dekhaa palak u;Thaa ke to paayaa nah kuchh a;sar
ai ((umr-e barq-jalvah ga))ii to shitaab kyaa

1) when I lifted my eyelids and looked, then I did not find any trace
2) oh lifetime with the glory/manifestation of lightning-- with what haste/speed did you go?!



jalvah : 'Manifestation, publicity, conspicuousness; splendour, lustre, effulgence'. (Platts p.387)


shitaab : 'Haste, &c. (= shitaabii , q.v.); adj. & adv. Hasty, quick, speedy; —quickly, expeditiously, soon, directly'. (Platts pp. 721-22)

S. R. Faruqi:

a;sar = sign, trace

Both lines are extremely fine bearers of 'dramaticness'. The word jalvah has been most excellently used. The beauty of a lifetime, its glitteringness, its quality of swiftly passing-- all these things are presented through jalvah . 'Lightning' heightens it. Since the act of blinking is not mentioned directly, he has created dramaticness in the first line; in the second line, the insha'iyah style of speech has completed the dramatic effect.

When the speaker lifted his eyelids and looked, then it seemed that the lifetime manifested itself like lightning. Lightning flashes and disappears; it leaves no trace. In this regard 'I did not find any trace' is not only an ornamental expression, but rather becomes a 'proof' of the lifetime's being barq-jalvah . This is what is called 'joining one word to another' [laf:z ko laf:z se paivast karnaa]. If he hadn't said barq-jalvah in the second line, then the power of the first line would have been lessened. And if he hadn't said 'I did not find any trace' in the first line, then the full force of barq-jalvah would not have been apparent.

Then, when the speaker lifted his eyelids and looked, there was no trace of his lifetime [((umr] , but there was life [zindagii]. Otherwise, it would have been impossible to lift his eyelids. From this it appears that the meaning of ((umr is 'youth', which obviously seems to be very brief.



Although the idea underlying the verse is something like 'I blinked, and my life was over', how effectively the verse makes us work for it! When under mushairah performance conditions we hear the first line alone, we can't tell what's going on. Was the speaker asleep? Was he hiding his eyes from something, or closing his eyes to something? What was the something of which there was then no trace? To say 'when I lifted my eyelids" instead of 'when I blinked' may seem like a small difference, but it forces us to frame the idea of blinking for ourselves-- which we can't do after hearing the first line alone.

When we finally hear the second line, we can then realize that 'when I lifted my eyelids' refers not to any general awakening from sleep, but to something more like a the emergence from a momentary doze, or even to a blink-- or rather, even to half a blink, since there's no reference to the initial closing of the eyelids. How much faster could a lifetime be imagined to pass? The Persianized noun compound barq-jalvah makes excellent use of the two basic senses of jalvah as both 'manifestation' and 'radiance'.

And finally, there's the enjoyableness of kyaa , with its two possible readings: the exclamatory ( 'With what haste, how speedily you went!') and the genuinely (or sarcastically) interrogative ('What was the hurry, why such haste?').

Compare Ghalib's treatment of the same classic theme: