"Dil-e-Nadaan tujhe hua kya hai, aakhir is gam ki dawa kya hai" - this and hundreds of other familiar couplets continue to inspire and draw fans of Urdu literature to Mirza Ghalib, whose 215th birth anniversary is being celebrated in the Taj city Tuesday.
Sadly, Mirza Ghalib's haveli
in Agra where he was born in 1797 is now a girls' inter college.
The people in the Kala Mahal locality of inner Agra where the haveli is located have no knowledge that the great poet was born amongst them.
"The whole world may revere and hold Ghalib in awe and admiration, but the locals seem to have no regard for him," laments Kartar Singh, the 'X Factor' hero of Sony TV, who is from Agra. For the past two weeks, Kartar Singh has been practising hard to present Ghalib's choicest ghazals at a programme later in the day.
For years, admirers of Mirza Ghalib and lovers of Urdu Shayiri have been demanding a fitting memorial to the poet in Agra, but the culture departments in Lucknow and New Delhi have never creatively responded.
"When tourists from Pakistan and other countries ask to be taken to Ghalib's birth place, we feel apologetic and embarrassed," says Sandip Arora, former president of the Agra Hotels and Restaurants Association.
"The central and state governments should jointly build a fitting memorial and a library in Agra where Urdu poetry lovers can spend time and enlighten themselves," Arora told IANS.
Mirza Asad Ullah Khan 'Ghalib' was born in the Kala Mahal area of Agra in 1797. He moved to Delhi where his poetic talent blossomed and found new expression at a time when Bahadur Shah Zafar, himself a poet of mean standing, was the Mughal emperor.
His rich contribution to Urdu 'adab' (culture and literature) continues to inspire poets till this day.
"Surely, Agra which in many ways nurtured the poetic brilliance of the three pillars of Urdu literature - Ghalib, Meer, and people's poet Nazeer Akbarabadi - should have a fitting memorial and the Agra University should establish Mirza Ghalib Chair to further research in various facets of Urdu literature," says Surendra Sharma. He is the president of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society which Tuesday celebrates Mirza Ghalib's birth anniversary as Jashne-Ghalib at hotel Goverdhan, with cake-cutting and poetry recitation.
Former Uttar Pradesh governor T.V. Rajeswar five years ago suggested that Agra University set up a Mirza Ghalib Chair to promote Urdu literature, but the university has been dragging its feet on the proposal.
Similarly, the house where Ghalib was born was to be acquired by the then Mulayam Singh Yadav government to be converted into a memorial, but the proposal faded away after Mulayam lost the 2007 state assembly elections.
"Urdu poetry has stagnated in modern times as new poets are not getting recognition. Had it not been for the Bollywood film industry, the Urdu language would have joined the ranks of dead languages," said Nasir Mohammed, a journalist.
Syed Jaffrey, director of the Mirza Ghalib Academy in Agra, wants better facilities and support from government agencies to promote research in Urdu literature.
"Agra, which has given so much to the Urdu culture, should have a decent memorial for the poet. The municipal corporation has proposals pending to name a busy street or crossing after the poet, but there has been no follow up," he added.
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