Ghalib is arguably the most well known Urdu poet, oft quoted in Bollywood as well as in daily life. His poetry has a universal appeal as he talks of love, longing, the powers of intoxication—themes we grapple with frequently in our day to day lives. Yet, few know of the wit, humor and dexterity of his letter writing. Fewer still, know of his love for mangoes. The season of Mangoes has come and gone but ballads about Ghalib’s love for the fruit live on.

He is known to have had a voracious appetite for the fruit, often consuming large quantities in one sitting. In quite a few of his letters in the compilation ‘Khutoot e Ghalib’ (Letters of Ghalib) you will find a mention of mangoes: praise of different varieties, requests for mangoes from friends, gratitude towards someone who sent him a batch, and discussions on the troubles of transportation. This week, we bring you an excerpt from a letter to Mir Mahdi from Ghalib, ‘Najat ka Talib’. His signature rhymes with his name and translates to “seeker of salvation”.

In this passage, he talks about his initial disappointment at a package not bearing the wine he expected but rather, mangoes which turn out to be equally good. Read on for his comparison of mangoes with decanters of liquor. You can read the full letter, engaging with its quotidian conversation and interruptions, here  in English p.126 and here in Urdu (letter no 16. on p.288).

Mir Mahdi, 
The Prosperous and Fortunate,

(…)

“What a sight!” I exclaimed. “What a delight!” The Sultan of Scholars Maulana Sarfaraz Hussain Dehlavi had sent supplies again.

Alas! It was not to be. The contents were other than the expected, this time, mango rather than the fruit of the vine. Ah well! This gift could not be faulted for mango fruit is equally exalted. I held each mango as a sealed decanter filled with ‘leekor’. Glory be to the Maker! What marvel was involved in the filling of the decanters. Not a drop leaked out.

You are probably unfamiliar with the word leekor. It’s an English wine of fine consistency, attractive in colour and sweet to the taste. It is like a very thin syrup. You are not likely to find the word in any Persian or Urdu dictionary…”

Najat ka Talib
Ghalib

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