Ghalib; anything about poetry cannot be complete without talking about this legend. He was the last great poet of the Mughal Era and considered to be one of the most popular and influential poets of the Urdu language. Ghalib was born Mirza Asadullah Beg Khan but used his pen-names of Ghalib and Asad. Although he was most connected and proud of his Persian poetry, it was his Urdu verses that have lasted the test of time and made him the Ghalib he is today.
He was not only a poet but an important courtier of the royal court of the last Mughal Bahadur Shah II. The Emperor bestowed upon him various titles including ‘Mirza Nosha’ thus adding Mirza as his first name. The conferment of these titles was symbolic of Mirza Ghalib’s incorporation into the nobility of Delhi. His last abode, the haveli near Ballimaran, in present day old Delhi, has been renovated by the archaeological survey of India to recite his tales with Mughal era feel of the 19th century. And guess what! It has an art museum too. Get a closer look at these sites:
Ghalib’s works are, although extraordinary, but not easy to understand and a translation surely helps the Urdu novices like me. I bet these masterpieces will take you to the 9th cloud if you can understand them (after reading the translation of course). Most notably, he wrote several ghazals during his life, which have since been interpreted and sung in many different ways by different people. Before Ghalib, the 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, vastly expanding the scope of the ghazal. The idea that life is one continuous painful struggle which can end only when life itself ends is a recurring theme in his poetry. One of his couplets puts it in a nutshell:
क़ैद-ए-हयात-ओ-बंद-ए-ग़म, अस्ल में दोनों एक हैं
मौत से पहले आदमी ग़म से निजात पाए क्यूँ?
Translation in English
The prison of life and the bondage of grief are one and the same
Before the onset of death, how can man expect to be free of grief?
You need not worry if you aren’t well versed with Urdu or Persian; Ghalib’s works have also been published in English recently as Love Sonnets of Ghalib, written by Sarfaraz K. Niazi. It is a blessing in disguise for the budding poets (English & Hindi) to be able to wander through the poetic masterpieces of the legend himself. It contains complete Roman transliteration, explication and an extensive lexicon. Here’s an excerpt:
I am left with no hope at all,
No possibility to reach my goal,
The day of my death is fixed,
I am so very anxious that I cannot sleep all night.
Though I know the reward of obedience and worship,
But I have no tendency for it.
I am silent for a certain reason,
Otherwise I can convince you with my words,
Why I shouldn’t cry,
For when I don’t, she asks about me,
My heart is burning, though you cannot see the spot,
But o my doctor, can’t you smell my heart burn?
I certainly cannot produce anything that can match his stature but here is something that Ghalib would have said, I think, if he was alive…of course in a much better way…
के जिनके कलम-ओ-तलवार ने रचा इतिहास था,
बे-आबरू हुए वो बिखरे पन्नों से झाँकते हैं,
अब तेरी-मेरी क्या बिसात ऐ ग़ालिब,
के मुघलिया तख़्त भी यहाँ धूल फाँकते हैं…
Further reading: http://www.ghalib.org/
Meaning: All conquering, superior, most excellent, dominant, etc.