A couple of years ago, during a photo walk in the streets of Ballimaran in Chandni Chowk in Delhi, I came across a few foreigners standing around an Indian guide who spoke in French. I was walking past them when I heard him utter the word Ghalib. Now, that was the only word I understood. On looking and asking around, I came to know I was standing in front of Ghalib’s haveli. The very place where he wrote his famous shayaris and poems. The same place where he wrote

 “Hazaaron Khvaahishen aisi ki har Khvaaish pe dam nikale, bahut nikale mere armaan, lekin phir bhi kam nikale”

Translation:

I have a thousand desires, all desires worth dying for Though many of my desires were fulfilled, majority remained unfulfilled.

The very place where he wrote

“Kitna kauf hota h un shaam k andheron me Pooch un parindon se jinke ghar nahi hote”

Translation:

How terrified does one feel in dark Go and ask the birds, who do not own a house!

ghalib's statue
Ghalib’s statue in his Haveli in Delhi
Picture Credits: Tripoto

I entered the haveli with a lot of excitement. The house was not very well lit, it had a weird smell and did not look like a museum at all. But on looking around, I realised the Haveli had a lot to offer. It had a collection of handwritten books by Ghalib, some of them on display. His couplets can be read on the hangings on the wall. Along with Ghalib, works of contemporaries like Ustaad  ZauqAbu ZafarMomin had found a place in this Haveli.

The house has many portraits and statues of the 19th-century poet. A life-size replica of the poet with a hookah in his hand and a statue commissioned by the famous lyricist, Gulzar, and sculpted by well-known artist Bhagwan Rampure, now adorns the Haveli-turned-museum. Hookah was not the only thing he liked. A wall in the Haveli tells us that his interests ranged from kite flying, playing chausar (cross and circle board game) and shatranj (chess) and his favourite dishes were taley hue kabab, bhuna gosht, sohan halwa, aam ka achaar and dal murabba.

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It seemed like a very tiny place but on talking to the guard, realised that only this much was allowed to visitors. After the death of the poet, the Haveli housed shops inside till 1999, and once it also served as a wedding hall. Much later, the government of India acquired some part of the house to make it a museum.

ghalib_haveli_in_the_past
A factory in Ghalib’s Haveli
Picture Credits: Hindu

Today’s newspaper brought back all the memories of my visit to the Haveli, but for wrong reasons. The Hindu reported that the “Ghalib Memorial Movement have expressed disappointment over the state of Ghalib ki Haveli and blamed government agencies for not maintaining the premises.” The Ghalib Memorial movement which met for a candlelight procession on the 25th of December, found the place littered with empty cardboard cartons and rubbish.

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Ghalib saw the end of the Mughal era and the rise of the British empire in India. He is considered to be the last poet of Mughal era. Though Mirza Ghalib never attained fame during his lifetime, today, he is celebrated all over the world for his works.

Ghalib's Haveli
Ghalib’s Haveli
Picture Credits: Buzzintown

Today, Ghalib would have turned 220 years old.