Mehr Afshan Farooqi Conducts Seminar Series on Mirza Ghalib's Poetry & the recently published Nuskha-e-Hamidiya.
Mehr Afshan Farooqi, Associate Professor of Urdu and South Asian Literature at the University of Virginia headed a seminar series about her work on Mirza Ghalib. The first lecture of this seminar series was held on Tuesday, November 24, 2015, titled, From Blood to Ink: The History of Ghalib’s 1821 Divan. Ms. Farooqi discussed Ghalib’s struggle to compile his poetry and displayed pictures of the original manuscript of Ghalib’s Nuskha-e Hamidia. Interestingly, the original Divan had additional verses written in the margins, presumably by Ghalib’s hand.
The second lecture in this series was titled Cultural Exuberance of Metaphor in Ghalib’s Imaginings in the Urdu Ghazal. This lecture focused on Ghalib’s relationship with the Urdu language and how only a part of Ghalib’s work was actually collected and compiled. Currently Mehr Afshan Farooqi is working Ghalib’s rejected verses.
The seminar series was well ended and appreciated by literature aficionados from within and outside LUMS.
I am ashamed at myself. Ashamed at the fact that even though I consider myself a serious lover of Ghalib’s poetry from the days of my youth, have read numerous publications on his life’s history & can recite many of his ghazals from memory, I did not realize until I recently came across the Nuskha-e-Hamidiya manuscript that the sublime verses I have cherished from Ghalib’s “official diwan” for nearly three decades were merely half of Ghalib’s work! I was blissful in the fallacy that Ghalib only wrote only a small number of ghazals compared to his contemporaries, preferring quality over quantity and that his official divan was his total work in Urdu. Now I realize that I have really missed out on half of this wonderful world due to my own ignorance, shame on me!
Fortunately, or rather unfortunately, I find that I am not alone. After speaking to scores of Ghalib loving friends I realized that almost all of us seem to be in the same boat. Almost none of my friends had heard of these “additional verses”. How could this be? After contacting Dr. Mehr Afshan Farooqi, a leading Ghalib scholar and frequent contributor on Ghalib in various publications like the ‘Dawn’ of Pakistan, I learnt that world of Ghalib scholarship was well aware of these additional verses after the first discovery of this manuscript or “nuskha” in 1921. In addition I learnt that obscure publications of few other “nuskhas” also containing verses outside of the “official divan” have existed for decades, possibly languishing in dusty libraries and on a few scholars’ desks. So why were we Ghalib lovers not paying attention? Why did these verses not percolate down to lesser mortals like us to further enrich our lives?
Whatever the reasons may be and there are many, as Dr. Farooqi has lucidly articulated in her introduction to follow, I have taken it upon myself to make an effort to try to change this bizarre paradox. To try to kick off a “Rediscover Ghalib” initiative that will bring out the hidden treasures of Ghalib out of the domain of scholars into the spheres of our humble homes to once again invigorate our hearts with new emotions. To embark upon a journey along with all Ghalib lovers through the “Paradise Lost” and to relish its fruits until the entire current map of Ghalib’s known world is redrawn. The decision to publish the digitized Nushka-e-Hamidiya manuscript verbatim from my collection is the first of the many steps in this direction, Allah willing.
This work cannot be done alone. For this “Rediscover Ghalib” initiative to gather momentum, all of us need to contribute and in doing so we enrich ourselves. We need to read the “new” ghazals and try to explain them to each other. We need scholars and enthusiasts to start sharing translations, transliterations and commentaries online of these hidden gems. We need to get artists, new and celebrated, to sing these unknown ghazals. We know from Ghalib’s history that only when his ghazals were sung in the bordello or “kotha” in his up-and-coming days, people started to discover him as a gifted poet. To rediscover Ghalib, we need to this exercise once again with his unknown ghazals, using the music companies and the Internet as the medium as a substitute for the “kotha” of the old days. After doing all this and a lot more, we can only then hope to offer our next generations to delight in what we ourselves were deprived of.
To officially kick-off the “Rediscover Ghalib” initiative, I have appended below with Dr. Mehr Afshan Farooqi’s permission, her translation and interpretation of one such hidden nugget from her upcoming publication. The Ghazal below, needless to say, is not in Ghalib’s “official” diwan:
اشکِ چکیدہ رنگِ پریدہ
ہر طرح ہوں میں از خود رمیدہ
Ashk-e chakidah rang-e paridah
Har tarah hun main az khud ramidah
Like the fallen tear, faded color
In every way I have run away from my self
گو یاد مجھ کو کرتے ہیں خوباں
لیکن بہ سانں دردں کشیدہ
Go yad mujh ko karte hain khuban
Lekin ba san-e dard-e kashidah
Although the beautiful people remember me
But like the pain they once bore
ہے رشتئہ جاں فرطِ کشش سے
مانندِ نبضِ دستِ بریدہ
Hai rishtah-e jan fart-e kashish se
Manind-e nabz-e dast-e buridah
The thread of life is held through the exuberance of desire
Like the pulse in a cut off hand
ٹوٹا ہے افسوس موئے خمِ زلف
ہے شانہ یک سر دستِ گزیدہ
Tuta hai afsos mu-e kham-e zulf
Hai shanah yaksar dast-e gazidah
Alas the hair’s waviness is gone
The comb is like a bitten hand
خالِ سیاہِ رنگیں رخاں سے
ہے داغِ لالہ در خوں طپیدہ
Khal-e siyah-e rangin rukhan se
Hai dagh-e lalah dar khun tapidah
Thought of the beauty mark on saucy faces
Makes the tulip’s blood pulse and heart scar
جوشِ جنوں سے جوں کسوتِ گل
سر تا بہ پا ہوں جیبِ دریدہ
Josh-e junun se jun kisvat-e gul
Sar ta ba pa hun jaib-e daridah
Passion makes me tear my collar
like the rose I am torn from head to toe
یارو اسد کا نام و نشاں کیا
بے دل فقیرِ آفت رسیدہ
Yaro asad ka nam-o nishan kya
Be dil faqir-e afat rasidah
Friends what to say of Asad’s bearings
Angst filled, with a lost heart
Publishing this digital version of Ghalib’s Nuskha from a bound manuscript has been a technically daunting task but care has been taken to represent the manuscript as much as possible in its original form, size & condition. We have deliberately not embellished nor “cleaned out” various condition issues including the rather crude repairs made to it during its rather long and precarious journey over the past several decades – fortunately it survived against all odds for us to enjoy it today.
I congratulate you for holding this piece of history in your hands and once again request you to take the verses from it to your hearts and homes. Happy re-discovering Ghalib!
You can buy your own copy from one of your favorite stores below:
I encourage everyone to discuss, describe, comment on, translate or explain the new Ghazals included in this rare manuscript divan so that we can expand our universe of Mirza Ghalibs Ghazals. Lets Rediscover Ghalib together from his unknown verses. Lets make these verses known!