kuchh tafaavut nahii;N hastii-o-((adam me;N ham bhii
u;Th ke ab qaafilah-e raftah ko jaa lete hai;N

1) there's no distance/difference between existence and nonexistence; even/also we
2) will get up now and go join the caravan that has passed on



tafaavut : 'Distance; interval; difference, distinction; dissimilarity; discordance; disparity'. (Platts p.328)

S. R. Faruqi:

For the 'people of the heart' [ahl-e dil], the passage from life toward death is no great thing. When they might wish, they would confide their life to the Life-creator. On this theme, consider the extremely superb verse


In the present verse the theme is the same, but it's been expressed in an entirely new and informal tone. By calling the dying the qaafilah-e raftah he has also included the implication that we too are on a journey. See


He has not explained why he let the caravan go on ahead, and why he himself didn't go with it. (Perhaps it was because there's no distance/difference between life and death, and if he would wish then he could at once go and join the caravan that had passed on. Or probably it was because the halting-place on the journey was very interesting, and so he paused.)

In the second line, he has used the present tense with a future meaning; this is a special feature of idiomatic daily speech in Urdu. In this way the immediacy and force of the utterance have increased. As though to go and join the qaafilah-e raftah is easy-- that this action will be accomplished instantly, before our eyes. The point is that just as existence and nonexistence are for us the same, likewise the present and the future too are the same. Existence is equal to the present, and nonexistence is equal to the future. In ham bhii there's also the suggestion that other 'people of the heart' have already done such a thing-- as though for people like us it's a commonplace thing.

It should also be kept in mind that qaafilah-e raftah is the reality of realities, and the metaphor of metaphors. So that in the second line when he put in the word ab it was deliberately-- that we are going right this very instant to do this action (that is, we have just now made this resolve), and the people who have gone before will also have to go immediately. This is Mir's special style-- that he fills very small words with such meaning.



Where do the Sufistic-sounding 'people of the heart' come into it? SRF has imported them himself. The verse is so abstract that the 'we' could be only the speaker himself, or it could be 'we lovers', or else it could be a group as broad as the whole human race.

The verse begins with an abstraction, and then proceeds to illustrate it in a most piquant and elegant way. We would expect the speaker to say that he would get up now, or soon, and go join the 'passing' caravan, the one that bears us all steadily along from life toward death. But instead, he's casually confident of joining a caravan that has already passed by.

And how can he be so sure of success? Why, because no 'distance' is involved, of course! Joining the caravan of death has a paradoxical quality-- it is easy to join the caravan, but the moment you do so, you have 'always already' passed on irrevocably far, way beyond the halting-place where living mortals remain. The caravan is never 'passing', but always 'passed'. Yet it's also always accessible.

Note for grammar fans: The idiomatic compound verb jaa lenaa must here mean something like 'go and join', since you don't 'take' a caravan the way in English you 'take' a bus.

Note for translation fans: Isn't it annoying that in English we can't really say 'the passed-on caravan' or 'the smiled face'? We can much more easily do such past-participial constructions with transitive verbs ('the locked door', 'the rescued boy'). This is a case in which Urdu grammar works more smoothly and consistently, while English is erratic by comparison.