kyuu;Nkar mujh ko naamah nama:t har ;harf pah pech-o-taab nah ho
sau sau qaa.sid jaan se jaave;N yak ko udhar se javaab nah ho

1) how would I not, like a letter, over every word/reproach feel twistedness/agitation?
2) hundreds of Messengers might depart/go from their lives-- not one would have an answer from that direction



nama:t : 'Likeness, similitude; manner, mode, way, custom'. (Platts p.1154)


;harf : 'Nib (of a writing-reed) obliquely cut; a crooked pen; writing obliquely; —a letter of the alphabet; (in Gram.) an indeclinable word, a particle; —a word (so used in lexicons, &c.); —blame, censure, reproach'. (Platts p.476)


pech-o-taab : 'Twisting and twining; convolution, twisting knots, folds; contortions; restlessness, anxiety, agitation, perplexity, disquietude, distraction, distress; vexation, anger, indignation'. (Platts p.297)

S. R. Faruqi:

The opening-verse is by way of introduction. But the simile of 'like a letter' is fine. In olden times letters were twisted into different kinds of shapes before they were sent. For example, a bird, a key, a spiral, and so on. It's obvious that this kind of twisting and folding made the whole page contorted, as if all the words in the letter would be writhing.

The theme of the writhing of the letter is found in Taban as well, but there's even less pleasure in it than in Mir's opening-verse:

kyuu;N ;Gair se likhaa kar bhejaa javaab-naamah
hai pech-o-tab mujh ko juu;N pech-o-taab-e naamah

[why did I cause the Other to write a reply-letter, and send it?
I feel a twistedness/agitation, like the twistedness/agitation of a letter]



To go with pech-o-taab , which can apply both to a folded or 'twisted' letter and to a writhing, agitated person, there's also ;harf , meaning both 'word' and 'reproach' (see the definitions above).

The second line is also an enjoyable little vignette in itself. Those hundreds of Messengers who would or might sacrifice their lives-- are they to be thought of as guerrilla warriors, trying to infiltrate an enemy castle and give a message to the commander? Or would they be struck down one after another by the sight of the beloved's fatal beauty, so that they never lived to return with (or without) a reply? Or would they become lovers themselves, abandon their mission, and voluntarily sacrifice their lives?

If the speaker is sending letters at such a deadly cost, and with no result whatsoever, well might he writhe in agitation over every word or every 'reproach'! He of course could be reproaching the beloved, but it's fun to imagine that people might also be reproaching him-- perhaps for using up the available supply of Messengers.

But then, thanks to the ambiguity of the subjunctive, all those dead Messengers might be only hypothetical. The speaker could be imagining them merely as part of a hyperbolic illustration of how heavily the odds are stacked against any letter of his. No wonder he writhes with anxiety over every word or every reproach!