dam kii kashish se koshish ma((luum to hai lekin
paate nahii;N ham us kii kuchh :tarz-e just-juu ko

1) from the drawing/attraction/difficulty of the breath, the effort/attempt is known, but
2) we do not find any manner/style of search/inquiry of/for that [one]



kashish : 'A drawing; a pull; attraction; allurement; curve or sweep (of a letter in writing); lingering, tardiness, delay; trial, difficulty, pressure ... ; discord, difference, misunderstanding'. (Platts p.836)


koshish : 'Striving, endeavour, effort, exertion, labour; attempt; application, study'. (Platts p.862)


just-juu : 'Searching, seeking; search, inquiry, quest, scrutiny, examination, investigation'. (Platts p.381)

S. R. Faruqi:

The theme of this verse (the search for the Lord/beloved) is a common one, but here it has come in such a new form, and with such a new meaning, that its whole world has been changed. Mir's poetry is a whole world in its own right, but even within this world such an unheard-of, such a choice form/shape will rarely be seen, as in this verse.

First of all let's consider the word koshish . Its [Persian] infinitive is koshiidan , which means 'to make an effort, to strive' [sa((ii-o-jahd karnaa]. [A discussion of some other derivatives in Persian.] If it's a question of jahd , then this word is a synonym of koshish [with, in Persian, secondary meanings of 'strength' and 'sorrow']. But sa((ii has many meanings, and among them the following meanings are related to koshish : (1) to make an effort/attempt; (2) to do some task, to obtain something; (3) to run; (4) to move away quickly (from [the dictionary] muntakhab ul-lu;Gaat , by Abd ul-Rashid ul-Husaini). In the Persian koshish , a glimmer of all these meanings is more or less evident.

In the light of the above discussion, between the first line's koshish and the second line's just-juu , several kinds of affinities can be seen. A koshish itself is a just-juu , or a just-juu itself is a koshish . In both is an allusion to finding or obtaining something or other. Both are metaphors for each other. In both, will and strength play a role-- that is, if there would be no will, and if the spirit would not be strong, then there's neither a koshish nor a just-juu .

[A lengthy discussion of how sa((ii visually resembles sa((;aa , which in Persian and Arabic means 'to be contained within' [samaanaa].]

The discussion of these words sa((ii , sa((;aa , koshish was necessary because without it, some layers of Mir's verse are not revealed. Just consider-- in the first line, there are the following meanings:

(1) From the dam kii kashish (that is, the incoming and outgoing of the breath) it is learned that we are trying to find that one.

(2) From this it is learned that we have obtained that one-- that is, he/she/it is contained within us.

(3) From the incoming and outgoing of the breath it is learned that that one is attempting to find us.

(4) That is, our existence is a proof that that one wants to find us.

In the second line are the following meanings:

(1) We take breaths; from this it is proved that we are making an effort to find that one.

(2) But what is the proper/correct way to find that one-- this we do not know.

(3) From the incoming and outgoing of the breath it is learned that he/she/it is in the process of trying to find us. But we cannot understand what this manner of effort is.

(4) Or, we cannot understand how that one is attempting to find us. Our breath is moving; from this the existence of an attempt is proved. But it's not revealed what kind of search is taking place.

The question is, by taking breaths how is it proved that we are trying to find that one? Or that he/she/it is trying to find us? The following answers are possible:

(1) In ordinary circumstances, taking a breath is an involuntary action. But when the breath is drawn in then we feel it. By dam kii kashish is meant to become short of breath, or to feel that we are taking a breath. Since this happens when we are working hard, or running, it's proved that from the dam kii kashish it's clear that we are in search of someone, or someone is in search of us.

(2) To take breaths is the same as staying alive. and our staying alive (being in existence) itself is proof that we are in search of someone, or someone is in search of us. Because the very purpose of existence is that a person should become drawn together with some other being.

(3) The breath is coming and going in the body; the very meaning of this is that someone is in search of someone/something.

Another interpretation is that that one is searching for us; we understand this, but that one's manner of searching (that by means of the incoming and outgoing of the breath that one is searching for us) has not been revealed to us. That is, what prudence/advisability there is in this kind of searching-- this matter we do not understand ( paanaa = 'to understand').

Now the question arises, what is the speaker's tone? It's obvious that in it are amazement, surprise, and disbelief; and sorrow and melancholy; and a smallish amount of complaint too-- that he/she/it has established the 'trying' as our fate, but has not told us what would be the proper manner of 'trying'. Or again, that one is trying to find us, but it's not clear why this kind of 'trying' is taking place, and why it is not successful.

If the meaning of kashish is taken in simply a dictionary sense as 'to pull, draw', then the purport becomes that breath is going along, drawing/pulling us. (Thus it is proved that we are in koshish = effort and search.) In any case, the basic idea is that someone is in search of someone, but this search seems to be endless.

The final meaning is that we know that the incoming and outgoing of the breath is in essence a sign/symbol of koshish . That is, the breath is equal to life [ziist], and the meaning of life is existence [vujuud], and the proof of existence is movement (= effort and search). Since the principle of life is one, our existence is proof that it has some relationship to Absolute Existence. This relationship may be that of a searcher, or that of the object of a search. But since breath is not felt (under ordinary conditions), although we know intellectually that a koshish is taking place, we do not feel/perceive this koshish , we do not find it (that is, it does not come into the range of our senses).

Thus in a simple-appearing verse fear and hope, faith and doubt, complaint and confidence, astonishment, meditativeness-- all have been brought together. The French thinker and mystic Blaise Pascal said, 'Thou wouldst not seek Me if thou hadst not found Me'. The difference is that Pascal called himself too 'me', and made the searcher and the searched-for into one; in Mir's verse both existences are one, but there is a stage where the searcher too becomes the searched-for. Hazrat Sarmad Shahid says [in a Persian quatrain]:

'Sarmad, if he is the Lord, he himself will come.
If his coming is suitable, he himself will come.
Why do you futilely run around pursuing him?
Sit down; if he is the Lord, he himself will come.'

Pascal's saying is of an inner and mysterious kind. In Mir and Sarmad's verses, along with Sufistic dimensions there's an attractive humanity. In Sarmad's verse too there are depths of meaning, but not as many as in Mir's. Then, in Mir's verse there's a mysterious ambiguity. A worldly person who would hear this verse would say, 'This is in my heart'. A Sufi who heard it would say, 'This is in my heart'. Such verses are composed three or four times in a lifetime-- and that too, if there would be a poet like Mir.

After writing all this, the thought came to me that in the verse there's one more interpretation as well. If in the second line the little word kuchh would be given importance, then the meaning becomes that because of the kashish of the breath, we know that someone is trying to find us, but we don't consider his/her manner of inquiry to be especially worthy of confidence. (We find it to be 'nothing' [kuchh nahii;N]-- that is, we consider it very commonplace.) The idea is that if the search were really effective, then by now he/she would already have found us. (In this regard too, paanaa means 'to understand'.)

[See also {441,7}; {545,10}; {1252,4}.]



Let's also pay tribute to the sound (and script, and meaning) effects of that great juxtaposition dam kii kashish se koshish , which feels like the heart of the verse. In particular, dam kii kashish deserves to be unpacked a bit more, since it seems to be the one actual piece of evidence from which everything else in the verse is deduced. Here are some possibilities for dam kii kashish (see the definition above):

='the drawing of breaths', breathing in and out-- the very process of being alive.

='shortness of breath', such as results from physical stress (of pursuing? of fleeing?).

='attraction, allurement of the breath'. Does the process of breathing, or the desire to be alive, cause us to search for 'that one', who might be a source of life? Or might it act as a lure, to enable some searcher to find and ensnare us?

='lingering, tardiness, delay of the breath'. Between breathing in and breathing out, or between one breath and the next, there's always an interval. Usually we're not aware of it, but sometimes we are. Is it an interval during which we remain particularly still, alert for any smallest hint of 'that one' for whom we search (or who searches for us)?

='trial, difficulty, discord of the breath'. To be alive always involves suffering. This suffering reveals the 'effort' we are making, the 'attempt' to remain alive and accept that suffering. Might there not be someone behind all this, who could explain and justify it all, if only we could find 'that one'? Or is it 'that one' who causes our suffering, as part of an 'effort' to reach us, to 'find' us?

Then, through this kashish , the koshish -- the 'effort, attempt' (whatever this may be) is 'known'-- but to whom is it known? To us, so that we realize our deepest priorities? To someone else, who observes us? That final lekin then warns us that in the second line we can expect not clarification but some kind of qualification.

SRF has parsed out some possibilities of the wildly, gloriously ambiguous grammar in the second line:

=We do not find/understand any manner of searching for that one.
=We do not at all find/understand that one's manner of searching.
=We find/understand that one's manner of searching to be nothing.

But since that us kii is one spectacular piece of grammatical engineering, there are two more perfectly good possibilities as well. For the first line contains two quite suitable nouns, and the us of the us kii could perfectly well be taken to refer to either one of them:

= paate nahii;N ham us kashish kii kuchh :tarz-e just-juu ko (we do not find/understand in that 'drawing of breath' any manner of searching)
= paate nahii;N ham us koshish kii kuchh :tarz-e just-juu ko (we do not find/understand in that 'effort, attempt' any manner of searching)

To me, verses like this are irresistible-- when they are meaningful, as in this case, and not just technical displays of mastery (like crossword puzzles). SRF notes that this verse sweeps through a very broad tonal and emotional range; it also covers an immense slice of religious/philosophical thinking.

Here's another, less complex verse with a similar theme, from the fifth divan [{1554,4}]:

ma:tlab kaa sar-rishtah gum hai koshish kii kotaahii nahii;N
jo :taalib is raah se aayaa ;xaak bhii yaa;N kii chhaan gayaa

[the connection of meaning/goal is lost; there's no shortfall in endeavor
whichever seeker came by this road, he sifted even/also the dust here, and went on]

And compare Ghalib's very famous and similarly complex brain-teaser: