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Delhiwale: A guide for Ghalib’s gallis

Suhail Ahmad seems to be a ‘model type’ but he also reads Ghalib and Iqbal and wants to study medieval India.

delhi Updated: Jun 09, 2017 16:10 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi
Suhail Ahmad lives in a one-room dwelling in another part of the Walled City with his family. His brother runs a wedding card shop in Chawri Bazar.
Suhail Ahmad lives in a one-room dwelling in another part of the Walled City with his family. His brother runs a wedding card shop in Chawri Bazar. (Mayank Austen Soofi / HT Photo)

We meet Suhail Ahmad late one night on Gali Qasim Jaan, the Old Delhi lane famous for being poet Ghalib’s final address. He looks out of place. While the rest of the passersby (all men) are in kurta pajamas, he is strutting about in blue jeans and a red T-shirt. With his rippling muscles, he seems to be a “model-type”. What on earth is he doing in this literature-friendly lane?

“I read Ghalib,” he tells us, looking a little offended. In his 20s, Mr Ahmad lives in a one-room dwelling in another part of the Walled City with his family. His brother runs a wedding card shop in Chawri Bazar. Mr Ahmad himself is learning Persian for three reasons: “First, Ghalib’s early poetry is in Persian. Second, I want to research medieval India. Third, yak zaban kafineest.”What?“I mean one language is not enough.”

Mr Ahmad is talking to us in a mélange of Urdu, Hindi and English, and is interlacing it with Ghalib’s verses. He stops at a turn. “That used to be the haveli of Ghalib’s in-laws.”

In the beginning, Mr Ahmad wanted to be a cricketer. He also tried modelling but found his calling in medieval history. He now works at a travel firm in Daryaganj and plans to do a Master’s in history. “These days so many conflicts are arising out of our past so it essential to read books that were written closer to those times… after all, our history defines our present.”

As we part, he tells us, “By the way, I love Iqbal’s poetry more than Ghalib’s. Iqbal was pure revolution.”