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Homage paid to Ghalib

February 16, 2017


DR Rauf Parekh speaks at the event on Wednesday.—White Star
DR Rauf Parekh speaks at the event on Wednesday.—White Star

KARACHI: Witticism, anecdotes, specimens of enchanting poetry and fresh interpretation of Ghalib’s verses enlivened the evening at the Ghalib Library on Wednesday where intellectuals, writers and poets gathered to pay homage to the classical poet on his death anniversary.

They were unanimous that as long as Urdu lived, Ghalib would not die.

Prof Dr Tanzeemul Haq Firdaus, a teacher at Karachi University, shed light on various aspects of Asadullah Khan Ghalib’s life. She also said though Ghalib was known for his Persian and Urdu poetry, he was as wonderful a prose writer as he was a poet. In that context she mentioned Ghalib’s letters written to various intellectuals of the time, relatives and his literary friends. She said Ghalib’s students, particularly Altaf Husain Hali, skimmed information from his poetry and prose and compiled a biography.

In her prolonged, but interesting speech, she also mentioned how Ghalib suffered during his lifespan. She also mentioned his struggle to get his pension and travel from Delhi to Calcutta for that purpose. “He also wrote a panegyric for the queen [of Britain] and had it published, but that also did not work,” she said.

Dr Rauf Parekh, lexicographer and university teacher, read out excerpts from a thesis, which he said he was in the process of writing. He said Ghalib was generally perceived to be the greatest Urdu poet but it was an irony that of the numerous editions of his divan, not a single Divan-i-Ghalib could be called 100 per cent authentic. He discussed various divans, how they were compiled and how many couplets each of them had. The first one, which was published in the poet’s lifetime, had just 1,096 couplets. The longest version of Divan-i-Ghalib compiled by Kalidas Gupta Raza had as many as 4,209 couplets. He pointed out what flaws they contained.

From his speech it also emerged how so many people adored Ghalib and his poetry and worked hard to compile and publish the various editions of his divan. He mentioned a particular poet who went as far as to compose poetry in Ghalib’s diction and announced that a missing divan of Ghalib’s had been found and published his own poetry in Ghalib’s name. Many critics of the time did not suspect that it was fake. His faking Ghalib’s poetry should also be construed as his love for Ghalib.

Dr Ikramul Haq Shauq frankly said he did not count himself amongst the experts on Ghalib but instead he took pride in being an avid fan of his.

Abid Rizvi, who moderated the programme, also spoke on Ghalib’s poetry and interpreted his couplets in a humorous style. “The philosophy of life was not so easy before you,” he said addressing Ghalib. “You said death has an appointed time and the nightlong tossing in bed cannot avert it.”

Poet and head of the Urdu Department at Karachi University Prof Dr Shadab Ehsani presided over the sitting. He announced that under the aegis of Idara-i-Yadgar-i-Ghalib a monthly poetry recital (Tarhaee Mushaira) programme was being initiated and the first such event would be held at the Ghalib Library on March 15 at 4pm.

Prof Ehsani also read out a poetic tribute to Ghalib by Raees Farogh. The last couplet of the poem titled Nazr-i-Ghalib read: Tere iqbal ki khhata hay hamala sogund / aye ke deewan tera ved-i-muqaddas ki nazeer.

Published in Dawn, February 16th, 2017