Finding my way from the encompassing crowd at the Chandni Chowk Metro Station, I took a deep breath and began walking down the aisle with hesitant steps. The moment I came out, I was taken aback by the aura of the place which resembled a pilgrimage site with devout crowd, a grand temple and loud holy chants dissolved in the inviting voices of the vendors contrasting the architecture of Metro Station.
Standing in the heart of Old Delhi, I tightened up my shoelaces and overwhelmed by a blissful sense of awe, I began walking again through the lively lanes. The weather was a dancing contrast of bright sunshine touched by a tinge of cold breeze and I savouring the historical essence of the place walked past the fading Town hall and the dilapidated Chunamal ki Haveli. I was struggling to walk on the footpath which looked liked the antique Connaught Place and I was encountered by a shrunk lane with a senile board boasting ‘Gali Qasim Jan, Ballimaran.’ I just took a few more steps and I was standing face to face with Ghalib ki Haveli.
Puffing and panting because of the adventurous walk, I stood still in front of the signboard and gulped the irony in “Ghalib ki HAVELI.” The so called Haveli was just a remnant of what used to be a two storey building where he spent the last phase of his life from 1860 to 1869. Tracing its life history, I realized that the grandeur of the heritage was sacrificed at the hands of local people for a long period as the place was used as a coal store. Lately the Archaeological Survey of India woke up to the moaning desire of Ghalib and declared it a heritage unleashing the renovation project.
The subtleties inside me were turning noisy as I went inside welcomed by a Mughal Archway. On one of its sides, an ASI board was boasting the unparalleled status of Mirza Ghailib painting him as the best Urdu poet ever while the other side personified the dead poet showcasing his sculpture in a glass case.
I moved inside the courtyard and was taken up by the deep sense of history, bubbling images in my mind of him roaming in that place. Since the Haveli has been renovated, the walls of the courtyard proudly fashioned a colossal painting of Ghalib having huqqa and several of his poetry masterpieces, one of which grappled my attention,
“Ug raha hai dar-o-diwar se sabzah, G̱ẖalib!
Ham bayabaan mein hain aur ghar mein bahar aai hai.”
This can be translated as “Greenery is growing out of the doors and walls, Ghalib!
I am in wilderness and spring has arrived at my house.”
At the right side of the courtyard, two arches hypnotizing me, invited to acquaint us with the personality of Mirza Ghalib. Two books of faded pages at either side of the passage were shining with his shers written in Urdu. One of the walls enlisted his favourite dishes, aam achaar, daal murabba and huqqa his favourite pastimes as patangbazi, pachchisi, chausar and shatranj.
Other artifacts included some of his utensils, lamps and an enclosed statue of him with huqqa. One of his hanged couplets gave an insight into his idea of justified superiority which said,
“Hain aur bhi duniya me sukhnavar bohot ache
Kahte hain ki Ghalib ka andaz-e- bayan aur”
Clicking photographs restlessly, I observed the indifference of the local population to the heaven of the poet who in his self pride as a teacher did not enter the school because the principal did not arrived to receive him! Met with another contrast, I witnessed a mobile recharge shop adjacent to the courtyard leaving me in an enduring impression of sorrow.
Figure- outside the Haveli
His genealogy in the Haveli reflected his angst as none of his children survived which is also plainly visible in his poetry. Weaving an unstable relation with his wife, Mirza Ghalib’s poetry is shrouded with sorrow, heartbreak and lust for love. In his last years of his life, he survived with heart wrenching images of destruction as he transparently witnessed the degradation caused by the revolt of 1857. Not only was he anguished by the tangible loss of life and property but also the wretched with gradual erosion of the old court culture by the self centered British.
Although it’s faded of its past grandeur, Ghalib ki Haveli stand proudly in the bustling lawn of old and crowded Ballimaran reminiscent of the Shakespeare of Urdu pleading lovers to sneak into his life. Apart from Jama Masjid, Red Fort and the humongous Gurudwara, there remain another heritage announcing its existence to indifferent and deaf listeners. Give rest to the ticking clock someday and acknowledge Ghalib’s existence. Do pay a visit to the ironical Haveli.
Written By- Zainab Rashid