pattaa pattaa buu;Taa buu;Taa ;haal hamaare jaane hai
jaane nah jaane gul hii nah jaane baa;G to saaraa jaane hai

1) leaf after leaf, flower after flower, knows our condition/situation
2) one might know or not know, only/emphatically the rose might not know-- well, the whole garden knows



buu;Taa : 'Flower, sprig (particularly worked on cloth, or painted on paper); bush, shrub'. (Platts p.173)


;haal : 'State, condition, circumstance, case, predicament, situation; existing or present state'. (Platts p.473)

S. R. Faruqi:

This verse is rightfully famous for its 'mood'. About the affairs of passion and of lover-ship, among us even now a bit of a judgmental and punitive tone remains. In an earlier culture (or if not in the culture, then in poetic convention) the lover's exposure, the revelation of the secret of passion, the conversation among people about these things, and so on, were of course very common.

And the essence of it has come into this verse, for the affair of passion, the lover's condition-- all these things are mirrors of the whole clan or neighborhood. The lover is, so to speak, some common character, some known personality; or else his condition is now so low that there's no one who wouldn't be aware of it.

In the verse there's no picture of all these things, nor is there any direct mention of this society in which no separation is made between 'private' and 'public' affairs. But still the world of the verse seems to be so brimful, so absorbed, and its inhabitants so occupied with each other's situations that before the eyes something like a film goes on passing.

By contrast, Ibn-e Insha made a great effort, but that busyness, that hustle and bustle, that effect of people being absorbed in conversation about each other and each other's affairs-- he was not able to create it:

;xaar-o-;xas-o-;xaashaak to jaane;N ek tujhii ko ;xabar nah mile
ay gul-e ;xuubii ham to ((aba;s bad-naam hu))e gulzaar ke biich

[thorns and grass and rubbish would know-- you alone might not be aware
oh rose of excellence, in vain we became ill-reputed amidst the garden]

In Ibn-e Insha's verse the phrase gul-e ;xuubii is good. The theme of ill-repute would have been fine if he had not said ((aba;s bad-naam hu))e , because it's a mark of pettiness to call one's disgrace 'in vain'. But Ibn-e Insha's attempt to compose a 'reply' to Mir was itself in vain, because Mir's verse has, in addition to 'mood', aspects of meaning, while in Ibn-e Insha's verse everything is on the surface. In Mir's verse, the following points deserve attention:

(1) What the condition of the speaker/lover is, has been left ambiguous; thus three or four possibilities have been created. First, there is of course the implication that the speaker is living in bad conditions. A second possibility is that the reference is only to passion: that everybody knows he is a lover; the only one who doesn't know is the one whose knowing is the most necessary of all. A third possibility is that ;haal might mean 'the present time', the circumstances of this era. As for the past, no one knows how it was; and the future-- well, who can know it? But the situation of the present time, everybody knows. A fourth possibility is ;haal might mean 'the condition/state of a sick person'; that is, the speaker assumes that everyone (that is, the listeners) knows that he is sick. Then he says that in this sickness what my condition/state is-- that is, what stage the sickness is now in-- everyone knows, except the beloved.

(2) Then, jaane nah jaane gul hii nah jaane has multiple meanings. The first meaning is that the rose herself is such a being that one does not clearly know whether she knows or not. The second meaning is that whether someone would know or not, whether the rose would know or not, the speaker is not worried-- for everyone else knows. The third meaning is, all right, the rose alone might not know. In this case the meaning of jaane nah jaane will be 'whether she might know or might not know', 'whether she would be interested in the news or not'.

(3) Of course, 'rose' means the beloved, and 'garden' means existence. But to make 'rose' singular, and through 'every leaf, every flower' to establish the implication of a garden, also has the meaning that in the whole garden (existence) there is only one beloved. That is, apart from the speaker's beloved there is no other beloved, no other beautiful one.

(4) Then, jaane hai has two meanings. First, someone has awareness; that is, he knows because of a rumor/report. Second, he has information; that is, by deliberately seeking out information, he has obtained it. As if in the former case the whole garden has received this awareness in the form of rumor, and in the second case the garden has obtained information because of its interest and attachment.

Mir has composed this theme in two more places. And the truth is that in both places he has created something new. From the second divan [{866,3}]:

agar vuh but nah jaane to nah jaane
hamii;N sab jaane hai;N hinduustaa;N me;N

[if that idol would not know, then she would not know
only/emphatically we know everything in Hindustan]

Here the wordplay of 'idol' and 'Hindustan' is of course interesting; the show of his own vaingloriousness (or boasting and vaunting about his ill-repute) is very fine indeed. It seems as if the neighborhood 'big man' is showing off.

The other verse is also from the second divan [{887,7}]:

pattaa pattaa gulshan kaa to ;haal hamaaraa jaane hai
aur kahe to jis se ay gul be-bargii i:zhaar kare;N

[leaf after leaf of the garden knows our condition
and to whomever it would say more, oh rose, please express the fruitlessness]

The first line is, so to speak, the earliest form of the first line of the present verse. But in the second line the bitterness of the tone , the dignity of the style, and be-bargii i:zhaar kare;N are peerless. The wordplay of be-bargii has made pattaa pattaa even more flourishing. The address to the 'rose' has also augmented the beauty of the wordplay of 'commonality' [muraa((aat ul-na:ziir].

Zafar Iqbal has somewhat changed the proverb vuh ;Daal ;Daal to mai;N paat paat ['If he is branch after branch, then I am leaf after leaf'; that is, 'I go him one better'], and has made a bit of a parody [pairo;Dii] of Mir's present verse, and created a new idea:

agar vuh ho chukaa hai buu;Taa buu;Taa
to mai;N bhii pattah pattah ho gayaa huu;N

[if she has already become flower after flower
then I too have become leaf after leaf]

A parody too is a form of tribute and admiration. And in Zafar Iqbal's verse, along with the parody there are also aspects of meaning. On one level the verse is a parody of Mir. On another level it is a parody of the proverb. And on yet another level it is the story of the mutual reactions of two personalities. These two personalities can also be the lover and the beloved.



The effect of fullness, crowdedness, liveliness in the verse that SRF speaks of-- how is it achieved? I think partly by the tremendous amount of repetition. In fact this must be one of the most repetitive verses that Mir ever composed. For one of its few rivals, see


By no coincidence of course, both are opening-verses.)

The present verse has two occurrences of pattaa , two occurrences of buu;Taa , two occurrences of hai , two occurrences of nah , and no fewer than five occurrences of jaane . Thus out of the twenty words in the verse, thirteen are instances of repetition. They're also arranged with a wonderful, swingy 'flowingness' that makes the verse almost demand to be orally recited.

Does all that repetition evoke the rustling of leaves? The semantics of the second line certainly have the fragmentary, insistent, cheerfully furtive quality of gossip. 'Does she know? She might or might not know; I don't know. But you know, I do know that everybody knows!'

SRF assumes that the garden's knowing the lover's condition is a form of public exposure and disgrace. But if all the desert-dwellers sympathize with Majnun, why shouldn't the garden-dwellers sympathize with the lover? They are witnesses, after all, to how cruelly the beloved has treated him. And why should they care about censorious social conventions? Perhaps they are mere observers, with chiefly a gossipy interest. As so often, it's left for us to decide.

Note for grammar fans: The form jaane is part of an archaic present tense ( jaane hai = jaantaa hai ), and is also a modern standard future subjunctive ( vuh to shaayad jaane, shaayad nah jaane ). This ambiguity adds to the gossipy confusion of the second line, and helps to enable all the possible readings that SRF describes.