This is the third edition of some famous anecdote from Ghalib’s life.
- I never kept my poetry with me. Navab Ziya ud-din Khan and Navab Husain Mirza used to collect it. What I composed, they wrote down. Now both their houses have been looted. Libraries worth thousands of rupees were destroyed. Now I long to see my own poetry. A few days ago a faqir, who has a good voice and is a fine singer too, found a ghazal of mine somewhere and got it written down. When he showed me that piece of paper, believe me, I felt like weeping. I send you the ghazal and as a reward for it I want an answer to this letter.
The ghazal was :
dard minnat-kash-e davaa nah huaa // main nah achchhaa huaa buraa nah huaa.
- Among the Delhi nobility there was one gentleman who was a very close friend of Mirza’s, and who had become very badly off after the Rebellion. One day, wearing a [cheap] chintz quilted cloak [far-gul], he came to visit Mirza. Mirza had seen him wear only Kashmiri lamb’s-wool or embroidered, etc., robes [chu-gah], never such low-class garments. When he saw the chintz cloak on his [friend’s] body, his heart filled [with compassion]. He asked him, ‘Where did you get this chintz? Its style pleases me extremely much; please order some chintz, for a cloak to be made for myself as well.’ He [=the friend] said, ‘This cloak has been made and sent to me only today, and this is the only time I’ve worn it. If it pleases you, then it’s at your service [as a gift].’ Mirza said, ‘This is exactly what my heart desires– that I would snatch it away from you and put it on right now! But it’s very cold outside, what will you wear to go from here to your house?’ Then he looked around here and there. He took down his own new Kashmiri lamb’s-wool robe from a peg and put it on him. And so beautifully he presented this robe to him.
ha bhalaa kar teraa bhalaa hogaa // aur darvesh kii sadaa kyaa hai
- [Writing to Mihr in June 1860:] Listen, my friend, among poets Firdausi, and among faqirs Hasan Basri, and among lovers Majnun– these three men, in their three arts, are the heads and chiefs. The excellence of a poet is that he should become Firdausi. The limit for a faqir is that he should rival Hasan Basri. The token of a lover is that he should have a destiny like that of Majnun. Laila had died before his eyes. Your beloved died before your eyes– or rather, you have gone beyond him, because Laila died in her own house, and your beloved died in your house. My friend, these Mughal types [mug-bachche] are a disaster– the one whom they’re dying for, they end up killing. I too am a Mughal type. In my whole life I too have killed one very cruel dancing girl [ek barii sitam-peshah ;Domnii ko main ne bhii maar rakhaa hai]. May the Lord have mercy on them both, and you and me as well, who have suffered the wound of a friend’s death. This happened forty or forty-two years ago. Nowadays I’ve abandoned that path; I’ve become a mere stranger to that [lover’s] art. But even now sometimes I remember those coquetries. In my whole life, I won’t forget her death. I know what must be passing through your heart. Be patient, and now abandon the turmoil of worldly [majaazii] passion.
- [1862:] My dear boy! I’m in great trouble. The walls of the ladies’ apartments have fallen. The toilet has collapsed. The roofs are dripping. Your auntie says, ‘Alas, I’m going to be buried under it! Alas, I’m dead!’ The sitting room is in worse shape than the ladies’ apartments. I’m not afraid of dying. I’m anxious about lack of comfort. The roof is a sieve. If the clouds rain for two hours, then the roof rains for four hours. If the owner wants to repair it, how can he do so? If the rain stops, then everything can be arranged. And then, during the repairs, how can I stay there? If you can, then while the rains last ask your brother to provide the house in which Mir Hasan used to stay for your auntie to live in, and the upper room with the courtyard beneath in the house where the late Ilahi Bakhsh Khan used to stay, for me. The rains will be over, the repairs will be made, then the ‘sahib’ and the ‘mem’ and the ‘baba log’ will come back to their former dwelling. Just as your father has been my benefactor through his sacrifices and generosity–let this one more kindness be added to it in my old age.
- About wine, his witty remarks are very famous. One person in his presence vigorously denounced wine, and said, ‘The prayers of wine-drinkers are not granted.’ Mirza said, ‘My friend, he who has been vouchsafed(has) wine– what else does he need, that he would pray for?’
ye masaail-e-tasavvuf, ye teraa bayaan ‘Ghalib’ // tujhe ham walii samajhate, jo na baadaa_Khvaar hotaa
[masaail=topics, tasavvuf=mysticism, walii=saint/friend, baadaa_Khvaar=drinker]
To be continued…