Ghazal 152, Verse 1


raftaar-e ((umr qa:t((-e rah-e i.z:tiraab hai
is saal ke ;hisaab ko barq aaftaab hai

1) the movement/pace of a lifetime is a traversing/'cutting' of the road of agitation/anxiety/haste

2a) for measurement of this 'year', lightning is the sun
2b) for measurement of this pain, the sun is lightning


qa:t(( : 'Cutting; a cutting, section; intersection; a segment; a portion, division; a breaking off; intercepting; traversing or passing over (a road, &c.)'. (Platts p.793)


i.z:tiraab : 'Agitation, perturbation, restlessness, distraction, anxiety, anguish, trouble, chagrin; precipitation [=haste]; flurry'. (Platts p.59)


saal : (Persian) 'A year'. (Platts p.626)


saal : (Prakrit) 'A thorn; --pain, affliction, trouble'. (Platts p.626)


;hisaab : 'Measure, measurement; proportion; rule, standard; --estimation, judgment, opinion; condition, category'. (Platts p.477)


That is, the way they measure a year through the movement of the sun, they ought to measure the passage of a lifetime through lightning instead of the sun; and the meaning of saal is also 'lifetime' [((umr]. The meaning of 'road of restlessness' is the road that would be traversed in a state of restlessness. (163)

== Nazm page 163

Bekhud Mohani:

In saal is an iihaam -- its meaning is also 'lifetime'. The Indian [hindii] and Christian year is also measured by the sun. The road of a lifetime is traversed with restlessness and speed. The lifetime is a 'year' that we ought to measure it not with the sun, but with lightning. That is, the lifetime passes as quickly as lightning. (293)


A number of people have written that the meaning of 'year' [saal] is 'lifetime' [((umr]. But 'year' as 'lifetime' is neither in Urdu nor in Persian.... Now the interpretation of the second line is that the standard used to measure the length of a lifetime is one year, and a year is equal to the time in which [in classical cosmology] the sun completes one revolution. But this 'year'-- that is, the year by which we measure the length of a lifetime-- is so swift-moving that its interval is equal not to one revolution of the sun, but rather to a flash of lightning....

Between i.ztiraab as 'movement, motion' and raftaar there is a 'wordplay of meaning' [ri((ayat-e laf:zii]. Then, between i.ztiraab as 'restlessness' and saal as 'pricking pain', there is the pleasure of .zil((a . He's composed a verse that's out of the ordinary.

== (1989: 278) [2006: 301-02]


ROAD: {10,12}
SUN: {10,5}

Everybody agrees that the verse laments the shortness of life: a year is measured in relation to the (apparent) movement of the sun, but a lifetime is measured by a lightning-flash. (Compare the even greater complexity of the lightning-flash in {81,1}.) This is the reading that makes use of (2a).

But the Urdu grammatical fact that I call 'symmetry' means that if A is B, then by the same token B is A: if lightning is the sun, then equally the sun is lightning. When one is restless or anxious, time seems to pass with infuriating slowness; this is all the more true if one is feeling the (literal) 'prick of a thorn', pain or affliction (see the second definition of saal above). So in the extremity of such a mood, a single lightning-flash might seem to last as long as the sun; it might seem that the intolerable agitation and anxiety of life is destined to go on forever (as in 2b).

This punchy and effective verse also seems to have more flowingness than many. Perhaps it's the aa sounds that it contains, and its fine rhythm.

Compare {311x,6}, which also plays with the length of a 'year'.

Compare Mir's treatment of the same classic theme: M{760,9}.