Ghazal 214, Verse 14x

{214,14x}*

jo kuchh hai ma;hv-e sho;xii-e abruu-e yaar hai
aa;Nkho;N ko rakh ke :taaq pah dekhaa kare ko))ii

1) whatever there is, is absorbed in the mischievousness of the eyebrow of the beloved
2) having 'put the eyes on the niche-shelf', let someone always look

Notes:

:taaq par rakhnaa : '(- ko ), To lay on the shelf; to put or set aside; to neglect, abandon; to refuse; to disobey'. (Platts p.750)

Gyan Chand:

In the world every individual and every thing is lost in beholding the beauty of the eyebrow of the beloved. Now we should remove the eyes from the direction of every thing in the world, and keep looking only at the eyebrow of the beloved. The simile of eyebrow is [habitually] given as 'niche'. Thus it is in the poet's mind, 'having put the eyes in the niche [:taaq me;N rakhnaa] of the eyebrow of the beloved, let's always look'. Since this verse is in 'Reality' [;haqiiqat], by putting the eyes on the niche-shelf [baalaa-e :taaq rakhnaa] and looking is meant that one ought to look with the eye of revelation behind the appearance of things and see the sight of the True Beloved. (384)

FWP:

SETS == IDIOMS
EYES {3,1}
GAZE: {10,12}

For background see S. R. Faruqi's choices.

On the nature of a :taaq or 'niche', see {10,1}, which provides illustrations. Putting things in a niche usually serves to preserve and/or display them; but there's also the 'niche of forgetfulness' in {10,1} itself and in {111,2}. In the case of the present verse, the relevant idiom given by Platts is :taaq par rakhnaa , 'to put on [the shelf of] a niche'; see the definition above. Gyan Chand unselfconsciously uses baalaa-e :taaq rakhnaa ; I've seen this latter form of the idiom elsewhere as well. In any case, Ghalib has made the idiom work with an irresistible paradoxicalness and panache.

As Gyan Chand notes, the shape of the eyebrow suggests the curving arch that overhangs the shelf of a niche. If a lover wants to pay close, consistent attention to the beloved's eyebrow, deciding to place his eyes on a niche-shelf and aim them at her face would seem to be a fine tactic: it would guarantee that they wouldn't move around in their sockets or be accidentally jostled. And in addition, the eyes would be sheltered by the arch of the niche, the way the beloved's own eyes are sheltered by her irresistible eyebrows.

Or, idiomatically, a lover might 'put aside, neglect, abandon, disobey' his eyes-- and having done this, might then 'always look at' [dekhaa karnaa] the beloved's eyebrow. What are we to make of this paradoxical suggestion? Surely it pushes us back toward the jo kuchh hai at the beginning of the first line. If indeed 'whatever is/exists' is in any case absorbed in contemplating the beloved's eyebrow, what need for eyes? Perhaps one (mystically) 'sees' better without eyes. The eyes in their rolling around, in the frivolity and fickleness of their attention, might well prove to be only a distraction. Shove them aside, and let the empty eye-sockets 'look', let the face look, let the lover's whole soul and body look.

There seems to be a form of what I call 'grotesquerie' here (pulling out one's eyeballs and sticking them on a shelf?!), yet it doesn't seem to be truly activated in the verse itself. It's only latent within the idiom, and if we choose a literal meaning from the tangle of possibilities, it's our own choice and not necessarily Ghalib's (though he certainly set up all the possibilities).