The Chronicles of Mirza Ghalib-4


This is the fourth edition of some famous anecdote from Ghalib’s life.

About a donkey who doesn’t eat a mango :

  • The late Hakim Razi ud-Din Khan was an extremely close friend of Mirza’s. He didn’t care for mangoes. One day he was seated in the verandah of Mirza’s house, and Mirza was there as well. A donkey-driver passed through the lane with his donkey. Some mango-skins were lying there; the donkey took a sniff, then left them. The Hakim Sahib said, ‘Look– a mango is such that even a donkey [gadhaa bhii] doesn’t eat it!’ Mirza said, ‘Without a doubt, a donkey doesn’t eat it.'(Jo gadhe he wohi nahi kahate.)

mujhase puuchho, tumhen khabar kyaa hai  // aam ke aage neshakar kyaa hai


‘The white man’s prison and the black man’s prison’ :

  • On at least one occasion Ghalib did make a play on Kale Shah’s name, as Hali tells us : When Mirza came out of prison [for gambling, in 1847], then he went and stayed at Miyan Kale’s house. One day he was sitting with the Miyan. Somebody came and congratulated him on being freed from prison. Mirza said, ‘What wretch [bha;Ruvaa, literally ‘pimp’] has gotten out of prison? First I was in the white man’s [gaure kii] prison, now I’m in the black man’s [kaale kii] prison!’

How he refused a fine position teaching Persian at Delhi College :

  • In 1842 the English government decided to reorganize the affairs of Delhi College. Thomason Sahib, who for a number of years had been Lieutenant Governor of the Northwestern Province, was Secretary at that time. He came to Delhi to interview the teachers. And just as there was a teacher of Arabic at one hundred rupees a month, he wished for there to be such a teacher of Persian also. People told him the names of some accomplished ones. Mirza’s name too was among these. Mirza Sahib came, as he had been invited to do. Announcement was made to the Sahib. Mirza Sahib came out of his palanquin, and stayed there waiting for the Secretary Sahib to come, according to long custom, and receive him. When neither the one went in, nor the other came out, and quite some time passed, then the Secretary Sahib asked his doorkeeper about it. That man came out again and asked, ‘Why don’t you come in?’ Mirza Sahib said, ‘The Sahib has not come out to receive me. How can I go in?’ The doorkeeper again went and reported.  The Sahib came outside and said, ‘When you come to the governor’s court in your capacity as a nobleman, then you will receive the customary honor. But at the present time you have come for employment. You are not entitled to this honor.’ Mirza Sahib said, ‘I consider government service a reason for additional honor, not something in which I would lose my ancestral honor also!’ The Sahib said, ‘I am bound by regulations.’ Mirza Sahib took his leave and came away.

Verse of a Ghazal related to the above episode :

bandagii me bhii vuh aazaadah-o-ḳhvud-biin hain kih ham
ulṭe phir aae dar-e kaʿbah agar vaa nah huaa.

1) even/also in servitude we are so free and self-regarding that we
2) turned and came back if the door of the Ka’bah did not open

To be continued…

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