sunte the kih jaatii hai tire dekhne se jaa;N
ab jaan chalii jaatii hai ham dekhte hai;N haa))e

1) we used to hear that from seeing you, life goes
2) now life goes away-- we see!-- ah, alas!



dekhnaa : 'To see, look, look at, behold, view, observe, perceive, inspect, mark, note, consider, look to, weigh well, examine, prove, try; to search, scan; to watch (for); to feel (as the pulse, &c.); to experience, suffer, endure'. (Platts pp. 557-58)


haa))e : 'Ah! alas! oh! —s.f. A sigh'. (Platts p.1217)

S. R. Faruqi:

To maintain a refrain of haa))e in such a way that emotionality would not become undignified, and the idea would be expressed over which it was necessary to say the haa))e -- that was no easy thing. Ghalib too, in a Persian ghazal, well upheld, in the same meter, the refrain of haa))e :

'There is a fountain of blood, from the heart to the tongue, alas!
I have something to say to you, and no strength to speak, alas!'

(For discussion, see


It's possible that Ghalib might have adopted this refrain in imitation of Mir. In Mir's verse, as usual there are trickeries of word and meaning. First of all, the theme itself is novel-- that upon seeing the beloved, life departs. Before the glory/appearance of the beloved, for the vision to become dark; or again, for the lover to become unconscious, is commonplace. Here, the theme is that the moment the gaze falls on the beloved, life departs-- thus the speaker's emotion of passion is so intense that he is convinced that he hasn't seen the beloved, and his life has not departed. But Mir has widened this theme, and by using the abundantly meaningful dekhte hai;N has brought the idea to a whole new level.

(1) There was no sight of the beloved, and the speaker is seeing with his own eyes that his life is leaving him. (The way it is with some people, who feel that now the legs are dead, now the breast is dead, now the neck is dead, and so on.)

(2) Then, ham dekhte hai;N can mean 'now this is about to happen'; dekhnaa meaning 'to be situated in the future' is a special idiom in Urdu. For example, mai;N dekh rahaa huu;N kih ab yih diivaar girne hii vaalii hai . Thus now the interpretation becomes 'I didn't even have the chance to confide my life to the Life-creator after having seen you. Now in only a few moments, my life is about to depart; and I will die without seeing you.'

(3) It turned out to be true that from seeing you, life goes. Now we are seeing, and our life too is going. Then, this too has two meanings. One is that the life in fact has departed, because the beloved is before him. The other is that she has come before him during his last moments.



As SRF observes, a refrain of haa))e is hard to maintain with dignity. Ghalib tried (and, in my view, failed) in Urdu, doubling the exclamation for good measure:


What gives the present verse its chief charm is the excellent ambiguity of ham dekhte hai;N , since dekhnaa can mean anything from visual observation, through metaphorical understanding or insight, to physical experience (see the definition above). Since the ham dekhte hai;N is really just a vague and almost context-free exclamation, the field of these possibilities remains wide open. Even the haa))e may, like a sigh, express not (only) grief but wonder or resignation (see the definition above), so that it hardly narrows the possible range of what the speaker 'sees'.