Saturday, November 3, 2007

Ghalib ke Khatoot- Letters of Ghalib

Apart from being a great Urdu Poet, Ghalib was also a prolific letter writer. So not only Urdu poetry but also Urdu prose is indebted to him. Some scholars believe that his place in Urdu literature would have been assured only on the basis of his letters. Ghalib introduced a new style of letter writing, much different from the letter writings of others during the period. Before Ghalib, letter writing in Urdu was highly ornamental. He brought in this new style where by his letters ‘talked’ to the reader. They have a simple style, are conversational and shorn of all unnecessary ornamentation and elaboration. He writes, “Sau kos say ba-zabaan-e-qalam baatein kiya karo aur hijr meiN visaal kay maazey liya karo” (from hundreds of miles talk with the tongue of the pen and enjoy the joy of meeting even when you are separated)
His letters were highly informal and laced with humour. He said, “Main kosish karta hoon ki kutch aisi baat likhoon, ki jo padhey khush ho jaae”. (I try to write in a way that who so ever reads it, feels happy.)
He was a prolific letter writer, writing as many as five to six letters very day, and some times posting it himself too. Ghalib also knew his worth. When somebody asked him for his postal address, he cut him down to size: "Asadullah Ghalib, Delhi kafi hoga"(Asadullah Ghalib, Delhi, will be enough.)
Most of his correspondents were addressed to his friends and patrons, shagirds and admirers belonging to all sections and classes of society. Incidentally, his Hindu disciple Munshi Hargopal Tufta was the recipient of the largest number of his letters, totaling 123. Aspiring poets sent him their compositions to correct which he did with great care. In his replies, he invariably put in a couplet or two of his own and gave a detailed account of how he the aspiring poet was fairing.
Subject wise his letters not only give an account of the happenings in the life of the poet but are also a testimony to the tumultuous times that Ghalib lived in. He was a witness to the age of the decline and the end of the Mughal Empire; he lived to see the revolt of 1857 and also its bloody aftermath. So apart from their literary relevance, these letters also have a historical relevance as they provide a detailed first hand account of the life and times of Delhi during the period. Ghalib’s letters, especially those after the revolt and re-capture of Delhi by the British reveal the poignant pain and agony of a man who sees his city and also his way of life that he so loved and admired, brutally ravaged and destroyed by the British. Many of his close friends and admirers were either killed or had to relocate to other cities.
Incidentally, Ghalib did not react with great enthusiasm when the idea of publishing his letters was first put before him by his publisher friend, Munshi Shiv Narayan. However, with the passage of time and some cajoling, he agreed and his letters, totaling 873 were first published in 1865, under the title “Ood-e-Hindi’.
I found this veritable treasure trove, the audio of “Ghalib ke Khatoot”, on Youtube, posted by Mirza Jamal, who posts there as Mahakavi. He kindly consented to my request and made a playlist of his postings so that I could post it on my blog. Sukriya Mirza Saheb. So here it is for you to enjoy…
P.S: This “Ghalib ke Khatoot” is a three cassette series of Ghalib’s letters recited by Zia Mohyeddin in his inimitable style brought out by EMI, Pakistan. I am surprised as to why no music company in India has launched it in India so far considering the number of Ghalib fans that abound. Some pain we had in getting our copy.