For Ghalib, birthday would mean lavish meal with friends (With image)

December 28th, 2008 - 2:26 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 28 (IANS) Had he been alive, legendary Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib would have celebrated his birthday with friends and his favourite dishes, and washed them down with “jaam” (wine), often a bit too much though. The shayar (poet) of fine tunes and a few vices would have turned 212 Saturday. Ghalib was a man of lavish sensibilities - the table would have been laid and ‘Mirza sahab’ would have gathered fellow poets like Zauq, his closest friend and rival, Momin, Meer Taqi Meer and Meer Mehdi Majrooh for a mushaira (poetry reading session) and recited couplets.

“Ghalib was a gourmet,” laughs Lal Mohammed of the Ghalib Museum at Hazrat Nizamuddin in the capital.

He would have begun his meal with sherbet followed by a main course of beef pasande, seekh kebab, chana daal, kofta, curried karela (bitter gourd), Moong ki salan, shammi kebab, yakhni, Maash ki dal, curd and roti besni, said Mohammed.

“The dessert would have comprised a spread of alphonso mangoes, grapes, misri (sugar candy), badam (nuts) and tea,” Mohammed told IANS. Remnants of the repast still survive like a slice from the past, moulded in mud inside dainty copper and silverware at the museum.

Ghalib’s gourmet platter is the subject of much curiosity at the museum, along with his clothes and other personal memorabilia.

The poet, who was known to squander money on alcohol, was a stickler for good clothes; his personal style was simple and elegant. While he wore elaborate woollen ‘bandhgallas’ with heavy embroidery to parties, for less formal occasions, he chose long kurtas and short jackets in light silk and lemony shades. His workday wardrobe comprised light kurtas in white and cream.

“It is a pity that children are not interested in Mirza Ghalib now. I want my children to read his works and Ghalib must be introduced in scholastic modules so that students know more about him,” said Shahnawaz, a young businessman in Nizamuddin.

The museum, located near the shrine of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya and the Mazar-e-Ghalib, the poet’s modest marble mausoleum with an inscription by friend and fellow poet Meer Mehdi Majrooh, wore a deserted look on his birth anniversary Saturday.

The celebrations were a few kilometres away at the Hamdard University, Tughlaqabad, where the poet’s birthday was observed with fanfare at a cultural soiree.

Mirza Asad Ullah Khan ‘Ghalib’ was born in Agra’s Kalan Mahal area in 1796 to parents of Turkish aristocratic ancestry. He was only five years old when his father died and uncle Nasrullah Beg Khan took charge of him. But he too died within three years.

Ghalib later moved to Delhi where his poetic talent blossomed and found new expression at a time when Bahadur Shah Zafar was Mughal emperor. His rich contribution to Urdu ‘adab’ (language and literature) continues to inspire poets till today.

A series of old sepia photographs at the museum document the poet’s several retreats in the old city and outside.

“Ghalib was a great poet and people still remember him. But personally, I think Amir Khusrau was better,” Farukh Nizami, the keeper and head priest of the shrine, told IANS.

Ghalib’s early education has always been a matter of confusion. Though there are no records of his formal education, it was known that his circle of friends in Delhi had some of the most intelligent minds of his time. Ghalib’s ghazals are written in Urdu and historians believe that he wrote the bulk of his ‘kalams’ (poetry) and sonnets by the time he was 19.

In keeping with the traditions of classical ‘ghazal’, the gender in his compositions was indeterminate - the beloved could be a beautiful woman, a boy or god.

“Ghalib was a devout man. He often visited the shrines of Amir Khusrau and Nizamuddin Auliya. Such was his religious fervour that he kissed the threshold of the shrine every time he entered it. Probably, he was blessed by Allah,” said Pir Khwaja Afzal Nizami of the shrine of Nizamuddin Auliya.

But Ghalib had a vice. “He spent his pension that he withdrew from Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar on alcohol. He did not give money to his wife and harassed her,” the pir said.

Ghalib’s pension paper, along with several other original manuscripts, are preserved in the museum.

Ghalib married Umrao Begum in 1810 at the age of 13. They had seven children, none of whom survived.

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