Ghazal 209, Verse 9


nahii;N nigaar ko ulfat nah ho nigaar to hai
ravaanii-e ravish-o-mastii-e adaa kahiye

1) if the image/idol would not feel affection, let her not-- she is, after all, an image/idol!
2) speak of the flowingness of the gait and the intoxication of the style/manner


nigaar : 'A picture, painting, portrait, effigy; an idol; --a beautiful woman, beauty; mistress, sweetheart'. (Platts p.1150)


adaa : 'Grace, beauty; elegance; graceful manner on carriage; charm, fascination; blandishment; amorous signs and gestures, coquetry'. (Platts p.31)


That is, why would you look at her flaws? Why not mention her excellences? (238)

== Nazm page 238

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, to search out flaws in the beloved is a great sin in the religion of passion. If she doesn't feel love, then let her not; but she's still the beloved. One ought to mention her excellences. It is suitable and primary to praise her airs and graces, and do justice to her beauty. (296)

Bekhud Mohani:

That is, if on top of this gait and this style, she were also faithful, then-- how indescribable [kyaa kahnaa thaa]! If she's not faithful, even then these excellences are hardly small. We die for her style. (426)



This verse and the next, {209,10}, seem to work as an informal verse-set.

The beloved is described in the first line-- twice, so that we'll be sure to notice-- as a nigaar , a word with the literal meaning of 'picture' or 'effigy'. That is, literally she's something beautiful, but static and motionless. Thus we can read the line as exculpatory in either of two ways:

=So what if she doesn't feel affection-- at least she's still the beautiful beloved! And it's almost part of a beloved's job description not to feel affection.

=So what if she doesn't feel affection-- she's a 'picture', after all, what else can we expect from a picture besides passivity and indifference?

Then in the second line we see with amusement that the charms for which one should praise her are pointedly active and full of vigor: the 'flowingness' or smooth movement of her 'gait' of course suggests that she's walking; and the 'intoxication' of her 'style' would involve carelessness, bending, swaying, becoming flushed, etc. (Of course, the 'intoxication' could also be an effect she creates on the beholder; but especially in view of the first part of the line, the strong probability is that it would describe her own qualities as well.)

Thus the two lines can come together in at least two ways. The commentators insist on a simple and prosaic one: make the best of it, praise her for what she has and don't complain about what she doesn't have. This reading has a generally prosy, truistic quality; it feels ho-hum and superficial.

But thanks to the cleverly chosen and carefully emphasized word nigaar , there's also a much more enjoyable, sharp, witty reading: naturally she can't love, she's a 'picture' after all; so praise her for-- her movement and behavior! If we're enjoined to praise a 'picture' for its qualities of activity and movement, what does that suggest?

=Perhaps the praise is a helpless, irresistible response to the power of the beloved, so it hardly matters what specific qualities are invoked.

=Perhaps the praise is a desperate attempt at flattery, and it's a good tactic to flatter people especially in areas in which they don't excel.

=Perhaps that the whole thing is a game, and the whole 'praise' is tongue-in-cheek anyway-- so why not do it with a wink, in a way that makes clear that one is in on the joke?

All these possibilities are elegantly opened up by nigaar to hai -- 'she's a nigaar , after all'. Which of the qualities of the nigaar are being invoked? As so often, it's up to us to choose (and to choose the tone of the verse in the process). By no coincidence of course, the verse responds cleverly and wittily to a variety of the choices we might make.

The repetitive elements also give a nice sense of rhythm: the nahii;N and nah , the two occurrences of nigaar , the interplay between the related ravaanii and ravish .

Note for translation fans: The crucial idiomatic role of to is never more apparent than in constructions like nigaar to hai in the first line. If we imagine the line without the to , the whole effect would be lost. 'After all' is not ideal, but it's the best counterpart that I can come up with.