bii;Re khaataa hai to aataa hai na:zar paan kaa rang
kis qadar haa))e re vuh jild-e guluu naazuk hai

1) when she eats a pan, then the color of the paan comes into view
2) oh my, to what an extent that skin of her throat is delicate!



S. R. Faruqi:

With us, one standard for beauty and delicacy is that the skin should be extremely clear and there should be very little fat on the body. (By contrast, in western countries for a long time a plump bosom and a heavy body were considered beautiful. Up to the seventeenth century, in western painting beautiful women were generally more or less heavy-bodied, and sometimes they actually looked pregnant.) Among the Iranians too, slenderness has been considered an important part of beauty. But with us, heavy breasts and bosom, but a slender body and delicate skin, were given more importance.

One aspect of this vision is that about beautiful people it's famously said that if they eat paan, then the redness of it glimmers in their throat. Among historical persons, about Ali Quli Khan's daughter, and Ghazi ul-Din Imad ul-Mulk's wife, Gunna Begam Muntazir (d.1775), it was very famous that when she ate paan, then its redness could clearly be seen in her throat.

In Shaikh Tasadduq Husain's dastan aaftaab-e shujaa((at (vol. 1, p. 317), a beautiful person is described like this:

galaa vuh naazuk aur .saraa;hii-daar hai aur aisii .saaf jild hai kih us me;N se sur;xii paan kii ba-vaqt khaane paan ke gale kii rago;N aur gosht me;N :zaahir hotii hai _

[The throat is so delicate and crystalline, and the skin so clear, that at the time of eating the paan, the redness of the paan is apparent in the veins and flesh of the throat.]

Nineteenth-century poets have composed this theme very well. Consider these verses. By Nasikh:

rang paa;N se sabz sonaa ban ga))e kundan se gaal
mubtazal tashbiih'h hai sone pah miinaa ho gayaa

[from paan, the color of her cheeks became verdantly golden, like fine gold
it's a commonplace simile-- it became enamel-work on gold]

By Atish:

mai-e gul-rang sii jhalkii jo sur;xii paan kii us me;N
galuu-e yaar par ((aalam hu))aa shiishe kii gardan kaa

[it glimmers like rose-colored wine, the redness of paan, in it
upon the throat of the beloved has come the condition of a neck of glass]

By Jalal:

gale se phuu;T ke niklaa hai teraa paan kaa rang
sharaab-e sur;x kii hai saaqiyaa qalam gardan

[it has burst out from the throat and emerged, your paan-color
of red wine, oh Saqi, is the 'pen' of the neck]

Nasikh's verse is the best of the three, but none of them has the effect of the physical pleasure of the body that is in Mir's verse. One reason for this effect is the insha'iyah style of the second line, and in it the extremely suitable use of haa))e re -- see


Among western poets, in Shakespeare and Garcia Lorca alone can be seen this use of very small words to create an immediate sense of the pleasure of the body. In our poetry, only to Mir has this kind of mastery been vouchsafed. Nazir and Mus'hafi too very frequently speak of the body, but Nazir's poetry has a kind of immature, ebullient enthusiasm; it has no delicacy. Indeed, Mus'hafi retains his power over mind and senses, but in his erotic poetry there's sometimes also vulgarity. If Mir speaks of a short/tight robe, then Mus'hafi also mentions a flimsy lungi.

And indeed, Bahadur Shah Zafar has, in a famous 'head-to-foot' [saraapaa))ii] ghazal, maintained Mir's theme in a very sensuous way:

aa;Nkhe;N hai;N ka;Toraa sii vuh sitam gardan hai .suraa;hii-daar ;Ga.zab
aur us me;N sharaab-e sur;xii-e paa;N rakhtii hai jhalak phir vaisii hii

[the eyes are like cups-- such cruelty! the neck is like a flagon-- a disaster!
and in it the wine of the redness of paan then maintains a glimmer, somehow]

This whole ghazal is drowned in a feeling of physical and erotic delicacy. Such a style is found neither in Mus'hafi, nor in Mir. On the theme of color, listen to one more verse from that ghazal:

gar rang-e bhabhuukaa aatish hai aur biinii shu((lah-e sarkash hai
to bijlii sii ko;Nde hii pa;Rii ((aari.z kii chamak phir vaisii hii

[if the flaming color is fire, and the nose is a proud/'high-headed' flame
then like lightning there suddenly flashed the glitter of the cheek, somehow]

In English it's been said that an 'upturned nose' is a sign of beauty, but to call the nose a 'high-headed flame' is also peerless.

On the beloved's delicacy, Musavi Khan Fitrat has created a good theme [in Persian]:

'Her delicacy is such that when she walks on a carpet,
Then on the soles of her feet the pattern of the carpet can be seen.'

Mus'hafi has virtually translated Musavi Khan Fitrat, but verbosity has made the theme pallid. From his fourth divan:

lipa:t kar uus me;N phuulo;N ke jab vuh saath sotaa hai
badan par naqsh ho jaataa hai gul bo;Taa nihaalii kaa

[when she sleeps with me, wrapped in a flowered quilt
on her body the flower-and-sprig pattern is mapped]

[See also {1024,1}.]



I do like the Atish verse cited by SRF, because the first line tells us that the redness of paan glimmers 'in it' like rose-colored wine, so when the second line tells us that the beloved's neck has attained the condition of a shiishe kii gardan , then this is true in two separate ways: it has become a 'neck of glass' because it's so transparent, and also the 'neck of a flagon' because it seems to contain wine.