‘Padh Padh Ke Gaya Pather’ – Samad Mir (1894?-1959)

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Too much study has turned you to stone
And scholarly writing has dulled your mind
The only study that makes the lord known
Is altogether of a different kind
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padh padh ke gaya pather, likh likh ke gaya chore
(reading reading [you] became stone, writing writing [you]became fool)
jis padne se sahib miley, wo padna hai aur
(that reading [which] lord meet, that reading is different)
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Samad Mir said this in a mushaira – a gathering in which poets recite their poetry – organised by the then government. He, being academically illiterate, was subjected to condescending sneers by some of the people gathered there, so when it was his turn to speak, he began his performance with this couplet. Now no one remembers the other ’learned’ people at the gathering, but everyone knows and remembers Samad Mir and his words.

These verses are in coarse Udru using Kashmiri syntax, it is obvious to the ear that the writer is not formally educated and has constructed the sentences using intuition. However, that adds to the charm of the couplet and the profundity of it.

Sahib means ‘lord/sir’ and can be understood as God or Truth. Chore is a Kashmiri word meaning a fool; Samad Mir could also have meant chor, which in Urdu means a thief; I prefer the former interpretation because it adds to the rawness of Mir’s attempt at a language he didn’t know.
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