jab se binaa-e .sub;h-e hastii do dam par yaa;N ;Thahraa))ii
kyaa kyaa karye is muhlat me;N kuchh bhii hame;N fur.sat hai ab

1) ever since the foundation of the morning of existence, here it was decreed/fixed upon two breaths/moments
2) what-all can one do, in this interval/delay/intermission-- do we have any leisure at all now?!



;Thahraanaa : 'To cause to stand or stay, to stop; to ascertain; to establish, prove, demonstrate; to conclude, consider; to ascribe; to appropriate; to fix, settle, decide, determine; to decree, judge, adjudge; to fix on, appoint, constitute'. (Platts p.365)


muhlat : 'Putting off, deferring; retarding; delay; procrastination, dilatoriness; respite; intermission; cessation; armistice; —time, leisure; a delay granted for an appointed time or term; —notice of, or provision or preparation made for, any approaching event'. (Platts p.1100)

S. R. Faruqi:

binaa = foundation, building

By do dam can be meant a brief interval, or else the incoming breath and the outgoing breath, as in the [Persian] 'Gulistan' of Sa'di. By .sub;h-e hastii can be meant childhood and youth, or else the whole life (in the sense that life is a morning-- that is, a day-- and death is an evening or a night). In every case the interpretation is the same: that existence is unstable, or rather severely brief.

In the second line, by putting kariye instead of kahiye he has again created two thoughts, because in kariye there's an implication of speaking, and also of doing, while in kahiye there's only one implication.

The original meaning of muhlat is 'hesitation, slowness' [dirang , aahistagii]-- that is, 'movement at a slow and languid pace'. In Urdu it's used for 'free time', 'occasion', 'leisure'. The present verse alludes to the Urdu meaning, but it's quite obvious that the original Arabic meaning (that is, 'movement at a hesitant and languid pace') is intended. Thus in the word muhlat there's of course an iham, but by means of it a subtle hint of sarcasm has also been created. (The benefit in the iham is worth noting, for people who consider wordplay a bad thing, or who hold the view that Mir renounced the use of iham).

To establish a foundation on breath is also interesting. A house with its foundation built on air/breeze-- not to speak of stability, it obviously can't stand for a single moment! It's a very fine verse.

The replacement of 'speaking' with 'doing' has also been done very finely in a verse of Mir Hasan's:

yih tiraa i;xtilaa:t har ek se
kyaa kare;N ham ko ;xvush nahii;N aataa

[the way you meet with all and sundry,
what can we do? --it doesn't please us]

On this famous verse of Iqbal's

baa;G-e bihisht se mujhe ;hukm-e safar diyaa thaa kyuu;N
kaar-e jahaa;N daraaz hai ab miraa inti:zaar kar]

[from the garden of Paradise, why did you give me the order to travel?
the work of the world is long-- now wait for me!]

the present verse of Mir's certainly had an effect, conscious or unconscious. But indeed, the qalandar-likeness and mischievousness that pervade Iqbal's whole poetic practice and theory-- it has no relationship to Mir's poetry, it's Iqbal's own achievement.



Well, I am puzzled by SRF's argument that muhlat must primarily mean 'hesitation, slowness'. I can't see why that meaning would be superior to the common Urdu meaning of 'respite, intermission, a delay granted for an appointed term' (see the definition above), a sense that actually seems to me to be preferable. Even at worst, surely the two senses could both be operative in the verse-- a fact that, to my mind, means that there's no iham involved, since there's no 'misdirection' (that is, you never have to revoke your initial judgment, even if you end up supplementing it). But this is just one more example of the complexity and ambiguity of the term 'iham'; for discussion, see {178,1}.

Perhaps part of the problem stems from what I call a 'midpoints' situation: is muhlat me;N can be read either with the phrase before it, or with the phrase after it. Either way, it works very well: 'What can we do in this interval?' or else 'In this interval do we have any leisure?'. (And either way, I still don't see the preferability of SRF's reading.)

Note for grammar fans: In the first line ;Thahraa))ii is a perfect form of the causative, meaning that some person or persons unknown ( kisii ne ) caused the term of two breath/moments to be established. The verse doesn't give us any plausible candidates for the causer, so for simplicity I've just translated the verb as though it was intransitive. Or else we could imagine that the verb was short for the participial form ;Thahraa))ii hu))ii hai .

Another note for grammar fans: The second half of the second line shows the invisible but powerfully necessary presence of a kyaa . Without inserting it, we couldn't read the phrase as the indignant rhetorical question that it undoubtedly is. In this case, there's truly no other way to read it.

Note for translation fans: How in the world to convey the distributive flavor of kyaa kyaa , except with the southernism 'what-all'?