miir faqiir hu))e to ik din kyaa kahte hai;N be;Te se
((umr rahii hai tho;Rii use ab kyuu;N kar kaa;Te;N baabaa ham

1) when Mir became a faqir, then one day what does he say to the boy/son/disciple?
2) 'A little lifetime remains-- now how would/should we pass it, Baba?!'



faqiir : 'A poor man; a beggar; a religious mendicant; a derwish; an ascetic, a devotee'. (Platts p.783)


be;Taa : 'Son, boy, child; a form of address used by faqiir s towards their chelaa s or disciples'. (Platts p.206)


baabaa : 'Father; grandfather; old man, sir, sire (respectfully); a sanyaasii, a faqiir ; ... a form of address used by beggars in addressing the master of a house, and vice versa; (amongst native servants of European masters), child, children'. (Platts p.117)

S. R. Faruqi:

In this verse the word baabaa is has multiple meanings, because it's used for a child, and for an old man, and when something is to be said with emphasis then it's used as a vocative for the addressee ( baabaa mai;N to tang aa gayaa ; baabaa yih kaam mujh se nah hogaa ). In the present verse all three meanings may possibly be present.

Then, in kyuu;N kar kaa;Te;N there are several possibilities. (1) The life that's left-- what should be its principle of action? That is, should we pass it in piety or rakishness, in madness or awareness? (2) The life that's left seems to be very heavy-- how would/should we pass it? (3) Now what's the point of passing the remainder of the lifetime, why shouldn't we commit suicide?

Now please consider the first line. 'Mir' thought about the rest of his life at the time when he became a faqir; faqiir too has multiple meanings. Mir has often used it in the sense of 'venerable elder, virtuously-behaved person'. Often too he has used it in the sense of 'poor person', as in the second divan [{919,2}]:

ho ko))ii baadshaah ko))ii yaa;N vaziir ho
apnii balaa se bai;Th rahe jab faqiir ho

[whether it might be some king, or some vazir, here,
how would he dare to remain seated, when there would be a faqir!]

Here the word faqir is used in both senses. It is used only in the sense of 'religious ascetic' in this verse from the second divan [{919,15}]:

yak vaqt-e ;xaa.s ;haq me;N mere kuchh du))aa karo
tum bhii to miir .saa;hib-o-qiblah faqiir ho

[at some special time, make a prayer on my behalf
after all, Mir Sahib, Your Worship-- you're a faqir]

In this verse, from the first divan [{570,6}], the meaning is only that of 'poor person':

amiir-zaado;N se dillii ke mil nah taa maqduur
kih ham faqiir hu))e hai;N u;Nhii;N kii daulat se

[to the extent we are able, we don't meet with the aristocrats/rich of Delhi,
for we have become a faqir because of only/emphatically them]

It should be kept in mind that daulat se means badaulat , 'because of'. It is not related to daulat meaning 'gold and coins'. In any case, the meaning of faqir as 'poor person' is apparent.

It's also possible for faqir to mean 'beggar', as in this verse from the first divan:


Thus in the present verse the states of being a venerable elder, a poor person, and a religious mendicant are all three possible. The basic point is that the thought of his lifetime came at the time when he became a faqir. In this way there's also sarcasm directed toward himself, and toward the feeling of his changed state as well.

The address to the be;Taa is also fine. It's possible that he might consider the boy to be wiser than he himself, or that he might want the boy's support. The conversational and speech-like style of the whole verse is also fine.



Both 'Baba' here and 'Lala' in the previous verse, {1437,4}, seem to be titles of affectionate respect, which are often colloquially transferred to children as a gesture of playfulness and love. Between their multivalence and that of 'faqir', just consider the possibilities:

=a senior religious ascetic is addressing a novice or disciple in his order

=a venerable and virtuous elder is addressing a young relative

=a mendicant beggar is addressing any boy

And of course, as SRF observes, the speaker might be asking for advice in a deliberately paradoxical way ('out of the mouths of babes...') by taking the boy to be wiser than himself; or he might be appealing to the boy for support and help. Alternatively, he might just be showing his lifelong madness. It's also possible that the 'we' is meant to include the boy as well, and the consultation might be about how, in general, our short earthly lives are to be spent.

The ability of kyuu;N kar to express indignant rejection is of course part of the 'kya effect'; thus the option of preferring immediate death (to get it over with?) rather than a 'little' more life followed by death, is definitely one of the possibilities that might be under consideration.

The 'now' emphasizes the change of state that has brought on the question-- now that we're religiously enlightened? Now that we're old? Now that we're a poor mendicant? Now that we're not a lover any more?

Also intriguing is the ek din kyaa kahte hai;N , 'one day what does he say?', where we would expect something much simpler, like 'he said'. The unnecessary interrogative form, the present tense, and the stylized, uninformative 'one day' all create the emphatic, repetitive, distancing effect of storytelling, especially to a child ('Then what does Goldilocks say to the Papa Bear? Goldilocks says...'). The first line seems to make 'Mir' into a kind of legendary character, whose eccentric sayings and doings are proverbial.