mai;N ghar jahaa;N me;N apne la;Rko;N ke se banaa))e
jab chaahaa tab mi;Taayaa bunyaad kyaa jahaa;N kii

1) I, in the world, made my houses like those of children/boys
2) when I wanted, then I destroyed them/it; what foundation does the world have?!



S. R. Faruqi:

Shaikh Abu'l-Qasim has a truly 'mood'-creating verse [in Persian]:

'On the tablet of the heart, like the slate used for teaching,
Every letter/word of longing that I wrote, was spoiled.'

It might seem that Mir wanted to make a theme like that of Shaikh Abu'l-Qasim, but did not succeed. At first glance, the suspicion also arises that Mir's verse has a shortage of 'connection'. Both ideas are incorrect. Shaikh Abu'l-Qasim's and Mir's verses share the theme of children, but this commonality is very superficial. In the Shaikh's verse the heart is given the simile of a children's slate, that is used for practicing writing and has errors on it. In Mir's verse the idea is of a children's game: children make play houses, or play house in them. If there remains the question of the 'connection' in Mir's verse, then the answer is that the real excellence of this verse lies in the second line's being so far-fetched that it apparently seems disconnected.

First let's consider the first line. In the world, the speaker certainly made houses for himself, but they were like children's houses. That is, they were houses, but they were unstable and commonplace. Their construction was not painstaking or careful. Or, those houses were made the way children make them while playing-- for example, if they stand a charpoy on its side, then it becomes a wall; if they prop up a few supports and drape a sheet over them, then it becomes a roof; and so on. As if everything was symbolic and make-believe.

Or again, those houses were small and narrow like play houses; within them there was no scope for a person to live. Or again, those houses were like houses made of sand on the seashore, that in a short time would be demolished and levelled to the ground. In fact, children keep building sand houses, and they themselves keep destroying them. Or again, those houses were like doll-houses-- that had everything in them, but on such a small scale that even children's hands couldn't fit into them.

A second point is that it's not a question of one house, but rather of various houses. Thus the speaker built a house not once, but several times. This means that abandoning his homeland, or being obliged to leave his house, or his house becoming ruined, forced him to leave one house and build another. And every time, he built a house as though it would be part of a children's game.

Thus through building houses time after time, he also came to have a feeling of instability and transitoriness. And every time, because of the narrowness of his means and his lack of capacity, or because of his mental state, the house that he built was extremely narrow and small. Or again, he was influenced by the thought that this house too would be destined to be ruined, so that the house that he built, he left incomplete and unstable.

Now let's consider the second line. God Most High builds, and overthrows. The world is his creation. When he might wish, he would build it; when he might wish, he would ruin and destroy it; and in any case, compared to God the world has no reality. The world has no enduringness and stability. God Most High is ancient, the world is recent. Compared to the ancientness of God, even the world's longest lifetime is no more than a moment.

Compared to the power and enduringness of God, the world has no power and enduringness, the world has no foundation. Its measure, in proportion to the measure of God, is like children's play houses in our measure-- they are small, are unstable, are without foundation, have no enduringness. They also have no reality; they are derivative and suppositional. From this point two meanings are created:

(1) Our relationship with our houses is the same as that of God Most High with the world. When God Most High might wish, he would ruin it, erase it. Or when he might wish, he would build it again. Our houses too are like this. We have made them such that when we might wish, we would ruin them, erase them. Or when we might wish, we would build them again.

(2) When the world is in the hands of God Most High the way play houses are in the hands of children, then we too built just such unstable houses. When the world itself has no reality and only a flimsy foundation, what would have been the point of making strong and lofty houses?

In Mir's verse the themes of the universe, the Creator of the universe, mankind's seemingly having power but in reality being under duress-- all these themes have been presented with great excellence, with a light touch of melancholy and a bit of sarcasm.

In Mus'hafi's verse below, he has taken up a single aspect:

kahe to khel la;Rko;N kaa hai yih ya((nii mu.savvir ne
jo naqsh is .saf;hah-e hastii pah khe;Nchaa so mi;Taa ;Daalaa

[one would say that this is a children's game-- that is, the painter
the image/design that he drew on this page of existence-- he erased it]

Mus'hafi has well used the metaphor of the children's game, because here it has two meanings. Mus'hafi's verse has used sarcasm and arrived at the limit of bitterness, but the general effect is deeply thoughtful.

In this verse by Shah Nasir, the metaphor of a children's game, and the image of the house, are both present:

kaa;x-e dunyaa jo hai baaziichah-e :tiflaa;N hai na.siir
kih kabhuu ghar yih banaa aur kabhuu ;Tuu;T gayaa

[the palace of the world-- it's a children's game/toy, Nasir
that sometimes this house was built, and sometimes it broke down]

In Shah Nasir's verse there's a feeling of the changing colors/styles of history, but its construction is not very tight. In the first line the phrase jo hai is unnecessary. In the second line, for a house ;Tuu;T gayaa is not very fine. People say ;Tuu;T kar kha;N;Dar ho jaanaa , and so on, but they don't speak of the ;Tuu;Tnaa of a house. Though when a sultanate, an office, etc. does not remain established, they certainly speak of its ;Tuu;Tnaa . Nevertheless, in Shah Nasir's verse there is something of the kind of historical sense that exists in


In this same sixth divan, Mir has well used the theme of building a house, with a metaphor of extreme individualism and natural genius [{1904,6}]:

chho;R kar ma((muurah-e dunyaa ko jangal jaa base
ham jahaan-e aab-o-gil me;N ;xaanah-saazii ;xuub kii

[having left the inhabited area of the world, we went and lived in the jungle/wilderness
in the world of water-and-earth, we did house-building well]

There's no trace of Mir's tomb. They say that where Lucknow City Station now is, it was somewhere there. According to some, when the station was laid out, the tomb came within its perimeter. Some claim that the tomb was adjacent to its borders, and the rail company did it no harm. But later, because of population pressure, the tomb was destroyed and buildings were put up. The modern city is called a 'concrete jungle'. In this regard {1904,6} is illuminating and thought-provoking, and so is this verse from the second divan [{911,9}]:

mat turbat-e miir ko mi;Taa))o
rahne do ;Gariib kaa nishaa;N to

[don't erase the grave of Mir
do let the trace of the wretched one remain!]



In the first line, apne can modify either the houses ( apne ghar , 'my houses') or the world ( apne jahaa;N me;N , 'in my world'). The former is the obvious reading, but the latter too is legitimate and quite intriguing. It emphasizes the possibility that the speaker too might merely be playing games.

Does it matter that the 'children' are actually 'boys'? If the verse had said bachcho;N instead of la;Rko;N , it would have been gender-neutral, and the scansion would have been the same. Are boys perhaps considered, for the purposes of this verse, more emblematically creative, and/or more emblematically destructive, than girls? It's just one more thing for the speculatively inclined to speculate about.