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December 27, 2021 at 12:00:00 AM
Remembering Mirza Ghalib, the ultimate poet

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Remembering Mirza Ghalib, the ultimate poet

Hazaron khwahishen aisi ki har khwahish pe dam nikle, bahut nikle mere armaan lekin phir bhi kam nikle.” (Translation: I have a thousand desires, all desires worth dying for, Though many of my desires were fulfilled, many remained unfulfilled.)


Today, December 27 marks the birth anniversary of Mirza Asadullah Baig Khan, also known by his pen name– “Ghalib” and “Asad”. Ghalib was born in Kala Mahal, Akbarabad, Mughal Empire, which is present day’s Agra in Uttar Pradesh, India.

Interestingly, Ghalib was born into a family of Mughals who moved to Samarkand, which is present in modern-day Uzbekistan after the downfall of the Seljuq kings.


Early days of Ghalib

It must be noted that Ghalib was raised by his uncle, Mirza Nasrullah Baig Khan, after his father, Mirza Abdullah Baig, died in a battle in 1803 in Alwar. But later on, Ghalib’s uncle died, too, and then at the age of 13, he married Umrao Begum, who was daughter of Nawab Ilahi Bakhsh.

Soon after his marriage, Ghalib moved to Chandni Chowk in Delhi along with his younger brother, Mirza Yousuf, who had developed schizophrenia at a very young age and later died in Delhi itself during the chaos of 1857.


Soon after his marriage, Ghalib moved to Chandni Chowk in Delhi along with his younger brother, Mirza Yousuf.

Research and studies on Ghalib’s life shows that none of his seven children survived beyond infancy. In fact, in one of his letters, Ghalib described his marriage as the second imprisonment after the initial confinement that was life itself.


Outset of Ghalib as a poet

Interestingly, Ghalib started composing poetry at the age of 11 under the pseudonym “Asad”. Though, his first language was Urdu, but Persian and Turkish were also spoken at home, and so he received early education in Persian and Arabic.


Ghalib started composing poetry at the age of 11.

Ghalib, as a poet, wrote in Perso-Arabic script, which is used to write modern Urdu, but often called his language "Hindi", and so, one of his works was titled “Ode-e-Hindil” (“Perfume of Hindi").


There is no doubt that Ghalib was an ultimate poet who wrote in Urdu language, and so, numerous commentaries on Ghalib's ghazal compilations have been written by Urdu scholars. In fact, it is often said that ghazal was primarily an expression of anguished love; but Ghalib expressed philosophy, the travails and mysteries of life, and wrote ghazals on many other subjects, expanding the scope of ghazal.


Ghalib as a maestro letter-writer

Undoubtedly, Ghalib was a gifted letter writer. In fact, it is said that Ghalib made his letters "talk" by using words and sentences as if he were conversing with the reader.


The important feature of Ghalib’s letters is that they were very informal; sometimes he would just write the name of the person and start the letter. At the same time, he was very humorous in his letters. In fact, in one letter he wrote, "Main koshish karta hoon ke koi aisi baat likhoon jo padhe khush ho jaaye'" (I want to write lines such that whoever reads them would enjoy them).

Letter written by Ghalib to Munshi Hargopal Tafta.


Not only this, Ghalib said, “Sau kos se ba-zaban-e-qalam baatein kiya karo aur hijr mein visaal ke maze liya karo” (From a hundred of miles talk with the tongue of the pen and enjoy the joy of meeting even when you are separated). What a thought, isn’t?

Lastly, being one of the greatest poets of not only India, hut of the world, Ghalib’s honorific was “Dabir-ul-Mulk” and “Najm-ud-Daula.”. Though, Ghalib’s Persian Divan (poetry collection) is five times longer than his Urdu Divan, his popularity lies in his poetry in Urdu.


Here’s to celebrating Ghalib’s birth and his absolutely commendable contribution in the field of literature!

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