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Street Wise: Ghalib may not have lived here but Saadat Hasan Manto did

A road named after Mirza Ghalib at Madanpura in Mumbai — a city he never visited — has often had several people wonder (and believe) if the road was once a ‘pata’ of the legendary poet.

Written by Mohamed Thaver | Mumbai |
September 27, 2018 3:16:20 am
Street Wise: Ghalib may not have lived here but Saadat Hasan Manto did The Rolex restaurant. (Express photo by Ganesh Shirsekar)

Isee be-noor andheri see gali qaasim se/Ek tarteeb chiragon kee shuru hoti hai/Ek quran-e-sukhan ka safa khulta hai/Asadallah Khan Ghalib ka pata milta hai (From this dark lane Gali Qasim, An arrangement of lamps begins, A page from the Quran of Poems turns, And one finds the address to Asadullah Khan Ghalib). Gulzar wrote this, describing the residence of Mirza Ghalib at Gali Qaasim Jaan in Old Delhi. Curiously, a road named after Mirza Ghalib at Madanpura in Mumbai — a city he never visited — has often had several people wonder (and believe) if the road was once a ‘pata’ of the legendary poet. The road, that was earlier called the Clare Road after the 2nd Earl of Clare, may not have been home to Ghalib, but it did house other luminaries like writer Saadat Hasan Manto, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, founder of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), and Shibli Nomani, a renowned Islamic scholar.

Samuel T Sheppard in his book Bombay City Place-Names and Street-Names writes that the original name of Clare Road — constructed in 1867 — was named after John FitzGibbon, the 2nd Earl of Clare who was the Governor of Bombay from 1831-1835. FitzGibbon was known to be good friends with the romantic poet Lord Byron, who also wrote a poem on him titled ‘To the Earl of Clare’. The older name of the road is still in currency to this date even though it was changed to Mirza Ghalib Road nearly half a century back.

Professor Abdus Sattar Dalvi, director of the Anjuman-I-Islam Urdu Research Institute, told The Indian Express, “In the year 1969 during the birth centenary of Ghalib, there were celebrations across the world, including Mumbai, where several seminars were held. It was during that time that a proposal was put forward to the civic body to rename Clare Road after Mirza Ghalib and it was approved.

Street Wise: Ghalib may not have lived here but Saadat Hasan Manto did The Ismailia Co-operative Housing Society. (Express photo by Ganesh Shirsekar)

The particular road may have been selected as it was home to several other writers like Saadat Hasan Manto.” On the street, however, while theories abound, hardly anyone knows why the road was named after Mirza Ghalib.

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Advocate Zubair Azmi, the director of Urdu Markaz, who resides a stone’s throw away from the street, said there were a couple of theories about why the road was named after Ghalib. “The most common belief here even among the old timers is that Ghalib once resided here. However, it is a well-established fact that Ghalib never come to Mumbai,” Azmi said.

“Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Ghalib’s contemporary, also resided here at one point and maybe that led to rumours of Ghalib having resided here.”

It was in the mid-20th century that Saadat Hasan Manto, who earlier resided at Arab Galli, moved to Mirza Ghalib Road — then Clare Road — at Adelphi Chambers. Today, Adelphi Chambers is part of the Ismailia Co-operative Housing Society Limited on the road.


The security guard says, “Every once in a while we have people come to see where Manto lived. Especially in the past few weeks since the movie Manto has released. We, however, have to send them back since the management has instructed us to do so.” Manto himself was known to have admired Ghalib and also wrote the story of the film, Mirza Ghalib, directed by Sohrab Modi in 1954 that won two President’s Awards.

The nearly 800-metre long road that starts from Nagpada junction passing the Rolex restaurant — that along with a light pole near it finds a mention in Manto’s story — is also home to Byculla jail that today has high-profile prisoners like Indrani Mukerjea, facing trial for allegedly murdering her daughter. Right next to it is ‘The League of Mercy Children Home’. “At one point apart from orphans, several children born out of wedlock were left here,” says Azmi.

Apart from that, several eateries like the American Express Bakery, educational institutes and churches dot the road as it reaches the Y-bridge where the Khada Parsi stands. “Today the road, especially the one leading to the Nagpada junction, is always choc-a-bloc with traffic with constant honking. At one point, it was called the Paris of Bombay with several Anglo-Indians, Baghdadi Jews and Protestants calling it their home,” says Azmi.

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First published on: 27-09-2018 at 03:16:20 am

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