bhuuke marte marte mu;Nh me;N tal;xii-e .safraa phail ga))ii
be-;zauqii me;N ;zauq kahaa;N jo khaanaa piinaa mujh ko bhaa))e

1) while dying of hunger, in my mouth the bitterness of bile/'travel-food' spread
2) in tastelessness/distaste where is the taste/relish, [such] that eating and drinking would please/suit me?!



.safraa : 'Yellow (the colour); bile, gall; gold'. (Platts p.745)


sufrah (of which .sufraa is an established variant): ''The food of the traveller'; the receptacle for food; the thing (whatever it be) upon which one eats; a round leathern bag for holding food, so formed as to serve also for a table when spread out on the ground; a tablecloth, napkin'. (Platts p.662)


;zauq : 'Taste, enjoyment, delight, joy, pleasure, voluptuousness'. (Platts p.578)


be-;zauqii : 'Tastelessness, insipidity'. (Platts p.203)


bhaanaa : 'To be approved (of), to be acceptable (to, - ko ), be pleasing (to), to please; to be beloved, be held dear; to suit, fit, become; to seem good or befitting'. (Platts p.180)

S. R. Faruqi:

Among the excellent things that Askari Sahib has said about Mir, one is that Mir had the ability to express 'extremely minor experiences in such a beautiful manner' that 'in this respect too other poets cannot easily rival him'. But Mir also had the opposite quality: that (as I have often said) he could bring major ideas and major experiences of passion down to the level of everyday life and express them accordingly.

What an excellent thing Askari Sahib himself said about Mir's verse


that 'Whether a sigh would reach to the sky or not, if it would take a man to the earth then this itself is a very great power'. It's a pity that after that he says 'In this regard let's pause to listen to a verse by Firaq'. Then he notes this verse:

fur.sat .zaruurii kaamo;N se paa))o to ro bhii lo
ay ahl-e dil yih kaar-e ((aba;s bhii ki))e chalo

[when you would find leisure from necessary tasks, then even/also weep
oh people of the heart, do even/also this vain task before you move on]

It's a pity that between the lines there's not even a connection of usage and grammar, and there's also repetition. This was an example of making a major experience into a small one and showing it as such.

Yaganah too was gripped by this same illness: to make the two lines correspond was difficult for him, and he didn't manage to sustain the theme. Thus even his major themes often became small when he wrote them down. Yaganah:

sharbat kaa ghuu;N;T jaan ke piitaa huu;N ;xuun-e dil
;Gam khaate khaate mu;Nh kaa mazaa tak biga;R gayaa

[taking it to be a swallow of sherbet, I drink the blood of the heart
while constantly enduring/'eating' grief, even the relish of the mouth has been ruined]

Leaving aside the fact that here instead of tak it's an occasion for hii , Yaganah has construed grief as something such that eating it is harmful. That is, he has established it as something like an everyday action.

In Mir's present verse, the feeling of dying of hunger doesn't prevail over passion, because in the second line is the idea of be-;zauqii as causing the absence of a relish for food and the lack of pleasure in eating and drinking. Only/emphatically passion has caused the speaker to abandon eating and drinking. But because he has shaped this experience through the image of hunger, and of the mouth filling with the taste of the bitterness of bile, the surface of the verse has become that of ordinary life, in which passion and hunger can both be causes of death. Passion and hunger, two kinds of experience, suddenly become an immediate unity. Then, there's also the fact that Mir's image is more powerful and narrative than Yaganah's.

The word .safraa also gestures toward the pallidness/'yellowness' of the face. Of the word ;zauq (meaning 'taste' [;zaa))iqah], meaning ardor, inclination) too, Mir took fine advantage.

In Persian be-;zauq means 'a pleasureless thing', and be-;zauqii is the quality of something that is pleasureless. But in Urdu be-;zauq is used for someone who has no taste. (Taste can be good or bad. But when we call someone baa-;zauq , the sense is 'of good taste'.) The meanings of ;zauq include, besides taste: 'to attempt', 'to distinguish between good and bad', 'to have an inclination', and so on. Thus in Urdu the meaning of be-;zauq is not only 'a pleasureless thing', but also a person is called be-;zauq who has in his heart no longing to do anything, who has no inclination toward anything, etc. As in Iqbal:

naumiid nah ho un se ay rahbar-e farzaanah
kam kosh to hai;N lekin be-;zauq nahii;N raahii

[don't be hopeless about them, oh wise guide
they do lack endeavor, but they are not devoid of longing, the travelers]

Thus in Mir's verse be-;zauqii and then ;zauq have abundant meaningfulness, and they also form a zila with bhuuk , mu;Nh , tal;xii . Alas, that apart from Platts, all the important Urdu dictionaries turn out to lack be-;zauq and be-;zauqii . Iqbal's verse was right there in front of them. Despite this, the urduu lu;Gat too has ignored be-;zauq .

The initial impression of Mir's verse is the same as that of Firaq's verse: that passion too is a human experience and a human situation; and there can be other situations too, like passion, that can would be important and meaningful. Then, a person does not show passion like that of Farhad and Majnun in every situation. Even while living in the world, he can show passion, and does. With regard to the temperament of the twentieth century, Firaq Sahib has well placed the phrase .zaruurii kaamo;N se . But his second line is very uncouth and grammatically incorrect.

But the real weakness of his verse is not this; rather, it is his theme, of which Askari Sahib took no notice. In passion, the task of weeping accompanies other necessary tasks. It's not as though when affairs of life and domestic tasks would offer leisure, then the lover would feel or express his grief. Sufistic Muslims have long ago said that the occupations of life, and the love of God, and grief at one's distance from the Divine beauty, all move along together.

One venerable elder gave as an example of this the way that if someone's dearest young son would die, he would still do all the tasks of the world, but always in his heart the memory of his son would torment him. The tasks of the world would not please him; sometimes he would even despise them. But those tasks would keep on occurring, and his heart would also keep on weeping. The venerable elder said that in his distance from God a man ought to remain/live in the world like just such a person as that-- that his heart would remain absorbed in God, and his body would fulfill all those bodily tasks that are his duty.

In Mir's verse this very reality has been versified with complete mastery. The immediate cause of death is hunger; and it's necessary to feel it, to be aware of it-- and in fact, to acknowledge and respect this reality. But he feels an aversion to the eating and drinking required by hunger, and the cause of the aversion to eating and drinking is passion.

Mir bestowed on passion the image of death by starvation, but death by starvation has the rank of the purpose of life itself. The greatness of the experience of passion has not lessened in our heart, but he has shown us a picture of it in a smallish mirror. He has composed an uncommon verse.

Mir Soz has composed a whole ghazal with the refrain tal;x , but he did not take up Mir's theme, nor does any of his verses arrive anywhere near the level of Mir's. As an example, I present one verse, which certainly has the pleasure of wordplay and 'device':

shukr hai ;haq kaa zabaa;N kii ham ne la;z;zat chho;R dii
jo milaa so khaa liyaa ;xvaah-e shirii;N ;xvaah-e tala;x

[thanks to the Lord, we abandoned pleasure of the tongue
what we got, we ate-- whether sweet, or whether bitter]

In Miraji's poetry, the images based on taste/relish are numerous. Formerly I thought that in this characteristic Miraji was unique among Urdu poets. But when I saw the abundance of taste/relish verses in Mir, I felt that here too, as usual, Mir was ahead of them all. Consider these examples. From the sixth divan [{1884,6}]:

shiirii;N namak labo;N bin us ke nahii;N ;halaavat
is tal;x zindagii me;N ab kuchh mazaa nahii;N hai

[without her sweet salt lips, there is no sweetness/relish
in this bitter life, now there is no relish/pleasure]

From the second divan [{868,3}]:

ab la((l-e nau-;xa:t us ke kam ba;xshte hai;N far;hat
quvvat kahaa;N rahe hai yaaquutii-e kuhan me;N

[now his ruby lips with their new downy moustache give little pleasure
how much strength has remained in the old 'yaquti'?!]

(The word yaaquutii can refer to: a kind of colorful, pleasant-tasting, strength-giving medicine; a kind of pleasant-tasting and colorful halwah; red-colored wine.)

From the second divan [{962,3}]:

haa))e us ke sharbatii lab se judaa
kuchh bataashaa saa ghulaa jaataa hai jii

[alas, separated from her sherbet-like lip
somewhat like a batasha it goes on melting, the inner-self]

[[The idiom is actually bataashaa saa ghulnaa , 'to dissolve or melt away like a kind of hollow, spongy sugar-cake' (Platts p.131).]]

From the second divan [{942,5}]:

mai;N jo narmii kii to duunaa sar cha;Rhaa vuh bad-ma((aash
khaane hii ko dau;Rtaa hai ab mujhe ;halvah samajh

[if I become gentle/soft, then that ruffian becomes twice as high-headed
she runs only/emphatically to eat, now considering me to be halwah]

[[There's also the wordplay of donaa as meaning a leaf-cup used for holding sweets.]]

From the second divan [{948,5}]:

;xi.zr us ;xa:t:t-e sabz par to mu))aa
dhun hai ab apne zahr khaane kii

[Khizr died [with love] over that green down [on a boy's cheek]
now his longing/agitation is to eat poison]

From the third divan [{1086,3}]:

kyaa duur hai sharbat pah agar qand ke thuuke
;Tuk jin ne tire sharbatii in ho;N;To;N ko chuusaa

[what slur/slight is it on sherbet, if he would spit out a morsel of sugar--
he who, just a bit, kissed/sucked these sherbet-like lips of yours]

From the third divan [{1109,6}]:

ham ;Darte shakar-ranjii se kahte nahii;N yih bhii
;xajlat se tire ho;N;To;N kii hai;N shahd-o-shakar aab

[we are afraid of your displeasure; we don't say even/also this:
from shame before your lips, honey and sugar [turn to] water]

From the first divan:


From the third divan [{1186,3}]:

kahaa mai;N dard-e dil yaa aag uglii
phaphole pa;R ga))e merii zabaa;N me;N

[did I speak the pain of my heart, or did fire spring up?
blisters appeared on my tongue]

From the fifth divan [{1686,1}]:

risaate ho aate ho ahl-e havas me;N
mazah ras me;N hai loge kyaa tum kuras me;N

[you are vexed; you come among the lustful ones
the relish is in taste/flavor; what pleasure will you take in filth?]



'While' the speaker was dying of hunger, his mouth became filled with the bitterness of bile. The grammar tells us only that these two things are happening at the same time.

Where exactly is the be-;zauqii located? It could be a state of the world in general (it is a 'tasteless', unsatisfying place). It could be in the speaker's mind (he is full of 'distaste' for life). It could be in the speaker's body (he is perhaps 'sick' with passion). It could be a quality of food in general (the speaker perceives it as 'tasteless').

Or it could be a particular quality not of bile but of .sufraa , the 'food of a traveler' (see the definition above). This reading of .sufraa instead of .safraa is definitely secondary; it's a sort of hovering alternative possibility. For travel-food might well be plain, monotonous, uninviting; it might also evoke the 'bitterness' that a traveler would feel at being exiled, isolated, alone, almost dying of hunger.