Arguably the best Urdu poet of all times, for Ghalib’s verses, the reader ( also the listener) has just one word- Lajawaab! Born into the declining aristocracy, Ghalib unfortunately, was brought up like a nobleman. It is when he came of age that he realized that the power, the glamour is all a lie. He started writing at the age of 11 and was quick to acquire fame. Born in Agra, travelled to Benares, Calcutta and then to Rampur to find a patron, his life was darker than anyone could imagine.
Today he is widely known for his love poems but there is a huge range of work that includes ghazals, letters- which are evidences of the wide ranging talents of Ghalib. His poetry, so beautiful on the surface and so profound underneath, can shake even the vilest of creature, make the most unimaginative mind wonder. One of his couplet goes like this-
Kitna khaufh hota hai sham ke andheroon mein,
Poonch un parindoy se jin kay ghar nahi hotey.
I can vaguely translate it and by translating it, destroy the whole beauty of Urdu here but for the convenience of those who are not familiar with the tongue-
How scary is the darkness of evening/night
Ask those birds that don’t have a home.
Like I warned earlier, the whole beauty is destroyed but nonetheless, one wonders what made Ghalib such a deep poet- sometimes vivacious and sometimes so melancholic, so wide ranging and having the vocabulary to describe the varying human emotions. He married at the age of 13, had seven kids who did not survive beyond their infancy, looked after a younger brother who suffered from schizophrenia- and never had a fixed source of income. Probably that is what made Asadulllah -‘Ghalib’.
One should not forget to mention the rivalries Ghalib enjoyed with his contemporaries like Zouk , Momen and many others. And these rivalries never led to any bad blood among these renowned poets, instead they had high respect for each others exceptional talent. It’s another thing that Ghalib far exceeded all of them with his ways with the ladies. Infact he was notorious for this and was known as the ‘ladies man’. One look at his verses and one knows why he had an almost Casanova like reputation:
Unkay dekhney se jo jaati hai muh pr raunaqq,
Who smajhtey hai ki bimaar ka haal accha hai…
And another one goes like this-
Hum toh fanah ho gye uski aankhey dekh kar Ghalib,
Naa jaaney woh Aaina kaisey dekhtey hogey…!
Yeah, I know what you are thinking- the guy’s too cheeky and well, to be honest any lady would fall for a man who writes such wondrous verses.
Ghalib was not a ‘pious’ man , to talk in the strictest term. He considered the orthodox figures of Islam as hypocrites and did not believe in God as a concrete being. He was a ‘Sufi’, a mystic and if one looks at him from today’s view he is doubtedly an atheist. This makes him so far the ahead of his times, almost like someone from our era. His wife, on the other hand was deep believer so obviously, the marital life was not peaceful , on top of that Ghalib was every woman’s dream man. One of his couplet is quite radical and it goes like this-
Zahid sharaab peene de masjid me baith kar
Yaa who jagah bata jha khuda nahi…
He punctures all the established notions of religion through his poetry and yes, that invited wrath of the high clerics. But he never changed his stance.
Ghalib is present in the ghazals , mostly smade popular by late Jagjit Singh like ‘hazzaron khwaishey aisi….’ and many more. His life is definitely worth the silver screen. In the beginning of Indian Television and Cinema, Ghalib’s life was successfully adapted. But now, it seems Ghalib is all but forgotten. We know who he was, but what he wrote, what his life was- we are oblivious of it. Fortunately, there are people still, who haven’t given up. Recently his life was adapted into a very successful play called ‘ Ghalib’ , directed by Dr. M Sayeed Alam where renowned actor of yesteryears and a Urdu lover , Tom Alter played the role of Mirza Nausha. This play certainly brought Ghalib back into limelight, who was lost somewhere in this consumerist world. But would Ghalib had bothered? I don’t suppose he would have. He wrote to satisfy himself, to give expression to his emotions and not just to be popular. Here is one last, well known verse by him in this section-
Naa tha kuch toh Khuda tha, kuch na hota toh khuda hota,
Dubaya mujhe honey ne, naa hota main toh kya hota?
Hua jab ghamm se yun behis toh ghamm se kya sar kay katne ka,
Na hota agar juda tann se toh zanoo par dharaa hota,
Huye muddat key Ghalib marr gaya par yaad aata hai,
Hare k baat pr kehna key yun hota toh kya hota…