“Are you kidding? You mean to say you are Mirza Ghalib, The Greatest poet of Urdu and Persian. You are 'The Mirza Ghalib'…Please stop taking me on a ride. Will You?” I paused for a moment and then suddenly retraced back with a thought, “Are you a ghost!!!” As I said this to him, a part of mine started uttering the lines from the prayer to Lord Hanuman to keep evil forces away,
भूत पिसाच निकट नहिं आवै ।
महाबीर जब नाम सुनावै
(Bhoot pisaach Nikat nahin aavai
Mahavir jab naam sunavae)
(All the ghosts, demons and evil forces keep away,
With the sheer mention of your great name, O’ Mahaveer, the Lord Hanuman!!)
He smiled, perhaps understanding my premonition, held my hand and said “Son, Don’t be afraid. I am neither a ghost nor a spirit. I am the man himself, Ghalib. I had come here only for you, don’t refrain away from me.”
“How can it be true? Mirza Ghalib died more than a century back and now you say that you are Ghalib. Is this some kind of reincarnation, but that only happens in movies. How can a dead man come back to life?” I was baffled and at the same time petrified too. I have always been the lover of the night but today I was discovering a new side of it, your tiniest of the fear and apprehension assume a mighty form in the dark. “You please vacate this seat and be seated elsewhere”, I said as it was surely getting on to the nerves now, “I am sorry if I sound a bit blunt but guess that’s what is best for us in the current scheme of events”.
“Well if you insist, I will leave in an instant. I have come here only for you and if you don’t like, my presence here serve no purpose. But before I leave I must tell you something. Life has a strange habit of showing miracles to us – sometimes we believe them basking every joy they sprinkle and sometimes we reject them outwardly thus depriving ourselves of the possible pearls which might be conceived from the moments that could have been. I have learnt this part in a harder way from my life and when I realized this, I didn’t have much of the life left with me to experience its miracles” he said and got up from the seat.
“Excuse me, Sir, I am sorry for that indecent behaviour. Actually it all became blank when you said that you are Mirza Sahib, I didn’t know what to do and I uttered whatever came to my mind. But I’m still bemused and have not understood why you came here because of me. There is some legitimacy in everything you speak still…I am confused. I don’t know.” I knew this couldn’t be true still (don’t know why) I somehow started believing him.
“Son, sometimes when you don’t have any substantial reason to doubt, you should believe…it makes the life easier.” He said. I reciprocated.
“Does that mean that my benefactor permits me the pleasure of his company?” He said with a smile gesturing to the vacant seat beside me. I nodded back with a smile after which he again occupied his place.
“You know son, when you want to accommodate something new in your life, make sure you give your hundred percent to that desire. Your thoughts and actions should all be in sync with your desires and eventually as the intensity increases, the abstract thoughts transform into real things. That’s exactly what happened with you. You have been reading so much about me and my life from whatever material you could gather from whatever source you could manage, that your abstract thoughts about Ghalib and his life transformed into the man himself – that’s me.”
“I am still bewildered and confused. Does that really happen that way? It’s happening with me for the first time.”
“Believe life when the life itself wants you to believe it and see the magic”, he tried to convince me.
“Guess you are right. It all seems like a dream. But then as they say life is all but a dream within a dream, Mirza Sahib.” I pondered and said, “By the way, why did you board the bus from Agra, I thought you lived in Delhi. Isn’t it?”
“Agra is my city of birth. I was born here in Kala Mahal on December 27 1797 into a family descended from Aibak Turks and had spent thirteen years of my childhood in this city. My paternal grandfather, Mirza Qoqan Baig Khan, had immigrated to India from Samarkand during the reign of Ahmad Shah. He worked at Lahore, Delhi & Jaipur, and finally settled in Agra. Mirza Abdullah Baig Khan, my father and Mirza Nasrullah Baig Khan, my uncle were two of his sons. My father got married to my mother, Izzat-ut-Nisa Begum, and was employed with the Nawab of Lucknow and then the Nizam of Hyderabad, Deccan. He died in a battle in 1803 in Alwar and was buried at Rajgarh in Rajasthan. I was about 5 years of age at that time. I have very faint memories of my father. After his death, my Uncle raised me and my younger brother Yusuf. But just after three-four years of my father’s death, he also left us after which my mother took both of us to her father’s home, where I remained till my marriage.”
“Having lost your father and uncle at a small age, must be difficult for you to cope with everything. You said that you had spent thirteen years in Agra, does that mean you got married at the age of thirteen!!”, I asked.
“Yes, during those days that was the age by when most of the boys and girls used to get married. I was no exception. I got married to Umrao Begum, the daughter of Nawab Ilahi Bakhsh, when I was thirteen after which I was brought to Delhi from Agra by my father in law.” He smiled and continued, “I can still vividly remember that day of marriage. Umrao Begum was elegantly dressed in bridals. She must be around nine or ten at the maximum. There was that innocence in her eyes that swayed my heart. We didn’t realize that we were getting married; it was like a doll’s play for us. I still remember, when we were sitting on the tonga for the departure of the baaraat, she pushed me gently and handed me a handful of marbles which delighted me immensely. Haah, those were the days of innocence which once gone are gone forever.”
Mirza Sahib was surely reliving his days of innocence and I thought it was better not to disturb him. He was smiling continuously and so was I. When after few moments he noticed that I was smiling at him, he blushed. “You loved Umrao Begum a lot, isn’t it? I can still feel her presence in your thoughts and words as you speak about her.” He smiled again and said,
उनके देखे से जो आ जाती है मुँह पे रौनक
वो समझते हैं कि बीमार का हाल अच्छा है।
(Un ke dekhe se jo aa jaati hai chehre pe raunak
Wo samajhte hain ke beemar ka haal achha hai)
(On seeing her, my face brightens up,
She presumes that the condition of the sick (me) is better now)
“She was beauty personified and elegance embodied. Whenever I used to see at her face, my face used to brighten up even when I was ill and she used to think that I am recovering, at times failing to note that it was nothing but her grace doing the trick. When had our shares of sorrows and grievances but we loved each other a lot.”
देखना किस्मत कि आप अपने पै रश्क आ जाये है,
मैं उसे देखूँ भला कब मुझसे देखा जाये है।
(Dekhna kismet ki aap apne pe rashk aa jaaye hai
main use dekhun, bhala kab mujhse dekha jaaye hai)
(Its that stage of love where I have become my own rival
and I can’t bear anyone looking at my love, even if it’s me)
“But, I had read that…” I stopped in between before completing myself and then after a brief pause concluded, “No…Nothing.”
“You wish to ask something, please go ahead. I am here just for you else there is no purpose of mine here” Mirza Sahib said.
“No, I was just saying that I had read in one of your letters that you regarded marriage as “second imprisonment”. So does that mean you were unhappy with your marriage? I am sorry Sir, just a thought…if you find it intruding, you may choose not to answer” I hesitatingly asked. Mirza Sahib heaved a deep sigh and said,
क़ैदे-हयात, बंदे-ग़म अस्ल में दोनों एक हैं,
मौत से पहले आदमी ग़म से निजात पाये क्यों?
(Qaid-e-hayaat-o-band-e-Gham, asl mein dono ek hain,
maut se pehle aadmi gham se nijaat paaye kyon)
(The prison of life, and the bondage of grief - in reality both are one.
Before the onset of death, how/why would a person find escape/release from grief?)
“Son, every-thing that binds the person in this world is an imprisonment. And in that sense, every relation we breathe is nothing but an imprisonment in itself, the marriage being no exception. But the biggest and foremost confinement for a person is life itself. What would you expect from a person who has seen nothing but struggle in his entire life. You know, I fathered seven children but none of them survived beyond infancy. My younger brother went mad at the peak of his youth. I adopted two children of Arif, my wife’s nephew but they also left me alone. The life is a continuous painful struggle son, which can end only when life itself ends.”
जिसे नसीब हो रोज़-ए-सियाह मेरा सा
वो शख़्स दिन न कहे रात को तो क्यों कर हो
(Jise nasib ho roz-e-siyah mera sa
wo shakhs din na kahe rat ko to kyonkar ho)
(One whose life is always as dark as night
If he doesn’t call day a night, what else should he do)
Mirza Sahib was right. Life had been surely hard on him throughout his lifespan. Ever since his birth he was on the receiving end with each of his guardian bidding him goodbye at the middle of the juncture. The game of death continued to haunt him for the rest of the life too, when his seven infant children died followed by two of his adopted sons and later his only brother. As if losing his father, uncle and all his children wasn’t enough, Mirza Sahib found himself into the middle of serious financial mess after the British stopped his hereditary pension. However, that didn’t deterred him from discharging his responsibilities neither did he shied away from the lavish lifestyle he maintained. He fought valiantly for his rights to his ancestral pension at all levels of British hierarchy, arguing the case even at the apex level. Ghalib always considered it as his axiomatic right to receive pension from the British as a reward of the service rendered by his father and ancestors to the British. Also, he was always very specific about the respect and honour which he deserved in the form societal respect and status. From whatever little I had read, in his work the traces of dejected life and obsession for death can be easily found. The trajectory of his life very clearly portrays the cause behind his obsession for death. And the more one dwells into it, the more acquainted he is of the spiritual aspect of his writings.
(I long to die for Death,
Death knocks, but comes not…)
~*~*~ . . .Continued in Part (3)~*~*~
~Shubh Life . . . Om Sai Ram
© 2015 Manish Purohit (Reserved)
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