der se ham ko bhuul ga))e ho yaad karo to bihtar hai
;Gam ;hirmaa;N kaa kab tak khe;Nche;N shaad karo to bihtar hai

1) for a long time you've forgotten us-- if you would call us to mind, then it's best/'better'
2) how long would we endure the grief of refusal/denial? -- if you make us happy, then it's best/'better'



bihtar : 'Better, superior, more worthy; good, excellent; well; preferable; advisable'. (Platts p.182)


;hirmaa;N : 'Rendering hopeless; —refusal, denial (of a thing, to a person); disappointment, repulse'. (Platts p.476)

S. R. Faruqi:

On this verse a ray from Hafiz's [Persian] verse seems to fall:

'For a long time the beloved has sent no message,
Has written no letter, has sent no greetings.'

Both verses have 'mood'. If in Hafiz's verse there's a little despair and hopelessness, then in Mir's verse there's a melancholy and probably false hope. But in Mir's verse there are also some aspects of meaning. First of all, consider the phrase bihtar hai . Apparently this is the comparative, but its meaning is superlative-- that is, in everyday usage, 'the best'. But there's also the aspect of ambiguity, that yaad karnaa and shaad karnaa are 'better', but perhaps some other things, some other kindness and favor, are best of all; but the speaker is not making a claim for 'the best'. He is happy with the middle level. Another point is that if the beloved would even call him to mind, then this will be a cause for happiness and the grief of refusal/denial will be ended. That is, there's no search for anything more from the beloved, neither with regard to quality nor with regard to quantity.

Now the question arises, what is meant by 'calling to mind'? If we reply in Hafiz's language, then its meaning is that the beloved would send some message, would convey some words; if nothing else, then at least she would send greetings. But one meaning of yaad karnaa is 'to summon'. Especially when some lofty person would summon some humble person, then this is called yaad karnaa or yaad farmaanaa . For example, we say baadshaah salaamat ne yaad farmaayaa hai -- that is, he has ordered you to present yourself. Fat'h ul-Daulah Barq has a verse,

kahtaa huu;N ta.savvur me;N mu;hibbaan-e ((adam se
marte hai;N kih kis din hame;N tum yaad karoge

[I say in my imagination to the beloveds of nonexistence
'We are dying for the day when you will call us to mind']

Thus in Mir's opening-verse the meaning can be that 'if you summon us, then it would be very good; nothing could be better than your summoning us'.

Now in der se ham ko bhuul ga))e ho there's also the implication that the beloved used sometimes to 'call to mind' (in both senses) the speaker; and now since for many days there has been no favor, the speaker inwardly speaks to the beloved, or actually sends her a message. The slight glimmer of hope is on the basis that in former times the beloved sometimes showed favor. But the melancholy in the tone gives rise to the suspicion that it's not especially likely that this hope of the speaker's will be fulfilled.

He is only making a plea, not demanding a right or making a claim. The inequality between the beloved and the lover, and the way that in the affairs of passion the beloved has superiority over the lover, is well depicted in this verse. The order/arrangement of passion itself is just this: that the lover would plead to be summoned or to be 'called to mind', not that he would complain and ask why the beloved had forgotten him.

But in Mir's order/arrangement the lover is not entirely powerless or utterly oppressed. He has more or less command over trickery/cleverness and good counsel. Thus in the present verse, bihtar hai can also mean that it would be better for the beloved's own sake if she would 'call to mind' the lover. If the question arises as to why it would be better for her, then several replies are possible. (1) There is no truer lover than the speaker; thus the benefit to the beloved in 'calling to mind' the speaker that she will enjoy the society of her truest and most sincere lover, and in this way remain protected from false or less sincere lovers. (2) From keeping a true lover around her, the beloved's honor and dignity will increase. (3) The beloved's good reputation is based on her not forgetting her true lovers.

In this way we see that within the verse's apparently uniform tone, there's in fact a great deal of variety/colorfulness. It's a verse characteristic of Mir, and it's gone far beyond Hafiz.



As SRF notes, the implication of bihtar hai can readily be that to 'call to mind' the lover would be better for the beloved herself. He provides several rational reasons that this might be the case. But might there not also be just a touch of threat as well? After all, the question 'How long would we endure the grief of refusal/denial?' suggests that the lover wouldn't endure it forever. At some point he would stop enduring it-- and what would he do then? Perhaps he would simply drop dead, and the worst hardship the beloved would suffer would indeed be the loss of his company.

But perhaps the lover might have something more sinister in mind. Might this verse not have a lighter, slighter touch of the kind of threat that's implied in


This reading surely makes the verse far more piquant. For comparison here's an example of a different usage of bihtar hai , in another verse from this same ghazal [{1498,3}]:

jo karyegaa ;haq me;N mere ;xuubii hai merii is hii me;N
daad karo to bihtar hai be-daad karo to bihtar hai

[whatever you do with regard to me, my good is in only/emphatically this
if you do justice, it's fine/'better'; if you do injustice, it's fine/'better']

This is no doubt a humbler, more Sufistic reading of the power (im)balance between lover and beloved. But compared to the ominous possibilities of the present verse-- not to speak of {1496,4}-- doesn't such a Sufistic reading also seem just a tad bland and conventional?