mushkil hai mi;T ga))e hu))e naqsho;N kii phir namuud
jo .suurate;N biga;R ga))ii;N un kaa nah kar ;xayaal

1) it's difficult, the appearance again of pictures/plans/prospects that are [in a state of having been] erased
2) those aspects/faces that have become ruined-- don't {think about / pay any attention to} them



naqsh : 'Painting; colouring; drawing; designing, &c.; —delineation; —embroidery; —a painting, a picture; portrait; drawing; a print; a carving, an engraving; a map, or plan'. (Platts p.1145)


naqshah : 'A delineation; a portrait; a picture; —a design; a plan; a model, pattern, an exemplar; —a map, chart... ;—features, visage; cast (of countenance); —a prospect; state of affairs or things; condition, predicament;


namuud : 'The being or becoming apparent, visibleness; appearance—prominence, conspicuousness; —show ;—affectation; —display; —pomp; —honour, character, celebrity'. (Platts p.1154)


.suurat : 'Form, fashion, figure, shape, semblance, guise; appearance, aspect; face, countenance; prospect, probability; sign, indication; external state (of a thing); state, condition (of a thing), case, predicament, circumstance; effigy, image, statue, picture, portrait; plan, sketch; mental image, idea'. (Platts p.747)


biga;Rnaa : 'To be impaired, deteriorated, defaced, disfigured, distorted; to take harm, be damaged, injured, marred, spoiled, corrupted, vitiated, ruined, destroyed; to fall off; to fail, miscarry; to break down; to go or turn bad; to get out of order, be disordered, tossed, disarranged; to be mismanaged, bungled'. (Platts p.162)

S. R. Faruqi:

This verse is a superb example of 'understatement' (that is, describing something as less, or subuk-bayaanii ). In Mir's poetry there's no shortage of such verses, ones in which a major thing has been spoken of as minor, or with apparent carelessness. See



etc. The temperament of Urdu and Persian is not favorable to understatement, and about Mir in particular it's famous that his poetry creates extremely much pain and burning and sorrow and grief.

But the truth is that Mir has, contrary to the eastern temperament, composed many such verses in which the idea has been expressed in an apparently matter-of-fact way. The remarkable thing is that even so, the importance of the theme is not diminished, but rather that understatement does the work of a kind of metaphor, and the effect of the idea increases.

For example, the theme of the present verse is that the return of passed-away things, passed-away gatherings, passed-away people, is impossible. To recall them to memory, or to make an account and study of the past into a guiding light for present action, is not proper. In order to say this, he has first said only that whatever naqsh (or naqshah ) have been erased, for them to be manifested again is difficult.

Then in the second line he's said that those .suurate;N (situations, or difficulties) that have become ruined-- don't pay any attention to them. In the tone there's not any kind of melancholy or defeatedness, and there's also definitely the style of giving moral instruction. That's it. In a superficial way, he's just said a single utterance. But strength has been created in the utterance because he's said something important, in a style as though it's a remark about the weather. The utterance is important not simply because in it he's construed those who have passed away as a continuum, but rather also because in it he's mapped out a way of passing one's life for the future.

But neither is this verse only simple. Mir's usual trickeries are present in it. It's necessary only to pay attention. I've already alluded to the way naqsho;N can be the [oblique] plural of either naqsh or naqshah . If it is taken to be from naqsh , then the meaning will be 'faces, images, impressions, plans', etc. If it's taken to be from naqshah , then the meaning will be 'schemes, situations, ways of living, ways of thinking', etc.

In either case, the verb mi;T ga))e is fine. It contains two suggestions: (1) the naqsh or naqshah spontaneously became erased-- that is, the duration of time and changes in circumstances erased them; (2) some person (for example, the beloved), or some power (for example, fate) erased them.

In the second line he's placed the word .suurate;N , which is suitable for both naqsh and naqshah . But .suurate;N biga;R jaanaa is in a class by itself. That is, in it is both an allusion to the deterioration of human faces (because of old age, because of sickness, because of sin) and to the destruction of a 'picture, plan, model'.

As I have said above, there are also two meanings for nah kar ;xayaal : (1) don't recall; and (2) don't make an account and study of the past into a guiding light for action in present life. In the second sense is also hidden the suggestion that passed-away things have no importance; it's better just to ignore them.

In this way, in the verse there's both acceptance of fate, and an encouragement for action. Sorrow is somewhere very far away, in the depths, but it's also present. Mir was not wrong when he said, in the fourth divan, the second line of {1316,7},

zulf-saa pech-daar hai har shi((r
hai su;xan miir kaa ((ajab ;Dhab kaa

[it's twisted like a curl, every verse
Mir's poetry is of an extraordinary style].



To establish 'understatement' in the first line, SRF could also point to the fact that it's not merely 'difficult', but basically impossible, to recover pictures or designs that have been 'erased'; the line thus understates the direness of our loss. But he's much more interested in the second line. With regard to it he observes that Mir has 'said something important, in a style as though it's a remark about the weather'. But he also attributes to the line 'a style of giving moral instruction' and notes that it has 'mapped out a way of passing one's life for the future'; thus it doesn't seem to be quite as bland in tone as a remark about the weather.

For what's really fascinating about the verse is indeed that second line. It's an injunction, exhorting the addressee to adopt what seems to be a 'worldly', deeply un-ghazal-like point of view. It sounds shallow and callow, naively self-centered and Ayn-Rand-ish. We immediately recognize that we ourselves don't, and don't want to, live that way; how much less could the lover in the ghazal world be imagined as doing so, or exhorting others to do so! After all, Mir has just recently given us the haunting


in which every corner of the garden resonates with the absence of the Nightingale (an absence that seems at least as potent as the presence of a whole gardenful of roses); thus the injunction to 'pay no attention' ('don't give them a thought'?) to the lost or gone or damaged, feels like an obvious straw man, destined only for rejection (since it hardly even requires any refutation).

SRF notes that naqsho;N in the first line can be the oblique plural form of either naqsh or naqshah . Both words can refer to a painting or drawing, but also prominently have the more impersonal sense of maps, plans, designs (see the definitions above). The verb 'to be erased' [mi;T jaanaa] further encourages us to think of pieces of paper once covered with lines but now blank. In the second line, .suurate;N has a similar range-- but it alone includes the sense of 'face, countenance' (see the definition above). And common usage gives us .suurat as a frequent quasi-synonym for chahrah , 'face'; beautiful people are ;xuub-.suurat , and so on. Thus after the highly abstract first line, the second line more directly evokes the human face and form-- which of course doubles the distastefulness of its injunction ('Forget about your lost or damaged loved ones').

So why does Mir give us a verse with such a strange, unpleasant, unsettling injunction? Perhaps we could make a case for considering the second line as a cri de coeur, full of bitterness and despair: 'You're really a fool if you think you'll ever reclaim any lost/gone/damaged plans or people-- you might as well give up on any hopes of restoring them, instead of filling your life with vain yearning! For all the good it will do you, you might as well just forget about them!' But of course, reading the line in that tone would undercut SRF's claim that the line is a radical understatement, one that is said 'as though it's a remark about the weather'.

My own pet idea is that the verse is the pseudo-rational babbling of the crazed lover, who's completely mad and has gotten it into his head that he's finally figured out the proper way to live in the world. This explains his weird tone and his weird content both. He's accosting his listener the way the Ancient Mariner accosts the reluctant Wedding Guest. But just as is the case with the Ancient Mariner, the lover's show of rationality only reinforces the listener's increasing concern about his sanity.

Ultimately, we can always give Mir credit for jerking our chain, in the playful way that Ghalib has made his own. A miniature poem less than twenty words long, radically context-free, can readily be used to drive its readers crazy. Perhaps he's given us not just a tough nut to crack, but a nut that would break our teeth before it would yield up any kind of kernel. Ghalib would certainly enjoy doing that to us. So why not Mir?