marnaa hai ;xaak honaa ho ;xaak u;Rte phirnaa
is raah me;N abhii to dar-pesh mar;hale hai;N

1) it is necessary to die; to become dust; having become dust, to fly and wander around
2) in this road, only/emphatically now, before us are stages/stations



dar-pesh : 'To be in front (of), be before; to be on the carpet or anvil; to be in hand, be on foot; be pending; to happen, occur; to be incumbent, be necessary'. (Platts p.508)


mar;halah : 'A day's journey, a stage; —the place or time of travelling; a place of alighting or abode; a halting-place, or station, or inn (for travellers)'. (Platts p.1021)

S. R. Faruqi:

In this verse there's nothing special. It has been included in order to complete the set of three verses [presented in SSA]. But the charm of verbal affinity is present here too: that in the second line he has said 'road', and in the first line he has placed three complete sentences that have a 'connection' with 'road': (1) one has to die (to die [following] in someone's path, as in ;xudaa kii raah me;N marnaa ); (2) to become dust (in a road, there's normally dust); (3) to become dust and fly and wander around (in roads, dust flies around; in Mir's time, there were no tar-coal roads).

Then, the pleasure is that he has said 'this road'; he hasn't specified which road is intended. It's clear that even Mir's commonplace verses aren't so very commonplace.



This is what I would call a classic 'mushairah verse'. The first line is really just a list of abstract destinies, so it remains uninterpretable. We are eager to hear the second line-- which of course, through mushairah performance conventions, is delayed for as long as is conveniently possible. Even when the second line is finally recited, the point remains unclear until the last possible moment, when mar;hale -- positioned of course as the rhyme-word-- suddenly pulls the whole thing together.

Once we hear mar;hale , we can go back and mentally re-imagine the first line. The sequential conditions listed in it are not random, or meaningless, or hardships; rather, they are means to an end. They are stages in a journey, halting-places on a road. As SRF notes, all we know about the road is that it's 'this road', with no further details available. (We cannot in this case read us instead of is , because the presence of abhii locates the speaker in immediate proximity to the road.)

The most piquant word in the verse is abhii -- which of course is really ab plus hii . The 'now' is so shifting and uncertain! Where among these 'stages' on the road is the speaker positioned? The question is further complicated by the double possibilities of hii -- are the stages before him 'only now'? Perhaps previously he didn't recognize these stages, or wasn't capable of traveling on the road. Or perhaps the stages are 'only now' before him, and later they will be left behind him on the road, or all stages will end.

Or are the stages before him, emphatically, now? This reading adds urgency to the question of where the speaker is positioned now on 'this road'. The obvious reading is that he is alive in the human world, and is ticking off the next stages to be traversed in his long onward journey. But it's perfectly possible that he's ticking off stages through which he's already passed, and is matter-of-factly preparing for the next stage, the one that comes after the stage of flying around as dust.

Of course, listening to the utterances of a flying dust-cloud takes us pretty deeply into mystical territory. But in the ghazal world, how far do we ever get from mystical territory? And the fundamental Sufi paradigm of the mystical journey as a 'road' to be traveled through known stages (even if some of the later ones are obscure or even inexpressible in words), works perfectly with the imagery of the verse.