be-i;xtiyaar shaayad aah us se khi;Nch ga))ii ho
jab .suurat aisii terii naqqaash ne nikaalii

1) uncontrollably, perhaps, a sigh might/would have been pulled/drawn out from him/it
2) when a face such as yours, the painter/artist pulled/drew out



khichnaa (of which khi;Nchnaa is a variant): 'To be drawn, dragged, or pulled, &c.; to be attracted; to be absorbed, be sucked in; to be drawn out, be extended, be stretched; to stretch; to be extracted'. (Platts p.872)


naqqaash : 'A painter; drawer; limner; draughtsman; designer; embroiderer; gilder (of books); carver; engraver; sculptor'. (Platts p.1145)


nikaalnaa : 'To pull or draw out; to take out... ; to extract; ... --to bring out or forth, to produce'. (Platts

S. R. Faruqi:

A theme similar to this one, he has composed like this in the first divan [{570,8}]:

rahaa nah hogaa bah ;xvud .saan((a-e azal bhii tab
banaayaa hogaa jab us mu;Nh ko dast-e qudrat ne

[he will not have remained within himself, even/also the Eternal Creator, then--
when the hand of destiny will have made that face]

The construction of this verse is a bit limp. More than the theme of not remaining within oneself, of becoming departed from oneself, its theme is the uncontrollable heaving of a sigh from an immediate effect. as has been expressed in the present verse. The uncontrollable heaving of a sigh can be because on the painter's heart the beauty of the likeness had such an effect that he fell in love with it, and can also be because the likeness will be sent off to its patron, so that there's also the grief of this separation.

Or again, it can be because of grief that he had no access to the original of the likeness. Or again, it's also possible that having fallen in love with the likeness, he might have grieved because it was lifeless-- if only it had had life, then he would have conversed with it, he would have told it of his desire! Perhaps on its side too there would have been some suggestion of attraction, so that his heart's longing would have come true.

In this connection the experience of the royal sculptor from Greek mythology, Pygmalion, comes to mind. He fell in love with a statue that he himself had sculpted, and finally through the attraction and magnetism of passion the statue came to life. It's clear that Mir would not have known about him, but imagination is not bound by time and place. In Mir's verse there's a clear suggestion that the painter has fallen in love with his own painting.

Another meaning of naqqaash is 'sculptor' (Platts). If this meaning is kept in mind, then the similitude with Pygmalion becomes even stronger (the idiom .suurat nikaalnaa also has an affinity with sculpture and stone-carving-- that is, having cut and shaped the stone, he 'brought out' the face. By way of a commentary I would also add that .suurat nikaalnaa meaning to make an image, with effort and intention to make a picture, is not found in the dictionaries.)

The theme of the painter or sculptor who falls in love with his own painting/sculpture has not been found in Urdu and Persian; it might perhaps exist in Braj Bhasha etc. For us, this theme is entirely novel/rare. In an old film called naurang , the Hindi poet Bharat Vyas sings the line,

tujhe rach ke chitraa bhii chakraa gayaa

[having created you, even/also the artist became giddy]

Ghalib, treating the sculpture as alive, has created a good theme:


In Ghalib's verse, the iham of khe;Nchnaa and khi;Nchnaa is superb. In Mir's verse, there's the connection of a zila among naqqaash , khi;Nch ga))ii ho , .suurat .

In Mir's verse an entirely unexpected meaning is created when in the first line the us is taken to apply not to the painter, but to the 'face'. That is, it was not the painter, but rather the picture, that heaved a sigh. Here the word aisii takes on additional importance: that when 'such a' face was created-- that is, a face that was similar to the beloved's but in any case could not equal the beloved's face. The beloved's beauty and delicacy were loftier than the beauty and delicacy of the likeness. Thus the likeness heaved a sigh of regret: 'I might be beautiful a thousand times over, but I cannot become like the original of the painting'. This theme too is absolutely fresh; in fact, it might not be found even in Braj etc.

For more on the theme of the artist and the likeness, see






SRF gives full credit to Ghalib for his brilliant use of khe;Nchnaa and khi;Nchnaa , and rightfully so. But surely some of that credit should go to Mir's present verse as well. For after all, the first line explicitly contains khi;Nchnaa , thus priming us to think of the possibility of khe;Nchnaa as well. Then the second line gives us not khe;Nchnaa , with a range of meanings that include 'to draw out' and 'to extract', but nikalnaa , which means 'To pull or draw out, to take out, to extract'. It's hard to imagine that Mir didn't mean for us to feel khe;Nchnaa hovering over the verse, doing the same work that nikaalnaa is doing.

In any case, the parallelism is strong and clearly defined: the line tells us emphatically that the artist didn't just sigh, but sighed 'uncontrollably, involuntarily'. The sigh was 'pulled out' of him. And the sigh was occasioned by the sight of the image that he had 'pulled out' by capturing it effectively on paper or hewing it from a block of stone. When he pulls something out, at the same moment something is pulled out of him. It's a piquant view of creativity.

Note for translation fans: 'To draw out' is so enjoyably apropos! It does tend to confuse the issue, especially in a verse about an artist who might well be a painter. For 'to draw' as 'to attract, to pull' is less common than 'to draw (a picture)', and the latter is not the idea the verse wants us to have. But if you want to make a literary translation and try to replicate some of the wordplay, you could always use it.