I was expressing my grief and pain to my mom’s friend one afternoon, as always he listened and like every time he would leave me with words of wisdom and share his personal experience. It was not something I enjoyed, but the conversation was a good way to vomit the frustration deep within me. That afternoon conversation was different and a memorable one. He knew that I enjoy anything lyrical, I would pay attention to anything confusing enough. The following verses hit me hard.
dard minnat_kashe-davaa na huaa // main na achchaa huaa, buraa na huaa.
This was the first verse of Ghalib that passed by ear drum. I was not good at urdu and Ghalib can hit like a wall in your face if you are not good at urdu, one would choose not to give it a second thought if urdu was missing from his life. Anyway, since I was habituated to his wise words and was sure that a one liner from him would have a deep meaning and something I could learn from.
I asked “Aapne jo bhi kaha, kaan ko to bahut accha laga, par dimaag tak nahi pahuch payaa” (What you recited sounds sweet to the ear, but failed to go through my brain.) To which he replied, “Choote, yahi to galati kardi aapne” (Young fellow, this is where you are at fault). I informed again “Aap bas mujhe aur confuse kar rahe he, matlab to batao”. (You are just confusing me more, please explain the meaning of the verse).
He answered “Thik he ! Ab dimaag ko band kardo, warna sar dard ho jaega, dil se socho. Matlab to main nahi samjha paunga, par ha transalte kar deta hu. Dard tha, maine minnat ki, yaani dua mangi, lekin woh dua mere liye dawa na ban saki, mere taklif ko kam na kar saki. Main na hi accha ho payaa, nahi hi main aur bura hua. Main jaisa tha waisa hi hu, saari mehnat paani main. Ye translation mere exprience se he, tum iska koi aur matlab bhi nikal sakte ho, apni apni soch he, apna tajurba he, apna nazariya he”. (Okay, now dont apply brains or else you’ll have a headache. Think from the heart. I will not be able to do justice to the verse, however I’ll translate it for you , I had pain, I pleaded for help, I prayed for a cure, but that did not oblige to medicine. I was still in pain. I did not improve nor did I get any worse. I am still in the same condition. All my work is in vain. The translation is from my experience, you can derive something else from it. Your thinking, your experience and your perspective).
This hit me in the face. Though my reaction wasnt immediate. It took me one sleepless night and a lazy day to get over the verse.
He visited again after a week or so. I asked him “Woh jo aapne pichli baat sunaya tha, kisne likha he.” (The verse which you recited on your last visit, who is the poet ?). He gave an awkward smile, his eyes shinning, I was expecting him to say. “Main ne likha he” (I have myself written it). But no. He replied. “Mirza Asadullah Baig Khan—Ghalib”. He was very happy about being able to get the full name in the correct order. I didnt share the same experience, I continued to ask “Kaun he ye ?” (Who is this man ?). His smile now turning into soft laughter. The answer was :
puuchhate hain vo ki “Ghalib” kaun hai // koii batalaao ki ham batalaayen kyaa.
This was somewhat easy to understand, I smiled and asked him “Matlab usse patta tha ki log zarrur puchenge ki Ghalib kaun tha” (That means he was sure that people would surely ask about him after he has left.)
Shayad. Main zayada to nahin jaanta, par itna paata he, Shayar tha, piita tha, aashiq tha, pareshaan tha, duniya se khaffa tha, khuda se naraaz tha.
(Most probably, I do not know much, I do know that, He was a poet, use to drink, was a lover, was worried, was angry at the world, was not happy with God.)
We continued to discuss about Ghalib and then topic changed to usual stuff. He spent some time, had lunch. I had hardly begin to digest Ghalib, while leaving, at the doorstep, he left me with an everlasting verse, which I cherish and enjoy every time I recall it. It described mankind in 2 lines. He said, there is no problem in this world, it’s just that we are made this way by default. The following injected Ghalib in my viens :
hazaaron khvaahishen aisii ki har khvaaish pe dam nikle // bahut nikale mere armaan lekin phir bhii kam nikle.
For the next one year, I would read about Ghalib, learn urdu from his verses. Ask for meanings just to understand one verse. Slowly by the end of the same year, I was in love with Mirza. No one in my family has had any interest for poetry, I am the only exception. I decided, I would also want to be a writer. A poet.
About 2 years passed, I decided to spread Ghalib’s poetry, I was inspired and wanted others to be too. Twitter was new to me, I somehow managed to figure out that no account for Mirza Ghalib is in existence and there are so many readers and potential audience. In December of 2010, I created the @GhalibPoetry handle and the first verse I tweeted was hazaaron khvaahishen….. from then, my relation with Ghalib has been unique and it has also help me connect to the world of unknown poetry lovers. So far, so good.
This is how I met Ghalib. I leave you with a closing verse :
na thaa kuchh to khudaa thaa, kuchh na hotaa to khudaa hotaa // duboyaa mujh ko hone ne, na hotaa main to kyaa hotaa.
21 taarik, september mahine ki. Subah ke 6.18.