Remembering Mirza Ghalib
Dil hii to hai na sang-o-Khisht dard se bhar na aaye kyuun. Roenge ham hazaar baar koii hamen sataaye kyuun.
By: ABID WACHKOO
It’s only my heart, not a stone or brick, Why should it not be overcome with pain?I will cry a thousand times,Why should one torment stop me? Why do you ask me to stop brooding, stop crying? Why do you torment me? Why do you ask me to compose myself? Why don’t you just let me cry my heart out, a thousand times over? It’s all right to hurt so much. It’s a heart, made of flesh and blood. It’s my heart. It’s my prerogative. Cry I will.
Mirza Ghalib, who was born on December 27, 1797, in Agra was a well-known poet in the Persian and Urdu languages. His original Takhallus (pen-name) was Asad, drawn from his given name, Asadullah Khan. At some point early in his poetic career he also decided to adopt the pen-name of Ghalib (meaning all conquering, superior, most excellent). At some places in his poetry Ghalib also used the pen name of Asad Ullah Khan.Today, he remains as the one of most popular and influential masters of the Urdu language, and is known simply as Ghalib. He remains popular not only in Jammu & Kashmir but also among the diaspora.My earliest memory of anything associated with Mirza Ghalib was when i had to search for Ghalib’s poetry and found a ghazalin class 10th. The academic journey continued, I opted for science stream but never let Ghalib come down my nerves. My fascination with Ghalib started with simple Ghazal “Hazaru khwahishai…” , but this fascination, in its process of unfolding led me to the point where Ghalib exclaimed “Hai khwab mai hanooz Jo jaagay hai khwab mai”. The very opening couplet “Naqshi faryadi hai kiski…” was to become my life blood. I read him , tried to live him, found him a voice from the beyond “pata hu uss se daad”…. It is undisputed that Ghalib is the sublime manifestation of poetic ingenuity. He remains a perennial mystery, a perpetual inspiration and an eternal poet. . I remember someone suggested me to stick to Iqbal and forget Ghalib and I was like raged to listen to such a miscalculated statement. I reminded him what Iqbal says about Ghalib in his Bang for Dara and elsewhere. I maintain that poets like Ghalib don’t need our acceptance and appraisal, but if we are fortunate enough we can lit our lamp from their lights .Mirza Ghalib started writing poetry at the age of 11. His verse is characterised by sadness, a result of an often tragic life. He was orphaned at an early age and lost all of his seven children in their infancy. As Mirza Asadullah Baig Khan, who later used pen name “Ghalib” (the conqueror), he migrated to Delhi where he lived for the rest of his life.The poet had an arranged marriage at the age of 13, but none of his seven children survived beyond infancy, tragedies which are reflected in his work. Ghalib’s best poems were written in three forms: ghazal (lyric), masnavi (moralistic or mystical parable), and qasidah (panegyric).Ghalib took the concept of ghazals and changed them from an expression of anguish in love to philosophies of life.His critics accused him of writing in an ornamental style of Persian that was incomprehensible to the masses. But his legacy has come to be widely celebrated, particularly his mastery of the Urdu ghazal. Mirza Ghalib, a name synonymous with deep, philosophical and love poetry in Urdu and Persian, is considered one of the most popular and influential poets of the Mughal Era. A large part of Mirza Ghalib’s poetry focuses on the praise of Prophet Muhammad and then there are many about life and love which leave a deep imprint on heart and mind. His fame came to him after his death and the ‘treasure chest’ of his poetry, shayari and ghazals was recognised, making him one of the most revered and celebrated poets of the present generation. Ghalib is eternal, for all for all times. His work becomes most relevant in this day and age because his non-conformity pushes us to question hierarchical structures of society.Others with deep knowledge of Urdu get swayed by his invincible grip on the language, which sets him apart. In Urdu, as many would agree, is a beautiful language. Some of the poems, or shayari are extremely evocative and have enthralled us. Hailed as one of the most successful Urdu poets and has contributed significantly to the Urdu repertoire. His poems perfectly capture the pathos of love and continue to be relevant even after all these years. As you prepare yourself to usher in 2019, take Ghalib’s haunting words with you and fall back on them during trying times. Ishq ne ghalib nikamma kar diya varna hum bhi aadmi the kaam ke.Ghalib touches a chord in everyone’s heart. There could be hardly anyone who, after reading Ghalib’s immortal verses, says his emotions were not touched, explaining how the poet called out the established orthodoxy. The tragedy of his timelessness and literary significance, he says, is that the language in which he wrote (Urdu) has been associated to a religion or the followers of the religion. Ghalib’s closest rival was poet Zauq, tutor of Bahadur Shah Zafar II, the then emperor of India with his seat in Delhi. There are some amusing anecdotes of the competition between Ghalib and Zauq and exchange of jibes between them. However, there was mutual respect for each other’s talent. Both also admired and acknowledged the supremacy of Meer Taqi Meer, a towering figure of 18th century Urdu Poetry. Another poet Momin, whose ghazals had a distinctly lyrical flavour, was also a famous contemporary of Ghalib. One of the towering figures in Urdu literature Altaf Hussain Hali was a disciple of Ghalib. Hali has also written a biography of Ghalib titled Yaadgaar-e-Ghalib.Ghalib was not only a poet, he was also a prolific prose writer. His letters are a reflection of the political and social climate of the time. They also refer to many contemporaries like Mir Mehdi Majrooh, who himself was a good poet and Ghalib’s lifelong acquaintance. The Poems written by Ghalib were tough to understand. He sometimes made the sentence syntax so complex that people had hard time in understanding that. Once Hakeem Agha Jaan Aish, a poet of Ghalib’s era, read a couplet in Mushaira for Ghalib. Even today, Ghalib’s work has influenced not only Pakistan and India, but individuals all over the world. Mirza Ghalib’s words are everywhere. You’ll find them elaborately painted on the back of our trucks, as ghazals echoing in our tangled midnight streets, on tattered pages tucked away in dusty libraries and through nostalgic melodies sung by the greats like Jagjit Singh. This one where Ghalib talks about writing to his beloved just for the sake of it.This is my most treasured poem of his. “I will Write to you even if there is no reason,i am madly in love with your name”.Having finished the work to his satisfaction, and believing that Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib was a person who would appreciate his labours, Sir Syed Ahmad khan approached the great Ghalib to write a taqriz (in the convention of the times, a laudatory foreword) for it. Ghalib obliged, but what he produced was a short Persian poem castigating the Ai’n-e Akbari and, by implication, the imperial, sumptuous, literate and learned Mughal culture of which it was a product.The least that could be said against it was that the book had little value even as an antique document. Ghalib practically reprimanded Syed Ahmad Khan for wasting his talents and time on dead things.Worse, he highly praised the “sahibs of England” who at that time held all the keys to all the a’ins in this world. Ghalib’s closest rival was poet Zauq, tutor of Bahadur Shah Zafar II, the then emperor of India with his seat in Delhi. There are some amusing anecdotes of the competition between Ghalib and Zauq and exchange of jibes between them. However, there was mutual respect for each other’s talent. Both also admired and acknowledged the supremacy of Meer Taqi Meer, a towering figure of 18th century Urdu Poetry. Another poet Momin, whose ghazals had a distinctly lyrical flavour, was also a famous contemporary of Ghalib. One of the towering figures in Urdu literature Altaf Hussain Hali was a disciple of Ghalib. Hali has also written a biography of Ghalib titled Yaadgaar-e-Ghalib. Ghalib was not only a poet, he was also a prolific prose writer. His letters are a reflection of the political and social climate of the time. They also refer to many contemporaries like Mir Mehdi Majrooh, who himself was a good poet and Ghalib’s lifelong acquaintance. The Poems written by Ghalib were tough to understand. He sometimes made the sentence syntax so complex that people had hard time in understanding that. Once Hakeem Agha Jaan Aish,a poet of Ghalib’s era, read a couplet in Mushaira for Ghalib. I don’t need appreciation neither do I need any return let not be if there is no meaning in my couplets This style was the definition of his uniqueness.In prose Ghalib brought a revolution in Urdu literature by developing an easy, simple and beautiful way of writing. Before Ghalib Urdu was a complex language, Ghalib introduced a simple style of prose in Urdu which is like a conversation. Ghalib was buried in Hazrat Nizamuddin near the tomb of Nizamuddin Auliya.
ABID WACHKOO is Civil Engineering & can be reached at [email protected]