Who doesn’t know Mirza Ghalib, a name that I heard growing up in my home (my grandfather, mum – all loved reading and writing Urdu poetry). Then came Secondary school, where we studied the life and poetry of famous Urdu poets as part of our Urdu lessons (something that I didn’t really enjoy at that point in time… but in hindsight, it was so important to be able to learn and introduced to that flavour of Urdu Adab, which I fear my expat bachas will never get! ). And although we studied a number of Urdu poets and their huge body of work, Ghalib always had a special place in my heart. That connection was taken to another level when Gulzar sahab made the ingenious play, “Mirza Ghalib” played by Naseeruddin Shah. Us dramay ne aik aur hi qism ka rishta jor diya Ghalib se… (isn’t it amazing what good visual storytelling can do!?)
Fast forward to 2014, Mohsin had a work trip to India, and I tagged along. I enjoy Urdu poetry and Urdu adab, but Mohsin is another level altogether. He lives, breathes and writes Urdu nazamein. So on a 2 day trip to Dehli, he told me that one day is mine for shopping and whatever I want to do.. and one day is his. He will plan it and I will have to come along… So we did… On our second day in Dehli, he told the driver to take us to Chandni Chowk… The driver was quite puzzled with the request and suggested a few other touristy places but Mohsin insisted.
Mohsin told the driver he needs to go to Gali Qasim Jaan, Ballimaran in Delhi 6. That rang a bell – I knew that address!!! (only for me though.. the driver was still clueless) . We asked around for Ghalib ki Haveli and finally found the sign. The lanes are so narrow there (like old Lahore) where cars cannot go and we had to take a cycle rickshaw to take us to Gali Qasim Jaan. And as we took that ride in a cycle rickshaw, we felt being transported back into time… with his nazam constantly playing in my head…
“Ballimaran ke muhallay ki wo pechida daleelon ki see galiyan….”
Gulzar sahab’s drama serial “Mirza Ghalib” starts with his own nazam that he wrote on Ghalib, which I am sharing below… he recites it in his own voice here.
There was an excitement and anticipation in me as we saw the sign of Gali Qasim Jaan.
And we were finally there.. at the entrance of “Ghalib ki Haveli” which is a heritage site and now converted into a museum.
The walls are adorned with portraits of the Ghalib and his couplets all around the haveli, along with other objects belonging to the poet and his time.
The walls are adorned with portraits of the Ghalib and his couplets all around the haveli, along with other objects belonging to the poet and his time. The walls also have the stamps issued by Govt. of Pakistan, in memory of Ghalib.
Ghalib lived in this Haveli for a long period of his life after he came from Agra. After his death, the place housed shops inside it until the year of 1999 after which the govt. acquired a portion of it and renovated it. The other portions are occupied by people who are still living there…
The staircase that went up to the Chaubara, where Ghalib used to spend a lot of time.. the stairs lead to someone’s else’s home now.
Knowing that Mirza Ghalib wrote his diwan in this place, lived most of his adult life here … and then we were standing there… it was a surreal experience…
Kia kia suna aur dekha hoga in dewaaroun ne….
Jo log un ke ghar mein rehtey hain, kia woh jantay bhi hain woh kis ke ghar mein hain..
bohat saray sawal.. bohat sare ehsaasaat…
And then imagine what luck had in store for me, that after Dehli when we reached Mumbai to take our flight back to Doha, I was lucky enough to meet Gulzar sahab at his place.. I had visited Ghalib ki haveli 2 days ago and the third day I end up in Gulzar sahab’s home! I dunno how it all happened, but it was just meant to be.. for me to be able to breathe the air and walk the floor of the two geniuses of their time! (You can read about me meeting Gulzar sahab here)
Truly a dream come true for anyone who loves Urdu!