City Monument – Mrs Ghalib’s Grave, Ghalib’s Tomb
Homage to Umrao Begum.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
One hundred and fifty years after his death, Mirza Ghalib continues to be honoured by devotees who flock to his marble monument in Delhi.
Nearly forgotten is the poet’s wife’s forlorn grave lying just behind it. Umrao Begum was not even given the dignity of an inscription on her stone, at Basti Hazrat Nizamuddin.
Ghalib was just 13 when he married the aristocratic woman and settled in Delhi. Tragedy marred the union; all seven of their children died young. We know little about their relationship apart from that. But Ghalib did fleetingly comment on the situation in a letter condoling a friend’s wife’s death. “I feel sorry for… but envy him too… Imagine! He has been freed of his chains… and here I have been carrying my noose over half a century.”
He died in 1869, and Umrao Begum a year later. For nearly a century, his grave was exposed to the elements. But in 1955 an organization called the Ghalib Society built the marble structure over the site. They didn’t include his wife’s grave inside the mausoleum. In death, as perhaps in life, a wall separates them. As Ghalib once wrote: “How can perfection of love be found in this defective world?”
No flowers for Mrs Ghalib