Ghazal 86, Verse 6

{86,6}

paa-e afgaar pah jab se tujhe ra;hm aayaa hai
;xaar-e rah ko tire ham mihr-giyaa kahte hai;N

1) ever since you have had mercy on the wounded foot
2) we call the thorn of your road 'mihr-giya'/mandragora

Notes:

giyaa is a shortened form of giyaas , 'grass'.

 

mihr-giyaa : 'A mistress, the face of a sweetheart; the mandrake; the plant turnsole; a fresh fruit, from the root of which a delicious juice is extracted; chemists; those especially who search after the philosopher's stone, alchemists'. (Steingass p.1354)

Nazm:

By 'your thorn of the road' is meant the thorn that has lodged in the lover's foot during his search for the beloved. The reason for calling it mihr-giyaa is that it became the cause of the beloved's affection and mercy. If it had not wounded the foot-soles, then she would not have felt mercy. And mihr-giyaa -- that is, giyaah-aaftaab [sun-grass] is a species of grass. (85)

== Nazm page 85

Hasrat:

mihr-giyaa is a kind of plant of which the root is in the shape of a man. It's well known that people become kind [mihrbaan] toward the man who keeps it with him. Here, he has called the thorn of the road mihr-giyaa because the foot was wounded by the thorn, and the beloved felt mercy toward the wounded foot. (77)

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, since our feet have become wounded by thorns of the road, you've felt mercy toward them. Thus we don't call the thorns of your road thorns, but rather, mihr-giyaa . [He then copies Hasrat's explanation for this, without acknowledgment.] (135)

Shadan:

[In English mihr-giyaa] is 'root of mandrake' [English], a plant the root of which is two figures facing each other. They say that whoever has this root, the person before whom the root-bearer goes becomes kindly [mihrbaan] to him. (284)

Josh:

mihr-giyaa is a species of grass. They say that whoever might have a sprig of this plant, everyone always remains kind [mihrbaan] to him. (172)

FWP:

SETS == DEFINITION; MUSHAIRAH
SPEAKING: {14,4}

The proverbially magic plant with the man-shaped root belongs to the 'mandragora' family and is called in English 'mandrake'. Could mihr-giyaa contain some cognate echo? Whether it does or not, it's clear that the affinity between its name, 'mihr-grass', and the mihr that means kindness or graciousness, as in mihrbaanii , is at the heart of the verse.

But as far as I can tell, there's not much else going on in the verse. It would surely be at its best in a mushairah, where it would be called on only for one quick, punchy, enjoyable effect. 'A fresh word is equal to a theme', as Talib Amuli, Shah Jahan's poet laureate, famously said. (For further discussion, see {17,2}.)

Presumably mihr-giyaa is such a fresh word that it can energize and carry the verse all by itself. From the commentaries it's easy to see that the commentators are mostly not (very) familiar with the word; when in doubt, as they are here, they simply paraphrase from each other, or even copy each other word for word. And Nazm, the earliest commentator, doesn't seem even to recognize the mandragora connection; this shows that mihr-giyaa was not necessarily a term well known to Ghalib's earliest audience. Not that that would have fazed Ghalib. A word so multivalently perfect for his purposes would surely be too tempting to ignore.