raste se chaak-e dil ke ho aagaah
yaar tak phir to kis qadar hai raah

1) you {be! / might be / are / having become} aware of the road of the tearing of the heart
2) then, to what extent is there a road to the beloved?!



phir : 'Afterwards, subsequently; thereafter, thereupon, then; in that case'. (Platts p.285)


kis qadar : '(adj. & adv.) How much? to what extent or degree?'. (Platts p.788)

S. R. Faruqi:

If you want to see the glory of creative adaptation, or 'reply', then place before Mir's opening-verse this opening-verse of Ghalib's:


In Ghalib's verse the shine of the metaphor ( dahaan-e za;xm ) and the arrangement of the affinity ( dahaan = vaa ; za;xm = raah ) are so beautiful that if the superficial reader or listener would consider Mir's verse to be pallid-- or rather, commonplace-- then it's not surprising. But in Mir's verse there's everything that's in Ghalib's verse, and meaning is abundant. Then, of course there's the honor of primacy.

First of all please look how suitable for raste is the metaphor of chaak ; it is more suitable than dahaan is for za;xm . Between za;xm and dahaan there is a shape like that of lips, redness, and-- if a glimpse of bone would be seen-- an affinity with teeth. By contrast, if the wound would not be deep, or if it would be in the shape of a hole, then its affinity with dahaan is much reduced.

By contrast, chaak has no such problems. Whether a rip is straight or zigzig or crooked, in every aspect its likeness with raste remains. In the same way, whether a rip is narrow or side, short in length or long, in every case it can be called a 'road'. Then, chaak is from some place to some other place. That is, it joins together both places. For example, if there would be a rip in the heart, then it will join together two corners of the heart, or two places within the heart. A road too joins together two places.

In the [dictionary] farhang-e aanand raaj , for chaak the similes of 'crack, cleft' and 'rose' are also given. Between 'crack, cleft' and 'road' the affinity is that (for example) by creating a crack or cleft in a mountain, a road is made; or by creating a crack or cleft in the earth, water is given a smooth road out. The affinity between 'rip' and 'rose' is obvious, for 'tearing of the collar' is used for the rose. Abu Talib Kalim has a [Persian] verse:

'In this springtime the tearing of the rose has so increased
That there is a single rose, and it grips my collar and garment-hem.'

The next point is that for 'heart' the simile of 'bud', and for 'tearing' the simile of 'rose', are used. Thus between 'tearing' and 'heart' there's also one more deep connection of meaning-- that is, the heart is a bud, and when it would be torn open, then it is a rose.

Now let's look at other aspects of the verse. Between rastah and aagaah too there's an affinity, because 'to know the road' [rastah jaan'naa] and 'not to know the road' [rastah nah jaan'naa] are idioms. In this regard, the meaning of the first line becomes, 'Know that road that is called the tearing of the heart'. Another meaning is 'Know this: that the tearing of the heart too is a road'. A third meaning is 'Know where the road of the tearing of the heart goes'. One meaning of raah is 'place' as well. Thus it's also possible for the line to mean 'Be aware of the place of the tearing of the heart'-- that is, be aware of its importance and its rank.

With regard to usage and grammar, although in this line the word ho is seemingly standard and unimportant, the construction of the line is such that ho comes to have several meanings. If we take it as insha'iyah (imperative), then the meaning becomes the one I've mentioned above, 'Become aware, know'. If we take it as insha'iyah (conditional), then the meaning becomes 'If you would be aware of the road of the tearing of the heart'. If we take it as indicative [;xabariyah], then the meaning will be 'You are aware of the road of the tearing of the heart, you know it'.

In the second line he's said that 'If you would be aware of the road of the tearing of the heart, then in arriving at the beloved, how much of a distance exists?'. Here too there are at least two meanings. One is that the distance is nothing; the other and more subtle meaning is that the beloved remains entirely within the heart-- tear open the heart, make a road for arriving within the heart, and there you are, you'll reach the beloved.

According to the first meaning, the theme of the verse is that if there's no pain-filled heart, then the beloved is not attained. According to the second meaning, the theme is for reaching the beloved the condition is self-awareness. [As in the hadith,] 'The one who has arrived at himself, has arrived at his Lord.' He's composed a superb verse.



Really, the use of ho in the first line is beautifully contrived as a perfect storm of grammatical possibilities, every single one of them appropriate to the context of the verse, every single one fully operative with the second line. SRF mentions the familiar imperative ('be!'), the familiar future subjunctive ('you might/would be'), the indicative ('you are'); I would add one more ho kar with colloquial kar -deletion ('having become').

Then the second line rests on a version of the 'kya effect'; since kis qadar can be either adjectival or adverbial, for yaar tak phir to kis qadar hai raah a variety of readings can be framed. Here are the main kinds:

=to what extent is there a road? (a question, seeking information)
=to what an extent there is a road! (what an impressive extent of road there is!)
=to what extent is there a road! (none at all, of course-- there can be no such road!)

There remains as a finishing touch: the elegant ambiguity of the multivalent little word phir , which can mean 'then' in either a sequential ('afterwards, subsequently') or a logical ('thereupon, in that case') sense. If we take the phir as marking merely a sequence, then the verse imagines a 'step 1' of tearing the heart, followed by 'step 2' of going on to explore the road to the beloved.

Alternatively, if we take the phir as a logical 'therefore', then the conclusion about the road to the beloved in the second line must follow from how we interpret the first line. This is, after all, the range that 'then' has in English: from 'he went to the grocery store, then he went to the pharmacy' to 'if you believe that, then your behavior must change'.

Truly it's a spectacular verse-- so simple-looking in its vocabulary and language, yet generating such a thick, complex penumbra of possibilities, from the rosiest optimism to the bleakest despair.