dillii ke nah the kuuche auraaq-e mu.savvir the
jo shakl na:zar aa))ii ta.sviir na:zar aa))ii

1) they were not lanes of Delhi, they were pages of/by a painter
2) whatever form/shape came into view, a picture came into view



shakl : 'Likeness, resemblance, semblance, appearance, image ... ; shape, form, figure'. (Platts p.730)


ta.sviir : 'Picture; drawing; sketch; painting; portrait; an image'. (Platts p.326)

S. R. Faruqi:

Among the earlier poets Mir, and among the later poets Dagh, have entered among their ghazals a number of verses of mourning for Delhi. Mir's verses are rightly famous. Although Dagh's verses are greatly inferior to Mir's, in them too the grief and sorrow clearly shines through. For example, consider the following verses. From gulzaar-e daa;G :

bahaar-e ;xuld se aabaad thaa jahaanaabaad
har ek kuuche me;N the gulshan-e iram sau sau

[populated like the springtime of paradise, was Jahanabad
in every single lane were hundreds of Gardens of Iram]

From aaftaab-e daa;G :

daa;G dillii thii kisii vaqt me;N yaa jannat thii
sai;Nka;Ro;N ghar the vahaa;N rashk-e iram ek nah do

[Dagh, was it Delhi at one time, or was it Paradise?
hundreds of houses were there, of which not one or two [but many] were the envy of Iram]

rashk-e shamshaad thaa har ;xvush-qad-o-har ;xvush-raftaar
sarv-e aazaad tha har ek javaan-e dihlii

[the envy of a tall tree, was every good-walker and good-pacer
a 'free cypress', was every single young man of Delhi]

In the present verse by Mir, the most attention-compelling thing is that Delhi's lanes have been given the metaphor of pages of a painter. The second line seems apparently to be a repetition of what the first line has said. But in reality this is not repetition; rather, it's the proof of the claim in the first line.

Whichever one among these streets and lanes one looked at, it came into view as beautiful as a picture-- or, as silent and astonished as a picture. In the light of the second meaning, those who lived in the streets and lanes of Delhi were so enraptured by the beauty of Delhi that they were amazed like a picture.

The meaning of ta.sviir is not portrait-painting; rather, it is also used in the sense of 'statue'. In this sense to call the forms of the lanes of Delhi 'pictures/images' is even more appropriate. The achievement of the poet is that he has used a word that refers to both two-dimensional pages of a book, and three-dimensional shapes of stone, wood, etc.

For example, this quatrain of Mir's own was not able, because it is devoid of the metaphor of 'picture', to present the theme of the beauty of Delhi and the people of Delhi as successfully as did the present verse:

har roz nayaa ek tamaashaa dekhaa
har kuuche me;N sau javaan-e ra((naa dekhaa
dillii thii :tilismaat kih har jaagah miir
in aa;Nkho;N se ham ne aah kyaa kyaa dekhaa

[every day we saw a singular new spectacle
in every lane we saw a hundred attractive young men
Delhi was an enchanted world-- for in every place, Mir,
with these eyes, ah! --what things have we seen!]

Mir has used the theme of a 'picture' in one other verse, in an extraordinarily mysterious style. From the first divan [{549,11}]:

aage bhii tujh se thaa yaa;N ta.sviir kaa saa ((aalam
be-dardii-e falak ne ve naqsh sab mi;Taa))e

[even before you, here there was a state like that of a picture
the pitilessness of the sky erased all those forms]

In this verse too, ta.sviir kaa saa ((aalam is for the speaker-- that he was amazed like a picture-- and also for that place and atmosphere where the speaker was then present. But to establish the idea of amazement, it's sufficient for a picture-like beauty to be created. He's composed in {549,11} an uncommon verse, but the explicitness of 'the pitilessness of the sky' has also wounded its beauty to some extent.

By contrast, in the present verse there's only the simple past: the , na:zar aa))ii . Thus there's the suggestion that Delhi is now not the way it was, but it's not explained when its situation began to change and deteriorate, or why. This ambiguity has created a tension in the verse. Since no one has been declared to be at fault and no blame has been fixed, the possibilities have become broad-- this change and deterioration can be because of changing times, or some unexpected disaster, or the enmity of the heavens, etc. But a more important point is that Delhi's change in condition seems to be an inescapable historical event. In Dagh's verses cited above, there's no feeling of the power of history; there's only the feeling of a local accident/disaster. I

n Mir's verse, 'Delhi' is the first word; from this the impression arises that some people are discussing various cities-- someone says that Lahore was like this, someone else says that Budaun was like that. The speaker, who is some Delhi-ite or has at some time seen Delhi, says 'They were not lanes of Delhi...'. In this way the individuality of Delhi begins to be mounted in some wordless frame. Mus'hafi too has adopted this kind of style:

;xaak dihlii kii ;zaraa sair to kar
yih ((ajab aab-o-havaa rakhtii hai

[just take a stroll around the dust of Delhi
it has an extraordinary atmosphere]

Here there's also the pleasure that in the second line he has deliberately said something ordinary, as though for the glory of Delhi he's not finding the words. In 'the dust of Delhi' there's also the implication that Delhi has now been erased and has already turned to dust, and in its atmosphere is an extraordinary longing and hopelessness. In Mir's verse there's melancholy and 'tumult-arousingness'; in Mus'hafi's verse the lightness of expression is fine.

Mir Soz has adopted Mir's image, or possibly Mir might have taken it from Mir Soz. But in Soz's verse the structure is loose and there's no intensity in the image:

;ha.zrat-e dihlii kii kis mu;Nh se karuu;N ta((riif mai;N
ek ek us uj;Re ghar me;N ((aalam-e ta.sviir hai

[how would I be able/worthy to praise the noble Delhi?
in that ruined house, there's one after another state of a picture]



The idea behind being 'amazed like a picture' is that the effect of ;hairat leaves one almost petrified with astonishment, and thus temporarily unable to move. Since a picture is permanently motionless, it can be imagined as the paradigmatic case of amazement.

The second line could also be read as 'Whatever form/shape came into view, it came into view as a picture' [jo shakl na:zar aa))ii , vuh shakl ta.sviir ke ruup me;N na:zar aa))ii]. In principle, this alternative possibility would make a small amount of interpretive difference, but surely not that much. And since the first line makes such a starkly radical assertion (no streets, just pages), the minimalist translation I've given (no forms, just pictures) seems more in accord with it.