Ghazal 208, Verse 6

{208,6}

sach kahte ho ;xvud-biin-o-;xvud-aaraa huu;N nah kyuu;N huu;N
bai;Thaa hai but-e aa))inah-siimaa mire aage

1) you say truly-- I am self-regarding and self-adorning-- why wouldn't I be?
2) an idol with a mirror-{face/forehead/aspect} is seated before me

Notes:

siimaa : 'Face; forehead; countenance, aspect; resemblance, similitude'. (Platts p.712)

 

aa))iinah-siimaa : 'With a face smooth as a mirror; with a bright face'. (Steingass p.717)

Nazm:

That is, if a mirror-faced one like you would be before me, then why wouldn't I be self-regarding, and then why wouldn't I practice self-adornment? (235)

== Nazm page 235

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, you say truly that I am self-regarding and self-adorning. But when a mirror-faced one like you would be seated before me, then why wouldn't I practice self-regard and self-adornment? (293)

Bekhud Mohani:

The second line tells us that as long as he was in separation from the beloved, the lover had no awareness about arranging his tangled and scattered hair, and casting an eye on the state of his dress. Now he is setting himself to rights. With fingers or a comb, he is arranging his tangled hair. (417-18)

FWP:

SETS
IDOL: {8,1}
MIRROR: {8,3}

On the whole, the commentators simply paraphrase the verse as Nazm and, following him, Bekhud Dihlavi do; or attempt to 'normalize' it as Bekhud Mohani does with his vision of the lover using his fingers to try to arrange his hair in a more socially acceptable style.

But it's really a much stranger verse than they acknowledge. Somebody has told the lover, perhaps reproachfully, that he is 'self-regarding'-- and here we're lucky that the English term can capture both the literal ('looking at oneself') and the metaphorical ('vain, self-centered') senses of the Urdu-- and 'self-adorning'. The lover concedes the point, and then explains that such behavior is only an appropriate, or even perhaps unavoidable, response to his situation: 'an idol with a mirror-face is seated before me'. Here are some of the possible implications of this wildly un-visualizable metaphor:

=the beloved is obsessed with self-regard and self-adornment-- she uses a mirror so constantly (on this see {98,9}) that it's almost part of her face; so why shouldn't I too-- either out of pique, or out of devoted imitation-- show the same attention to my own appearance?

=the beloved's face (or forehead) is so bright, clear, and radiant that it has the reflective power of a mirror, so I use it as such: naturally I'm inclined to primp and preen

=the beloved's face is like a 'mirror' to me, and she's like another 'self'-- so that when I look at her, or at my own face in her 'mirror', I am, in effect, 'self'-regarding; when I straighten a lock of either her or my hair, I am 'self'-adorning

=the beloved is seated before me as an 'idol', and an idol is a 'mirror' of the desires, longings, and preoccupations of its worshippers; so when I gaze at the idol and prepare it for worship, I am really doing these things to a 'mirror' that reflects my own 'self-regard' and 'self-adornment'

=even when I try desperately to reach through to the Divine power behind the veil of this phenomenal world, I am always thwarted: the worship and attention I seek to offer to the Deity always bounce off the interposed 'mirror' and 'idol' of this physical world to which I'm confined, so that I end up in despair: I'm always helplessly 'regarding' and 'adorning' nothing but myself

The only other verse in the divan that mentions an 'idol with a mirror-face', {22,3}, gives the image a more clearly metaphysical twist: the 'idol with a mirror-face' may not seem definitely to be God, but certainly doesn't sound like a human beloved either.

For other verses about 'self-regardingness', see {22,2}.

Note for grammar fans: if you're interested in bai;Thaa hai versus bai;Thaa hu))aa hai , see {115,2}. And notice that the second huu;N in the first line is the future subjunctive, from the future huu;Ngaa (or ho;Ngaa ; this form is so rarely heard that opinions differ about how to pronounce it).

Compare Mir's equally enigmatic counterpart verse: M{120,2}.