huu;N mai;N nigaah-bismil go ik mizhah thii fur.sat
taa miir ruu-e qaatil taa qatl-gaah dekhuu;N

1) I am glance-slaughtered, although there {was / would be} a single eyelash of respite/leisure
2) I would look, Mir, to the street of the murderer, to the murder-ground



S. R. Faruqi:

Some people have read nigaah-e bismil ; that is, they've considered an izafat to be present. But that way no meaning emerges. We ought to read nigaah-bismil without an izafat-- that is, this is a 'reversed izafat' [i.zaafat-e maqluubii] , with the meaning of nigaah kaa bismil .

Now let's consider the meaning. It's an entirely new theme. Up to a point-- that I was slaughtered in a single glance-- it's a common idea. Now, advancing that theme, he says, I had no more than the respite/leisure of the flicker of a single eyelash. It was only possible that I would have looked at the murder's face, or again could have enjoyed the scene of the murder-ground. To do both things was not possible.

It's an uncommon mixture of 'theme-creation' and 'mood'. Similar to it, but weaker, is a verse he composed in the fourth divan [{1434,7}]:

qurbaanii us kii ;Thahrii par yih :tara;h nah chho;Rii
takte ho miir uudhar talvaar ke tale tum

[you were established as a sacrifice for her; but you didn't leave off this style:
you gaze that way, Mir, under the sword]

Compared to the present verse, Ghalib's verse seems verbose:




Why does SRF conclude that it was 'not possible' to do both of the two things mentioned in the second line? If it were yaa instead of taa , then his reading would be obvious; but as it is, surely the question has been left open.

Since the two objects of looking are presented as parallel, another possibility is that they are in apposition to each other-- that they are really two descriptions of the same place. Since the lover has already been slaughtered, and is only speaking during the tiny interval of time before he actually drops dead, he's obviously not going to to be taken to any special slaughter-ground or scaffold. So the idea that the beloved's street itself is the murder-place works particularly well. He might take a last lightning look from her face to the murder-ground, or vice versa-- if indeed these are two separate parts of the scene.

In a verse about the fatal gaze of the beloved, and the last gaze of the lover, the description of the interval of time he has available before his death as 'an eyelash' is a wonderful combination of word-play and meaning-play.

Note for grammar fans: SRF takes the eyelash-flicker moment as in the past, and the possible scenes to look at as hypothetical or contrafactual. But the two occurrences of dekhuu;N in the second line strongly suggest something that might/would/should happen, not something that cannot now happen. So perhaps we can take the thii in the first line as one more example of the perfect tense being colloquially used for the subjunctive.