Ghazal 197, Verse 2


bahut dino;N me;N ta;Gaaful ne tere paidaa kii
vuh ik nigah kih bah :zaahir nigaah se kam hai

1) in many days your heedlessness created/engendered
2) that [kind of] single/particular/unique/excellent 'glancelet' that manifestly/outwardly is less than a glance


ta;Gaaful : 'Unmindfulness, heedlessness, forgetfulness, neglect, negligence, inattention, inadvertence, indifference, listlessness'. (Platts p.328)


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)


nigah is a shorter form of nigaah ; it is permissible to shorten the word in this way for metrical convenience, as in the present case


:zaahir : 'Outward, exterior, external, extrinsic, exoteric; appearing, apparent, overt, open, perceptible, visible, perceived, plain, evident, manifest, conspicuous, ostensible; --the outside, the external appearance; the external, or outward, or extrinsic state, or condition, or circumstances'. (Platts p.755)


The great beauty of this verse is that it has shown a picture of the heedlessness of the beloved. A second pleasure is that in one glance there would be such density that the glance would be less than another glance. Another subtle pleasure is that nigah is less than nigaah because the latter has an alif and the former doesn't. (222)

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, 'After many days your heedlessness has created a glance that looks to be less than a glance'. The meaning is that formerly only heednessness-- that is, you deliberately averted your eyes. But now, having left off that coquetry, you've begun to make a show of affection. That is, formerly you never even looked in my direction. Now you look, but with a swift/sharp glance. (280)

Bekhud Mohani:

For a time, she showed heedlessness toward us; she never even looked in our direction. Now she's begun shyly, shamefacedly, to give us side-glances. Even now she doesn't gaze at us fearlessly. The glance that falls on us from an askew direction seems to be less than a glance. But in reality it's somewhat more than a glance. That is, her giving us sidelong glances is more heart-bewildering than her meeting our eyes. The way Mirza mentions the glance-- for commentary on it, it's proper that a few verses be written: Mir says this line:

phirtii hai;N de nigaahe;N mizhgaa;N ke saa))e saa))e

[she goes around giving glances from the shelter of the eyelashes];

Ghalib says, {111,10}.

Dagh says,

sharm se aa;Nkh milaate nahii;N dekhaa un ko
ho ga))ii;N paar kaleje ke nigaahe;N kyuu;Nkar

[from shame she didn't meet his eyes and look at him
how did the glances go through and beyond the liver?] (388-89)


GAZE: {10,12}

What an enjoyable and entirely Ghalibian verse! After a long delay, and a great amount of heedlessness, what does the beloved finally send in her lover's direction? Here are three different ways to read the second line, that take fine advantage of the double sense of bah :zaahir as either 'manifestly, clearly' or 'outwardly, seemingly':

=A glance that is obviously less than a real, full glance-- since it emerges after long delay from the beloved's heedless eyes; so that the lover reproaches her for her ungenerous behavior (reading ik as 'single' or 'only').

=A glance that is outwardly/apparently less than a glance-- but to the inner, initiated eye and heart, so much more; so that the lover celebrates the beloved's mystically powerful gaze (reading ik as 'excellent' or 'unique').

=A 'glancelet' that is obviously less than a glance-- since nigah is clearly a shorter word than nigaah , as Nazm points out, this is a (metrically-based) 'script-play' to relish entirely in its own right.

This latter reading is a particular favorite of mine. I believe it's the only verse we've seen so far in which Ghalib is makes special and playful use of something as commonplace (and normally meaningless) as a meter-governed spelling change.