Banking on History

A host of celebrations mark the 213th birth anniversary of poet Mirza Ghalib
Hazaro khwahishe aisi, ki har khwahish pe dam nikle, Bahut nikle mere armaan, phir bhi kam nikle
(Thousands of desires, each worth dying for... many of them I have realised, yet I yearn for more)

There must have been a time when a haveli near Ballimaran in Chandni Chowk's Gali Qasim Jaan echoed with couplets like these as poet Mirza Ghalib took centrestage in front of a traditional shama. Yet now the haveli stands neglected, lost in the bustle of everyday life. "I was shocked to see the haveli of one of the greatest poets of our times in such a sad state. We carried out a candle vigil and followed it up again this year to ensure that measures are taken for its preservation," says Kathak exponent Uma Sharma, talking of the time when mercenary caretakers were renting out the haveli for marriage ceremonies. Sharma organised the vigil from Ghanta Ghar to Ghalib's haveli on Sunday and was accompanied by Oscar-winning poet and filmmaker Gulzar and writer Pavan Kumar Verma to commemorate the iconic 19th century poet's 213th birth anniversary today.

"A poet like him deserves more than what we are doing for him. The people of the nation need to be more aware. Once they realise the importance of their heritage, the government will come to conserve and preserve our monuments," says Gulzar, whose tribute to Ghalib, Mirza Ghalib was one of the most popular television series in the late eighties. "He is one of the most secular poets we have ever had," said Gulzar, who had commissioned a bust of the poet, which was installed in the small museum in the haveli on the occasion. The faux marble bust has been sculpted by Solapur-based sculptor Bhagawan Rampure. "When I went to Russia, I saw Tolstoy's and Puskin's busts that were installed by the government. Delhi has several busts and statues, but I have not seen one of Ghalib's," he added.

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