aage kisuu ke kyaa kare;N dast-e :tama(( daraaz
vuh haath so gayaa hai sirhaane dhare dhare

1) before anyone/someone, how would we stretch out the hand of desirousness/avidity?!
2) that hand has gone to sleep, having been constantly {laid down as a pillow / clutching the headboard}



:tama(( : 'Coveting; covetousness, vehement desire; greediness, greed, avarice; avidity; ambition'. (Platts p.753)


daraaz : 'Long, tall, extended, stretched out'. (Platts p.510)


sirhaanaa : 'Head-place, head-part, head (of a bedstead, or tomb, &c.); a pillow: —sirhaane , adv. At the head of (a bed, &c.)'. (Platts p.658)


dharnaa : 'To place, put, put down, deposit, lay, lay down; ... to have (in the hand), to hold, lay hold of, clutch, grasp, grip, seize, to hold fast or pertinaciously'. (Platts p.543)

S. R. Faruqi:

In this verse the image is so perfect/complete that the verse can be presented as an illustration and example. The hand has been placed on the headboard because it's being used like a pillow [takiyah]. And takiyah also means a 'support, prop'-- thus the hand is a support/prop-- that is, there's no need for anyone's support, the support of his own hand is sufficient. Themes of faqir-like dignity, and full trust and confidence in his own indigence, Mir has versified in several places. For example, from the first divan:


This verse is of no common order, its image too is extremely brimful of meaning; but the hand as a pillow, and the reliance on the hand, and then the way hands are spread out in begging-- taken all together, they make the present verse very high in rank. Then, in saying dast-e :tama(( there's also the implication that there's no desirousness/avidity in us at all, or else that the way lack of use causes limbs of the body to wither and become useless, in the same way, through not being acted upon, our desirousness too has withered and become useless.

In saying vuh haath there's not only the virtue that it creates a distance between the speaker and the theme, and leaves no possibility of any flabbiness in the tone; there's also the virtue that the presence of the 'hand of desirousness' is established. That is, there is (was) desirousness in us too, but we caused it to dry up.

Then, :tama(( can mean 'greed, covetousness', and also 'to ask somebody for something'. It's clear that both meanings are operative here.

In this ghazal, Mir composed only five verses. Jur'at composed in this ground nine verses, and it's clear that in his mature age he tried to create a 'reply' to Mir. But not one of Jur'at's verses approachese these three verses of Mir's. Thus Jur'at versified the rhyme dhare dhare with a good image, but he couldn't manage to write something equal to Mir's first line. Jur'at:

dil-giir yuu;N khi;Nche ko))ii ta.sviir is :tara;h
sar lag gayaa hai zaanuu-e ;Gam par dhare dhare

[someone might make a picture of the heart-stolen one in this way:
the head has become attached, having constantly rested on the knees of grief]

Mir's verse has a 'mood' like that of a strangely interesting paradox. Because the hand of desirousness is not stretched out, it has not been made clear that the reason the hand had been kept in a grip is self-respect. The reason that the hand of desirousness is not stretched out is that the hand that we would have stretched out, we have put (because of refusal to beg, or contentment, etc.) under our head, and have been lying there in some corner. And now that hand is entirely useless, because from prolonged lack of use it has gone to sleep. Here the paradox is that apparently he is expressing his faqir-like indifference, but in fact he seems to be saying 'We cannot stretch out the hand of desirousness because our hand has become numb/paralyzed'.

A second point is that the hand has become numb/paralyzed because indigence has compelled him to use it as a pillow. The implication is that for a long time the hand has been used as a pillow, because if it had been placed that way for only a little while then this would not have occurred. But the indigence too is because he did not wish/consent to spread out his hand before anybody.

Thus: 'Whether the hand would have gone to sleep or not, we were not one to spread the hand of asking before anyone'. This means that what has been said in the verse is unnecessary! If a there's to be a verse of layer upon layer, this is how it should be. The tradition in which such poetry is present has no need of a Jacques Derrida.

Mir has composed this theme in Persian as well:

'Her beggar's hand has become a pillow [takiyah] under the head,
How can I stretch it out before the rich ones of the world?'

The question in the second line is fine. The second line is good in its way, but it lacks the kind of paradox that exists in the present verse.



What SRF calls a paradox seems to me instead a fine use of the 'A,B' structure, in which the relationship between the two lines is left for us to decide. The first line might be a cause ('As if we would ever use our hand for begging!-- we never would!'), and the second line an effect ('So from use only as a pillow it's gone to sleep'). Or else the second line might be a cause ('Our hand has gone to sleep'), and the first line an effect ('So how could we use it for begging?'). The two possibilities are enhanced by the 'kya effect' in the first line: it can become either an indignant exclamation of rejection ('As if we would...!'), or an actual question ('How would we be able to...?').

Has the speaker been gripping the headboard of his bed, or resting his head on his hand as a pillow? The range of sirhaanaa and dharnaa permits both readings (see the definitions above). SRF suggests that the two should be conflated, since the former is a means for the latter. Alternatively, the lover might clutch the frame of his bed in anguish, or in frustration, or just to have something solid to hold on to in the depths of his endless night of misery. In any case, the result is the same: a hand that has 'gone to sleep' (and luckily the metaphor is as idiomatic in English as it is in Urdu). We should no doubt imagine not a superficial state of mild numbness, followed by a tingling, prickling feeling as the hand is used, but a deep, damaged state of numbness or, as SRF suggests, something like paralysis-- so that the hand is not just momentarily compromised, but radically useless.

The use of kisuu ke aage is also enjoyable, since it can mean 'before anyone' (with regard to the practice of begging, in general) or 'before someone' (and we at once realize that 'Someone' can only be the beloved).