Ghazal 78, Verse 6

{78,6}*

yak na:zar besh nahii;N fur.sat-e hastii ;Gaafil
garmii-e bazm hai ik raq.s-e sharar hote tak

1) not more than a single glance/look is the leisure of existence, heedless one!
2) the warmth of the gathering is during the existence/occurrence of a mere/single/particular/unique dance of a spark

Notes:

yak : 'One; a, an'. (Platts p.1250)

 

fur.sat : 'A time, opportunity, occasion; freedom (from), leisure; convenience; relief, recovery; respite, reprieve; rest, ease; (local) leave'. (Platts p.779)

 

;Gaafil : 'Unmindful, forgetful, neglectful, negligent, heedless, inadvertent, inattentive, remiss, thoughtless, careless; indolent; imprudent; senseless, unconscious'. (Platts p.786)

 

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)

Nazm:

The meaning is that your duration is to look at the world for not longer than a single glance, the way a spark cannot remain established longer than to look at the gathering with a single glance. (80)

== Nazm page 80

Hasrat:

Zauq:

kyaa i((tibaar hastii-e naa-paa))edaar kaa
chashmak hai barq kii kih tabassum sharaar kaa

[what trust in unsteady existence?
is it the wink of a lightning-bolt, or the smile of a spark?]. (72)

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, oh heedless humankind! The interval of life is not longer than a glance, and I give as an example the 'warmth' of a gathering-- that is, the liveliness of the gathering of life is is as long as the dance of a spark. The way a spark glitters and then is extinguished, in the same way a human being has an existence that is destined to be obliterated after the space of a breath. (127)

Bekhud Mohani:

That is, there's time enough only to cast a glance on the world, not time enough to understand its mysteries. (165)

FWP:

SETS == EK
GATHERINGS: {6,3}
GAZE: {10,12}

A classic treatment of a classic theme: our little life is as brief as the flare of a spark in the darkness of the time before and after it. Our life is as brief as a glance, as brief as the spark's dance. Zauq's verse too is so appropriate that once Hasrat has cited it, several other commentators mention it favorably as well. It's good to be reminded that Ghalib was surrounded by all kinds of highly talented peers. (Well, he didn't necessarily think they were peers, but they certainly felt themselves to be such.)

The power of the verse lies in its measuring-rods, one in each line. In the first line, 'no longer than a single glance' [yak na:zar besh] is an unremarkable way to measure something extremely brief. And yet the glance is not only the measuring-rod, but also, in effect, the thing that's measured. For what do (and should) we do with our tiny, brief lives except devour the world with our eyes, try to take it in and savor it?

Similarly in the second line, the life-span of a spark is an unremarkable measuring-rod for momentariness. And yet, the spark's dance is not only the measuring-rod, but also what is measured, for the 'warmth' [garmii] of the gathering, both literally and metaphorically, depends on the tiny, sometimes sputtering flames of candle and lamp-wick.

About ek and yak : The glance we have available is 'single' through the Persian-derived word yak , which basically means 'one'. By contrast, the measure for the dance of the spark is ik , a metrically shortened form of the Sanskrit-derived ek with all its wide range of possibilities (see the definition above). In the metrical environment of this particular verse, Ghalib could have chosen to use either word in either situation. So surely we're entitled to notice that it's the mere human 'glance' that gets the narrower, more limited word, while it's the whole 'dance of a spark' of this world that gets the conspicuously protean word. Although it's impossible to prove that Ghalib uses ek with a deliberate intent to invoke all its multivalent possibilities, this verse certainly offers some good circumstantial evidence. And a global search for yak will show that most occurrences have this minimizing emphasis. Of course, the hyphenated yak- compounds are a different story; on them see {11,1}. Another verse that contains-- and similarly contrasts-- both forms: {132,1}. A verse by Mir that also does so: M{85,3}.

It's important too that the spark is imagined as 'dancing', not as repining, and the listener is rebuked as a 'heedless one' [;Gaafil], one who is negligent or inattentive. Isn't the listener being urged to pay attention, to be even more open-eyed and watchful? And isn't the 'dance' of the spark, in the 'warmth' of the gathering, exactly what there is to watch? Think of {48,9}-- the eye should, no matter what, be open. In that verse it's the glory of the rose that gives the eye relish for a spectacle. In this one, it's only the dance of a tiny spark.

The verse could also of course be read as a conventional religious injunction, enjoining the heedless to turn from this radically evanescent world, and set out instead on the Sufistic path.