vaa-bastagii mujh se shiishah-jaa;N kii
us sang se hai kih dil-shikan hai

1) the connection of a glass-lifed one like me
2) is with that stone which/who is a heart-breaker



vaa-bastagii : 'Connexion; dependence; adherence; obligation'. (Platts p.1171)

S. R. Faruqi:

Here too [as in {1039,1}] the abundance of meaning and the ardor for playing with words are so mutually interlocked that it's hard to understand what's come over those people who consider poetry to be 'brimful of emotion' and 'an album of genuine feelings' and so on.

[An extensive discussion and critique of some modern Western literary critics-- especially Julian Symons and Frank Kermode-- whose naturalistic views are unable to do justice to a verse like the present one.] In Eastern poetics, 'meaning' is not considered to be dependent on 'reality'. This is the reason that with us, terms like 'meaning-creation' were able to be created, through which the foundation of the verse became firm.

In Mir's present verse, the abundance of meaning is of the same kind that exists in 'meaning-creation'. That is, it is founded on metaphor, and every metaphor is treated on the level of reality. The beloved is called stone-hearted, but Mir himself, by calling her 'stone', has taken the meaning in a new direction. (See


In the second line, kih has two meanings. One is restrictive [kaaf-e bayaaniyah] ('that stone that is a heart-breaker'); and the other is nonrestrictive [kaaf-e taf.siilii] ('with that stone. This is a heart-breaker'). That is, in the light of the second meaning it is not the stone itself that is a heart-breaker, but rather what is a heart-breaker is the fact that my affair/relationship is with a stone-like beloved.

An additional pleasure is that the beloved is a heart-breaking stone, but the speaker himself is talking not of his heart, but rather of his life. His life is made of glass, and he has a connection with such a stone-like one, who is a heart-breaker. Two meanings are possible for this: (1) Compared to the life, the heart is tougher. Since stone is such that it breaks hearts, it will no doubt entirely smash up the life. (2) She will break my heart because she is a heart-breaker, but my life is a glass; perhaps it might escape.

In these meanings is an ironic tension, because it's entirely clear that at the hands of a heart-breaking stone the life will not be saved-- but there is something like a hope. On the other hand, there's also sarcasm because for a glass-lifed person like the speaker, what need was there for a heart-breaking stone? After all, glass breaks from a small blow. A third direction of the sarcasm is that she didn't arrange to smash to pieces the life of the glass-lifed speaker; she involved him with the heart-breaking stone-- this too is a strange procedure.

It's also possible that 'stone' might not refer to the beloved, but rather to any oppressor, any ruler, and the speaker is grieving over his own abasement in this person's hands, or is expressing his fear of such abasement. In the light of these meanings the word vaa-bastagii comes to bear a special importance, because we say, falaa;N sha;x.s falaa;N ke daaman / daulat / dar-o-daulat se vaa-bastah hai . That is, in vaa-bastagii there are elements of restrictedness and conjoinedness.

Then, shiishah-jaa;N is an interesting construction. And with it, us kii vaa-bastagii is a good example of a zila and an affinity both. [Various Urdu and Persian dictionaries do not include shiishah-jaa;N .] Sa'ib [in Persian]:

'Not every glass-lifed person is a treasure of the mysteries of passion.
Honor belongs to that wineglass that does not pass through the gathering of passion.'

The enjoyable thing about Sa'ib's verse is that he gives for honor the simile of a wineglass. But Sa'ib's theme remains on the earthly level, while Mir has used the power of 'meaning-creation' and lifted a commonplace theme to a very high level.

Abd ul-Rashid has informed me that according to the [dictionaries] aanaand raaj and the chiraa;G-e hidaayat the phrase shiishah-jaa;N has the meaning of 'delicate heart, delicate temperament', and its opposites are sa;xt-jaa;N and sang-jaa;N .



To me the most potent thing about the verse is 'that stone', which after all is not usually a way to refer to the beloved (although of course she probably has a heart of stone), or to an oppressor, etc. So what exactly is 'that stone'? We can't know what it was to the speaker of the verse, but we all know in our own hearts what it is for us. Our little human lives are so fragile, and yet we're all chained to one or another kind of 'stone' that is destined, one way or another, to break us.

Yet the tone of the verse doesn't feel like one of lament. It might be simply reporting or recording a fact. Perhaps having such a 'connection' with a particular heart-breaker stone is a perfectly acceptable, or even indispensable, aspect of everyone's 'glass' life. Perhaps the relationship of glass with stone has been predestined from the beginning of the universe.

SRF's second reading, in which 'It's a heart-breaker!' is taken as an independent exclamatory clause, doesn't much appeal to me, because it adds exactly that tone of sentimentality and self-pity that is otherwise conspicuous by its absence.

For an even more masterful 'fill-in' verse by Ghalib, one that invites us to reflect on whatever is our own special nemesis, see


Note for grammar fans: In the second line mujh se is a shortened form of mujh jaise .