maq.suud ko dekhe;N pahu;Nche kab tak
gardish me;N to aasmaa;N bahut hai

1) by when would it arrive at the intended/desired/purpose? -- let's see!
2) the sky is, well, much in [a state of] revolving/turning/wandering



maq.suud : 'Intended, meant; purposed, designed; proposed; desired, wished, sought; —s.m. Intent, intention, design, purpose, drift, aim, view, desire, object, scope'. (Platts p.1056)


gardish : 'Going round, turning round, revolution; circulation; roll; course; period; turn, change; vicissitude; reversion; —adverse fortune, adversity; —wandering about, vagrancy'. (Platts p.903)

S. R. Faruqi:

Some people have decided that a reading of pahu;Nche;N is a possible better reading than pahu;Nche in the first line. There's no doubt about this reading being possible, but there's also no need for it. With regard to the theme, pahu;Nche itself is better (as will become clear below), and I believe that Mir will have written exactly that.

Along with this verse, a verse of Ghalib's necessarily comes to mind, and perhaps this is also the reason that some editors have also decided that pahu;Nche itself is possible, rather than pahu;Nche;N :


It's possible that Ghalib might have taken Mir's theme and dressed it in his own attire; otherwise, Mir's theme is different, and is also more interesting than Ghalib's theme. Ghalib's theme is based on the natural thought or vision that since mankind is the lord of creatures and the goal/achievement of the universe, everything in the universe is devoted to serving him. This idea can also be brought out from a verse of the Qur'an, as Maulana Shah Ashraf Ali Thanavi has done, commenting on Surah Luqman, verse 20 (for this information I am indebted to Hanif Najmi). And even if the Qur'anic verse is not brought into the discussion, it's still accepted that in our culture mankind holds the rank of the 'cause of creation'.

Thus in Ghalib's verse it has been said sarcastically, or seriously, or again in a tone of helpless oppression, that when the seven heavenly spheres are circling night and day, then some revolution or other, some accident or other, some event or other will certainly occur. Whether we do or don't become agitated, our anxiety has no effect. Events have to occur, and they will occur. In Ghalib's verse there's an abundance of meaning too, but for the present we are speaking of the theme. And Ghalib's theme is that the revolving of the heavens is because the heavens enter into human affairs. That is, in the light of Ghalib's verse the heavens too are a character in the human/universal drama-- and not just a character but an influential character, because they are the original agent/actor.

In contrast to this, Mir's theme is that the sky itself is agitated and perplexed/confused, seeking to achieve some unknown (or perhaps hidden) purpose/intention. Now the sky becomes a character not in the human/universal drama, but rather of some quite other universal drama. That is, now its role is not that of an agent/actor in human affairs. Rather, it itself is a game-piece in someone else's game, an actor in someone else's drama who is, like other actors, being 'manipulated' for for the sake of their actions.

In Mir's verse, toward the sky there's a slight-ish jesting/raillery, the kind that is usually brought into play with one's equals. It's as though the sky too is sifting through the dust in the atmosphere, in search of some beloved. It's possible that Atish might have gotten an idea from this very verse. Atish:

just-juu me;N terii anjum kii :tara;h ay maah-e ;husn
;zarrah ;zarrah ho ke ;xaak-e ((aashiqaa;N gardish me;N hai

[in search of you, like the stars, oh moon of beauty,
every sand-grain, having become the dust of lovers, is in [a state of] revolving/turning/wandering]

Atish's theme is very fine, but because of the pervasiveness of 'thought-binding' there's a perceptible lack of naturalness and expansiveness.

In Ghalib's verse, there's definitely an abundance of meaning. If in Mir's verse we would read pahu;Nche;N instead of pahu;Nche , then we will have to assume its tone to be sarcastic (that is, sarcastic toward the speaker himself). Or again, it can be a theme of an innocent ignorance toward the ruler of the universe-- that the speaker doesn't at at all know that the revolving of the heavens is for some other reason, not for the sake of achieving his own desires/purposes. Both themes are interesting, but the idea within the reading of pahu;Nche (that the sky too, like us ourselves, is a minor-ish character in a greater universal drama) is very fresh, and also lofty.

In saying pahu;Nche , there are also benefits to the meaning:

(1) If we take the first line to be a negative rhetorical question, then the meaning becomes that the sky will never arrive at its desire/purpose.

(2) When the sky itself, which we think of as effective/powerful, is 'going in circles' trying to achieve its desire/purpose, then we wretched ones-- of what account are we [literally, kis khet kii muulii hai;N]? Any achievement of our desire/purpose-- for heaven's sake, when and how would it happen?

(3) The speaker is not concerned about the achievement or non-achievement of his own desire/purpose, he is concerned about the sky. (This concern can only be that of a spectator, not one based on any personal sympathy/feeling.)

(4) The manner of arriving at the desire/purpose is that a lot of running around would be done, whether or not this running around would have any special direction-- and even if, like the sky's going around, it would be like that of an oil-presser's bullock, going in circles around a single pole. In this latter meaning, too, is concealed the same light sarcasm that I mentioned above. It's a strangely elegant/graceful verse.

This theme, in a little more detail, he has composed like this, in the final ghazal of the sixth divan [{1916,2}]:

ma:tluub gum kiyaa hai tab aur bhii phire hai
be-vaj'h kuchh nahii;N hai yih gardish aasmaa;N kii

[it has lost its desire/purpose-- then it wanders around even more
this revolving of the sky is not at all without reason]



SRF has elegantly explicated one reading: that the sky is wandering around, literally 'going in circles', trying-- apparently vainly-- to achieve its own desire/purpose. The other verse he cites, {1916,2}, clearly expresses this idea. SRF seems to be working from the idea that gardish me;N honaa can mean something like 'to go in circles, to run around in confusion, to make unsuccessful efforts'. Knowing him, I'm sure that there is such an idiomatic expression, and that he perhaps assumes that we know it already and thus does not explain it in his commentary.

But of course, in the present verse the first line carefully doesn't say whose desire/purpose is at issue. When I first read the verse, it never occurred to me that it wasn't about our own human desires and purposes, and the (highly uncertain) chances that the revolving of the sky would bring them about. No doubt I approached the verse with Ghalib's somewhat similar verse, G{46,2}, in mind. And why not? Not only in the ghazal world, but in the Islamic cultural world generally, the revolving of the heavenly spheres acts as a kind of metaphorical 'wheel of fortune', lifting the lowly into the heights or overthrowing the lofty. The speaker and the addressee (if this is not the speaker himself) might perfectly well be waiting to see where the celestial roulette wheel would stop, and whether their hopes or their fears would be realized.

The editorial argument that SRF outlines also suggests that both these readings exist. If we read pahu;Nche , then the singular subjunctive agrees with the sky, so the sky would be doing the possible arriving (though whether at its own or at the speaker's desire/purpose remains an open question). But if we read the plural subjunctive pahu;Nche;N , then the speaker and the addressee (and potentially the rest of us humans too) would be the ones doing the possible arriving, and definitely their own desire/purpose would be at issue. Because the former reading, pahu;Nche , keeps both desire/purpose options open, I of course prefer it. But the very fact that some editors have preferred pahu;Nche;N shows that they believe that the desire/purpose at issue is the speaker's rather than that of the sky.

Note for translation fans: How to capture the subtle pause-making, phrase-rebalancing effects of the to ? It basically can't be done. Here I've clumsily thrown in 'well', for want of something better. At other times, I've just omitted it. It's one of those impossible cases where nothing feels right.