Thinking with Ghalib - Poetry for a New Generation
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Connecting Ghalib with the realities of life encountered by contemporary readers, this volume departs from the traditional approach and abandons the ghazalas the primary medium for introducing this extraordinary poet to new readers. With a selection of couplets from Ghalib’s ghazalsthat best exemplify his power as a source of insight, knowledge, and wisdom, these are presented in Urdu, Hindi, and Roman transliteration along with a literal translation, and interpretation, relating it to the central social, political and economic issues of our times. It is the creative timelessness of his poetry that makes this a ‘brilliant contribution to understanding the past in the present.



Publié par
Date de parution 15 novembre 2021
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9789392130021
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 3 Mo

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Praise for
Thinking with Ghalib
‘To think with Ghalib is to think with a fifteen-hundred-year-old sub-continental tradition of dissent that passes through Lal Ded, Kabir, Nanak and Ravidas before it reaches him. The only reason his name sounds odd in their saintly company is that, outside invisible lovers of poetry, he did not leave behind a panth. One can only be grateful to Altaf and Basole for giving us a book that is almost an act of inspiration: 30 couplets in English, Urdu, Nagari, and a transliteration of the original in Roman. Then comes the prose reflection on the couplet: lucid and explorative, it leaves us surprised at how we could have lost the questioning path that was there for the following. A panth of non-believers and doubters, then, something the sub-continent needs more than ever.’
– Arvind Krishna Mehrotra
Poet, Translator and Literary Critic
‘Thinking with Ghalib is an invitation to South Asian readers to delve into, engage with, and enjoy the unique imagination of the founder of Urdu poetic discourse, shaping the creative orientations of generations through the printed media and expanding schools. By focusing on couplets, Altaf and Basole ask the reader to join them in a quest to experience tradition and modernity as a continuous public debate through one of the enduring forms of artistic expression in our cultures. A brilliant contribution to understanding the past in the present.’
– Ashraf Ghani
Co-author of Afghanistan: A Lexicon
‘With unusual clarity and a genuine sense of wonder, Altaf and Basole deliver a careful dialogue in thinking through Ghalib’s euphorically elevating verses as he romps through temple, tower and palace, manipulating complex realities in staggering two-line zingers. A mustread for people of all ages and all nationalities.’
– Azra Raza
Co-author of A Tribute to Ghalib:
Twenty-One Ghazals Reinterpreted
‘Mirza Ghalib’s very survival as an inevitable and constant reference point for great poetry, and oftentimes for life’s travails, is a testimony to both the immediacy of his relevance and his transcendence of time. What makes him the extraordinary poet is his extreme sensitivity to the richness of his cultural heritage as well as its attributes of imprisonment. Ghalib imbibes the richness and yet rebels against it. Questioning from within is the single most striking characteristic of his poetry in tune with questioning that has sustained human civilization’s quintessential spirit through the ages: from Socrates to the Charvakas, from Mansoor al-Hallaj and Kabir to Descartes. This amazing experiment in unearthing the layers of meaning(s) in Ghalib’s couplets from their innermost depths sets a superb example of seeking out the soul of poetry. In any case, dissent resides at the very heart of ghazal , the poetry of love, as its raison d’être. Anjum Altaf and Amit Basole, both Professors of Economics, engaging in this literary endeavour also questions the neat disciplinary divides that academics are so enamoured of.’
Harbans Mukhia
Former Professor of History, Jawaharlal Nehru
University and Trustee, Ghalib Institute, New Delhi
‘Here is a unique attempt – often brilliant, wise, provocative and always bravely original – to help young people, especially from South Asia, to discover (or rediscover) the poetry of Ghalib, and in it find both questions and possible pathways to answers to some of the most urgent and perplexing riddles of our times.’
– Harsh Mander
Author and Director of Centre for
Equity Studies, New Delhi
‘This a truly invaluable collection of specific Ghalib couplets, reprinted in the Roman, Arabic and Devanagari scripts and accompanied by an informed interpretation in English by Anjum Altaf and Amit Basole. The two authors succeed in highlighting the timelessness of Ghalib’s work and skilfully place his ideas and the profound questions about our world – and indeed human nature itself – within a modern context. The importance of this book lies in the fact that it is aimed at a young audience in the sub-continent and the diaspora. The discussion on each and every couplet succeeds in simplifying, yet highlighting, the complexities and nuances of Ghalib’s words. In the process, the book draws attention to subtleties of the Urdu language itself – and is likely to encourage young readers to reach out for more… I wish my daughters had had a book like this to introduce them to Ghalib when they were at school!’
– Muneeza Shamsie
Writer and Critic
‘These selections, explanations and reflections will bring Indians and Pakistanis closer to Ghalib’s genius and, inshallah , to one another.’
– Rajmohan Gandhi
Historian and Author of Punjab:
A History from Aurangzeb to Mountbatten
‘This remarkable book offers yet another way to enjoy Ghalib, through an in-depth, contextual and nuanced exposition of thirty of his couplets. Two centuries after his time, the great bard comes back to life in the skilled analysis of Altaf and Basole, giving new meaning to the line hui muddat ke Ghalib mar gaya, par yaad aata hai.’
– Raza Mir
Author of Ghalib: A Thousand Desires
‘This collection of Ghalib’s couplets was thoughtfully designed to be accessible to language learners at all levels. The writing style is light, even as it engages readers in an essential exploration of what Ghalib’s poetry means now. Each interpretation is deeply grounded in an understanding of Ghalib and his intellectual and social milieu, as well as a profound sensitivity to the poetry itself. In addition to a greater understanding of each couplet, readers will acquire the habits that will help them appreciate the world of Urdu poetry on their own. I only wish there had been a resource like this when I was learning Urdu.’
– Roanne L. Kantor
Assistant Professor of English, Stanford University
‘ Thinking with Ghalib is a welcome addition to the large archive on Ghalib for three reasons: first, because it makes this nineteenth-century poet relevant to the twenty-first-century readers in South Asia and the world; secondly, because it is a product of the collaboration of two prominent Pakistani and Indian intellectuals at a distressful juncture of our history which is a good omen for peaceful coexistence through shared intellectual and aesthetic continuities; and, thirdly, because it is in three scripts – the Perso-Arabic script of Urdu, the Devanagari script of Hindi and other Indian languages and the Roman script used for English and other Western languages which makes Ghalib available not only to South Asians but a very large part of the world. This book, I hope, will be the pioneer in the fashion for rewriting our classics so that they appeal to the present generation.’
– Tariq Rahman
Dean, School of Education, Beaconhouse National
University, Lahore and Author of Language
and Politics in Pakistan
‘As a Ghalib-lover I often read him and apart from the ecstasy I receive from some of his couplets, what strikes me poignantly is his humanism. Like Shakespeare, Ghalib is always in sympathy with human nature in all its shapes and degrees, elevations and depressions. This is the main premise of Thinking with Ghalib , a meticulously researched book by Anjum Altaf and Amit Basole.
‘That Ghalib is for all times is an acknowledged fact. Altaf and Basole explain why it is so. More: they explore the layered meanings of Ghalib’s couplets and relate them to the critical political, psychological and economic issues of our times. Students of literature would benefit hugely from this book which ought to be a part of the syllabi of our universities.’
– Zia Mohyeddin
President of NAPA and Author of
A Carrot is a Carrot, The God of My Idolatry , and

This digital edition published in 2021
First published in 2021 by
The Lotus Collection
An Imprint of Roli Books Pvt. Ltd
M-75, Greater Kailash- II Market
New Delhi 110 048
Phone: ++91 (011) 40682000
© Anjum Altaf and Amit Basole, 2021
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, transmitted, or stored in a retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic, mechanical, print reproduction, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of Roli Books. Any unauthorized distribution of this e-book may be considered a direct infringement of copyright and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.
Cover Design : Nikhil Aphale
eISBN: 978-93-92130-02-1
All rights reserved.
This e-book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated, without the publisher’s prior consent, in any form or cover other than that in which it is published.
To Samia, Kabir and Hasan – Anjum Altaf
To my late father, Arun Basole (1945–2014) – Amit Basole

The Couplets
1. On Asking Questions
2. On Thinking for Oneself
3. On Assessing Leaders
4. On Choosing Destinations
5. On the Modality of Learning
6. On Experimentation
7. On Appearances and Reality
8. On Fatalism
9. On Being Trapped
10. On Becoming Human
11. On the ‘Other’
12. On Relationships
13. On Justice
14. On the Screams of Silence
15. On Attachments
16. On Governance
17. On Choice
18. On Myopia
19. On Law and Morality
20. On Accountability
21. On Identity
22. On Dignity
23. On Paradise
24. On Who Goes to Heaven
25. On Principles
26. On Primordial Ties
27. On Finding God
28. On Faith and Faithfulness
29. On the Test of Faith
30. On Humanism
Index of First Lines
About the Authors
About the Book

We are indebted to Professor Frances Pritchett’s A Desertful of Roses 1 where every couplet in Ghalib’s divaan is presented with all the extant commentary and her own observations as well as the meanings of key Urdu words. Our work was f

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