naa-chaar ho chaman me;N nah rahye kahuu;N huu;N jab
bulbul kahe hai aur ko))ii din baraa-e gul

1a) having become helpless, when I say, 'one shouldn't remain in the garden',
1b) when I say, 'having become helpless, one shouldn't remain in the garden',

2) the Nightingale says, 'a few days more, for the rose's sake'



naa-chaar : 'adj. & adv. Without remedy, remediless; constrained; helpless, destitute, abandoned, forlorn, distressed, poor, miserable'. (Platts p.1110)

S. R. Faruqi:

The theme of this verse is entirely new, and in it there are also several layers of meaning.

The naa-chaar ho can be the speaker's present condition, and nah rahye too can mean 'I will not stay'. In this case, one meaning of the first line is, 'When I, having become helpless, say that I will not remain in the garden'.

Another possibility is that naa-chaar ho is the speaker's present condition, but chaman me;N nah rahye can be addressed to the Nightingale. Now the meaning becomes that seeing the Nightingale's pathetic condition, I become helpless and say to him, 'Now don't remain in the garden'.

The third possibility is that naa-chaar too should be related to the Nightingale. Now the meaning becomes that I say to the Nightingale, 'Don't remain in a state of helplessness in the garden'.

In the first situation, by 'helplessness' is meant that in the garden the bud of my heart doesn't blossom, I don't achieve my goal. Or, in the garden everyone is my enemy, and they make it difficult for me to remain in the garden. In the second situation, by 'helplessness' is meant that I want to improve the Nightingale's pathetic condition; I try to do so, but the Nightingale's condition keeps going from bad to worse, there's no way to improve it. Thus having become helpless, I say to him, 'Leave the garden'. In the third situation, by 'helplessness' is meant that I respect the Nightingale's honor/pride, and I say to him, 'You're living a life of helplessness in this garden for no reason; rather than living helplessly like this, it's better if you just leave the garden'.

Now look at the second line. The Nightingale answers, 'For the sake of the rose, if you (or 'I') would stay in this garden for a few more days, that's the best thing'. That is, attraction to the rose is not abandoned; no matter how bad the condition might be, it should be endured for a few more days.

But another meaning can also be, 'Although we are helpless in the garden, for the sake of the rose we would stay some days more'. That is, although the rose does not (or cannot) fulfill our goal, it is her intention that we would remain in the garden. If we would leave the garden, perhaps the rose would feel grief.

A third meaning is that the rose has not yet opened (that is, she hasn't yet come into the garden). Apparently there's not even any hope of her coming, but who knows-- she might come; for this reason, for her sake (or in hopes of her) we would stay some days more in the garden.

In the second line, the phrase aur ko))ii din so excellently expresses all these moods-- hope, despair, desire, helplessness-- that the presence of this phrase alone is sufficient for the excellence of the verse.

There's also an excellence in baraa-e gul , for this phrase evokes baraa-e ;xudaa [for the Lord's sake]. That is, for the Nightingale the rose holds the same rank that for ordinary people is that of the Lord. In this case, the omission of the verb is exactly according to idiomatic usage.



SRF elucidates the main possibilities very elegantly. The phrase naa-chaar ho (with its following kar of course idiomatically omitted) can apply to the speaker's situation (he has no choice but to say what he says), or else can be part of his utterance (what he says is, don't remain helplessly in the garden). It could even describe the Nightingale's response in the second line (when I say X, then helplessly the Nightingale says Y). Thus it's a classic, unusually versatile example of what I call a 'midpoint'. And the clever rigging of the grammar ensures that we can't tell who's being urged to leave the garden (the speaker might be addressing either himself, or the Nightingale).

The last points that SRF makes are particularly striking. The way baraa-e gul as 'for the Rose's sake!' can have the same exclamatory, colloquial, intensifying resonance as 'for the Lord's sake!' or 'for God's sake!' adds a different possible tone, and thus a whole new dimension to our reading of the verse. Or rather, it adds several different possible tones; just think of all the ways 'for God's sake!' can be said-- imploring, challenging, scolding, etc.

In fact, baraa-e gul is as flexible in tone as is aur ko))ii din . Both of them are idiomatic, verb-free, and potentially (and potently) highly exclamatory, able to be endowed by us readers with all the emotional overtones we can bring to bear, from our own lives and our own imaginations.

Compare Ghalib's unforgettable ghazal with the similarly haunting refrain ko))ii din aur :


Note for translation fans: Urdu is notoriously poor in adverbs. One common way to improvise more of them is with se ( ;xvushii se , 'with happiness', for 'happily, willingly'), and another is with a kar construction ( ha;Ns kar , 'having laughed', for 'laughingly'). In the first line, naa-chaar ho [ kar ] can be read literally as 'having become helpless', which implies a temporal change from a previous state of non-helplessness. Or it can be read more freely as 'helplessly', a generalized adverbial condition that gives no further information. As usual, I have preferred the clunkier but more meaning-rich form. But in many cases, depending on the context, a translator could quite legitimately choose the adverbial form.