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Ghalib’s Delhi mansion, engulfed in darkness for 364 days, "remembered" on his birthday

By Our Representative
It is indeed lamentable that in this age of communication boom and the onslaught of self-centricity, people appear to have forgotten Mirza Ghalib, about whom, once well-known English novelist Graham Greene wrote that he happens to be the best poet in all languages in terms of thought content. His three-day 221st birth anniversary, “Yadgar-e-Ghalib”, was celebrated in Delhi by Ghalib Memorial Movement under the patronage of renowned Kathak dancer Uma Sharma and other eminent citizens, ending with candle light march on December 30 in Delhi.
Sponsored by the Ghalib Memorial Movement and supported by Friends for Education, the NGO that had got Ghalib mansion restored in 1997, the candle march began at the Town Hall, Chandni Chowk in the old Delhi walled city area, to Ghalib’s Gali Qasimjan haveli.
A mushaira (poetic gathering) for the connoisseurs of Urdu poetry was held on the opening day on December 28, including poets like, Gulzar Dehlvi, Manzar Bhopali, Khushbir Singh Shad, Kunwar Ranjeet Singh Chauhan, Moin Shadab, Sharf Nanparvi, Alok Shristava and the second day, that is, December 29, saw Uma Sharma’s perfect rendition of the ballet, “Shama Jalti he her rang mein seher honey tak,” by her team and youthful artists.
Apart from Kathak maestro and Ghalib lover Uma Sharma, others who participated in the march included , bureaucrat-cum-poet Madhup Mohta, Iqbal Ahmed Khan and Imran Khan, both qawwals, actor Badrudduja Siddiqui Najmi, and activist and chancellor, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Firoz Bakht Ahmed.
The three day carnival, “Yadgar-e-Ghalib”, began at the India Islamic Cultural Centre with the traditional mushaira (poetic gathering) that included.
Uma Sharma stated that Ghalib’s name was misused for vested interests, but nobody bothered about preserving his poetic legacy including the agencies that are supposed to look after art and culture. poetry.
Littereateur Pavan K Varma, a participant, said that Ghalib’s poetry is unique, not only for the intensity of feelings but also for the exquisite charm and profound thoughts that are part of his beautiful world with the concept of interfaith bonding and that the government must help artists like Uma Sharma who are trying to revive poets like Ghalib.
Another participant, K Sareen, said, all through the vintage selling street of Chandni Chowk, one became nostalgic witnessing the attarwalas (perfume sprayers), pankhewalas (fan holders), mashals (torches), nagadas (huge trumpets), huqqas (old smoking system) and pandaans (betel leaf boxes).
The nafeeri and tasha (musical instruments of the Mughal era) artistes gaily accompanied the procession to Ghalib’s house at Gali Qasimjan.
At the haveli, while paying homage, Uma Sharma narrated how the struggle to restore Ghalib mansion was begun by activist Firoz Bakht with the help of the Ghalib Memorial Movement two decades ago — a time that she started visiting and conducting programmes at the Ghalib haveli. Uma Sharma praised the efforts of Manish Sisodia, Delhi’s deputy chief minister, and Vineet Palliwal for helping her ideas take concrete shape.
Madhup Mohta stated that the glorious thing about Ghalib is that his poetry never fitted into watertight compartments because his world in the ghazals was too vast and too contradictory.
Bakht, who founded the NGO Friends for Education, opined that poetry is a dying art and the children of this era do not know who Ghalib is and, therefore, the Government of Delhi must make it a point to take Ghalib to schools for the heritage tours to his Gali Qasimjan haveli. Besides, he emphasized, the Haveli-e-Ghalib, instead of being a dead monument, must be a living one by starting a reading room and an evening session to begin Urdu computer classes here so that the local community benefits.
“Apart from that information booklets on Ghalib, his picture postcards too must be availed, the responsibility of which should be of one of the Urdu platforms that are the nodal agencies of the Delhi government like Urdu Academy, National Council for Promotion of Urdu language etc.”, he added.
The haveli became crowded as ordinary people poured in to listen to prominent citizens on what was being done to restore the memory of Ghalib. Badrudduja, who is also a resident near Ghalib’s mansion, lamented that the great poet is rarely remembered except on his birthday. "The haveli is engulfed in darkness for rest of the 364 days", he said.

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