Delhi’s Proust Questionnaire – Mirza Ghalib, Ghalib Academy
The parlour confession.
[By Mayank Austen Soofi]
Mirza Ghalib is eternal. The Agra-born poet lived in Old Delhi’s Ballimaran; his sasural was in modern-day Haryana (Loharu). While lying long buried in our city, Ghalib still gamely agreed to become a part of the Proust Questionnaire series in which folks are nudged to make “Parisian parlour confessions”, all to explore citizens’ distinct experiences. Oh well, actually, these responses of Ghalib are as imagined by scholar Aqil Ahmad, the longtime head of Ghalib Academy (but the verses below are cent percent of the poet).
The principal aspect of your personality?
Aashiq mizaj — I’m too romantic.
Ishq ne Ghalib nikamma kar diya,
Varna ham bhi aadmi the kaam ke.
(Ghalib, love has turned me into a good-for-nothing idler,
Else I too was a man of substance.)
Your main fault.
Your greatest misfortune.
Losing seven children.
Naam ka mere hai jo dukh, ki kisi ko na mila,
Kaam mein mere hai, jo fitna ke barpa na hua.
(The grief assigned to me is a grief not undergone by anyone else,
The commotion in my life is such, the likes of which have never been raised before.)
Your favourite occupation?
Your ardent wish?
Yeh na thi hamari qismat, ki wisal-e yaar hota,
Agar aur jite raih te, yehi intezar hota.
(To meet you in this lifetime, was never in my fate,
If granted more years, I would still have spent those in this wait.)
Your idea of happiness?
Attending doston ki mehfil (being with friends). Playing shatranj. Gambling.
If not yourself, who would you be?
A soldier, my khandani pesha (hereditary occupation).
Where would you like to live?
If I had seen Benares in my youthful years, I would have settled there than in Delhi. I even wrote a Farsi masnavi about that great city—Chirag-e-Dair (Lamp of the Temple).
Your favourite colour?
I always wear white kurta.
Your favourite poets?
Momin. Bedil is an inspiration to my Farsi poetry. And above all, Mir Taqi Mir.
Rekhte ke tumhi ustad nahi ho Ghalib,
Kehte hain agle zamane mein koi Mir bhi tha.
(You’re not the only master of Rekhta, Ghalib,
There was a certain Mir, too, in olden days, they say.)
Your favourite food, drink?
Besani roti, shami kebab, maash ki dal, yakhni. English wine.
Ghalib chhuti sharab, par ab bhi, kabhi kabhi,
Peeta hoo roz-e abr o shab-e mahtab mein.
(Ghalib, I’ve given up wine, but even now, sometimes,
I drink in moonlit nights, and when the weather is cloudy.)
What do you hate the most?
Hain kawakab kuch, nazar aate hain kuch,
Dete hain dokha, ye baazigar khula.
(The stars look like something else, and happen to be something else,
These tricksters deceive us so blatantly.)
Your motto in life?
Ranj se khugar hua insa, to mit jaata hai ranj,
Mushkilen mujh par pari itni, ki aasan ho gayin.
(When a person gets used to grief, the grief goes away,
Too many hardships fell on me, that they ultimately became easy to bear.)