City Food - Poet's Mangoes, Ghalib's Tomb

City Food – Poet’s Mangoes, Ghalib’s Tomb

City Food - Poet's Mangoes, Ghalib's Tomb

To Mirza with love

[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Mubarak, season’s most idyllic scene just sighted. A mango cart parked right beside the tomb of Delhi’s greatest poet—see photo.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that nobody can fully crack Delhi without understanding Mirza Ghalib. And nobody can fully crack Mirza Ghalib without understanding his passion for mangoes. Luckily, the freely accessible library of Ghalib Academy stands next to the poet’s mazar in central Delhi, and one of the many Urdu books in the metal shelves—Sharah Diwan-e-Ghalib by Dr Qazi Sayeduddin—contains a vast oeuvre of kissa-kahani from Ghalib’s life and works. A few of those stories vividly tell of the poet’s utmost devotion to our king of fruits.

(Statutory recommendation: best to read the following passages over a juicy dasheri mango with the juice dripping down your hands and wrists!)

First kissa-kahani
Mirza had a great love for mangoes. He even wrote an entire masnavi in their praise. During the mango season, admirers of his ghazals from far-off places would send him baskets of the fruit. He would also unabashedly pester friends to gift him the same. Ek roz, Mirza was gupshuping with friends. The conversation inevitably turned to you-know-what. Each man started to offer his profound wisdom on the fruit. When it were Mirza’s turn to speak, he remarked that a perfect mango needs only two qualities—It should be meetha, sweet, and it should be bahut saa, very many. The friends burst into LOL.

Second kissa-kahani
Ek roz, Hakeem Raeezuddin visited Mirza at his home in Ballimaran. Hakeem saheb belonged to that rare category of men who do not care for mangoes. While chatting with Mirza, a donkey walla passed on the gali outside with his donkey. A corner of the gali was littered with mango peels (did Ghalib throw those? The literature is silent on the question.) The donkey sniffed at the discards, and walked on. Hakeem saheb victoriously pointed it out to Mirza, saying, “See, mango is a thing even a donkey doesn’t eat.” Mirza nodded, sombrely saying– “Right, donkey doesn’t eat mangoes.” (Did Hakeem saheb get the barb? Literature is silent.)

Third kissa-kahani
Ek roz, Mirza was taking turns with Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar at the royal orchard in Lal Qila. The trees were loaded with colourful mangoes. Mirza fell silent, gazing towards the trees. Ultimately His Highness asked, “Mirza, what are you staring at?” Mirza thoughtfully folded his arms–“O my Peer-e-Murshid, some elder said in Farsi:
Bar sare har daana bnawishta ayan
Kaen falan ibn e falan ibn e falan
(Every seed has this clearly written on it
This one belongs to this one’s son and that one belongs to that one’s son)”
Mirza continued, wondering aloud. “Do any mangoes here bear my name and the names of my baap-dada?”
That same day the choicest mangoes from the royal orchard were delivered at Mirza’s home.