shahro;N mulko;N me;N jo yih miir kahaataa hai miyaa;N
diidanii hai pah bahut kam na:zar aataa hai miyaa;N

1) in cities and countries, this one who is called 'Mir', sir
2) he's worth seeing-- but very rarely does he come into view, sir



kahaanaa : 'To be called or named or designated, to be dubbed; to be said to be'. (Platts p.868)


miyaa;N : 'An address expressive of kindness, or respect; Sir! good Sir! good man; master'. (Platts p.1103)


diidanii : 'To be seen, visible; fit or worthy to be seen'. (Platts p.556)


na:zar aanaa : 'To come in sight or view, to appear'. (Platts p.1143)

S. R. Faruqi:

Through the mention of Mir in the third person, the air of an event has been created in the verse, because there's come to be a difference between the poet Mir and the speaker. For example, if the opening-verse had been like this:

shahro;N mulko;N me;N jo mai;N miir kahaataa huu;N miyaa;N
diidanii huu;N pah bahut kam na:zar aataa huu;N miyaa;N

[in cities and countries, I who am called Mir, sir
I am worth seeing-- but very rarely do I come into view, sir]

then the meaning would have been just the same as it is in the real verse, but the force and the effect would have been minimal. Thus it's been said that real excellence doesn't lie in meaning-- real excellence is in words, and in the construction that comes about through bringing words together.

In the present case, Mir comes before us in the form of an attention-evoking but mysterious/secretive personality. He is very well known, but very rarely comes into view. The reason for this is perhaps that he wanders around as a vagabond in the desert and wilderness. Or perhaps that he's avoiding the world and has shut himself up in his house. The reason for his fame is his poetry, or his being a lover, or perhaps something else. For example, that he's a qalandar or a mystical knower of God.



As a tourist attraction, 'Mir' seems like a dubious bet: he's enticing, but then he won't deliver. On the other hand, perhaps a publicity industry could grow up around him; the speaker might even be part of it. Think of the ongoing fame of the Loch Ness monster. Like the Loch Ness monster, 'Mir' is widely famous (he is spoken of 'in cities and countries'); but not much is known about him, so that he remains hardly more than a pen-name-- he is 'the one who is called 'Mir''. Similarly, 'Nessie' remains famous without even needing to exist.

The second line also invites us to juxtapose diidanii and na:zar aanaa (see the definitions above). Are they independent, or might they be connected? Perhaps (part of) the reason 'Mir' is worth seeing is that he's so rarely seen (the way bird-watchers are always eager to spot a new and exotic species). Or perhaps his being rarely seen is evidence of the quality that makes him worth seeing (since his unavailability reinforces the romantically anti-social image of the mad poet, the mad lover, the mad mystic).

The repetition of miyaa;N is of course required in an opening-verse, but Mir makes such clever use of it! It gives the sense of a carnival barker trying to impress a passer-by. Nobody would say 'sir' so often in any normal conversation; the effect is one of pompous hyper-formality, an exaggerated show of dignity in the speaker and respect for the listener. The tone could indeed mark the speaker as a promoter of some kind, talking up the virtues of a prime exhibit.