Nargis (Meena Kumari), a dancer-courtesan, is consumed with the desire to shed her courteasan status. Arich client of hers , Shahabuddin, loves her, but cannot go through with his plans to marry her when faced with opposition from his father, who objects to Nargis' tawaif origins. Nargis dies as she gives birth to Shahabuddin's daughter, Sahibjaan (Meena Kumari), who is taken away by an aynt so that Shahbuddin can never find her despite his best efforts. Sahibjaan grows up without the slightest knowledge about her background or about the existence of a father. She herself becomes a tawaif. On night, as she sleeps during a train journey, astranger places a poem of love in her toes and disappears. She discovers the poem when she awakes ; every moment of her life after that , through her dizzying rise as the most accomplished singer-dancer in the city, Sahibjaan dreams of meeting the unknown poet someday. Indeed, fortuitously, she does meet him one day, when she sees that he possesses a signet ring he had stolen from her in the train. The poet is an engineer, Salim, who is , in fact, the nephew of Shahabuddin, although none of the people involved suspects that they are so closely related. Although he knows she is a tawaif, Salim proposes marriage, but Sahibjaan runs away from mosque. Although she offers no explanation, clearly she wants to avoid the disgrace faced by her mother.