kyaa tuu namuud kis kii kaisaa kamaal teraa
ay naqsh-e vahm aayaa kiidhar ;xayaal teraa

1) what are you? a manifestation/appearance/show, of whom/whose? what kind of excellence is yours?
2) oh shape of/in an illusion, indeed/perhaps/whether-- in what direction is {your thought/idea / the thought/idea of you}?



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


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


vahm : 'Thinking, imagining, conceiving (esp. a false idea); —opinion, conjecture; imagination, idea, fancy ;—suspicion, doubt; scruple, caution; distrust, anxiety, apprehension, fear'. (Platts p.1205)


aayaa : 'interrog. particle, Whether or not, whether; —intj. Ha! O! ho! I say! hark you!'. (Platts p.111)

S. R. Faruqi:

In the verse is a subtle iham: apparently both lines seem to be separate, because he has not made clear the turn of events or experience upon which the verse is based. The identity of naqsh-e vahm can be the speaker himself, or all mankind, or the lover's heart (or the tides of love in that heart). Perhaps the naqsh-e vahm has fallen into error about its own existence, or the heart has formed the opinion that the love manifested inside it is divine [;haqiiqii] and is, to the limit of its being, absolute and self-determining.

The speaker says, 'What opinion is this that's come to you? You're only a naqsh-e vahm , your existence is dependent on the existence of some other. You yourself are nothing-- have you forgotten that you're the manifestation of some other?' (That is, if some other makes you manifest, then you are manifest. Or, do you even know of what thing you're a manifestation? In reality, you're the manifestation of a deceit/trick. Or, do you even know that in reality you are a manifestation of some other-- that this is not you yourself but rather Absolute Reality, through the custody of which you are recognized?) You're proud of your excellence-- what are you, and what's this excellence?! Excellence is a secondary thing-- your very existence is in doubt, you are only a naqsh-e vahm .

In the first line he has included three utterances, and all three are interrogative. All three also have a multiplicity of meaning.

1) What are you? That is, what existence do you even have? Or, what thing are you? Or, which thing are you? (That is, are you even an existing thing, or not?)

2) A manifestation of whom/whose? That is, of whom is this a manifestation? Or, of whom are you a manifestation? Or, what thing is it, of whom the manifestation is possible?

3) What sort of excellence is yours? That is, what excellence do you have? Or, this excellence of yours is of what kind? Or, in a sarcastic tone, bravo-- what excellence you have!

The second line too is interrogative. The aayaa we can assume to be interrogative: aayaa kidhar teraa ;xayaal hai ? In this case, in both lines the verb [hai] is to be read as [colloquially] omitted, and the whole verse becomes an excellent example of insha'iyah style. From taking the aayaa as interrogative, the meaning too changes, and the possibility is created that instead of instruction there's reproach in the verse: 'Oh naqsh-e vahm , what are you thinking?! Do you even know at all what you are, and whose manifestation you are?! And what kind of excellence is yours?! Don't waste yourself like this (that is, don't consider yourself useless)-- in truth you are the manifestation of some other existence.'

All the meanings of naqsh-e vahm have an affinity with this verse.

1) vahm kaa naqsh (a picture/image of illusion)

2) vuh naqsh jo vahm ho [that form/shape that would be an illusion]

3) vuh naqsh jo vahm ne banaayaa ho [that form that illusion would have made]

The wordplay of namuud and naqsh ; of naqsh and vahm ; of vahm and ;xayaal ; of kamaal and naqsh , is also very fine.

[See also {423,11}.]



This verse is so elaborately convoluted and 'generative' that it deserves to have every single wrinkle in its grey matter charted.

The first line can be:

1) a series of genuine questions: 'What are you? Of whom are you a manifestation? What kind of excellence is yours?'
2) a series of rhetorical questions expressing disdain or contempt: 'What are you?! Of whom are you a manifestation? What kind of excellence is yours?'
3) a series of exclamations of amazement or admiration: 'What you are! Of whom you are a manifestation! What kind of excellence is yours!'

And of course, 'manifestation' is only a place-holder: just look at the definition of namuud given above, and choose your favorite set of possibilities; you can have anything from 'visibleness' through 'honour' to 'guide'.

By no coincidence, the second line is well able to accommodate any of those readings. Thanks to its beautifully versatile i.zaafat , the naqsh-e vahm can be:

a shape that is an illusion, or illusory (that is, a shape that doesn't really exist)
a shape that is that of an illusion (that is, an image or depiction of an illusion)
a shape that has been created by an illusion
a shape that belongs or pertains to an illusion in some other way

And just to multiply the ambiguities even further, look at the definitions of naqsh and vahm given above. You can substitute your favorite meanings in both cases, and get anything from 'a painting of a fancy' to 'an impression of anxiety'.

The vocative means that the addressee could also be the beloved, who's being addressed as naqsh-e vahm because of her fatal, treacherous, almost impossible beauty. There's also a nice smooth echo between the vocative ay , and aayaa ; phonetically, the latter seems to grow naturally out of the former. The colloquialness-- and untranslatability (see Platts's attempt at a definition above)-- of aayaa is a vigorous idiomatic touch. (It's also tempting to read aayaa as 'came', but then we'd need kidhar se , so it really doesn't work.)

Note for fans of grammar and translation, on the POSSESSIVE: This verse is a textbook case of a particular sort of ambiguity that cannot be resolved in Urdu the way it can in English: the distinction between 'your thought', 'your idea', 'your picture' (which is in your possession) on the one hand, and 'the thought of you, the idea of you, the picture of you' (which is in someone else's possession) on the other. For more on this ambiguity, with an array of examples from Ghalib, see G{41,6}.

Thus In the present verse, ;xayaal teraa can be either 'the thought of you' (located in my head, and concerned with you) or 'your thought' (located in your head, with contents unspecified). In verses as abstract and undecidable as this one, it's really impossible to rule out either reading.

Similarly, kis kii namuud presents the same kinds of problems and poetic opportunities. It's impossible to say whether it means 'the manifestation of whom?' (that is, of someone directly showing or revealing himself or herself); or 'whose manifestation?' (that is, the manifestation made by, or belonging to, or otherwise pertaining to its owner). The former sounds like an avataar in the Hindu sense; the latter could describe the work of an animation studio. The 'of whom'/of whose' distinction can be made in English, but in Urdu it would require an additional explanatory phrase. This flexibility is a function of the general fact that kaa/ke/kii is usually as versatile as an izafat, so that the speaker could be referring to a manifestation that is 'of' someone, or was made by someone, or belongs to someone, etc.