Stories about Mirza Ghalib

Has contemporary Urdu poetry lost its essence?

In Urdu literature, traditionally two concepts have remained dominant with regards to where creativity emanates from. The first is amad (spontaneity) and second is awrad (contrived). For a long time, the majority of Urdu writers, and the socio-cultural ethos in general, tilted more towards the amad theory, with Mirza Ghalib writing, “Aate hain ghaib se ye mazaameen khayaal mein Ghalib  sareer-e-Khaama nawaa-e-sarosh hai…” (The subjects (for my poetry) come to me from divine hidden sources, The scratching sound my pen makes resonates like the sound of angels) There were several writers who grappled with these ideas in Urdu literature, however they were not formally conceptualised until Muhammad Hussain Azad, ...

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Beloved Delhi is not just a tribute to the city; it is a tribute to Urdu

Tracing the literary and cultural arc of a city such as Delhi is an arduous task. The amount of revolutions and genocides it has endured are not easy to pen down. Keeping this in mind, Saif Mahmood does a remarkable job in his recent book, Beloved Delhi. Published in late 2018, this book is an exhilarating revivification of the city of poets. According to Mahmood, his stimulus for authoring this book came from the dining room conversations which used to be held at his home about Urdu poetry.  Unfortunately, these dining room conversations have now become a non-existent practice as the ...

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‘Tis the season to mango it up, with these sweet, delicious and easy desserts!

It’s that time of the year again when we find ourselves replacing wholesome meals with the indulgent sweetness of mangoes. A delicious variety of Langra, Sindhri, Anwar Ratol, Chaunsa, Desheri, Himsager and Sammar Bahist, to name a few of the desi aams (mangoes) are readily available in Pakistan. These mangoes become a delicious addition at breakfast, lunch and dinner. In his book ‘The Last Mughal’, William Dalrymple quoted the following, defining our love affair with mangoes aptly. “For Mirza Ghalib, the late evening was the time for indulging in mango related pleasures, especially the exquisitely small, sweet chaunsa mango, a taste he shared with many other discerning Delhiwallahs, past and present. At one gathering, a group of Dehliwallahs were discussing what qualities a good mango ...

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I think, pray and speak in English, so why should I speak to my children in Urdu?

My twins are almost three-years-old and they can’t speak Urdu, my ‘mother tongue’. They hear it being spoken around the house, and occasionally I may try to converse with them in Urdu but truth be told, it doesn’t come naturally. As first-time parents, we did get the infamous lecture that we should only speak to our children in Urdu or else they will never be able to speak the language. People would say, “Don’t worry, they will learn English at school but you must speak to them in Urdu.” The common fear is that our children will drift away from their cultural heritage. Most people believe that language is what will keep our ...

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Jinnah was not Iqbal’s first choice to lead the Muslims

To say Allama Muhammad Iqbal was an extremely complex individual is an understatement. The poet, philosopher and political thinker that Allama Iqbal was, he constantly evolved, or some might argue, regressed in his approach to the idea of a Muslim political identity and how it translated politically. Iqbal was, at various times, a Muslim modernist (he endorsed the founding of secular Turkish republic as a seminal event in Islamic history), a Muslim reformer (his lectures compiled as the Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam show the breadth of his reformist vision) and an uncompromising Islamist believing in theological unity and ...

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Rajinder Singh Bedi: Film-making is not child’s play

September 1st marks the birth centenary of Rajinder Singh Bedi, one of the most gifted and greatest fiction writers of the 20th century, completing the quartet whose membership also extends to Saadat Hasan Manto, Krishan Chander, and Ismat Chughtai. Bedi was a son of Punjab, born in Lahore. While his output was not as prodigious as his three aforementioned contemporaries, his stories are memorable, chastising ancient beliefs and superstitions which keep the ordinary person ignorant and the women oppressed. He was not a doctrinaire blinded by ideology as many of his contemporaries were, but rather than giving us the heady slogans of revolution, he preferred ...

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Would Manto be happy with Ali Sethi’s Aah Ko Chahiye?

Aah Ko Chahiye is the second track in the Manto OST. The video seems more like a trailer with numerous sequences from the awaited movie flashing past in rapid fire, contrary to the bland and tasteless composition trying its best to complement it. The attempt makes you question why Pakistani filmmakers fail to understand how important music is for the success of a movie, especially with the audience from our part of the world. Some of the scenes from the biopic hint towards the numerous short stories penned by the master storyteller or the different anecdotes associated with his turbulent life. Sarmad Khoosat’s acting does push ...

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If Ghalib was alive in 2014…

We curse him while trying to cram verses from Deewan-e-Ghalib into our heads for our Urdu literature exams. We study him because we have been told to but if – by some miraculous, unfortunate realignment of the stars – Mirza Asadullah Baig Khan, or Ghalib, was alive in 2014 rather than the 19th century, I am sure he would have been found hiding under the deck of a boat trying to escape to Australia. The first charge levied against him would have been of being an Indian agent; he was born in Agra after all. Anchors would appear on television with proof of ...

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Ghalib, with angels as his muses

Mirza Asadullah Khan chose possibly the most apt pen name for himself – Ghalib – meaning dominant. He rules the world of poetry of the Indian subcontinent to date. Greats like Faiz have taken pride in looking up to him. Centuries later, he continues to be the muse for millions. “Koi ummeed barr naheen aati   Koi soorat nazar naheen aati…” (There is no hope to be found, There is no way out to be sought) A Long Play (LP), or a 33 1⁄3 rpm vinyl record, that my father had bought from a trip to London was titled “Lata sings Ghalib”. Often, Abba would play ...

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Soufflé, the mango-licious way!

Mangoes, especially the luscious Chaunsa, evoke happy memories of sultry summer evenings with my late father when a mango mania of sorts would prevail over our home. A connoisseur of fine food, he would narrate numerous stories of the famous 19th century Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib’s love for mangoes as part of the ritual of devouring them. It is well-known that Ghalib’s love for mangoes took precedence over his love for poetry and this oft repeated anecdote about a donkey is my favourite; a close friend of Ghalib’s, who saw a donkey sniffing and then turning away from a heap ...

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