dil pahluu me;N naa-tavaa;N bahut hai
biimaar miraa giraa;N bahut hai

1a) the heart {in the side/flank / in utility/trickery} is very weak/powerless
1b) the heart, {in the side/flank / in utility/trickery}, weak-- it's enough/plenty

2a) my sick one is very {important / burdensome / precious / gravely ill}
2b) my sick one, {important / burdensome / precious / gravely ill}-- it's enough/plenty



pahluu : A side; flank, wing; a facet; —utility; profit, advantage; indirect or crooked expedient, dishonourable or fraudulent means'. (Platts p.289)


giraa;N : 'Heavy, weighty, ponderous; great, important, momentous; difficult; burdensome, grievous; —precious, valuable'. (Platts p.901)

S. R. Faruqi:

Apparently there's nothing special in the verse; rather, if we're in a hurry then we'll judge it to be a verse of a rank even below the middling, and will move on. But if we reflect, then its layers/depths open out. A person is called biimaar-e giraa;N who has a long, chronic illness, or an illness that would take a long time to be cured. This phrase appears in no dictionary except Steingass's. [A discussion of similar phrases in other dictionaries, with varying definitions.] In any case, there would be no harm in putting it into a dictionary with the 'warrant' of Mir's usage.

Then, naa-tavaanii is believed to be related to a loss of weight. That is, the 'weak' person will also be light in weight. In this regard, for the 'light' heart to be 'heavy' is very fine.

Janab Abd ul-Rahman has informed me that in the chiraa;G-e hidaayat the meaning of giraa;N buudan biimaar is given as an intensity of sickness in which there would be fear of the sick person's death. As a tribute to Abd ul-Rahman's research, I looked at the chiraa;G-e hidaayat and confirmed his words. One new thing that I learned from it was that Khan-e Arzu used as a 'warrant' this [Persian] verse by Nusrat (Siyalkoti):

'It's difficult for the Moth to remain alive till dawn,
Stay awake, oh candle-- our sick one is gravely ill.'

Since Nusrat Siyalkoti was a contemporary of Khan-e Arzu, it's possible that Mir too might have known him. But there's very little doubt that Mir would have taken this idiom only/emphatically from chiraa;G-e hidaayat , because Nusrat's whole sentence biimaar-e maa giraa;N ast is present in Mir's verse as biimaar miraa giraa;N bahut hai . [Further discussions of the unfortunate absence of this idiom from dictionaries.]

Now let's consider the whole verse. That is, (1) the heart belongs to someone else, and the speaker is its nurse or physician. Theusual practice is that nurses or doctors call the sick people who are in their care, 'our' sick ones. (2) The heart is definitely the speaker's, but the speaker is establishing his heart as something separate from his own existence. There's also the common saying, falaa;N sha;x.s dil ke haatho;N majbuur ho gayaa , or the saying dil par kisii kaa qaabuu nahii;N , and so on.

Such metaphors contain a special image of the arrangement of the universe: that a person is not only alone in the world, but rather that his heart itself-- the organ that, because it is the target of sensations, emotions, and wishes, is what truly makes a person human-- has an existence apart from him, to such an extent that the heart could be sick and the body healthy, as is apparently the case in this verse.

If giraa;N is taken in its normal meaning ('heavy', thus 'difficult, hard to endure'), then the enjoyable meaning is created that although the heart is weak, to endure its weakness (or its sickness) is, for me (=for the speaker, in whose side that sick one is seated), or for my side (=body), or for a nurse, is proving to be a very heavy burden. In this sense there's also the implication that the body, or the owner of the body, has now become irritated/vexed by the heart's weakness and sickness, and probably longs for some way to find release from the heart.

It should also be kept in mind that he has not said tiraa biimaar , which was the expected thing. Rather, he's said miraa biimaar , which is an unexpected thing-- so that the speaker of the verse is talking to himself. And miraa biimaar means 'the sick one whom I'm taking care of'. But it's also possible that the beloved herself might be the speaker. Now the meaning emerges that the beloved, having seen the weakness of the heart in the lover's side, mischievously or sympathetically says, 'My sick one (that is, the one who is sick because of me, or the sick one of whom I am the master) is gravely ill (that is, it will be difficult for the sick one to recover)'.

If bahut hai is taken to mean 'is enough, is plenty', or 'is a windfall' (for example, we say do chaar din bhii saath rah le;N to bahut hai ), then an entirely fresh meaning emerges. That is, in the first line he has said that if the heart is in the side/body, then this itself is enough/plenty, no matter if it's weak. Then in the second line he has said that his sick one is in any case has to die. So it's enough/plenty that his illness would be grave-- that it, it would take a long time to be cured. So that the sick one would remain alive until then. With regard to these meanings, the prose order of the verse will be: dil ( agar ) pahluu me;N hai ( to ) naa-tavaa;N ( hii ) bahut hai _ meraa biimaar ( agar ) giraa;N ( bhii ) hai ( to bhii ) bahut ( hai ) .



Here's an example of a 'short meter' [chho;Tii ba;hr] very cleverly used. Here is a little verse of eleven words-- and even then, with four of them constrained by the needs of the refrain-- in which the very brevity and simplicity of the language are made to open up a wide range of poetic possibilities.

The excellent versatility of giraa;N is particularly notable, even apart from the special idiomatic 'gravely ill' usage discussed by SRF. For giraa;N is positioned in the key place-- in the rhyme-word slot, at the last possible moment before the verse ends with the final refrain. (The naa-tavaa;N , which is similarly placed in the first line, is not nearly as conspicuous or emphatic-feeling.) The meanings of giraa;N include 'important, momentous' (the lover often prizes his heart more than his life), 'grievous, burdensome' (taking care of such a weak invalid is of course demanding), and 'precious, valuable' (the lover knows his cherished heart to be the one truly valuable thing he owns).

SRF has pointed to the contrast between the physical lightness of a 'weak' person, who is assumed to have lost weight, and the 'heavy' quality of the heart (in the literal meaning of giraa;N ). The contrast can be extended further: the 'weak' and 'sick' heart is not a useless invalid as one might expect, but is 'important', it is 'precious, valuable'. What is the relationship of this importance and value to the fact that the sick heart is (still?) located in the speaker's 'side'? Might the heart otherwise run off to the beloved, or might it die? Or is its being in the speaker's side connected with its sickness-- might it be happy and thriving if it could reach the beloved?

And then there are the idiomatic possibilities of bahut hai that SRF has discussed, which are shown in (1b) and (2b). It's really an embarrassment of riches, isn't it?

Note for translation fans: Any sensible translator would normally prefer to use 'breast' or 'chest' for pahluu , because the literal 'side' in English extends too readily into metaphorical territory (a 'side' in an argument, etc.); and especially because in English the heart is not in one's 'side' but in one's chest or breast or body. Intriguingly, however, pahluu does basically the same thing in Urdu-- it readily extends out to mean 'facet' or 'aspect', as well as 'utility, profit, advantage' and various kinds of skulduggery (see the definition above). I wanted to keep this breadth of range-- partly because of my policy of ruthlessly twisting English to bring us as close as possible to the Urdu, and partly because one could thus generate a new reading of the first line (as I have shown above). That is, the speaker's poor weak heart is quite unable to maneuver to his advantage. And here's a whole new possible pahluu of this tiny little verse!