past-o-buland dekhe;N kyaa miir pesh aa))e
us dasht se ham ab to sailaab se chale hai;N

1) let's consider the 'ups and downs'-- what, Mir, might come before us?!
2) from that desert, we have now moved on like/through a flood



past-o-buland dekhnaa : 'To look above and below; to look about (one); to consider and take precautions against the vicissitudes of fortune'. (Platts p.262)


pesh aanaa : 'To come before, step forward, to advance; to present (itself), to intervene, to arise, occur, happen, come to pass'. (Platts p.299)

S. R. Faruqi:

Mir has often used sailaab as a metaphor for a person who would be entirely focused on attaining his goal, who wouldn't look around but would keep his head down and move right along. Compare


in which he has criticized the whirlwind by calling it 'high-headed', and has instructed the addressee that he should lower his head like a flood and go away.

In the present verse, the new thing that he's brought out is that when a flood is rolling along, it neither stops in low ground nor submits to high layers in the ground. Thus when the 'highs and lows' come before us, there's no anxiety; rather, there's a kind of ardor-- let's see what various kinds of obstacles we will have to grapple with.

The enjoyable thing is that Mir has often given for passion the simile of a tiger, and in two verses he has threatened even the flood with the tiger. Both verses are in the fifth divan [{1608,2}]:

gayaa merii vaadii se sailaab bach kar
na:zar kii jo yaa;N ((ishq ke sher-e nar par

[the flood saved itself and went from my valley
when it got a look, here, at the male tiger of passion]

Also from the fifth divan [{1726,3}]:

yih baadiyah-e ((ishq hai albattah idhar se
bach kar nikal ay sail kih yaa;N sher kaa ;Dar hai

[this is the jungle of passion, indeed-- from this direction
save yourself and go off, oh flood, for here there's the danger of tigers]

He hasn't made clear what fear or danger there could be to a flood because of a tiger. Although tigers no doubt have no special love for water, they certainly know very well how to swim. Thus a tiger is in no special danger from a flood. For the present, we can say this much: that since the tiger is the king of the jungle, even the flood fears him.

But if this would be applied to the present verse, then an interesting situation emerges: that the if person who, like the flood, keeps his head down and remains absorbed in his own purpose, would be forced to confront a tiger (passion?), then what will be his state? Will it not be that this desert is in fact the desert of life, and he has wished to emerge from it because in it for the present there's no tiger (experience of passion?), and the speaker hopes that if he goes along further, then somewhere or other, the flood of his life too will be conquered by the tiger of passion? The ambiguity, and the atmosphere of hope/expectation, have filled the verse with life.



In the first line we should take seriously the idiomatic sense of past-o-buland dekhnaa (see the definition above) as a sort of prudent planning activity-- 'to consider and take precautions against the vicissitudes of fortune'. The whole first line presents itself as the kind of forethought in which a normal, common-sensible person might engage. We are naturally curious to hear more about the lover's planning process. We rarely hear anything so rational from a lover. Only after an obligatory delay (created by mushairah performance conventions), do we get to hear some of the past experiences on which the speaker is reflecting.

We already know that the lover's world is not normal or common-sensible. But now we hear fully how bizarre it really is. 'Mir' was in a desert-- until one of two things occurred. SRF points to one possibility: that the lover, emerged from the desert strongly and ardently, 'like a flood' (if we take se as short for jaise ). The imagery of {667,6} strongly reinforces this possibility.

The other possibility is that the speaker emerged from the desert 'by means of' a flood (if we take se as the postposition). That is, he was swept out of the desert by a flood (and there actually are dangerous flash floods in deserts). In other words, 'Mir' was suddenly borne away from a condition of dangerously little water, by a condition of dangerously much water. Here is that potent ghazal presentation of opposites (dry versus wet) that also have much in common (danger, overpoweringness). When that's the kind of thing that happens to you, what's the use of advance planning? The 'ups and downs' ahead of you are frenemies, and are beyond your control.

In the course of his discussion SRF presents two fascinating (though perhaps not too relevant) examples of Mir's hyperbolic sense of metaphor: verses in which the 'tiger' of passion actually frightens (in {1608,2}, or is expected to frighten (in {1726,3}), a 'flood'. This is an egregiously mixed metaphor; it ought to be ridiculous; it has no right to work. Yet despite-- or because of-- its very hyperbolicness, might it be said to work? Perhaps because it's so flagrantly bizarre that we take Mir to be deliberately breaking the normal metaphorical-category system to achieve some particular effect? As usual, the real nature of the effect is left for us to figure out for ourselves. But as usual, Mir gets by with it, doesn't he? Or does he? Do we buy a 'flood'-- even a personified one-- fleeing from a 'tiger'? I haven't figured out yet what I really think about this. But if you, dear reader, are interested in what might be called 'extreme metaphor', you too might like to consider the case of the tiger that frightens the flood.