The sun was sliding home, while the soft lights from the candles gave way to the night skies. Dim lighting, shade of the trees, rawness of the chatai and Urdu words wafting around created a comfortable setting for the beginning of our first mehfil@prithvi.

The most synonymous with Urdu is the name Ghalib, and thus the first mehfil started with chatting about Ghalib (fondly called Asad in his childhood). Javed Siddiqui Saab and Salim Arif Saab took the amateur mehfil through the period in history in which Ghalib wrote, explaining the context of his work. Salim Saab read some letters written by Ghalib, which he managed to unearth. (Incidentally, the letters in his own handwriting still exist.)

The objective was to bring Ghalib alive as a person and understand him and his work. The chat was interspersed with questions, feedback, and couplets from the audience and audio and visual clips of Ghalib’s poems and life respectively.

The one hour session seemed too short to summarise the life and body of work by this multifaceted poet. Though we took solace in the fact that there will be many more sessions to learn about Ghalib and many such luminary literary artists. Who knows what we pull out next from the magic box.

We managed to get a peek into the man behind those beautifully crafted poetic lines. As the evening died down and the audience dispersed, the recitation of Gulzar on Ghalib lingered on through the speakers.

Recommendations for Introduction to Ghalib:

➢ Read: Life, Letters and Ghazals – by Ralph Russell
➢ Watch: Mirza Ghalib serial – Gulzar available at Rhythm House
➢ Listen: Tera Bayaan Ghalib – letter and Ghazals of Mirza Ghalib – Gulzar and Jagjit Singh