It is well-known that 18th century poet Mirza Ghalib’s verse has transcended time and space as “it subtly spoke out against oppression and inequality”. Prof Gurupdesh Singh from Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, suggested this while speaking at a national seminar on ‘Celebrating 220 years of Mirza Ghalib’ at MCM DAV College, Sector 36, on Wednesday.
There are many dimensions to Ghalib’s pen. I never realised when I became a follower. Ghalib was not a believer or a man of orthodox beliefs. He lived in difficult times back then as many conversions were happening. His poetry is complex and layered and it subtly spoke out against oppression and inequality,” he said.
He added that he returned from the doorstep of an educational institution during the British Raj as the presiding officer did not come to receive him. He further said, “Good poetry creates images. Ghalib’s poetry does the same and then you can interpret it in your own way. A good poem communicates before it’s actually understood.”
Several professors of Urdu and Hindi deconstructed his couplets at the seminar, which started with a keynote address by Jamia Millia Islamia University Prof Anisur Rehman (retd) who spoke on the topic ‘Ghalib: Our contemporary’. He described how Ghalib was a proud person and passionate about his art. A reader could read his works repeatedly and “peel off a new layer in his verse each time”.
Prof Rehman’s address was followed by an invocation to Diwan-e-Ghalib, the poet’s many ghazals collected in the only book he ever wrote. Ghalib’s poetry has never been documented by date. So, it is mostly difficult to know, under which circumstances or during what time, he wrote each one. In Diwan-e-Ghalib, he has written a eulogy to poetry and its composition rather than invoking God.
Gursahiba Gill, a student of MCM DAV College, said, “From religious woes to existential crisis and love, he is the perfect ointment. You don’t need a good grasp on Urdu to comprehend him. His poetry can be interpreted in multiple ways, from political turmoil to philosophical query, he not only has our back but also hidden answers.”
Samreen Chhabra, another student, said, “He is a poet whose sense of quiet dissent is something contemporary poets can learn.”
Ghalib’s contemporary beliefs was also seen through the wit in his verse that often crops up as muhavrey or idioms.
Prof Abdul Bismillah (retd) of Jamia Millia Islamia University brought humour to the event as he described Ghalib’s use of words.
“Muhavra or idiom means to say something differently which was evident in Ghalib’s style. If there are muhavras in his shayari, it’s because his life was a muhavra. But it’s a pity these idioms are not used in common conversations anymore,” he said. In a packed hall, Ghalib was cheered by students, teachers and others as if he were a part of the mehfil. Students said they related to Ghalib in a way they could not relate to many modern writers.