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Poetic Justice: Bengal to Celebrate Ghalib Nearly Two Centuries After He Professed His Love

Mirza Ghalib

Mirza Ghalib

A five-day festival being organised in Kolkata from February 21, following a nod from chief minister Mamata Banerjee, will see an art exhibition, seminars, tours and plays.

Kolkata: After travelling through Kanpur, Lucknow, Banda, Allahabad, Benares and Murshidabad, Mirza Asadullah Baig Khan reached Calcutta, the capital of British India, in February 1828. It wasn’t any special love for the place that had drawn Ghalib, as he’s better known, to the city. He had made the gruelling journey to petition his pension case before the British authorities. However, over time, Calcutta grew on him. Among his “hazaron khwahishein (thousand desires)” was also the wish to stay in the city. And even after he had left, the indelible imprint remained. “Kalkatte ka jo zikr kiya tune humnasheen, ik teer mere seene ain mara ke hai hai (A mere mention of Kolkata by you my friend has pierced my heart with an arrow),” he would say.

Nearly two hundred years later, Bengal is giving back the love it got from Ghalib. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has given a green signal for a five-day event on Ghalib at the Calcutta Madrasah College-Aliah University to commemorate the 190th year of the renowned poet’s visit to Kolkata.

The Trinamool Congress chief is the chairperson of the West Urdu Academy, under the state’s minority affairs and madrasah education department, which is organising the festival under the banner of Bayaad-e-Ghalib.

The event from February 21-25 will see the participation of many famous poets and scholars from across the world, including Japan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The organisers will attempt to recreate the ambiance of Gali Qasim Jan in Old Delhi’s Ballimaran where Ghalib used to stay.

One of the focal points of attention will be the display of an artwork by the chief minister at the inaugural session of an exhibition of paintings by Nooruddin Amerjee – known for his works on Ghalib.

Also, India’s longest-running comedy Ghalib-Daur Hazir Mein, which has more than 500 shows to its credit, will be staged on February 24.

The play will be performed by artistes from the Pierrot’s Troupe’. In a resonance of current events, Ghalib delivers lines like: “Yeh kya maajra hai...aaj bhi hum azadi ke naarey laga rahein hain...hamarey waqt mein bhi azadi ke naarey lagtey the (What is this…even today people are raising slogans of azaadi…even in my time, slogans of azaadi would be shouted).” The group will also stage other theatrical productions on the poet.

Speaking to News18, Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha member Nadimul Haque, who’s involved in the organisation of the festival, said, “The plot will revolve around the fact that had Ghalib been alive today, he would have not supported the present divisions and hate among people. The artistes will try to send this message through comedy without hurting anybody’s sentiments.”

Haque said the festival was being organised with the blessings of chief minister Mamata Banerjee. The event also coincides with the poet’s 150th death anniversary. “We are organising Bayaad-e-Ghalib for the first time in Kolkata. We are also organising children’s tours of places Ghalib visited in Kolkata, besides plays Lal Qile Ka Aakhri Mushaira and Ghalib Aur Kalkattah Mushaira. The second one is based on the poetic congregation of 1828 that was held in the still existing Madrasah-e-Aaliyah in Kolkata. “

Ghalib had stayed as a tenant in a few places in the city including the famous ‘red house’ at Ramdulal Sarkar Street. The poet had described Bengal as a “kamaal ki jagah (a wonderful place)”, adding that “Bangali sau saal peechhe bhi jeete hain aur sau saal aage bhi (Bengalis simultaneously live a hundred years in the past and a hundred years in the future).”

first published:February 19, 2020, 19:29 IST