Mirza Ghalib – A Biographical Scenario by Gulzar


This is not a typical biography that traces the life and time of Mirza Ghalib. But a more poetic anthology, a few defining scenes of his life that give a jest of what Ghalib was. It has 17 chapters or 17 scenes. The book describes a bit of his childhood and his marriage to Umrao Jaan, who remained his only wife all his life. His relationship with her and the faith that she had put in him. They never agreed with their views on many things, the most prominent being religion and its rituals. But they still had all the love and faith for each other.

Mirza Ghalib – A Biographical Scenario by Gulzar

Mirza Ghalib – A Biographical Scenario by Gulzar

It traces the situations in Mirza Ghalib’s life that led him to say most of his famous couplets. Without describing him, it etches out the character of Mirza Ghalib very well, who was a drunkard and a gambler all his life. And never felt apologetic about it. He lived most of his life in debt. He knew he was a poet and he would not do anything else. And he knew he deserved to be the poet laureate of Delhi. And he would not take any other position but that in the court of Bahadur Shah Zafar. He is eccentric, knows this fact, and he not only accepts this fact but also enjoys it.

It talks about the courtesan who falls in love with him. She is the only one who predicts that one day he will be Dilli’s poet laureate. When people say Mirza Ghalib is in debt, she says “What about the debt that the whole Dilli owes him?” Ghalib also promises to gift her a shawl if that happens and a series of events take him to her grave, where he presents her the promised shawl.


The whole book is interspersed with poetry in Urdu and translated into English. There is a context setting, followed by the couplets and if you understand Urdu a bit, you can simply get lost in the romanticism of the poetry. And in his way with the words (Andaz-e-bayan), in his ability to question everyone and everything. For example, he would not say that ‘my heart is crying’, but he would say ‘Why should my heart not cry?’

Buy Mirza Ghalib – A Biographical Scenario by Gulzar at Amazon.

Gulzar calls himself the third servant of Mirza Ghalib, two others are mentioned in the book and form an important part of the portrayal of the poet. It is an easy-to-read small book, a good reading for anyone who admires or appreciates Urdu poetry.

Take your call.

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  1. Hey, thanks for reviewing this. I remember Gulzar’s TV series on Ghalib starring Naseer, and have an audio CD with songs from the same, but the book would surpass that, I am sure.

  2. I think Gulzar has been greatly influenced by Ghalib.However when you say “who remained his only wife all his life” is funny 🙂


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