raftagaa;N me;N jahaa;N ke ham bhii hai;N
saath us kaaravaa;N ke ham bhii hai;N

1) among the 'gone' ones of the world, even/also are we
2) with that caravan, are even/also we



raftah : 'Gone, past, departed; deceased, defunct; lost'. (Platts p.595)

S. R. Faruqi:

For raftagaa;N there are two meanings; one is idiomatic and the other dictionary-based. In the idiomatic sense raftah means 'to become lost in something and to become self-less'. In this sense, Mir has often versified the word. In the fifth divan:


From the fourth divan:


The second meaning of raftah is 'gone'; that is, someone who would already have gone. In the present verse, both meanings have been used with extraordinary beauty. (1) I too am among those people in the world who are entranced/absorbed, and because of their entrancement/absorption have 'gone out of themselves'. (2) I too am among those people who have already gone from the world.

In both cases, the word 'caravan' has an extreme affinity. With regard to 'going', between the 'gone ones' and the 'caravan' there's the pleasure of a zila. And in 'caravan' there's also the point that in a caravan there are many people, and in many caravans people on the road also keep coming and joining the caravan. Thus 'caravan' suggests a multitude and a crowd.

In the light of the first meaning of raftagaa;N , the point is that the speaker too is among those people who remain so immersed in worldly relationships and affairs that they pay no heed to their minds and bodies. In this regard, in the theme there's an expression of opinion about worldlings' absorption in the world. There's a light gleam of sarcasm, but no overt objection. He has left the reader/hearer free to draw whatever conclusion he might wish.

In the light of the second meaning, there's the theme of absorption in oblivion, that I too am among those people in the world who have already died. That is, I have already died to the world; or in fact I have really died. To contain so excellently within a single verse two absolutely opposite themes, is the perfection of poetic composition.



And this feat of poetic composition is accomplished in the (doubly constrained) opening-verse of a ghazal that has a very short meter and a very long refrain. So Mir has to do it all within five or six words. And he does, of course, with the aid of the ghazal's 'pre-poeticized' tropes like the caravan. The caravan works perfectly as an image of the projects in which worldly people immerse themselves. And it works equally well as an image for traveling on (mentally or physically), and leaving this world behind.

But above all, Mir can do it because of the helpful ambiguity made possible by the flexibility of jahaa;N ke -- the speaker can be among jahaa;N ke raftagaa;N in the sense of those who are metaphorically 'gone' in their heedless, oblivious absorption in the world; or else in the sense of those who are dead to the world, dead and 'gone' (metaphorically or even literally). This case is just one more demonstration that the ka/ke/ki possessive can do everything an izafat can do-- well, or almost everything (it can't fade into and out of existence as metrically optional, and there are a few other special izafat tricks that it can't match). But really, the classical ghazal poets had an extraordinary toolbox, and Mir knew how to make the most spectacular use of it.