Three Poems By Iqbal II: Maa Ka Khawab.

By Dr. Ali Hashmi

A Psychological Interpretation of ‘A Mother’s Dream’

On the surface this poem is simply a description of a mother’s dream about her young son who is lost somewhere. Some commentators have described it as a lament by a mother whose child has died. However, there is a more life affirming explanation which makes more sense psychologically.

The poem starts out simply enough. It is in the first person with a mother describing her dream:

‘Main soey jo ik shab toe dekha yeh khwaab

Badha aur jis say meraa iztiraab

Yeh dekha kay main jaa rahi hoon kahin

Andhera hai aur raah milti nahin

Larazta tha darr say mera baal baal

Qadam kaa tha dehshat say uthnaa muhaal’

‘As I slept one night I dreamt

A dream that heightened my discontent

I saw myself going somewhere

Unable to find my way in the gloom

Trembling, drowning in my terror’

 It should be noted that simply being conversant in a language does not mean that one is able to appreciate its poetry. Iqbal’s poetry with its dense metaphysical and philosophical themes is even more of a challenge for the casual reader. This poem, however, is written in a simpler style.

The poet continues:

‘Jo kuch hauslaa paa kay agay badhi

Toe dekha qataar aik larkon kee thi

Zamurrad see poshaak pehnay huay

Diyay unkay haathon main jaltay huay

Woh chup chaap thay aagay peechay rawaan

Khuda jaanay jaana tha unko kahan’

‘As I kept on I saw

Boys walking in line

Wearing emerald hued coats, carrying lamps,

Silently they walked

God knows where to’

The use of the color ‘emerald’ or green is interesting. Why green? This might be one key to unlocking the life affirming message of the poem. In many cultures, green symbolizes hope and growth. The most common associations, however, are found in its ties to nature. For example, Islam venerates the color, as it expects paradise to be full of lush greenery. In many folklores and literatures, green has traditionally been used to symbolize nature and its embodied attributes, namely those of life, fertility, and rebirth. Green was symbolic of resurrection and immortality in Ancient Egypt; the god Osiris was depicted as green-skinned. It is often used to describe foliage and the sea, and has become a symbol of environmentalism. In short, the use of the emerald or green color seems to represent life and vibrancy.

The poet continues:

‘Issi soch mai thi kay mera pisar

Mujhe uss jamaat main aaya nazar

Woh peechay tha aur taiz chaltaa naa tha

Diya uske haathon main jaltaa naa tha’

‘As I stood lost in thought

There I saw, my son

Walking forlornly in the back

Carrying an extinguished lamp’

Here is a glimpse of the central theme of the poem, a lamp, used to light up one’s way, dark and useless, unable to show its bearer the way forward.

‘Kaha main nay pehchan kar meri jaan

Mujhe chor kar aa gaye tum kahan?

Judaai main rehti hoon main beqaraar

Parotee hoon har roz ashkon kay haar

Na parwaa hamari zara tum nay kee

Gaye chor acchee wafa tum nay kee’

‘Recognizing him, I cried, ‘my love’

Why have you forsaken me?

I pine for you; and everyday weave a necklace of tears

Not once did you think of me

Alone and abandoned’

Even though the translation does not do justice to the power of Iqbal’s words, it is hard not to be moved by the setting of the poem; darkness, a dream world, figures with emerald coats and a mother, lost and tearful.

‘Jo bachay nay dekha mera pech-o-taab

Diya uss nay munh phair kar yun jawaab

Rulaati hai tujh ko judaai meri

Nahin iss main kuch bhi bhalaai meri

Yeh keh kar who kuch dair tak chup raha

Diya phir dikha kay yeh kehnay laga

Samajhti hai tu hoe gaya kya issay?

Tere aansoo-on nay bujhaaya issay’

‘The child seeing my agony derisively replied

Your tears do me no favors;

Silent then for a moment

He showed me the lamp

‘Do you wonder what happened to it?’

Your tears put it out’

Here we come to the central message of the poem, a mother’s grief and agony at letting go of her child as it grows, matures and becomes more independent, inevitably, in the process moving away from her. Iqbal arrives at a profound psychological insight, perhaps from his own experience with his mother, perhaps through his observations as a sensitive artist. As a child grows, the mother, who has learnt to cater to its every need and whim, must now teach herself to allow a child to stumble out of her grasp, perhaps to fall, make mistakes and get hurt. She must accept that those hurts are an inevitable part of growing and changing into an adult. Interestingly, the poet makes no mention of a father anywhere in the dream, a figure that can help moderate the intensity of the emotions involved.

Also, this pattern of intense attachment to the child by the mother and the child’s resultant feeling of  perhaps being smothered would be quite typical in a feudal, non-industrial culture like British India where Iqbal was born, raised and lived most of his life.

In the end, Iqbal is pleading both sides of the case. The mother describes her suffering to the child (and to us) and it is proof of her love. The child does not reject it but points out to her the consequence of excessive attachment, his difficulty finding his way, in the dream (and presumably in life) because of the effect of his mother’s tears and grief.

First Published In The Friday Times Lahore


Filed under Partition, Philosophy, poetry

5 responses to “Three Poems By Iqbal II: Maa Ka Khawab.

  1. Nimra

    Beautiful poem, especially the last line, where the boy accuses the mother of not letting him live his own life and dreams.

    A similar poem that I’d recommend is ‘Mother, any distance greater than a single span’ by Simon Armitage.

  2. nice poem blog! Wishing you a Merry Christmas 2009

  3. Vijay Goel

    How True !! Here in India as the girls are getting more educated and indipendent they are increasingly rejecting mollicoddled boys.Mothers should beware of this.I read this poem to my sister who tells me that her son always tells her to let the bird fly and not to clutch it.

  4. Ahmed

    I have read this poem and it is really inspiring but it’d have been better if u had uploaded the pictures or sketches along with the english script and ur personal views..

  5. Kulsum Hamid

    I had read it in school when i was in class 8 or 9. Then it was just a poem. But today, its more than a poem. It is the most beautiful piece of art, and i hold it very very close to me.