Ghazal 171, Verse 5x


bah sail-e ashk la;xt-e dil hai daaman-giir mizhgaa;N kaa
;Gariiq-e ba;hr juuyaa-e ;xas-o-;xaashaak-e saa;hil hai

1) with the flood of tears, the heart-fragment is a garment-hem-clutcher of the eyelashes
2) 'the one drowning in the sea is a seeker of the sticks-and-straws of the shore'


;Gariiq : 'Drowning; drowned; immersed, submerged; overwhelmed; — a drowning person'. (Platts p.770)


;xas-o-;xaashaak : 'Sticks and straws, litter, rubbish'. (Platts p.489)


;xaashaak: 'Sweepings, chips, shavings, leaves, rubbish, trash'. (Platts p.484)


In the flood of tears, the pieces of the heart that come floating along out, seize the garment-hem of the eyelashes. So to speak, 'drowning ones are seeking the refuge of a piece of straw [;Duubne vaale tinke kaa sahaaraa ;Dhuu;N;Dh rahe hai;N].

== Asi, p. 225


The proverb is, 'A drowning man clutches at straws' [;Duubte ko tinke kaa sahaaraa]. When the heart-fragment began to float away in the flood of tears, then it seized the garment-hem of the eyelashes. That is, upon coming to the eyelashes it stopped, in the same that a drowning man clutched at straws.

== Zamin, p. 336

Gyan Chand:

In the flood of tears, the pieces of the heart have seized the garment-hem of the eyelashes and are taking refuge-- the way that in the sea, a drowning man would seek refuge in the sticks-and-straws of the shore. For the eyelashes he has made the similitude of shore-grass.

== Gyan Chand, p. 343



For background see S. R. Faruqi's choices. This verse is NOT one of his choices; I thought it was interesting and have added it myself. For more on Ghalib's unpublished verses, see the discussion in {4,8x}.

The first line is bizarre to the point of grotesquerie. How can we be expected to visualize a small piece of the heart, on the verge of being swept away by a flood of tears, desperately clutching the 'garment-hem of the eyelashes'? It's almost impossible. Are the eyelashes themselves perhaps like a small fringe, marking the border or 'garment-hem' of the body? Or-- even more crazily-- do the eyelashes wear tiny garments equipped with even tinier garment-hems for the desperate, microscopic heart-fragments to clutch? The whole thing just doesn't compute. We're obliged, under mushairah performance conditions, to wait until the poet deigns to give us some kind of clarification in the second line.

And for once we get it, though not instantly. We have to recognize that the second line is an elaborately formal and Persianized evocation of the proverb ;Duubte ko tinke kaa sahaaraa . Not only is it a proverb, as Zamin says, but there's apparently a Devi bhajan of the same name (how did we ever live without the internet?). The gist of the proverb seems to be remarkably similar to our idiomatic use of 'clutching at straws'. Someone who is desperate will grasp at anything, no matter how flimsy, that offers any chance of refuge. A 'straw' [tinkaa] is probably not going to do the job; perhaps the short, pointy, straw-like eyelashes are similarly destined to fail. But in the meantime, we've had the fun of 'solving' the verse.

More commonly, the sticks-and-straws are menaced not by water but by fire, as in {190,10}.