us kaa ;Ga.zab se naamah nah likhnaa to sahl hai
logo;N ke puuchhne kaa ko))ii kyaa javaab de

1) from wrath/fury, her not writing a letter-- well, it's simple
2) to people's questioning, what reply would/might one give?!



S. R. Faruqi:

Mir has versified this theme in an even more subtle and ambiguous style:


Nevertheless, the present verse has some subtleties that are worth mentioning.

(1) From the second line it's clear that other people too know about the relationship between the speaker and the beloved. These people can also be confidants and companions. Or they can be Rivals, or apparent friends who are inwardly hostile. On this basis, people's asking can also be sarcastic, and a cause of secret inner pleasure. (That is, the inquirers are either happy that someone is in disgrace, or again they might hope that now their own purpose would be achieved.)

(2) The society mentioned in this verse is such that the coming and going of letters has the status of a 'public affair'. In today's society, letters are connected with 'private space', and no one has the right to read anyone else's letters. Not to speak of reading letters, to keep trying to search out who is corresponding with whom is considered improper. But in Hindustan-- or rather, in the West too-- up to the eighteenth century, the coming and going of letters was a 'public event'. Arrangements for systematic postal delivery were established later. Thus a Messenger, or anyone at all who did the work of a Messenger-- usually people used to know his comings and goings.

In the whole verse is something like a mental picture of the letter, the letter-writer, people's mutual social relationships. It seems that the Messenger comes and stays in some sarai. Or he arranges some place in the bazaar and people are coming and taking their letters from him. Illiterate people are making arrangements to have their letters read to them. People who have received personal, private letters cannot entirely hide the information of whether they have a letter or not-- and if they do, of where it might have come from.

Modern social philosophers, especially Jurgen Habermas, have presented a vision of social life as containing 'public space' and 'private space'. Scholars using this perspective have shown by examining the life of small cities and provincial towns in some parts of Hindustan (for example, Bengal) that in these places the vision of 'private space', as in the West, doesn't exist. In these places very few things are considered 'private'. The world that is seen in the classical ghazal too is such that between lover and beloved, and between lover and people of the society, nothing seems to remain secret. Some people express surprise that here even a personal thing like passion is aroused in such a 'public' manner. In Mir's poetry especially this situation can be seen, because Mir fully represents/depicts the customs and styles of life of his society. If we set aside the views of modern social philosophers about 'private' and 'public', then it will be easy to understand the society we see in Mir's verses.

(3) In the first verse it's been said that because the beloved is angry with the speaker, she does not write a letter. It has been expressed in this way: that for him it's easy that because of anger she wouldn't write a letter. From this the implication is established that the beloved feels no special attraction toward the lover, she merely keeps up a relationship of correspondence. But when she becomes angry, then she unhesitatingly brings even the correspondence to a close. For her to cut off the correspondence presents no difficulty at all.

(4) The reason that the beloved is angry has been left ambiguous. It's as if her being angry is not the kind of thing for which it's necessary to give a reason. Anger and the beloved both seem like things with the same logic.

This theme Ahmad Faraz has so ruined, that Firaq Sahib comes to mind. Faraz:

kis kis ko bataa))e;Nge judaa))ii kaa sabab ham
tuu mujh se ;xafaa hai to zamaane ke li))e aa

[to which people will we tell the cause of separation?
if you are angry with me, then come for the age/world]

Both lines of Ahmad Faraz's verse are insha'iyah in style, but nevertheless the verse lacks that tension that is in Mir's second line. In Ahmad Faraz's first line the word judaa))ii is extremely clumsy and ineffective. Mir didn't even get involved in any dispute over 'separation'-- the speaker's beloved is already separated from him, and now their relationship is one of correspondence.

Then, through Faraz's saying not zamaane ko dikhaane ke li))e aa but rather zamaane ke li))e aa , he has made the beloved into something like a saleable commodity. Passion can be a saleable commodity, but in the setting in which this verse and Mir's verse have been composed (the rivalry of Others, their sarcasm, their being happy that the beloved is now angry with the speaker)-- in such a setting, to incite the beloved to come zamaane ke li))e is exceedingly foolish.

This theme, of 'How would I tell to the world the reason for your neglect?', Mir Soz has used with a changed situation in which the Lord is invoked:

ay jaan-e pidar jab se tum apne ghar ga))e
baabaa ke jigar par daa;G-e ;Gam dhar ga))e
ko))ii puuchhe to kyaa bataa))uu;N us ko

[oh life of your father, since you went to your home
on papa's liver there have been scars of grief
if someone would ask, then what would/might I call them?]

Up to this point, the hearer remains in the erroneous belief that this quatrain is about some child who has perhaps become angry, and has left his father's home and set up his house separately. But when we hear the fourth line then our hearts receive a shock:

kis mu;Nh se kahuu;N kih miir mahdii mar ga))e

[how would I have the nerve to say, 'Mir Mahdi has died'?]

We should just hide our faces in our collars [with shame]-- while Mir's and Mir Soz's verses exist, why would Ahmad Faraz's market-like verse be popular?



SRF envisions a situation in which the beloved's not writing is 'simple', while it is her writing a letter that causes people to make awkward social inquiries. But in the social setting that he envisions-- one in which everybody knows what letters everybody else gets-- it's easy to imagine that people might also inquire about the lack of letters: 'What do you hear from her?', or 'You haven't had a letter in ages, what's going on?'. Then the speaker's embarrassment would come from his desire not to admit that she had suddenly flared into anger and he was in disgrace. On this reading, to understand her failure to write is 'simple', but to answer questions about it is the problematical part.

The second line makes enjoyable use of the 'kya effect'. When people ask questions, the choices are remarkably diverse: 'Would one give a reply?' (a yes-or-no question); 'What reply might/would one give?' (a general question); 'What a reply one might/would give!' (an ominous exclamation); 'As if one would give a reply!' (an indignant repudiation of the idea). By no coincidence, each of these four possibilities resonates elegantly-- and of course differently-- with the idea that the beloved's failure to write is 'simple'.

And the speaker worries not about what reply he himself might give, but about what reply ko))ii , 'one' or 'someone', might or would give in that situation. Plainly he sees his predicament as a potentially universal one-- and one of utter haplessness and social humiliation.