The Almighty Of Rekhta
Life Of Ghalib
About Ghalib,you may know a great deal already, and in that case you may want to go straight to the ghazals. If you don't know much, here's a time line of his life, and let me say a few introductory things. Mirza Asadullah Khan (1797-1869) was born in Agra into a military family of Central Asian immigrants; he lost his father and then his uncle in childhood, and lived for most of his life on his share of a pension from the British East India Company (his uncle had served as a Company military officer). He was well-educated and precocious: by the age of twelve, he claims, he was already writing prose and poetry. In both Persian and Urdu, he wrote most extensively in the traditional mystical-romantic genre of lyric poetry called ghazal.
His family were well-connected, and he was married at the age of thirteen to a girl from an even loftier family. Soon thereafter he moved to Delhi, where he lived for the rest of his life, except for one long trip to Calcutta. He was lively and sociable, ironic, witty, liberal-minded, with a humanity and a sense of humor that delighted his many friends. Writer of some of the most enjoyable letters in Urdu, he revelled in the new English postal service and conducted a lifelong correspondence with his many Muslim, Hindu, and English friends.
Financial difficulties were a constant headache: he never owned books, or a house, or any property except an inadequate patchwork of pensions and stipends from patrons. But even when the roof collapsed during the monsoon, he never for a moment abandoned his vision of the world. He sought to maintain at all costs the leisured, Persianized lifestyle of the Mughal aristocrat he knew himself to be. He tried hard to induce the British to become the kind of literary patrons the Mughals had been; the Rebellion of 1857 was the most painful time of his life. He died in 1869, in straitened circumstances. His wife did not long survive him; they had had a number of children, but all had died in infancy.
Ghalib's poetry,from his teenage years onward, created a sensation. Written in both Persian and Urdu, it was lavishly praised by its admirers, and bitterly attacked by those who thought he was taking what should be lyrical, romantic, and mystically yearning poetry and twisting it into something far too cerebral and convoluted. The nearest parallel in English literature is perhaps the advent of the Metaphysical poets, with their consciously awkward constructions and unromantic metaphors (think of Donne and his twin compass-legs and his flea).
During his lifetime, Ghalib was given a lot of grief about his ghazals-- and much less praise than he knew he deserved. He was accused of creating fine-sounding but overwrought and even 'meaningless' poetry. Over the past century, though, his genius has shone forth with an authority that has been, if anything, increasing. A whole commentarial tradition has sprung up to assist the reader; there are also the Ghalib Institute and the Ghalib Academy and Ghalib conferences and Ghalib journals and special Ghalib Numbers of other journals-- and movies, and wax effigies, and many fancy coffee-table books, and an Indian TV serial.
Not only Urdu poetry but the prose is also indebted to Mirza Ghalib. His letters gave foundation to easy and popular Urdu. Before Ghalib, letter writing in Urdu was highly ornamental. He made his letters “talk” by using words and sentences as if he were conversing with the reader. According to him “sau kos say ba-zabaan-e-qalam baatein kiya karo aur hijr mein visaal kay ma-zay liya karo” [ from hundred of miles talk with the tongue of the pen and enjoy the joy of meeting even when you are separated] His letters were very informal, some times he would just write the name of the person and start the letter. He himself was very humorous and also made his letter very interesting. He said “main koshish karta hoon keh koi aisi baat likhoon jo pa-rhay khoosh ho jaaye” [ I want to write the lines that whoever reads those should enjoy it] When the third wife of one of his friends died, he wrote… “Allah allah aik woh log hain jo teen teen dafah iss qaid say chhoot chu-kain hain aur aik hum hain keh aik ag-lay pachas baras say jo phansi ka phanda ga-lay mein parha hai to nah phanda hi tut-ta hai nah dum hi nikalta hai” [Allah Allah, there are some among us who have been freed from this prison three times and I have for the past 50 years this rope around my neck; neither this rope breaks nor it takes my life] Some scholars says that Ghalib would have the same place in Urdu literature if only on the basis of his letters.