Hazaaron khwaahishein aisi ki har khwaahish pe dum nikley

Bohot nikley mere armaan lekin phir bhi kam nikley

Mohabbat mein nahin hai farq jeene aur marne ka
Usi ko dekh kar jeete hain jis kaafir pe dum nikley

(Thousands of desires have I nurtured, and each one to die for
Many wishes were fulfilled; but they were few and far between.
In love, there’s no difference between life and death
I live gazing upon that unfaithful one whom I die for.)
Mirza Ghalib 

While liker's of Delhi's history keep waiting for more books once they have finished their Khushwant Singh's 'Delhi' to William Dalrymple's 'City Of Djinns'; their wait for a book on her Urdu poets was long and is finally over, as Delhi based author, an Advocate of the SC of India Dr Saif Mahmood's book "Beloved Delhi" is getting launched.

Bahadur Shah Zafar

Famous Urdu poet and scriptwriter from Pakistan Zehra Nigah writes on Saif's book —

Our beloved poet, the dear departed Firaq sahib had once written something very important in one of his essays, that if a writer is to pick his pen to write the history of Hindustan, he will have to take recourse in our classical literature, especially the Urdu ghazal. Many books have been written on Delhi and are being written but Saif’s book occupies a distinct position insofar as his book is a beautiful admixture of the poetry of this age and its history.

Dilli College : Gate of the then Delhi College at Ajmeri Gate from where Ghalib returned on not being personally received by the British Secretary Thompson. The building now houses the Anglo Arabic Senior Secondary School.

Hum sub ke mehboob shaayar, Firaaq sahab marhoom ne apne ek mazmoon mein badi patey ki baat likhi thi, ke agar muarrikh Hindustan ki tareekh ke liye qalam uthaaye, tou usey hamaare classiki adab ka sahaara lena hoga, khusoosan Urdu ghazal ka. Yoon tou Dilli par beshumaar kitaabein likhi gayi hain aur likhi ja rahi hain, magar Saif ki kitaab is lihaaz se judagaana haisiyat rakhti hai ke ye kitaab is ahad ki shayari aur tareekh ka ek khubsoorat imtizaaj hai. 

Gali Qasim Jan : Gali Qasimjan, where Ghalib lived for most of his life

"This is a book for anyone who has ever been touched by Urdu or Delhi, by poetry or romance." says Mahmood for his "Beloved Delhi". And if he is right while he says —

Urdu poetry rules the cultural and emotional landscape of India, especially Northern India and much of Deccan. And it was in the great ancient city of Delhi that Urdu grew to become one of the World's most beautiful and supple languages. Through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries while the Mughal empire was in spectacular decline, Delhi became the Capital of a parallel Kingdom - the Kingdom of Urdu poetry, producing some of the greatest, most popular poets of all times. They wrote about the pleasure and pain of love, about the splendour of God and the villainy of preachers, about the seduction of wine and about Delhi, their beloved home. This book documents the life and work of the finest classical Urdu poets of Delhi : Sauda, Dard, Mir, Ghalib, Momin, Zauq, Zafar and Daagh. Through their biographies and poetry - including their best-known ghazals.

Mirza Rafi Sauda

...this wait was worth, though very long, the time it took.

While you fetch "Beloved Delhi" to go back to the times of great Urdu poets, here's a hint of the poetry from it

Ae Mushafi tu in se mohabbat na kijiyo
Zaalim ghazab hi hoti hain yeh Dilli-waaliyaan

(O Mushafi! Don’t fall in love with them
These damsels of Delhi are damn cruel.)

Dilli ke na thay kooche auraaq-e-musavvar thay
Jo shakl nazar aayi tasveer nazar aayi

Mir Taqi Mir

(The streets of Delhi were like painted pages
Every sight I saw looked like a picture.)
Mir Taqi Mir
[this sher of Mir, as you might have seen, incidentally is what DelhiHiCult too stands with]

Kya bood-o-baash poochho ho poorab ke saakinon
Hum ko ghareeb jaan ke hans-hans pukaar ke
Dilli jo ek sheher tha aalam mein intekhaab
Rehte thay muntakhab hi jahaan rozgaar ke
Us ko falak ne loot ke veeraan kar diya
Hum rehne waale hain usi ujde dayaar ke

(You ask about my origins, O people of the East,
Mocking my poverty and laughing at me?
Delhi, which was the favoured city of the world
Where dwelt only the chosen from every walk of life
Now plundered by Fate and reduced to a wilderness,
I am a resident of that ruined place.)
Mir Taqi Mir 

Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib

Poochhte hain vo ki Ghalib kaun hai
Koi batlaao ke hum batlaaein kya

(They ask, ‘Who is Ghalib?’
Someone tell us, what should we say!)
Mirza Ghalib 

In dinon garche Dakan mein hai bohot qadr-e-sukhan
Kaun jaaye Zauq par Dilli ki galiyaan chhor kar

(Although poetry is greatly valued in the Deccan these days
Zauq, who would trade that for the lanes of Delhi?)
Ustad Zauq

Ghata Masjid : Zeenat-ul-Masjid, popularly known as Ghata Masjid. Ustad Khan-e-Aarzu used to sit here and young poets like Sauda and Mir would congregate around him.

LISTEN! #DHCTalks: Celebrating Authors — Saif Mahmood, Beloved Delhi and S Irfan Habib 

Ab toh ghabra ke ye kehte hain ke mar jaaeinge
Mar ke bhi chaiyn na paaya toh kidhar jaaeinge

(Now we’re fed up, we say we’ll die
What if there is no peace even in death? Where will we go then?)
Ustad Zauq

Tum mere paas hotey ho goya
Jab koi doosra nahin hota

(You are with me, as if
When there is no one else)
Momin Khan Momin

Daagh Dehlvi

Urdu hai jiska naam hum hi jaante hain Daagh
Hindostaan mein dhoom hamaari zabaan ki hai

(That which is called Urdu, only I know what it is
Daagh, Hindustan resounds with my language.)
Daagh Dehlvi

LISTEN! #DHCTalks: Celebrating Authors — Saif Mahmood, Beloved Delhi and S Irfan Habib 

Beloved Delhi: Dr Saif Mahmood (Speaking Tiger, Paperback with flaps | ISBN 9789388070546 | 368 pp + 16-page b/w photo insert)
Beloved Delhi: Dr Saif Mahmood (Speaking Tiger, Paperback with flaps | ISBN 9789388070546 | 368 pp + 16-page b/w photo insert)


[Dr Saif Mahmood is a New Delhi-based author, poetry and literature critic, commentator, translator, rights activist, and an Advocate of the Supreme Court of India. Founder of the South Asian Alliance for Literature, Art & Culture (SAALARC), Saif has won particular acclaim for his passionate recitations of Urdu poetry, especially of such progressive and contemporary poets as Faiz, Majaz, Sahir and Jaun Elia. His writings on literature and law and his English translations of Urdu prose and verse have appeared in several prestigious Indian and international publications.]

Photographs by Anant Raina

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