hastii apnii ;habaab kii sii hai
yih numaa))ish saraab kii sii hai

1) our existence is like that of a bubble
2) this show is like that of a mirage



numaa))ish : 'Appearance; face, form, figure; —vision, sight; —a semblance; a show (of), display; —affectation; show, spectacle; —pomp'. (Platts p.1153).


saraab : 'The mirage, a vapour resembling the sea at a distance (formed by the rays of the sun or moonlight on a sandy plain); glare'. (Platts p.650)

S. R. Faruqi:

In the opening-verse there's nothing special, this is a verse of Mir's ordinary style-- that is, with regard to most poets, it's a verse of a high standard. In comparison to 'bubble' (which is made from water, and made on water) in the first line, 'mirage' (which is made from dryness, but assumes the guise of water) in the second line is very fine. The word numaa))ish too is superb, because a mirage is only an appearance/semblance, and a bubble is full of air that cannot be seen.

In kii sii hai the pleasure is that he's also set up the possibility that nevertheless it might not be so. That is, it's possible that our existence might seem to be like that of a bubble and a mirage, but in reality might be something else. In hastii apnii the suggestion goes two ways-- that is, my own existence alone, or our existence-- that is, the existence of the whole human species.



I enjoy this very famous little ghazal so much that I've presented the whole of it, including the many verses that SRF omitted. It's also an excellent one for beginners to look at, and beginners should be able to see the shape of a whole ghazal. Also for the sake of beginners, I've made my own commentary especially comprehensive. And just this once I've put my own, more basic commentary first; in the case of this ghazal alone, SRF's commentary appears after mine. For this ghazal, SRF comments only on the present verse, {485,3}, and {485,9}.

This ghazal has an unusually long but 'flowing' refrain, in an unusually short meter. In fact fully half the line-- five out of ten syllables-- is taken up by the rhyming elements. The effect is wonderfully swingy.

And since this is an opening-verse, both lines have to work within such constraints. Yet they don't feel constrained at all, they feel obvious and inevitable. For economy of means and potency of effects, this verse is in a class by itself.

To add one more layer to the complexity created in such a tiny space, it's also not clear what yih numaa))ish is. It might be 'our existence', but it might equally well be something else. The visible world? The world of (unreliable?) sense-impressions in general? Our mental world? Our follies and delusions? There's no lack of candidates. As usual, we're invited (and compelled) to decide the question for ourselves-- and perhaps to decide it afresh, every time we read the verse.

Compare Ghalib's use of mirages: G{16,4}.

Note for grammar fans: The apnii applies to the subject of the sentence-- which is never specified anywhere in the verse. The obvious guess is 'our' or 'my', because we know that the speaker of the verse must exist, whereas the verse gives no hint about the existence of any other party. Of the two choices 'our' is a better guess because it opens out more possibilities: it could apply either to the speaker himself (colloquially using the plural pronoun), or to some larger group (all humans).