|Source; Google Images|
Ghalib truly had his share of tryst with destiny and the scuffle for supremacy continued for life with each one of them trying to oust the other but, perhaps, he didn’t seem to digest that destiny always walks a step ahead and in the end it’s the life which bends the way destiny decides. We have read earlier that the recognition and nobility came to Ghalib much later in life when the royal title was finally bestowed upon him followed by additional recognition & titles in royal courtyards. I am sure he must have been elated to receive the place for which he craved & struggled through-out. However, the joy and glee was short lived & with the break of 1857 revolt everything vanished leaving him in a state of solitude. It was like walking on a circular path, ultimately reaching the point where you started. While for the rest of the country the 1857 uprising was the struggle for independence but for Ghalib it was more of the survival and sustenance.
As I mentioned the revolt of 1857, I could see the contours on Mirza Sahib’s face changing from a composed state to that of restlessness and despair. He heaved a deep sigh and started looking out of the window. It was a cloudy night with only a handful of stars visible from the naked eye. The moon was also making an intermittent appearance playing seek and hide through those clouds. “Son, can you see that moon trying so hard to sustain and survive amidst those thick dark clouds. Poor fellow, no matter how hard he try but his presence always remain undermined and shadowed by those treacherous clouds. What’s his fault, just that he wants to shine at his best and illuminate the sky with his silver beams. Is it so heinous a crime to have his own identity under a mark?” he again went into a pensive.
ज़िन्दगी अपनी जब इस शक्ल से गुज़री ग़ालिब
हम भी क्या याद करेंगे कि ख़ुदा रखते थे
(Zindagi Apni Jab Is Shakl Se Guzri Ghalib
Ham Bhi Kya Yaad Karenge Ke Khuda Rakhte The)
(My life paved its way to the current state Ghalib
We will always remember that there was a God who shaped them)
“Our life is also similar”, he continued, “all it wants is to live its years with full enthusiasm and exuberance but these lines on our palms betray its very intent and we keep struggling for survival and sustainability…just like the moon up there.”
“My destiny has been barbarous at every juncture and we have waged a constant battle with each other. There were times when I took a pride of getting a step ahead but in the end I always found myself standing there at the losing end. The 1857 uprising proved to be one of the final nails in my coffin. Whatever tits and bits I could gather from the life turned into debris, the remnants of which I couldn’t gather even till the last breath of my life” he said.
He continued, “I never had this habit of compiling or preserving the verses I wrote. A couple of friends of mine, Nawab Ziya-ud-din Ahmad Khan & Nawab Husain Mirza, took special effort and preserved all my writings with him. May Allah bless their holy souls. They always used to say, “Mirza, why do you waste these couplets of yours. You don’t realize their value, the treasure they hold within. They are priceless and the world would soon realize its worth. If you can’t preserve them, at least give us the copies of the verses the moment you write, so that we can preserve and safeguard the same.”
“That’s so noble of them Mirza Sahib else we would not have been able to enjoy your work” I said.
“Son, during the 1857 uprising, the British showed rampant aggression and ransacked the whole of the Delhi. My friends’ library was also plundered and much of my works which they preserved was destroyed. Shortage of funds prevented me to publish my compilation and then this loss of work thwarted my spirits. It pained me a lot when later I found a beggar reciting my poem requesting food to the passer by.”
मेरी क़िस्मत में ग़म गर इतना था
दिल भी या रब कई दिये होते
(Meri qismat men gham, gar, itnaa thaa
dil bhee yaa rab, ka-ei diyey hotey)
(In my fate, if sorrows were so many,
O Lord, should have given several hearts as well.)
“The seizure and re-capture of the city by British was one of the most unfortunate catastrophe that struck Delhi and its people. The British were no better than erstwhile invaders who invaded our country. Mass slaughter was rampant and the Delhi streets were filled with horror. There was brutal massacre of rebellion and innocent citizen, whosoever came under the minor suspicion was ransacked and slaughtered. Mercy, clemency and kindness were buried inside the debris of red fort who helplessly witnessed the destruction and invasion of its prized legacy – the king, the kingdom and the kingship, everything vanished. And I stood there caught in the web at the cusp of the union of two eras – one wriggling to die & the other struggling to born”
है मौज-ज़न इक क़ुल्ज़ुमे-ख़ूँ काश यही हो
आता है अभी देखिये क्या-क्या, मेरे आगे
(Hai mauj-zan ik qulzum-e-khoon kaash yahi ho
Aata hai abhi dekhiye kya kya meray aage)
(I wish this be the last sea of blood I witness
Who knows what lies ahead in store for me to see)
Mirza Sahib’s eyes shone with fear, anguish and anger as he narrated the events of that fateful year. It must have been an atrocious experience to witness the debacle of the city he lived in for most of his life and the slaughter of the people he lived with. He witnessed the whole of the bazaars (markets) (Khas Bazaar, Urdu Bazaar, Kharam-ka Bazaar) disappear, the whole of the mohallas (localities) vanish and the whole of the kataras (lanes) wiped out. The age old havelis (mansions) were razed to the ground with its inhabitants either killed or scattered or reduced to filth. The city of good living, Delhi, changed and so did its people.
As Ghalib himself had written in one of his letters, “O’ my life, this is not the Delhi where you were born, not the same city where you had education, nor the Delhi where you used to come to me for coaching, nor the place where I lived for 51 Years. It is now a mere encampment. The Muslims living here are either artisans or skilled workers or subordinates of government officers. The rest are all Hindus. The dependents of the exiled king who have escaped the carnage are now employed on a measly sum of five rupees a month. Among the women, the older ones are brothel-keepers, the younger ones have taken to prostitution.”
मालूम न था इतना कुछ है घर में बेचने के लिए ग़ालिब
ज़मीं से लेकर ज़मीर तक सब बिक रहा है
(Malum na tha itna kuch hai ghar mein bechne ke liye “Ghalib”
Zameen se lekar zameer tak, sab bik raha hai)
(Never realized that so much is there in the house to sell Ghalib
From property to values everything is on sale here)
That was surely a scary phase for anyone to witness and Ghalib was no exception. After 1857, the principal concern for Ghalib was the resumption of the pension, the question of its increase for which he fought relentlessly was buried forever. The longing to live more and escape death, at times, makes one do stranger acts. The mass destruction and killing did frighten Ghalib and the fact that he was the part of royal palace (as the tutor and poetry advisor to Emperor) further aggravated his fears. Those were the times when everyone who was even remotely related to the palace was killed or murdered. Ghalib, apprehensive of the same, wrote ‘Dast-Ambooh’ (Bouqet of Flowers) depicting the events of the mutiny from May 11, 1857 to July 31, 1858. The book was written for the sole reason to show his solidarity to the British and its imperialism in the country, solely to be saved from the aftermath of the revolt and thus was pro-British and condemned the revolt. The copies of the same were presented to British command in India and also in England only to convey that he was not involved in the insurrections.
I suddenly remembered about Ghalib’s brother (Ghalib had a small family, deprived of any offspring his wife and younger brother were all he had to call a family) and was curious about his whereabouts.
“Mirza Sahib, what about your brother Yusuf Ali Khan, You had said earlier that you had a brother who became mad in his youth? I understand he lived elsewhere & during the revolt there was curfew and restriction on the movement. How did you manage to take care of him during that time?” I said.
“Yusuf, my brother…” he said, and then something within pulled him into pensive melancholy and he went silent.
“Mirza Sahib...” I said.
“Mirza Sahib…” I repeated.
And when he didn’t responded, I gave him a gentle nudge at which he looked at me, aghast and appalled. His eyes shone with the drops of tears which rolled down his cheek as he stared at me incapacitated. I didn’t know what to do, still confuse, I held his hands strongly. The silence amidst us screamed echoing the sentiments on either side – the pain overflowing through his eyes in the form of teardrop rolling down his cheeks and the compassion emitting from my presence in form of warmth with which I held his hand. I didn’t try to stop or pacify him and allowed him to heal the scars and wounds from the tears which were confined within for over a century.
“He had his share of trials and tribulations through-out the life and when his time came, the peace and contentment eluded him then too. He developed schizophrenia at a young age and eventually went mad. I had got him medicated from the best of the hakims and doctors but no he did not responded to any medicine or treatment. Poor fellow, his own wife and children left him in lurch. He lived a bit far from my Haveli so I arranged two servants who could take care of him and medicate him timely. Curse this revolt, I couldn’t even get out of my home and meet him for days. For others, it was the fight for independence but for me it was the indication of ominous time ahead – one by one everything was falling off the track.”
“But what finally happened to him, hope he was able to recover from illness? It must be terrible feeling to be confined at a place when your brother was suffering and unwell at other.” I asked.
“Son, for those whose life is a constant struggle, the only relief one can ever have is the end of it” he said before reciting below couplet.
ग़म-ए-हस्ती का, असद किस से हो जुज़ मर्ग इलाज
शमा हर रंग में जलती है सहर होने तक
(Gham-e hastii ka “Asad kis se ho juz marg ilaaj
shama har rang mein jaltii hai sahar hone tak)
(For the grief of life,’ Asad’, what would be the cure, except death?
The candle, in every color, burns until the coming of dawn)
“Yusuf’s sufferings also ended with the end of his life and I couldn’t save him, I just couldn’t save my beloved Yusuf”. He continued, “That fateful night is still afresh in my thoughts when I got that dreadful news of his death. It was a dark silent night. The aftermath of the revolt was clearly visible as the street and the homes were desolate as if none ever accompanied them. The stars and the moon, it seem, were also reeling under the shock of the revolt. There was some uncomfortable and eerie stillness in the night which was shattered by the knock on the door. I was scared a bit for none visited me as such even during the daytime and this knock late in the night was alarming. When my servant opened the gate a soldier came and said that my brother days were over and he was shot by white soldier when he was straying on the roads late night. I wonder what harm would an insane soul have done to the mighty British Empire.”
He broke down heavily, “You know son I couldn’t even perform the last rites of my beloved Yusuf. I have nurtured and cared for him like my child and in the end when his days were over, I wasn’t with him. Some neighbours buried him and I couldn’t even see him for the last time. I couldn’t sleep that night, my home was enveloped with the darkness of the grief and the only candle of hope which was entrusted to hold the flame till morning also extinguished.”
While the revolt of 1857 and its aftermath jolted the existence of Ghalib, the sudden demise of his brother further aggravated his sufferings. Many of his friends were killed, jailed or exiled while losing their homes, lands and belongings. The destruction and razing of the libraries of couple of his followers and friends, who housed and collected his work, resulted in irreparable loss of many of his writings. And not to forget the financial loss which he suffered due to stopping of pension. The life was constantly losing its charm and the financial instability and ailing health added to his woes. He couldn’t survive for long after the revolt and during his last years was mostly confined to his haveli at Ballimaran holding that dwindling candle of hope in await of the new dawn at the dusk of his life.
ज़ुल्मतकदे में मेरे, शबे गम का जोश है
इक शमा है दलीले सहर, सो ख़ामोश है
(Zulmat kade, mein mere, shab-e-gham ka josh hai
Ek shama hai dalil-e-sahar, so khamosh hai)
(In my dark home a storm of gloom / grief rages in the night
A lovely candle holding the flame helplessly is also extinguished)
~*~*~ . . . Concluded in Part (6) ~*~*~
~Shubh Life . . . Om Sai Ram
© 2015 Manish Purohit (Reserved)
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