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Published on 28 Oct 2010 | over 7 years ago

Mirza Asadullah Baig Khan مرزا اسد اللہ بیگ خان (takhallus: Ghalib غالب) was born at Agrah, UP, India, on 27 December 1797. His paternal grandfather, Mirza Qoqan Baig Khan مرزا قوقان بیگ خان was a Saljuq Turk سلجوق ترک who had immigrated to India from Samarqand سمرقند (now in Uzbekistan) during the reign of the Ahmad Shah (1748-54). He worked at Lahore, Delhi, and Jaipur, was awarded the subdistrict of Pahasu (Bulandshahr, UP) and finally settled in Agra, UP, India. He had 4 sons and 3 daughters. Mirza Abdullah Baig Khan and Mirza Nasrullah Baig Khan were two of his sons. Mirza Abdullah Baig Khan (Ghalibs father) got married to Izzat-ut-Nisa Begum, and then lived at the house of his father in law. He was employed first by the Nawab of Lucknow and then the Nizam of Hyderabad, Deccan. He died in a battle in 1803 in Alwar and was buried at Rajgarh (Alwar, Rajasthan). Then Ghalib was a little over 5 years of age. He had an older sister (Chchoti Khanum) and a younger brother (Mirza Yousuf Khan). Mirza Nasrullah Baig Khan (Ghalibs uncle) started taking care of the three orphaned children. He was the governor of Agra under the Marathas. The British appointed him an officer of 400 cavalrymen, fixed his salary at Rs.1700/month, and awarded him 2 parganas in Mathura (UP, India). When he died in 1806, the British took away the parganas and fixed his pension as Rs. 10,000/year, linked to the state of Firozepur Jhirka (Mewat, Haryana). The Nawab of Ferozepur Jhirka reduced the pension to Rs. 3000/year. Ghalibs share was Rs. 62.50 / month. Ghalib was married at age 13 to Umrao Begum, daughter of Nawab Ilahi Bakhsh (brother of the Nawab of Ferozepur Jhirka). He soon moved to Delhi, along with his younger brother, Mirza Yousuf Khan, who had developed schizophrenia at a young age and later died in Delhi during the chaos of 1857. Despite his attempts, Ghalib could never get the full pension restored. Ghalib stayed in Delhi until his death on 15 February 1869. He had seven children, but none survived beyond 15 months of age.

Ghalib started composing poetry at the age of 11. His first language was Urdu, but Farsi and Turkish were also spoken at home. He got his education in Farsi and Arabic at a young age. When Ghalib was in his early teens, a newly converted Muslim tourist from Iran (Abdus Samad, originally named Hormuzd as a Zoroastrian) came to Agra. He stayed at Ghalibs home for 2 years. He was a highly educated individual and Ghalib learned Farsi, Arabic, philosophy, and logic from him. In 1850 he was appointed by the court of Bahadur Shah Zafar to write the official history of the Mughals. His salary was fixed at Rs. 50/month and he was awarded the titles of Najm-ud-Daula and Dabeer-ul-Mulk. Two volumes were proposed. He completed the first volume (Mihr-e Nimruz) in 1852. His works number more than 20, which include works in Farsi poetry (he thought his best) Urdu poetry, Farsi prose (literature, grammar, history), and Urdu prose (hundreds of letters, grammar, a syllabus for children). He is indeed one of the most important literary figures of Urdu. His life was a continuous struggle for him as the art of which he was a master could not earn money for him. He says (Farsi verse):
در آن دیار کہ گوہر خریدن آئین نیست دکان کشودہ ام و قیمت ـ گہر گویم
(Tr: in a country where buying gems is not a custom, I have opened a shop and say how much the gems are worth). His pension was scarce, he had no other source of income, and he had an exceptionally high self esteem, based on his cultural and family background. He was constantly in debt and the demands of the creditors must have been unbearable for him. Some of his personal weaknesses only made it worse. Once he was thrown into a prison for gambling and stayed there for 3 months. Though he was well-treated, in one of his letters he wished to die. In addition to his poetry, hundreds of his letters are a masterpiece of Urdu literature. He was right when he claimed that he had turned letter writing into an art of conversation. He was informal with salutations and closings. He would be advising somebody in poetry writing, with frequent examples of Farsi and Urdu ashaar, advising about proper usage of words, requesting something to a publisher, or narrating about current events (especially the tragedies following the events of 1857, with the British bent on retribution), and his own failing health as he grew old.
The Singer: Noor Jehan نُور جہان
خاموش تماشائی
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