Allah allah re tabiyat ki ravaani uski
In this post, I’d mentioned in passing, Mir Taqi Mir’s ghazal Patta patta boota boota, and commenter Prashant asked if I could help decode it.
I have no authority whatsoever deconstructing Urdu poetry. All I have is love for the form and a few years of listening put away. There is no Urdu in my background, no cultural well to draw from, no teachers: what I have is absorbed very much from the public space. In fact, when I started off, I struggled to find anyone at all who'd help me understand some of the material I came across, a little of which I talked about in this post.
So it felt presumptuous to try translate Mir, and perhaps, interpret him. On the other hand, I thought it would be a challenge and well, fun. So with trepidation, and an awareness that this will fall short of many standards, I’m putting up a translation of sorts of Patta patta boota boota.
This is a long ghazal with, as far as I can discover, eleven shers; there may be more. Only three or four are popular with singers and I hadn’t come across a few of these before.
As I see it, the play here is on the word ‘aab’ which can mean a knife’s sharp edge as well as cool waters.
Patta patta, boota boota, haal hamaaraa jaane hai,
Jaane na jaane gul hi na jaane, baagh to saaraa jaane hai
Every leaf and every shrub here knows of my state
It is the flower that is unaware, but all the bower knows
Aage us mutkabbar ke ham Khuda Khuda kiya karte hain,
Kab maujud Khuda ko woh maghrur khud-aara jaane hai
We prostrated before the arrogant one, called him ‘Khuda’
In the name of God, what does that insolent one know of Him
Aashiq saa to saada koi aur na hoga duniya mein,
Ji ke zian ko ishq mein uske apna waara jaane hai.
There is no one in the world quite as naïve as a lover
The squandering of his heart he sees as ecstasy
Chaaragari beemari-e-dil ki rasm-e-shahr-e-husn nahin,
Warna dilbar naadaan bhi is dard ka chaara jaane hai
It is not their way, to heal: these denizens of the city of love
Yet even the innocent ones know the cure to a sick heart
Mehr-o-wafa-o-lutf-o-inaayat, ek se waaqif in mein nahin,
Aur to sab kuch tanz-o-kanaya, ramz-o-ishaara jaane hai
Not one here knows of kindness, loyalty, grace or generosity
Cruelty, sarcasm, mockery and taunts, of these they know
Aashiq to murda hai hamesha ji uthta hai dekhe use,
Yaar ke aa jaane ko yakaayak umr do baara jaane hai
He is but a corpse, the lover, but see! he lives again
She has come of a sudden and it is another lease on life
Kya kya fitne sar par uske laata hai maashooq apnaa
Jis bedil betaab-o-tavaan ko ishq ka maaraa jaane hai
What disasters our lover brings down on his own head,
That restless, listless soul we had given up as lost
Tashna-e-khun hai, apna kitna ‘Mir’ bhi naadaan, talkhi-kash,
Damdaar aab-e-tegh ko uske aab-e-gawara jaane hai
Parched for blood he is, and ‘Mir’ the simpleton
Thinks the sharp edge of a blade an elixir
There are three other shers and they are beyond me, so what I’m going to do is just supply what the words mean by themselves and leave it to someone else to tell us what Mir meant:
Yaahi shikaar-farebi par magroor hai woh sayyad bachcha[Yaahi = this; shikaar = prey; farebi = deceitful; magroor = arrogant; sayyad = hunter; ussara = limitless, endless]
Ta'er udte hawa men saare apni ussaara jaane hai
Rakhnon se deewaar-e-chaman ke munh ko le hai chipaa ya'ani[rakhna = gap; deewar-e-chaman = garden wall; suraakh = hole, aperture; sou = ?; souq?]
Un suraakhon ke tuk rahne ko sou ka nazaaraa jaane hai
Lagne na de bas ho to uske gohar-e-gosh ke baale tak[gohar = pearl; gosh = ear; baale = earring; falak = sky; chashm = eye; mai = wine]
Usko falak chashm-e-mai-o-khor ki teetli ka taaraa jaane hai
Mir at his most convoluted. An earring, a pearl, a winejar and a star in the sky - there are all these elements; and whether Mir means to see a pearl hanging from an earlobe through the spout of a winejar and perceives it as a star in the sky, or the other way round, I have no idea. I may add, after reading it a sufficient number of times, I no longer care.
That's that. Often, words in Urdu have diverse interpretations and change chameleon-like in context, so if you’re still determined to decipher all this, this dictionary might help. In fact, I’ll add it to the links on the side bar. It’s organised by pronunciation and doesn’t follow a simple-search-and-throw-up but it grows on you.
Yay, that was fun.