chashm-e dil khol us bhii ((aalam par
yaa;N kii auqaat ;xvaab kii sii hai

1) open the eye of the heart on even/also that/this world
2) the situation of this place is like that of a dream/sleep



yaa;N is short for yahaa;N


auqaat : 'Times, hours; circumstances, state, condition; means, resources, power, ability'. (Platts p.106)

S. R. Faruqi:

Beside the present verse should be placed this [unpublished] verse of Ghalib's


I have discussed both these verses at length in shi((r ;Gair-shi((r aur na;sr . Here I will repeat that discussion. I number this among Mir's finest verses. Shakespeare's character Prospero, in 'The Tempest' (IV,1) has a famous speech:

... We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

Those who recall this speech will know that the ambiguity that Mir has created by using the idiomatic metaphor auqaat makes for a better aspect than Shakespeare's direct opinion-giving. For auqaat can mean 'situation, capability' [;hai;siyat]. People say contemptuously, us kii auqaat hii kyaa hai . But they also say, mai;N apnii auqaat par qaa))im huu;N -- that is, 'I am not transgressing my boundaries'. Of course auqaat is the plural of vaqt ; thus auqaat basar karnaa means 'to pass one's life'. Or auqaat can be given the sense of time alone-- tangii-e auqaat , ;xvush-auqaatii , and so on. And auqaat also includes the idea of earning one's livelihood-- for example, gu;zar auqaat ho jaatii hai . With all these senses, the sense of ;xvaab keeps changing.

What is the 'situation, capability' [;hai;siyat] of this world? It is light like a dream, without meaning, unreal. It has an expanse like that of a dream. Very long, complex, but limited to its own inwardness. (Your dream cannot go outside yourself; you cannot have a dream on behalf of others.) The borders of the world, like those of a dream, are ambiguous, half-illumined, and indistinctly marked. To pass one's life in it is to have/'see' a dream. Its auqaat (collective situation, daily livelihood) are notional or of little value, like those of a dream. Here, the time that passes is like the time in a dream. The times here are like those of a dream.

Even the longest dream is limited to some brief interval. The dreamer, with eyes closed, traverses journeys many years long; he mixes earlier and later times. A child dreams of being old, an old person dreams of being a child, and so on. In a dream the nature of time, so to speak, becomes 'unreal time'. In this world time is unreal. True and real time are in 'that' world.

In this way the ambiguity of only one word has carried the verse into these worlds of meaning-- worlds that, if a clear word had been used, would have remained closed to us. For example, if the second line had been like this:

(1) yaa;N kii hastii to ;xvaab kii sii hai
(2) yih jo dunyaa hai ;xvaab kii sii hai
(3) zindagii yih to ;xvaab kii sii hai

or something of the sort, then the verse would not have remained doubly meaningful. As things stand now, there can be no 'reply' to the verse, except to create more ambiguity. The ambiguity cannot be cut away from the context.

The verses of Ghalib and Mir both make reference to the unreality of the present world, and juxtapose it to some other world that is solider and more real. In order to clarify this point, Mir carved out a metaphor from the rhymingness of 'time and place' [zamaan-o-makaan], but he put more emphasis on 'time'. He sought to prove that in the physical world, time is unreal. Ghalib sought out for zamaan the metaphor of makaan , thus making the ambiguity more ambiguous.

In Mir's verse, the world was like a dream. In Ghalib's verse, the speaker himself is in a dream-- and that too a dream that negates existence-- a 'dream of nonexistence'. Ghalib did not say that that the presence of the 'gathering of existence' is like a dream; he said that if it is present, then it is present in a dream (is unreal), or is in 'nonexistence' (that is, does not exist). The 'gathering of existence' is present because there is no 'gathering of existence' at all.

Even in this enchanted atmosphere, Mir's verse holds its own. On the basis of separate ambiguities, Mir's and Ghalib's verses are equally matched. But the world that Ghalib created, by providing his theme with the vehicles of image and metaphor, is loftier than Mir's world. Up to this point, I have copied the discussion from shi((r ;Gair-shi((r aur na;sr , which was concerned with ambiguity.

Now let's consider some additional points. In the first line, there's a mention of opening the eye of the heart. The meaning of this is that to see the physical world it's enough to have external eyes, but here not even the external eyes are open-- because in the second line, the physical world has been said to be a dream. Thus in order to see it, the eyes ought to be closed, as they are when having/'seeing' a dream. If we take ;xvaab to refer to 'sleep', then the meaning emerges that the physical world is only a sleep, and upon waking it will be necessary to see some other world.

A final question is, which world is meant by us / is bhii ((alam ? It's clear that one meaning [if we read us] is the 'world on high' or 'world of spirits' that is the real world. But it's also possible that instead of us it might be is . In this case the meaning would emerge that if you look with the eye of the heart, then you will learn that here the auqaat are like those of a dream. Now the pleasure/subtlety is that if you open the eye of the heart, then the physical world will appear like a dream.

Another meaning is that you have opened the eye of the heart on this (physical) world, but you will get no information from it, because here the auqaat are like those of a dream. If you open the eye of the heart on that world (of spirits), then you have something to gain.

In the fourth divan, Mir has expressed one aspect of this theme like this [{1491,3}]:

kuchh nahii;N aur dekhe;N hai;N kyaa kyaa
;xvaab kaa saa hai yaa;N kaa ((aalam bhii

[nothing-- what-all more do we see?
like that of a dream is even/also the world/state, here]

[See also {104,2}; {774,4}.]



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

This verse, with its brilliant use of the us / is undecideability, reminds me of Ghalib's famous verse in which he does a similar trick with udhar / idhar :


It's poetically convenient that in Urdu one 'sees' a dream [;xvaab dekhnaa], rather than merely 'having' one as in English. This usage provides excellent nuances of implied analogy with what one 'sees' when awake. And of course it's also convenient that ;xvaab can mean both 'dream' and 'sleep'. Thus being enjoined to 'open the eye of the heart' can have a range of meanings-- to 'wake' from a dream into (what?) reality, to 'wake' from sleep into awareness (of what?), to 'wake' from (dreamingly?) using one's mere physical eyes into using the 'eye of the heart' (how, and to see what?).

The permutations go on and on, and of course their range of choices is doubled by the choice between 'that' and 'this' which we're constantly forced to make for each reading. By no coincidence, the second line goes supremely well, in all kinds of ways, with whatever combination of choices we make.

If the auqaat -- and of course we have the full range of meanings of auqaat at our disposal (see the definition above)-- that exist 'here' (in the human world? in the natural or physical world?) are like a dream, is this a fixable problem (open the eye of the heart!), or an unfixable one (turn your attention to 'that' world instead!)?

Really the short meter and long rhyme and refrain are a help to the verse rather than a constraint, because they make the most radical, fascinating, inexhaustibly provocative kinds of multivalence easier to create and sustain. Easier, that is, if you're Mir. This fourteen-word verse is a real meaning-machine, a 'generator' from which almost endless interpretive possibilities can be spun out. I agree with SRF that it's one of Mir's finest.