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  • Thinking critically with Ghalib

    03.22.2011

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    Among the best known of the Subcontinent’s poets, Ghalib or Mirza Asadullah Baig Khan as he was born, requires no introduction. Extensive attention has been paid to Ghalib’s works, whether through books in the original Urdu, transliterations into Devnagari or translations into English (here and here), among other languages. Research institutes, impressive online compilations on his life and writings as well as audio of his poetry also abound. Ghalib is also a living, dynamic force in the popular imagination, with the mainstream film industries in both Mumbai and Karachi having produced a film titled Mirza Ghalib (herehere).

    With such easy and comprehensive availability of Ghalib’s works, a reader may well wonder what the recently embarked upon The Ghalib Project, undertaken by The SouthAsianIdea Weblog, will add to her understanding and appreciation of the poet. As it turns out, the approach taken by those at the blog may take even the most devoted lovers of Ghalib on yet unexplored journeys with the poet. As Amit Basole explains in his introduction:

    “In this new project, on which we have just embarked, we depart from the conventional model of presenting an entire ghazal followed by its translation. Instead we present only one she’r at a time along with its literal (not poetic) translation followed by a commentary and the questions it raisesNot content to accept any received truths either from the Shaikh or the Brahmin, Ghalib constantly puts everything to the test of his own reason and experience. It is this aspect of Ghalib’s critical thinking that we wish to explore in our project.”

    And at this early stage, the effort has proven true to its goal, using Ghalib’s Sher’s to ponder and question (though never answer) ideas ranging from the relationship between citizen and state; creation vs evolution and the concept of a common ancestor for all humanity; and looking beyond symbols and rituals in the search for truth.

    Visit The Ghalib Project for more.

    Mirza Ghalib
    Gulzar's Mirza Ghalib (CD cover)
    Bharat Bhushan and Suraiya in Mirza Ghalib (1954)
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