nezah-baazaan-e mizhah me;N dil kii ;haalat kyaa kahuu;N
ek naakasbii sipaahii dakhniyo;N me;N ghir gayaa

1) amidst the spear-wielders of the eyelashes, the condition of the heart-- what can I say?!
2) a single unskilled/inexperienced soldier, amidst Dakhnis, became surrounded



S. R. Faruqi:

naakasbii = unskilled, inexperienced
dakhnii = Marathas, Telingas

The simile is such that even if many fine poets would keep searching for years, then it wouldn't be vouchsafed to them. Since the Marathas are [habitually] very skilled in the art of fighting and very oppressive to their enemies, if many Marathas would surround one unskilled soldier, then the Doomsday-quality of this is obvious. Since Maharashtra and Telingana are south of Delhi, soldiers from there used to be called 'Dakhnis' in Delhi. Later on 'Telingas' [tilange] became more customary.

This simile reveals Mir's special style of imagination, which I have called 'earth-bound and unbridled' [zamiinii aur be-lagaam]. 'Unbridled' because Mir arrives at things that are utterly unexpected. His mind grasps those experiences and ideas that don't come within the reach of controlled thought. And 'earth-bound' because he brings into use only solid and everyday things; he's not a believer in stripping things down [tajriid] the way Ghalib is.

In the present verse, Mir has given as a simile for a psychological mood, another psychological mood. But the second mood (the helplessness of an unskilled soldier amidst Marathas) is based on psychologically natural and realistic action. Then in the first line there's insha'iyah expression, and in the second line, informative. But there's no indicator of similitude; this is the extremity of eloquence [balaa;Gat].

First he said one thing in an insha'iyah mode, then in order to explicate it he wrote an 'informative' sentence in which is an illustration [mi;saal] of the first thing. But he hasn't written a word (like 'so to speak', 'consider it to be', etc.) that would signal the coming of a simile. That is, he has directly connected one psychological experience with one [other] psychological experience; each one is holding up a mirror to the other. He's composed a verse that's out of the ordinary.

Ghalib has used [in an unpublished verse] a similar theme with this same technique, but in his verse 'stripping down' is dominant [;Gaalib]. If you put Ghalib's and Mir's verses before you, then both poets' styles of imagination will at once become clear:


To assume a ford to exist in the mirror, and to show the army of the eyelashes crossing through it, is uncommon and mysterious-- while Mir's image too is uncommon, but its effect is immediate and direct, because its connection is with solid and everyday things.

This theme Anand Ram Mukhlis too has composed [in Persian]:

'To us unfortunate ones, at the hands of the ranks of eyelashes, the very same thing happens
That happened to the land of Hindustan at the hands of the army of the Dakan.'

The honor of primacy goes to Mukhlis, but the 'drama', and the image, of the 'unskilled soldier' and the 'Dakhnis' surrounding him' makes Mir's verse of a higher rank than Mukhlis's. See




This is what I call an 'A,B' verse, since each line is semantically independent. SRF praises the verse for this disconnection, since it causes the reader to experience the two lines as directly linked by a strong juxtaposition. And he speaks of the powerful dramatic immediacy of the second line.

It's an unusual 'A,B' verse, however, in that we aren't really in any doubt about how to connect the two lines. Most such verses get their effects by allowing (and in fact requiring) the reader to choose, without guidance from the verse, how to connect the two lines. Such built-in multivalence is part of Ghalib's basic tool-kit; it's something Mir uses too, though not as often. The fact that here the same formal technique is used to such different effect shows the flexibility of the tiny, pithy ghazal verse.

SRF's comparison of this verse with Ghalib's G{93,2x} is excellent. Especially the second lines of each verse-- Mir's so vivid and immediate, Ghalib's so mysterious and ominous. For other such evocative comparisons see