Response to my Gh(a)alib post…by my amazing not-so-layman friend

The below response comes from an amazingly erudite friend of mine, in response to my piece – A layman’s primer of Ghaalib…by a layman

मेरे अज़ीज़ी दोस्त

ग़ालिब के ऊपर आपका लेख देखकर ख़ुशी भी हुई और ताजुब भी हुआ – ख़ुशी इसलिए कि आप जैसे जवांमर्द सिपहसालार मिजाजी ने शेरोशाइरि को तवज्जुह दी और ताजुब इसलिए कि आप जैसे होशमंद नौजवान ने एक बहुत ही ज़लील सा तर्जुमा बिना देखे भाले खरीद लिया। आगे का वाक़िया हमारे मादरी ज़बान में बयान किया जाता है.

But really, you made a decidedly bad choice, based on the evidence of translation in your blog post. Ghalib is one of my beloved characters, more for his life, than for his work, which I am only now beginning to understand and have many miles to go before I can actually say anything.

There is no doubt that Ghalib was a revered celebrity when alive, except that he wore the celebrity status very lightly. An index of his stature can be estimated by the fact that three collections of his personal letters in Urdu where printed and published in his lifetime. And indeed these Urdu letters, rather than his poetry, are the means which let us (people like you and me) access him most readily. They provide irrefutable proof of Ghalib being one of the progenitors of modern Hindu/Urdu besides being someone highly advanced on the path to salvation. They are extremely enjoyable – ironic, acerbic, self-deprecatory, and sometimes refreshingly mundane – and have been popular among Urduwallahs for the last 150 years; the latest Urdu edition runs into five fat volumes. They have been partly translated into English which is how I first encountered them and I must say the prose translation is a lot more felicitous though there are some transmission losses. The one book in English is :

Ralph Russell. The Oxford India Ghalib: Life, Letters, and Ghazals. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2003.

I will not bore you any further with my impressions but merely direct you to that one internet site which will quench all your Ghalibiana besides giving Devnagari versions of his Diwan.


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