aabaad uj;Raa lakhna))uu chu;Gdo;N se ab hu))aa
mushkil hai us ;xaraabe me;N aadam kii buud-o-baash

1) ruined Lucknow has now become inhabited by owls
2) it's difficult, in that desolation, for a man to maintain himself



chu;Gd : 'An owl; the small screech-owl'. (Platts p.434)


ulluu : 'An owl; (met.) a stupid fellow, blockhead, fool; ... —adj. Stupid, foolish, senseless'. (Platts p.78)


buud-o-baash : 'Existence; subsistence; residence, abode'. (Platts p.1174)

S. R. Faruqi:



where there's a detailed discussion of Mir and his displeasure with Lucknow, and I have tried to disprove the belief of Kazim Ali Khan that apart from some time in the early years Mir passed his days very contentedly in Lucknow, and that in the later divans he hasn't composed even one single verse of complaint against Lucknow.

In the following famous verse Mir has called Delhi a 'desolation', but even so has declared it to be better than Lucknow. In the fourth divan [{1464,2}]:

;xaraabah dillii kaa vuh chand bahtar lakhna))uu se thaa
vahii;N mai;N kaash mar jaataa sar-aasiimah nah aataa yaa;N

[the desolation of Delhi was somewhat better than Lucknow
if only I had died right there, and had not insanely come here!]

From the present verse, we learn that by roughly the time of the fifth divan Lucknow had begun to seem to Mir to be a 'desolation'-- and that too a 'desolation' of the kind that was inhabited only by owls.

Nasikh has composed a number of verses about the evils of Kanpur, and in some places his anger has reached the level of fisticuffs:

yih noche khaate hai;N zindo;N ko kaanpuur ke log
kih jaise mardo;N ko khaate hai;N zaa;G gangaa me;N

[they fleece/'eat' the living, the people of Kanpur
the way the crows of the Ganges eat the dead]

But the coherence and bitterness with which Mir has denounced Lucknow, will perhaps have no parallel with regard to other poets and other cities. In the present verse, the opposition of aabaad uj;Raa is fine, and is a proof that a good poet brings grammar and usage too into the service of metaphor.



At the beginning of the first line, aabaad uj;Raa lakhna))uu confronts us with, literally, 'inhabited ruined Lucknow'. Not until the end of the first line are we able to make sense of the seeming paradox, which turns out to be an elegant example of 'misdirection'.

To describe this desolate Lucknow as 'inhabited by owls' is a doubly enjoyable touch, because of course owls are known to inhabit ruined and depopulated places; but in addition, it's impossible not to think of the least-marked word for 'owl', ulluu , which has the basic idiomatic sense of 'fool, blockhead' (see the definition above).