Not by Mirza Ghalib – Few Couplets

Over the course of time, this ghazal has had attached to it an extremely well-known and popular apocryphal verse. I’m not sure how old the verse is, but the minimum figure is several decades. Here’s the verse:

“khudaa ke vaaste parda na kabah se uthaa vaaiz ( zaalim ) // kahiin aisaa na ho yaan bhii wohi kaafir sanam nikle ”

[ for the Lord’s sake, don’t lift the curtain from the Ka’bah, Preacher! // may it not somehow be that here too that same infidel idol would emerge]

In a letter written in 1858 to his friend who was given the responsibility of printing his Divan –

[ Brother Shihab ud-Din Khan, for the Lord’s sake, what have you and Hakim Ghulam Najaf Khan done to my divan?! These verses that you’ve sent– the Lord knows what son of a bitch [vald al-zanaa] has inserted them! The divan has been printed. If these verses are in the text, then they’re mine; and if they’re in the margins, then they’re not mine. In short, even if these verses would be found in the text, then consider that some accursed prostitutor-of-his-wife [zan-jalab] has scratched out the real poetry and and written in this trash. In short, whatever scoundrel is the author of these verses, curses on his father and his grandfather and his great-grandfather, back to the seventh generation of the bastards [vald al-haraam]! More than this, what can I write? ]

One more letter written in 1859 to his friend ( extracts )

I used the pen-name of Asad, otherwise I’ve been using only ‘Ghalib’. And don’t you look also at the style of the writing [tarz-e tahriir], and the path of the thought [ravish-e fikr]? My poetry– and so ‘ornamented, varnished, deceitful’ [muzakhraf]! This story is at an end.

Please note: this verse ( as written above ) is NOT by Ghalib. Even if you have heard it recited as such, even if in your heart you think it is, it’s just not. Ghalib published his own divan four times, and we do know what he composed, and this verse is not his. .

In fact I think Ghalib would have shuddered at the thought of having this verse attached to his name; see the two letters above in which he fiercely repudiates other second-rate verses that had been wrongly attributed to him. In the first letter he descends to obscene personal abuse of the offender who tampered with his poetry; in the second letter he reproachfully asks his friend Aram to look, in making such judgments, at the ‘style of the writing’ and the ‘path of the thought’.

Nevertheless, many people do think the verse is Ghalib’s, and they like it, and they want it to be his. People sometimes give me suspicious stares, or even quite dirty looks, if I say it’s not. Jagjit Singh included it in his sung versions for ‘Mirza Ghalib’ by Gulzar. One modern commentator, Yusuf Salim Chishti, not only inserts it into the ghazal (as the penultimate verse) without question, but actually discusses it at unusual length and considers it ‘the high point of the ghazal and one of Ghalib’s best verses’

Just for the record, here’s that one deliberately-omitted verse, which originally appeared in the manuscript version as an extra opening-verse preceding the present –

Ghalib did compose but chose not to publish in his divan –

” zaraa kar zor siine par kih tiir-e pur-sitam nikle // jo vuh nikle to dil nikle jo dil nikle to dam nikle ”

[please just put a bit of pressure on my breast, so that the tyranny-filled arrow would emerge // if that would emerge, then the heart would emerge; if the heart would emerge, then the breath/life would emerge].

I don’t blame Ghalib for omitting it; some of his unpublished verses are masterful, but this isn’t one of them.

Anyway, let’s take a moment to return to the implications of the Case of the Apocryphal Verse. There’s one more such widely quoted apocryphal verse that I know of: for discussion of it, see . And here’s a related, though more minor, instance: a Pakistani stamp that misquotes a verse – issued on Ghalib’s death anniversary in 1969, that includes this verse –  ” manzar ik bulandii par aur hum banaa sakte // arsh se idhar hotaa kaash-ke makaan apnaa”

By reading arsh se pare hotaa , the stamp destroys all the delights of idhar versus udhar . It also uses the ordinary spelling of kaash ki , so that the verse won’t readily scan; but that’s nothing compared to the loss of the meaning-creation that’s the chief charm of the verse.

Another famous verse which is attached to Ghalib –

Many people nowadays apparently attach to this ghazal another, apocryphal verse:

”chand tasviir-e butaan chand hasiinon ke kutuut // baad marne ke mere ghar se ye saamaan niklaa”

[some pictures of idols, some letters of beautiful ones // after dying, from my house this equipment/material emerged]

Please note that this verse is NOT by Ghalib. (I will refrain from going into a long tirade about how it doesn’t even sound like his, but still it certainly doesn’t.)

In all these cases, people obviously trusted their memory, and their knowledge of the verses through oral circulation, so implicitly that they felt no need to check the verses in a divan. One could certainly call this carelessness or sloppiness. But if we look at it more thoughtfully, isn’t it also kind of a perverse compliment to Ghalib, that people are so sure they know his poetry by heart– even when they don’t? They feel possessive about him, as English speakers do about Shakespeare– even when, in both cases, they mostly don’t read him very much, or very carefully. Ghalib might even be somewhat pleased by this admiring cultural embrace.

But if it’s an embrace that’s merely warm and fuzzy, and doesn’t include serious attention to the poetry on which he so prided himself, how deep would his pleasure be?

Really Ghalib has left us nothing except his poetry and his letters. To be represented primarily by his poetry, and secondarily by his letters, is a fate that he would gladly accept. But he would certainly demand to be represented only by his OWN poetry, and he would HATE to have the second-rate verses of others foisted upon him.

Sources -Frances W. Pritchett , S. R. Faruqi, Ralph Russell( The Oxford Ghalib), Anniual of Urdu Studies started by C. M. Naim, Shah Jemal Alam. All these are eminent scholars of Urdu language and poetry and they have spent their life time studying great poets like Mir and Ghalib.

The above opionion is not mine (though I have added a few things which I found suitable), but of those whom I have named, I have just collected the information and presented it to you.  There are many verses and examples, when I some time and if situation demands, I’ll post one more blog with more information.

I hope this has helped.  If you have any questions or would like to share your opinions, please comment below and I’ll try my best to answer.

Thank you.

Ali Muhammad Ali. @AliPoetry


3 thoughts on “Not by Mirza Ghalib – Few Couplets

  1. Pingback: Not in Ghalib’s Name Please – Rana Safvi

  2. Pingback: hazaaron Khvaahishen aisii – Rana Safvi

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