray/deceive us!]

Ghalib changed the refrain dete ho to dete hai;N , and wrote, 'I put the [abstract] plural, so that the address could be to beloveds and idols, or to a single person. Now the address can be shared by human beloveds, and fate/destiny.' That is, the basic thing is that the poetry should possess depths, it should be able to achieve more than one purpose. This kind of poetry is called 'meaning-creation'.

In a verse by Bahadur Shah Zafar, something like Mir's theme has been versified with such mischievousness and wit, but such an inner seriousness, that one can't help but spontaneously praise it. Those people who blacken page after page with praise for certain Western poets because in their poetry it's not clear whether the poet is serious or is teasing us/themselves/the addressee-- well, those people ought to look at the depths possessed by Urdu and Persian ghazals. Anyway, Zafar's verse is,

mai;N ne puuchhaa us se teraa kyaa hu))aa ;husn-o-shabaab
ha;Ns ke bolaa vuh .sanam shaan-e ;xudaa thii mai;N nah thaa

[I asked her, 'What became of your beauty and youthfulness?'
laughing, that idol said, 'It was the glory of the Lord, it was not I'.

In Mir's verse, bad-suluukii too is an interesting word, because apparently this word is a very light one for the beloved's oppression and violence. For bad-suluukii is used when (for example) someone would eject someone from a gathering, or would speak contemptuously of someone. Here, by using it with regard to the affairs of the beloved/Lord, Mir has brought the verse close to everyday life and has, so to speak, brought the Divine Beloved down to earth.

Because of this, in Mir's verse the following points also emerge: (1) What complaint would we make about the beloved-- here, even the Lord secretly treats us severely; (2) Idols are before us, the Lord is hidden; even/also while remaining hidden he treats us severely. The verse is such a tour de force!



Oh, this really is an adorable verse! As SRF notes, it's a case study in 'meaning-creation'. And it displays in perfect operation two of the finest devices for meaning-creation: it's an 'A,B' verse, and it takes advantage of the 'kya effect'.

The 'kya effect' is in the first line, and it actually offers four possibilities:

='What complaint will one make about the ways of that idol?' (taking kyaa as adjectival)
='Will one make a complaint about the ways of that idol?' (a yes-or-no question)
='What a complaint one will make about the ways of that idol!' (an affirmative exclamation)
='As if one will make a complaint about the ways of that idol!' (an indignant repudiation)

Now we have to consider the relationship between this line and the second line. For in an A,B verse, the two lines are entirely semantically independent: they could both refer to the same situation; they could refer to two different situations; or one line (which one?) could be a cause and the other an effect of that cause. We are here, as so often, left to decide for ourselves.

And of course, the second line presents its own further complexities. As SRF observes, parde me;N is the source from which they spring. It can mean (see the definition above):

='within the veil' (that is, veiled like a respectable lady-- who is also a/the Lord)
='secretly, furtively, hiddenly' (the Lord sneakily deals out to us his own bad treatment)
='through a pretext or pretense' (the Lord manipulates the idol as a means to torment us)

Thus the beloved's 'bad treatment' is something that we might (or might not) complain about. If we do complain about it, we might (or might not) complain to the Lord himself (as opposed to the world in general, in a lover-like way). The one point that seems clear is that even if we do complain to the Lord, he probably won't take any action-- because he uses or even sponsors the beloved's bad treatment, and/or because he behaves the same way himself, and/or because the idol and the Lord are ultimately one and the same.

There's also the wordplay of raah-o-ravish meaning literally 'road and gait/path', and suluuk meaning 'journey, road'.