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Ghalib, with angels as his muses

It may suffice to say that I do believe that poetry buffs like me will keep re-visiting his poetry all our lives, and find something unique each time. PHOTO: FILE

Mirza Asadullah Khan chose possibly the most apt pen name for himself – Ghalib – meaning dominant. He rules the world of poetry of the Indian subcontinent to date.Greats like Faiz have taken pride in looking up to him. Centuries later, he continues to be the muse for millions.

“Koi ummeed barr naheen aati

  Koi soorat nazar naheen aati…”

(There is no hope to be found,

There is no way out to be sought)

A Long Play (LP), or a 33 13 rpm vinyl record, that my father had bought from a trip to London was titled “Lata sings Ghalib”. Often, Abba would play it and make me sit and listen. It was like a punishment for me. I didn’t understand why Abba wanted to listen to something so sombre with such difficult words. He tried to explain the lyrics to me, and told me tales of how he had heard Lata Mangeshkar sing some of these ghazals live at the Royal Albert Hall in London. But as a seven-year-old, I thought Abba’s going to London and buying that LP was a very unfortunate thing. After all, I could have used the same time playing Pacman on my Atari video game.

Years later, studying Ghalib for my grade 10 Urdu exam, I thanked Abba. And thanked my eldest brother who, when I entered my teens, gifted me a Deewan-e-Ghalib and made good use of my summer vacations by explaining the entire thing to me. By then, Atari had become boring, hormones had started kicking in and the concept of romance started making relatively more sense. Ghalib, thus, begun to make sense too.

At a later stage, that concept of romance translated into the idealistic notion of love, or even Ishq. Ghalib was with me at this stage too.

“Kahoon kis se mein ke kya hai, shab e gham buri bala hai

Mujhe kya bura tha marna agar aik baar hota…”

(To whom do I say the calamity that the night of grief is,

I would not mind dying if death were just once)

It seemed he knew what was going on inside of us….like he had a prophetic understanding of human emotion.

However, it dawned much, much later that a lot of his poetry was deeply spiritual. That perhaps his poetry was not for the beloved, but for The Beloved. And this is where Ghalib has hit me the most.

“Yeh masa’il e tasawwuf, ye tera bayaan Ghalib,

  Tujhe hum wali samajhte jo na baada khwaar hota…”

(These problems of spirituality, this poetry of your’s Ghalib,

We would think of you as a saint if only you were not a drunkard)

My father, at a later stage in his life, took my mother on a trip to India, without any of his children. He wanted to visit the Taj and Aligarh University, his alma mater, with my mother. But a third site, very important to him was Gali Qasim Jaan, Ballimaran, and he took Ammi there so that she gets a feel of Ghalib.

It is no use trying to comment on Ghalib’s poetry, his skill or his prowess. Much has been written about it. It may suffice to say that I do believe that poetry buffs like me will keep re-visiting his poetry all our lives, and find something unique each time. I silently cringe when I hear the naive say,

“Ghalib is over-rated”

How do you rate something we have barely begun to understand? The man was divinely inspired, as he himself said,

“Aate hain ghaib se ye mazaameen khayaal mein
Ghalib  sareer-e-Khaama nawaa-e-sarosh hai…”

(The subjects (for my poetry) come to me from divine hidden sources,

The scratching sound my pen makes resonates like the sound of angels.)

The angels were his muses.

I have long lost that LP. But I know that I must talk to my daughter over sessions of Ghalib’s poetry we can listen to on Youtube via a proxy. One day, she will thank me for it.

Mujhe Bus Tum…..

A random poetic rambling….One morning in November 2011, getting up at 7.30 & scribbling whatever words came to my mind, and this Azaad, nasr-type nazm just came up.


Mujhe bus tum

faqat tum

aik tum

bus sirf tum hi tum

Woh aankhain

ke jo mujh par

jub zara ik geeli see

khwabeeda see

baidaar see

kuch khush see

kuch naalaan see jub

bus ik nazar daalain

to mein dobara jee uthoon…..

Mujhe bus tum

Mujhe to chahiye hain

bus wohi athkeliyaan

woh guftugu

woh khamashi

Wohi mere zehen ke 

bund kuch, kuch adh khulay se

baam o dar

ke jin pe tum ne khatkhataya hai

mujhe phir se jagaya hai

kabhi tora hai kuch hissa mera

kuch phir banaya hai…..

Mujhe bus tum

Mujhe bus ik tumhara lams

woh ehsaas

woh hiddat

ke jis ne jee uthaya hai

kabhi mujh ko jagaya 

aur kabhi kuch thapkiyaan de kar

mujhe meetha sulaaya hai……

Mujhe bus tum

Mujhe bus tum

faqat tum

aik tum

apnay se lagtay ho

haan, apnay khwaab ki

jazbaat ki

is tooti phooti zaat ki

takmeel lagtay ho

Kitaab e dil ki abb

har har satar

waabasta tum se hai

Ke meri har hansi 

aur har khanak

paiwasta tum se hai…..

Mujhe bus tum

Buhut mushkil hai dil ka raasta

aaray zamana hai

Kaheen maazi mitaana hai

naya ik kal banana hai

buhut mushkil….

Magar kuch hai yaqeen sa

paas ho gar

saath ho gar tum

Koi to raah paa lein ge

nayee manzil bana lein ge….

Magar ye khwaab hai mashroot

aur meri wohi ik shart hai

ik chaah hai meri

ke mere, sirf mere,

sirf mere, sirf mere tum…..

Mujhe bus tum

Koo ba koo phail gayee…..

Koo ba koo phail gai baat shanaasaai ke
Uss ne khusboo kee tarha meri pazeeraai kee

Kaisay kehdoon ke mujhe chor diya hai uss ne
baat to sach hai magar baat hai ruswaai kee

Woh kaheen bhi gaya lota to mere paas aaya
buss yahi baat hai achi mere harjaai kee

tera pehloo tere dil kee tarha aabaad rahay
tujh pe guzray na qayamat shab e tanhaai kee

Abhi barsaat kee raaton main badan toota hai
jaag uthti hain ajaab khwahishain ungraai kee

Uss ne julti hoi peshaani pe jub haath rakha
rooh tak aa gai taaseer maseehaai kee

(Parveen Shakir)