Delhiwale: Spot the poet
The hall is silent. The lights are turned off. A sliver of sunshine is sneaking inside through a barely-opened door, making poet Ghalib’s wall portrait faintly visible.
Nobody is around but for this lone man sitting on the centre seat of the front row, here in the auditorium of central Delhi’s Ghalib Academy.
The man is wearing the playful devil’s horns that light up at night—the kind sold by hawkers to dwellers in the India Gate grounds. He is also holding plastic rods glowing red and green.
The scene is suitably surreal.
“I walked in a minute back on seeing Ghalib’s photo (actually a portrait) outside the building,” says Muhammed Irshad. A street hawker, he was selling toys on the street. He says he has walked about the area more than once, but spotted this landmark celebrating the life and times of a great Delhi poet for the first time only today. A native of Samastipur, in Bihar, the middle-aged Mr Irshad recalls that he read a few of Ghalib’s poetry at school, back in the 1990s. “I had to leave studies long time back, and I don’t remember anything of the poems but I remember that I had liked the verses a lot.”
Lounging back on the auditorium chair, as if binge-watching a feel-good web series, Mr Irshad lets a relaxing smile spread about his lips.
He feels alone in this city, he says. His family lives in Bihar. He works hard, he declares. He gets the toys from a wholesale market in east Delhi’s Shahdara and sells them in the southern parts of the Capital.
Looking about in the darkness, he collects his thoughts about the age-old question of the place of poetry in daily life. “Poets matter. Ghalib wrote more than a hundred years ago but he is still remembered... whereas we will not be remembered after our death.”
Peering towards the stage, as if talking to an invisible presence there, he mutters “The good poems give good morals... you follow their sabak (lessons) and that helps you in life.”
Now Mr Irshad gets up. Apparently there’s a museum upstairs, he says in a hushed tone as if sharing a piece of precious gossip. He plans to check it out. His devil’s horns continue to glow red.