aa;Nkh us mu;Nh pah kis :tara;h kholuu;N
juu;N palak jal rahii hai merii nigaah

1) how would I open my eyes on that face?
2) like an eyelash, my gaze/vision is burning



nigaah : 'Look, glance, sight, view, regard; consideration; —look, aspect (of); —watching, observation, attention; —custody, care'. (Platts p.1150)

S. R. Faruqi:

It's possible that Ghalib's opening-verse shows a bit of an effect of the present verse:


In Mir's verse, the image of the gaze burning like an eyelash is out of the ordinary. For the gaze a simile of a string/thread is used; thus to say about the gaze that it is burning 'like an eyelash' is an eloquent idea. In the burning of the eyelash the point is that even if the eyes would be closed, the eyelash still goes on burning. If the eyes would be opened, then the gaze too would burn.

Then, nigaah is also used with the meaning of 'eye'. For example, in idioms like nigaahe;N / aa;Nkhe;N chaar karnaa / honaa ; or aa;Nkh / aa;Nkhe;N churaanaa , or nigaahe;N churaanaa ; or aa;Nkh / nigaah kamzor honaa , and so on. In the [dictionary] nuur ul-lu;Gaat , the meaning of nigaah is given as 'eye'. Thus the meaning of the second line becomes that 'my eyes are burning the way my eyelashes are burning'.

The simile for the gaze of a string/thread, etc., is given because in ancient times it was thought that the gaze or glance in fact emerges from the eye like a ray and falls on things. The tenth-century Muslim hakim Ibn ul-Hisham proved that light bounces back from objects and falls on the pupil of the eye. But this point of view did not become common. Later, Westerners again proved the same thing. But the form the language had taken, it had taken. Language is not dependent on science or logic.



An eyelash may be string-like and thus capable of 'burning' like the gaze itself, but it's after all a very tiny string. As an image for the suffering of the passionate lover, the burning of a single eyelash just doesn't commend itself; it sounds pettish and over-fastidious to complain about it. It's not nearly as impressive as the 'burning' of the gaze. The sequence feels wrong ('My broken heart is throbbing like a sprained ankle').

Moreover, it's easy to see why the gaze might be burning (from contact with her radiant face), but why would the (single) eyelash be burning? I can't think of any other verses in which the lover's eyelashes burn; there must be some, I presume, but it's certainly not a common idea (like, say, eyelashes as arrows). It should really have a 'proof'.