naazukii us ke lab kii kyaa kahye
pankh;Rii ik gulaab kii sii hai

1) about the delicacy of her lip-- what can one say?!
2) it is like the petal of a single/particular/unique/excellent rose



ek : 'One, single, sole, alone, only, a, an; the same, identical; only one; a certain one; single of its kind, unique, singular, preƫminent, excellent'. (Platts p.113)



On the special status of this ghazal, see {485,1}.

The chief charm of the present verse is the wordplay-- the beloved's lip is so delicate that one can't even use one's own lips (effectively enough) to speak about it. In addition, the 'kya effect' creates two possible readings. The first line can end in an exclamation of amazement: 'What can one say-- it's indescribable!'. (This kind of 'don't even ask!' exclamation is a form of what literary scholars call the 'inexpressibility trope'; it's a very convenient device in a verse thirteen words long.) Alternatively, the first line can end in a genuine question: 'What can one say to describe it, what words can one use?'. In this case, the second line offers an answer to the question.

In the second line, there's the enjoyable multivalence of the ek (of which ik is a short form). Just consider the range of possible meanings in the definition above-- is the beloved's lip like a petal of a 'single' rose, a 'particular' rose, a 'unique' rose, an 'excellent' rose? As usual, it's left up to us to decide.

There are also, in this verse, beautiful effects of sound and rhythm. Each line is dominated by an initial, potent, three-syllable word, one the Persian NAA-zu-KII, and one the notably Indian PAN-kha-;RII. But here I want to note how in recitation it seems to unfold slowly, with its two-consonant initial long syllable, then its little one-consonant short syllable, then its explosive retroflex consonant before the final vowel.

If SRF had chosen to discuss this verse in SSA-- and I'm sorry he didn't-- he would certainly have also pointed out what a wonderfully fresh and unexpected word pankha;Rii is. Mir scarcely uses it, and it doesn't appear even once in the ghazals of Ghalib's divan. Within a poem thirteen words long, a single such 'fresh word' can loom large.

For a verse that makes a more complex use of similar imagery, including kyaa kahye , see


Note for grammar fans: Here of course kahiye is not literally a polite imperative ('please speak'), but part of an idiomatic general exclamation-- kyaa kahiye is like 'Words fail me!' or 'What can I say?!', but it's a bit more general since it includes everyone ('What can one say?!').

Note for meter fans: To fit the meter, in this verse the ek has turned to ik , with a visible spelling change. And invisibly, kahiye (ka-hi-ye, scanned short-short-flexible) has turned into kahye (kah-ye, scanned long-long to fit the meter).

S. R. Faruqi:

[Further thoughts, not from SSA (2015):] The point here is that the rose petal seems blue-ish when crushed. So do her lips when crushed with kisses.

[See also {759,5}.]