Ghalib: The Man, the Institute

The Ghalib Institute, brainchild of Presidents Zakir Hussain and Fakruddin Ali Ahmed and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi came to be in 1971. Housed in the Aiwan-e-Ghalib in New Delhi, this memorial to Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib has a vibrant publications program, most of it in Urdu. The focal point of research on the poet, the Institute also publishes the well-known biannual journal "Ghalib Nama" and they have also brought out a large number of research publications on Ghalib and his other eminent contemporaries. The library of the Institute contains rare manuscripts and important publications.

Since Ghalib remains a popular poet - of even current relevance, the Institute promotes Ghalib's works in both the literary and the cultural arenas. The Hum Sub drama group a part of the Institute, has been very active and its various plays well received by the public. They also organize programmes of musical presention of Ghalibs poetry by well known singers of the sub-continent, and Mushaira is a regular annual feature in which all eminent Urdu poets are invited.

Just three of their publications are in English. The Diwan-e-Ghalib, translated by Sarwat Rahman who also wrote An Introduction to the Poetry of Ghalib, and a biography, Ghalib, by Sayyid Abdul Latif. The last is notable in part because it is an early critical biography that is quite critical of Ghalib's poetry. There is a wealth of material on Ghalib, but much of it is inaccessible to those who do not read Urdu. A pity, since there is so much to learn from him on matters of the times and the events of 1857. And more.

An earlier biography of Ghalib's in English is by Pavan Varma. Mirza Mohammad Asadullah Khan Ghalib began writing poetry in Persian at the age of nine and the pre-eminent poet of the time, Mir, predicted a great future for the precocious genius when he was shown his verse... But success and material rewards did not come to Ghalib easily for the times were against him, and he did not suffer fools gladly even if they occupied positions of importance. Ghalib was at the height of his powers when events took a turn for the worse. First came the dec line of the Mughal court, then the rise of the British Empire and, finally, the Revolt of 1857. Though Ghalib lived through the upheavals and purges of the Revolt, in which many of his contemporaries and friends died, and his beloved Delhi was symmetrically and irrevocably changed, he was a broken man and longed for death. When he died, on 15 February 1869, he left behind some of the most vivid accounts of the events of the period ever written.

The Dewan-e-Ghalib and An Introduction to the Poetry of Ghalib are Rs 700 and Rs 300, respectively.

Ghalib: The man, the times by Pavan Varma is from Penguin. In Biography, paperback, 344 pages, Rs. 325, ISBN: 9780143064817