jaa;N-ba;xshii-e ;Gair hii kiyaa kar
mujh ko yihii niim-jaa;N bahut hai

1) always do life-granting for only/emphatically the Other
2) to me only/emphatically this half-life is enough/plenty



jaan-ba;xshii : 'Giving life, vivification; sparing life; forgiveness, pardon (of a capital crime); salvation'. (Platts p.372)


niim-jaan : 'Half-dead (with fright, &c.)'. (Platts p.1169)

S. R. Faruqi:

Here too a verse of Ghalib's comes to mind:


That is, when the lover will already have become half-dead, then the beloved will say that the price of her kiss is the lover's life. But at that time the lover only possesses 'half' a life (because he has already become niim-jaa;N ); thus now how can he be vouchsafed a kiss?

Ghalib's theme is very fresh, and it has also been expressed with an uncommon economy of words. But in Mir's verse this same theme (the lover's being niim-jaa;N ) a number of meanings have been created. Consider the following points:

(1) The Other's life is safe and sound. The intensities of passion do not affect him. Thus it's clear that his passion is not a true one.

(2) In the execution-ground, some people are even granted their lives, either because they are considered not to deserve execution, or because they are extremely low and petty, or again because as soon as they confront death their condition changes and they begin to ask for mercy, or are considered worthy of mercy.

(3) The Rival too is among those who are granted their lives, perhaps because when confronting death his life begins to emerge of its own volition [out of fear]; he proves to be cowardly and abject. That is, the true lover endures troubles at the hands of life, and is emaciated and weak; and at the time of death the lover is emaciated and weak.

(4) The Other is granted his life; that is, he comes back safe and sound from the execution-ground.

(5) The speaker's life, because of the intensities of passion, has already become a half-life. He sees that the Other is going off, with his life safe and sound. The speaker tells the beloved, in a sarcastic tone, that he himself has no need of being granted his life (that is, if she would grant someone's life, it's as if she would be granting a new life)-- and that he will live with his same half-alive, half-dead life. If she doesn't consider him worthy of execution then so be it, but he doesn't beg her for his life; to him this half-life is plenty.

(6) To grant someone his life is to protect someone from execution when he is about to be executed, to save him from death. This is the idiomatic, metaphorical meaning. The dictionary meaning is 'to vouchsafe life, to bestow life'. Here again [as in {1786,4}] the dictionary meaning has been used in a metaphorical sense-- that she bestows life on the Other (and it's clear that when the life is bestowed then it will be bestowed as a whole, complete life); the speaker is niim-jaa;N , and this half-life is enough/plenty for him.

(7) But the meaning also emerges that for the speaker to die at the beloved's hands (or merely to die) is not his desire/purpose, because he says that she should leave him half-alive.

(8) But then the meaning also emerges that rather than for him to have his life granted at her hands, it would be better for him to drag out his life in this half-dead condition.

(9) It's clear that what the speaker longs for is to be slain at her hands, but it's also clear that she too is extremely tricky. She does not fulfill his longing, but she also wants to wound him by granting him his life. But he himself is not less tricky. Since he is content in this half-alive condition, he has no need of her granting him life (=bestowing life).

Ghalib has many verses such that within a few words, many meanings have been conveyed. But a verse like this one is not to be found even in Ghalib's poetry-- a verse with simple, even commonplace words in which the meanings would be multiple, and also of various kinds. An argument/proof; an event; a psychological analysis of the beloved; a trickiness in reply to the beloved's trickiness; and a darvesh-like aloofness and dignity toward her-- everything is present.

First, by saying hii in the first line it's as if the speaker has dumped the Rival into a pit of contempt. And in the second line, by saying yihii he has made his half-lifedness special/particular-- that it is this half-lifedness with which he lives. If he had said mujh ko to yih niim-jaa;N bahut hai , then this idea would not have been created.

It's a perfected verse, and also a complete one. It's a pity that because such verses do not have a glittering surface, people's eyes don't linger on them. Because Mir has many such verses, people wrongly consider that much of his poetry is flat-- although the truth is that if not every verse is zulf-saa pech-daar [{1316,7}]

zulf-saa pech-daar hai har shi((r
hai su;xan miir kaa ((ajab ;Dhab kaa

[it's twisted like a curl, every verse
Mir's poetry is of an extraordinary style]

then certainly almost every verse is so.



Normally niim-jaa;N means 'half-alive' (or equally, 'half-dead'; see the definition above). Ghalib too in G{91,12} uses it as an adjective. Mir's present verse however treats it as a noun, so that it means a 'half-life' (with of course no overtones of radioactive decay). Thus in Mir's verse niim-jaa;N is something that the lover has, not a description of his condition.

If the beloved were offer to do 'life-granting' [jaa;N-ba;xshii], both of its possible meanings (see the definition above) would be unacceptable. For if she were to practice 'giving life, vivication' (presumably in something like the way God does), then the speaker would have a whole new life and would lose the half-life that he values. While if she were to do 'life-granting' in the sense of pardoning a condemned person from execution-- well, the true lover would be insulted by such a slur on his self-sacrificing lover-ship (would the Moth consent to be removed from the candle-flame?). Such a cowardly clinging to mere personal life is something fit only for the shallow, self-seeking Other guy-- in fact, it's something to be wished upon him: may the beloved 'always' ( kiyaa karnaa ) spare his life, so that he is left to slink off in such a humiliating way!

Why is the speaker so insistent on retaining 'only/emphatically this' half-life? No doubt there's a qalandar-like aloofness, a commitment to the true lover's life of passion, a defiance of the beloved's patronizing condescension. But there could be other reasons as well. My own favorite is to think of the speaker as affirming the supreme value of independence and autonomy. Ghalib has almost got a lock on the market for verses of this kind; here's an overview and discussion of them:


But after all, as SRF might say, it's possible that Ghalib got his own lock, and even the key to it, from his great predecessor.