chhaatii pah saa;Np saa phir jaataa hai yaad me;N us ke baalo;N kii
jii me;N lahar aave hai lekin rakhtaa huu;N man maar apnaa

1) on the breast something like a snake glides, in the memory of her hair
2) in the inner-self a wave/spasm comes, but I keep myself restrained/grieved



lahar : 'A wave, billow; surge; undulation; a waving line (in patterns of cloth, &c.); a flowing or undulating fold (in draperies, &c.); —whim, fancy, vision, wild fancy, freak; —emotion, excitement, fit of passion; ecstasy, transport, rapture, frenzy; furor; a convulsive or spasmodic affection of the body (as from intoxicating or poisonous substances, from venomous bites or stings, from anger, lust, &c., or as in death)'. (Platts p.972)


man maarnaa ( apnaa ) : 'To repress desire or feeling; to restrain oneself; to deny oneself (a pleasure, &c.); to abstain; —to be grieved or troubled in mind'. (Platts p.1069)


man : 'The mind (considered as the seat of perception and passion); power of mind; intellect, intelligence, understanding, perception, sense;—the heart; soul; spirit; —inclination; will; purpose; —character, disposition, mood, temper'. (Platts 1068-69)


man : 'A gem, jewel, precious stone; the precious stone said to be found in the head of a serpent (and held to be a certain antidote against poisons; Pers. syn. maar-muhrah )'. (Platts p.1069)

S. R. Faruqi:

In this verse look at the crowd of affinities: chhaatii , man , saa;Np , baal , lahar , man ( saa;Np kaa man ), maar , phir jaanaa , lahar aanaa , jaataa , aave hai , rakhtaa huu;N .

Now look at the poets of Lucknow-- they too, imitating Mir, have tried to encompass those affinities. Atish:

saa;Np ke kaa;Te kii lahre;N hai;N shab-o-roz aatii
kaakul-e yaar ke saude ne a;ziyyat dii hai

[waves of snakebite come night and day
the madness of the beloved's curls has given trouble]

Sayyid Muhammad Khan Rind:

zulf us kii siyaah naagin hai
maar rakhtii hai jis ko ;Dastii hai

[her curls are a black female-snake
whomever they bite, they kill]

Obviously whether it's Atish or Rind, his reach is not beyond one or two instances of wordplay. In both their verses, the theme too is devoid of naturalness.

Now we ought to reflect that from Hali to the present, all the critics declare with one voice that among the poets of Lucknow there's a profusion of wordplay, and the poets of Delhi have averted their faces from these 'superficial' and 'cheap' things. A wrong idea very quickly becomes well known, and once it's well known it comes to seem true as well. The truth is that wordplay is a jewel of our language, and our finest poets have used it well. In the poets of Lucknow there's less wordplay, and what there is is on a commonplace level, because the poets themselves were commonplace.



The triple associations of lahar are brilliantly exploited; see the definition above. Her snakey curls ripple and flow like a wave; and the memory of them brings a metaphorical 'wave' of emotion to the speaker's heart; and the speaker also feels a 'spasm' of the kind caused by the bite of a poisonous snake. When 'the memory of' her curls behaves like a poisonous snake, is it because even the memory of them is so potent that it's as deadly as if they were present, or is it because in their absence the memory of them brings on such deadly loss and sorrow that it operates like poison?

All these possibilities are further energized by man maar . Not only is there the idiom itself, but there's man , which of course means 'mind'-- but also refers to a kind of serpent-jewel that's an antidote to poisons! (See the definitions above.) Really, in wordplay terms, how much better can it get?

Not only that, but all this wordplay is accommodated, as SRF observes, in a completely natural, unforced way. The speaker's focus is on his own memories; he never seems to be self-consciously showing off his verbal cleverness.