raat majlis me;N tirii ham bhii kha;Re the chupke
jaise ta.sviir lagaa de ko))ii diivaar ke saath

1) last night, in your gathering, even/also we stood silently
2) the way someone would attach a picture to the wall



S. R. Faruqi:

The theme of the silence of a picture is very old; thus Abu'l Hasan Tana Shah has a verse:

kab lag rahegaa yuu;N lab-e ta.sviir be-su;xan
ay sho;x-e ;xvud-pasand ;Tuk bhii su;xan me;N aa

[when will the lip of the picture remain speechless like this?!
oh self-willed mischievous one, just enter even a bit into speech]

Mir himself has used this image in various places; in the first divan [{55,5}]:

ta.sviir ke maanind lage dar hii se gu;zrii
majlis me;N tirii ham ne kabhuu baar nah paayaa

[like a picture, our time passed attached to the doorway itself
in your gathering we never found admittance]

In the third divan [{1293,8}]:

ta.sviir se darvaaze pah ham us ke kha;Re hai;N
insaan ko ;hairaanii bhii diivaar kare hai

[like a picture, we stand at her door
even/also stupefaction makes a man into a wall]

In the third divan [{1308,4}]:

darvaaze se lage ham ta.sviir se kha;Re hai;N
vaa-raftagaa;N ko us kii majlis me;N kab jagah hai

[attached to the door, we stand like a picture
when is there a place in the gathering for her wanderers?]

In the first divan, in one place Mir has used for the lover in the gathering the unique image of be-;xvudaan-e ma;hfil-e ta.sviir ; see:


Mir has made almost a translation of the present verse into Persian:

'In her gathering of pleasure, my standing silent in stupefaction
Is like that of a picture hung on the wall.'

The Persian verse shows 'Indianness' and verbosity in style. By contrast, the three verses cited before it are fine in their various ways, and in any case better than the Persian verse. But the excellences of the present verse are of an entirely different order.

The first point is that the tone of the verse is somewhat as though the speaker would have written a letter to the beloved. Last night he went to that gathering, but there no capability/opportunity was vouchsafed to him, and he remained standing silently, then fruitlessly came back. Now he writes a letter to the beloved and begins it by saying, 'Last night we too were in your gathering', and so on. Or again, the next morning he somehow meets the beloved, and she asks (using a faux-naif style, or sincerely) who he is. In reply, the lover says, 'Last night we too were in attendance at your gathering', and so on.

The second point is that for majlis me;N chupke kha;Re honaa there are two meanings: (1) in silence; and (2) stealthily.

The third point is that in standing silently, besides amazement there's also the implication that no one inquired about the speaker, or the speaker lacked the courage to converse, or the speaker was merely a spectator and not a member of the gathering.

The fourth point is that in ham bhii is the implication that many people there were like the speaker-- that is, (1) many people were in attendance, or (2) many people stood silently.

The fifth point is that the mention of 'last night' brings the verse very close to daily life, and endows it with its own kind of realism.

The sixth point is that a picture's being hung on the wall is more appropriate compared to its being hung on the door, as it is in Mir's three verses quoted above.

The seventh point is that in jaise ta.sviir lagaa de ko))ii the speaker's oppression, and his remaining entirely hopeless and helpless in the gathering, are fully present. In the three verses quoted above, it seems that in becoming a picture hung on the door the speaker's intention is more or less involved. But a picture that 'someone would hang' is in control of its own intention. In the present verse it's as if the speaker is a picture that someone has hung on the wall; the speaker's own intention or desire is not involved. This implication of oppression, and of not being in control of his own intention, is very powerful.

The final point is that a picture hung on the wall can also fall down, from a slight gust of wind or if someone touches it. Thus there's also the implication of the speaker's weakness. He's composed a peerless verse.



As SRF notes in his fourth point, the use of bhii is especially effective here. 'We too' were present (like many others); or 'we too' were standing silently (like many others)-- or 'even we' were present or standing silently (unlike others, in a special humble or undesirable class of our own).