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Ghalib returns home,his haveli opens today as public memorial

GHALIB’S quaint haveli in Old Delhi’s Gali Qasim Jaan has seen many a transition — from the pauper poet’s rented abode,to a coal depot,a baraat ghar and now a public memorial,which will open on Monday with a mushaira.

Written by Ruchika Talwar | New Delhi |
May 6, 2013 2:33:33 am

GHALIB’S quaint haveli in Old Delhi’s Gali Qasim Jaan has seen many a transition — from the pauper poet’s rented abode,to a coal depot,a baraat ghar and now a public memorial,which will open on Monday with a mushaira. Once open,visitors can view the permanent exhibition of Ghalib’s belongings and works along with plaques of his famous verses on the brick walls.

The haveli has been through a long journey from its dilapidated shack-like condition,dotted with stray cattle and garbage dumps to today’s revived,rejuvenated and refurbished memorial. The undying efforts of Kathak exponent Uma Sharma,also the founder of Ghalib Memorial Movement,along with her comrades,like the late diplomat Abid Hussain and the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR),have entered their 13th year.

When Sharma came to shoot for her film in the 1990s,for which the haveli played the muse,she struggled to find her way to the structure. She landed at a ramshackle brick structure,where Fakhruddin Ibrahim dealt in coal,with goats jostling around. Ghalib merely lived at the building’s address.

Sharma requested permission to shoot there,to which Ibrahim replied: “Aaiye,aap hi ki haveli hai (please come,this is your haveli).”

Today,Sharma’s comrades — of which Delhi Minority Affairs Commission Chairman Safdar Khan and Ghalib’s neighbour Badrudujja Siddiqui,better known as ‘Najmi saheb’,are integral part — want to put the haveli on Delhi’s tourist map.

“We have spent a lot of time and effort,and the ICCR and Delhi government spent a lot of money to visualise and purchase these old world chandeliers,curtains to give it that feel. Displaying Ghalib’s relics here required a lot of confidence in the security of the building,” Sharma said,pointing towards Dharmpal Singh,the portly security guard deployed by the Delhi government to protect the haveli.

Singh,with his limited knowledge about whose relics he is guarding,said: “Humne to kabhi Ghalib saheb ko dekha bhi nahin,par aaj unki wajeh se hum roti kama rahe hain (I’ve never seen Ghalib,but because of him,I’m earning my bread today).”

Suresh K Goel,ICCR’s Director-General,belongs to Old Delhi. “The old city was Ghalib’s home as well his muse. The degenerated mansion has been restored as a memorial and is an important marker on the heritage tourism trail of Delhi,” he said.

Despite the old world adornment done to the nearly 200-year-old haveli,one blot remains in the corner of the premises in the form of Meraj STD PCO,Habib Opticals and a guesthouse on the first floor. The ownership of this sliver of the haveli remains with Ibrahim and he is most unwilling to let go.

“Agar mujhe 10 bori note bhi denge,to bhi main yeh jageh nahin chhorhoonga (Even if the government gives me 10 sacks full of currency notes,I won’t leave this place),” a defiant Ibrahim said. He had earlier vacated 135 square yards and received Rs 5,000 for each in 2009 from the government.

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