vuh dhobii kaa kam miltaa hai mail-e dil uudhar hai bahut
ko))ii kahe us se milte me;N tujh ko kyaa ham dho le;N hai;N

1) that one, the washerman's [boy], is rarely available; in that direction, there is much vexation/'dirt' of the heart
2) let someone say to him, 'In meeting, do we {abuse you / 'clean you out'}?'



mail : 'Dirt, filth; pollution; scum; rust; (met.) sadness; vexation, displeasure'. (Platts p.1106)

S. R. Faruqi:

The early tradition of the shahr-aashob used to be that boys of the city would be mentioned, with regard to their beauty, mischievousness, and airs and graces. And the selection of the boys was according to their, or their families', professions. For example, gold-worker, flower-seller, cloth-merchant, etc. These elements of the shahr-ashob lasted until the time of Sauda and his peers. Thus his famous shahr-ashob ode, ab saamne mere jo ko))ii piir-o-javaa;N hai , mentions people in various professions and their wretched condition.

Some early Persian poets, such as Mas'ud Sa'd Salman, wrote romantic quatrains. Among later people, Kalim Hamadani has written [in Persian] a sequence of ghazals in which people of Hindustani professions and sects are mentioned, with Hindustani names. For example, in the ghazal that he has written on a dhobi, this is the opening-verse:

z ;husn-e shustah-e dhobii chih goyam
azaa;N be-pardah ma;hbuubii chih goyam

[of the washed/pure beauty of the dhobi, what can I say?
about that unveiled beloved, what can I say?]

Mir too has mentioned boys connected with various professions. Thus in the present verse, the dhobi's boy is mentioned. Some other verses include, from the second divan [{798,4}]:

kaifiyate;N ((a:t:taar ke lau;N;De me;N bahut thii;N
us nus;xe kii ko))ii nah rahii ;haif davaa yaad

[there were many enjoyablenesses in the perfumer's boy
for that formula/prescription no medicine, alas, could be recalled]

From the fourth divan [{1514,1}]:

afsaanah-;xvaa;N kaa la;Rkaa kyaa kahye diidanii hai
qi.s.sah hamaaraa us kaa yaaro shuniidanii hai

[the story-teller's boy-- what can one say?-- he's worth seeing!
our and his tale, friends, is worth hearing]

It's clear that in verses of this kind, rather than rakishness and lechery, there's more amusingness and the game of wordplay; and their real purpose follows more or less in the tradition of the shahr-ashob. In the present verse, the influence of Kalim Hamadani's opening-verse too is apparent. But in his own verse, Mir has taken wittiness and wordplay much beyond that of Kalim Hamadani, and written his own kind of peerless verse.

With regard to dhobii , Kalim Hamadani has written shustah ; Mir has created the interesting iham of mail-e dil . Then, in the second line he's said dho le;N hai;N . The form dho lenaa is not to be found in any Urdu dictionary. Among Persian lexicographers too, only Khan-e Arzu, in his chiraa;G-e hidaayat , has noted its Persian original, 'to wash' [shust-o-shuu kardan], and has given the meaning as 'to revile, to abuse'. In Urdu, there's dhoyaa jaanaa , with the meaning of 'to become shameless', as for example in the second line of Ghalib's


But there's no dho lenaa . Mir invented dho lenaa , along the lines of dhoyaa jaanaa and shust-o-shuu kardan . The meaning is perhaps the same as that of shust-o-sho kardan ('to revile, to abuse'). But the suggestion of 'to become shameless' is also present.

It's been said that dho lenaa is a far-fetched 'idiom' for which no proof has been able to be found. Another possibility is that it might be dhaulenaa , with the meaning of 'to slap, beat' [from dhaul]. But no proof has been able to be found for this either.

[See also {471,7}.]

[Further notes (2015), written in English: This is one of many verses which Mir wrote ostensibly following a convention: praising or humorously talking about young boys-- sons of different professionals like the apothecary, the builder, the story-teller, so forth. Mir is rarely explicit in such verses and his tone is always of fun and wordplay and occasional admiration. The sole exception is this verse, whose wordplay permits it to be both funny and sexually explicit. In the first line mail-e dil = tilt or inclination of the heart. Its pronunciation is indistinguishable from maile dil = dirty heart(s). And in any case, the word maile ('dirty') is a fine pun on 'washerman'. In the second line, he says us ko kyaa ham dho le;N hai;N = 'Do I wash him up?'. Here again the pun is obvious. A naughtier and less obvious pun is that dho lena also means 'to sodomize'.]



Of course, 'clean you out' is not the right idiomatic sense; I'm just trying to suggest the wordplay. I thought of 'clean your clock', but that seems too esoteric. There are so many such idioms, many of them quite localized and transient, so it's not surprising if Mir used some esoteric or half-Persianized sense of dho lenaa that we can no longer recover from the available dictionaries. Or, as SRF suggests, he may have invented the 'idiom' entirely, just because he needed it for the wordplay.

For more on the beloved as a beautiful boy, see {60,3}.

Note for grammar fans: The modern form of milte me;N would of course be milne me;N .