Urdu has long been romanticed, especially in India, as a language of refinement and culture. Urdu poetry carries the additional romance of similes and metaphors, making it a sweet tongue. Bollywood has furthered this with glorious love lyrics in Urdu. The grand poet of the language would then, typically, epitomize these virtues of soft-spoken refinement. Except, not always.

Mirza Ghalib was more famous in his afterlife than in the days he lived but even then, the issues of plagiarism didn’t escape him. Many verses by others came to be attributed to him, much to his chagrin. In a letter to somebody who seems to be his editor, he makes his displeasure very clear.

“In short, whoever the clown was who fabricated these verses, a curse on his father, his grandfather and his great grandfather. He is a bastard, the son of a bastard, the grandson of a bastard and the same back to the seventh generation of his ancestors. What else is there to say?”

This letter, found in his compilation of letters is obviously written in anger, so much so that he sends it without postage stamps with a sore “maaf rakhna” (Sorry) at the end, indicating that the recipient would pay for it. How cheeky of Ghalib!

“Aaj mere paas ticket hai na daam. Maaf rakhna.”

P.S. I don’t have any postage stamps on hand nor the money with which to buy some. Sorry.

Enjoy reading the full letter below and in Urdu following the link here.

 

Translated

 

Brother Shahabudin,

By God you owe me an explanation! What the hell have you and Hakim Ghulam Najaf Khan done to my divan? I don’t know what son of a whore inserted these verses in it. The divan from which the transcription was made is a printed one for heaven’s sake! The verses in the matn of that edition are mine; those in the margins are by somebody else. If the verses you have sent me somehow crept into the matn, you should be aware that they are simply garbage that some bastard put there after scraping off my poetry.

In short, whoever the clown was who fabricated these verses, a curse on his father, his grandfather and his great grandfather. He is a bastard, the son of a bastard, the grandson of a bastard and the same back to the seventh generation of his ancestors. What else is there to say? Good Lord, what a catastrophe has befallen me in my old age! My poetry has fallen in the hands of two children: Miyan Ghulam Najaf Khan and you.

After I had written the above your letter came. I had in fact already heard the second piece of bad news. Well, in the affairs of death and destiny, we have not so much as a syllable to say. We can only wish you an early grant of some land so that all of you may live in comfort under the same roof.

Tell that scribe whom you have employed not to write that rubbish in the matn. If he has already done so have the offending pages taken out and have them replaced with pages with the proper contents. The best thing to do would be to send me the copy of the Divan from which the scribe has made the transcription so that I may look over it and send it back to you. Enough said.

P.S. I don’t have any postage stamps on hand nor the money with which to buy some. Sorry.

Peace be with you. Ghalib

March 1858

 

Original

 

Banaam Shahabudin Saqib 

Bhai Shahabudin Khan! Wasta khuda ka ye tum ne aur Hakeem Ghulam Najaf Khan ne mere diwan ka kya haal kar diya hai! Yeh ashaar jo tum ne bheje hain khuda jane kis waldalzina ne dakhil kar diye hain. Diwan toh chaapey ka hai. Matan mein agar ye shair hon toh mere hain aur agar haashiye par hon toh mere nahi hain. Bal farz agar ye sher matan mein paaye bhi jawen toh yon samajhna ki kisi malaun zan jalb ni asal kalam ko cheel kar ye khurafaat likh diya hai. 

Khulasa ye hai ki jis mufsad ke ye shair hain us ke baap par aur dada aur par dad par laanat aur woh haftaad pusht tak wald al haram. Is ke siwa aur kya likhon? Aik toh ladke Miyan Ghulam Najaf doosre tum, meri kambakhti budhape mein aayi ki mera kalam tumhare haath pada.

 Baad un satron ke likhne ke tumhara khat pahuncha. Ye doosra hadsa mujhko pehle hi maloom ho gaya tha. Qaza o qadr ke amoor mein dam marne ki gunjaish nahi hai. Kahin jageer par jald jaane ki ijazat ho jaye taki sab yakja baham aram se raho.

Apne katib ko keh dena ki yeh khurafat matan mein na likhe. Agar likh diye hon toh wo warq nikalwa dena. Aur warq uske badle likhwa kar laga dena. Munasib toh yun hain ki tum kisi aadmi ke hath wo diwan, jo tumhare katib ne nakl kiya hai, mere paas bhej do taki mein usko ek nazar dekh kar tumko phir bhej doon. Zyada zyada.

 Aaj mere paas ticket hai na daam. Maaf rakhna.

Wasalam, Ghalib

March 1858

 

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