Ghalib: still ruling our hearts

, Sher o Sukhan

Huyi muddat ke Ghalib mar gaya par yaad aataa hai..
Vo har ik baat par kehna, ke, yun hota, to kya hotaa
( It’s been a while since Ghalib died but I still remember
His love of argument, and habit of saying if this happened then what?’)

Every 27th December the world joins hands to pay tribute to the poet who for many is the voice of Urdu shayri.
“haiN aur bhii duniya meiN suKHanwar bohot achche
kehte haiN ki ‘GHalib’ ka hai andaaz-e-bayaan aur “
(There are in the world many very good poets
They say that Ghalib’s style of expression is something else)
Asadullah Beg Khan started writing with the nom de plume Asad that means lion and later adopted Ghalib, which means conqueror, predominant, victorious. He was definitely prophetic in his choice of words as he still dominates our hearts and keeps conquering each successive generation.
There have been many wonderful poets in Urdu, with Ghalib himself acknowleding Mir Taqi Mir, so what is it about Ghalib that makes him larger than life?
Considering that he wrote in chaste Urdu, a language, which is not in as much use today as it was when Ghalib rose to prominence, what is it that makes Ghalib as relevant today as he was 218 years ago?

Ghalib was essentially a poet of self-introspection but he was a great thinker and many of his verses reflect some deep philosophical truths.
His poetry touched a chord in everyone’s heart and I doubt there’s anyone who read his verses and could go away saying that Ghalib didn’t speak of his emotions. His poetry was timeless and for all ages.

Can anyone express love like this?
Ishq say tabeeyat ne, zeest ka maza paaya
Dard ki dawa paaee, dard-e-bay-dawa paaya
(I found the joy of living – through love
Love is my cure – And incurable is its pain)

Today in the age of commercialization and self-gratification, when all we want is the latest product in the market and spend our days in trying to achieve impossible targets to get to the top, this verse could be an anthem. Of course Ghalib was talking of different longings than what advertisements bombard us with.
Hazaron khwahshe aisi ke har khwahish pe dam nikle
Bahut nikle mere armaan lekin phir bhi kam nikle
(A thousand longings have I, each one to die for
Many a desire have I fulfilled yet many more remain)

When we see the mayhem caused by people in the name of religion, forgetting that without humanity there is no religion, this verse is as true today as it was then. In fact, I think more so.
Bas ke dushwaar hay, har kaam ka aasan hona
Aadmi ko bhi muyassar nahi, insaan hona
(It is hard for everything to be easy
(as) Man can’t opt to be human)

Is there a comparable verse when Ghalib who led a difficult life, talks of hopelessness and sorrow?
Koi umeed bar nahin aati
Koi soorat nazar nahin aati
Hum wahan hain jahan se humko bhi
Kuchh humari khabar nahin aati
(There seems no hope in sight
Nor any face comes to light
I am now in a place
From where there’s no news of myself in sight)

But to my mind the major reason for the timelessness of Ghalib’s magic is that his verses revealed deep philosophical truths which every human can identify with. His poetry though deeply mystical in nature was untouched by religious bigotry.
He was an iconoclast who took on established religious and cultural traditions and questioned hypocrisy. Ghalib’s poetry was all about freedom of choices, a passion for life and love.
He challenged the stranglehold of priests on the masses, questioning their own hypocrisy.

Kahan Maikhaane ka Darawaza Ghalib aur kaha waij,
Par itana jaanate hai kal woh jaata thaa ke hum nikale
(The wine- house and the preacher are poles apart
Yet I do know that he went in, as I came out (yesterday)
While he has no compunctions in questioning his own shortcomings he doen’t let the preacher go unquestioned either.
Kaabe kis munh se jaoge Ghalib
Sharm tumko magar nahin aati
(How will you face God, Ghalib?
You should be ashamed, but not)
In this verse Ghalib questions the rigid method of reaching God through mindless prayers and rituals, which often drive people away, as opposed to simply losing oneself in His worship.
Waaiz na khud peo, na kisi ko pila sako,
Kya baat hai tumhari sharaab-e-tahoor ki.”
(O Preacher, neither could you drink it, nor could you offer it
What is the use of your Pristine Wine?)

Sir Muhammad Iqbal had equated Ghalib with William Shakespeare and both the bards will endure forever.

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