aab-e ;hayaat vuhii nah jis par ;xi.zr-o-sikandar marte rahe
;xaak se ham ne bharaa vuh chashmah yih bhii hamaarii himmat thii

1) the Water of Life-- that one, right?-- for which Khizr and Sikandar kept dying [of longing]
2) with dust, we filled up that fountain-- this was our courage/nerve!



himmat : 'Mind, thought; anxious thought, solicitude; attention, care; —inclination, desire, intention, resolution, purpose, design; —magnanimity; lofty aspiration; ambition; —liberality; —enterprise; spirit, courage, bravery; —power, strength, ability; —auspices, grace, favour'. (Platts p.1235)

S. R. Faruqi:

The 'dramaticness' of the style, the rareness of the image, the dignity of the tone-- everything in this verse is such that it would be hard to find its equal. To be 'dying' for the 'Water of Life' is an infinitely suitable and enjoyable wordplay. Then in vuhii nah there is the 'faux-naïf' attitude, and in addition the pleasure of those who are dying for the Water of Life being not just people in general, but specifically Khizr and Sikandar.

The word chashmah brings to mind chashm , and if there's dust in the eye then nothing can be seen, as in Ghalib's


Thus the fountain of the Water of Life too cannot be seen; it is dust. That is, it's not as if he filled the fountain with dust-- he filled his own eye with dust, and in this way blinded his eye to the fountain.

Mir has also composed this theme in a quatrain. It will not be without interest to examine it, because the theme is the same, the central image is the same, but the verbosity has almost buried the theme:

daaman ((uzlat kaa ab liyaa hai mai;N ne
dil marg se aashnaa kiyaa hai mai;N ne
thaa chashmah-e aab-e zindagii nazdiik
par ;xaak se us ko bhar diyaa hai mai;N ne

[I have now taken hold of the garment-hem of seclusion
I have made my heart acquainted with death
the fountain of the Water of Life was near
but I have filled it up with dust]

Iqbal has composed it much better than this. His verse too is verbose, but every word is certainly doing one or another kind of work:

gadaa-e mai-kadah kii shaan-e be-niyaazii dekh
pahu;Nch ke chashmah-e ;hevaa;N pah to;Rtaa hai sabuu

[look at the glory of the independence of the beggar of the winehouse!
having arrived at the Fountain of Life, he shatters the pitcher]

Talib Amuli too has composed this theme [in Persian] with great eclat. If his verse had also had something like the 'dramaticness' of Mir's, then it would have been a verse choice among thousands:

'We would still give up our life, thirsty-lipped, and would not wet our throat,
Even if our lips would arrive at the Fountain of Life.'

Mir and Iqbal have both taken care to have a 'proof'. In Mir's present verse the word of proof is himmat -- in the Sufistic sense (see


and in the common usage as well. In Iqbal's verse, the proof is the winehouse beggar's independence. In Talib Amuli's case, because there's no proof the verse seems to be only babbling. Looking at all these things, the thought occurs, 'How could anybody have composed this theme better than Mir?!' Now listen to Sa'ib [in Persian], and be entranced:

'Like a bud, from a garden where the breeze was the Messiah's breath,
It was my courage/nerve [himmat] that I did not bloom, and went away.'

The word himmat shows clearly that Mir has taken the theme from Sa'ib. It should be kept in mind that the word himmat also has the sense of 'renunciation'. That is, the person with himmat is the one who would renounce some precious thing. See {431,7}, cited above.

And Sa'ib's verse is based on such a powerful image and such a living metaphor that in its presence even this great present verse of Mir's is saved from collapsing into pieces only by the 'dramatic' style Mir has used. The truth is that 'meaning-creation' is not less than crossing safely over the Bridge of Sirat [that takes the believer on a sword's edge over hell into paradise].

Since the Bridge of Sirat has been mentioned, look at Bedil too [in Persian]:

'The door of Paradise was open today,
Out of disaffection, we said, 'Tomorrow'.'

Mir has versified the theme of the non-acceptance of the Water of Life one other time, and the truth is that he has very well brought out the theme of turning aside from life [{506,8}]:

apne jii hii ne nah chaahaa kih pi))e;N aab-e ;hayaat
yuu;N to ham miir usii chashme pah be-jaan hu))e

[our very inner-self did not want that we would drink the Water of Life
so we, Mir, at only/emphatically that fountain, became lifeless]

Here, ham be-jaan hu))e , instead of ham ne jaan dii , is not very excellent; otherwise, this verse too would have been suitable for the intikhab.



That little vuhii nah is really such a delight, and adds a fine idiomatic punch. The speaker is telling some friend about his exploits, and he is not at all sure his friend will even remember the famous story of the 'Water of Life' (also known as the 'Fountain of Youth'). So he casually reminds him: 'You remember, don't you? -- the one that Khizr and Alexander were dying for?' This casual assumption that his friend might need reminding shows an almost dismissive attitude toward the whole business.

And then, a great religious figure like Khizr could find the Water of Life only with much difficulty, while a great world-conqueror like Alexander couldn't find it all-- whereas the speaker apparently found it so easily that he doesn't even bother to mention the quest. And then, Khizr and Alexander were desperate to drink from it-- whereas the speaker not only didn't do so, but actually filled it up with dust to make the rejection contemptuous and permanent. Thus in the most understated way, the speaker establishes his own radical superiority over Khizr, Alexander, and the whole longing for immortality.

SRF also offers another possibility: that the speaker didn't really fill the fountain [chashmah] with dust, but put dust into his own eyes [chashm]. This reading has some problems, though. For one thing, the verse scans chashmah as long-long, so that the 'fountain' is very forcefully present, and there's no hint at all that it could or should be turned into chashm . For another thing, what the speaker filled with dust was not just any fountain, but 'that fountain' [vuh chashmah]-- the fountain already mentioned in the first line, the fountain of the Water of Life. Since there's no 'eye' in the first line, the vuh would seem further to discredit the reading of chashm . So to my mind the 'eye' and 'dust' wordplay must remain peripheral, since the verse not only doesn't activate it but strongly works against it.

This verse is a case in which the bhii clearly doesn't have its official meaning of 'even' or 'also', but rather its special idiomatic ability to emphasize the word it follows.

SRF says, 'The word himmat shows clearly [baat .saaf khul jaatii hai] that Mir has taken the theme from Sa'ib.' But is this really a persuasive claim? The two verses have some broad thematic similarity, but their basic imagery is quite different. And after all himmat is not exactly an uncommon word for the doing of some daring deed; it is an obvious one that would readily come to mind. In my view SRF should have at least inserted a 'possibly' into his claim. For further discussion of the problems with such claims, see {1725,6}.

Note for meter fans: In the second line, the foot bha-raa vuh scans as short-long-short, rather than the normal long-short-short. This syncopated effect is a variant that occurs in this meter from time to time.