Extracts from 'Urdu Letters of Mirza Asadu'llah Khan Ghalib' (1987) by Daud Rahbar
Be it known to you, dear young friend Munshi Shiv Narain, that I had no idea that you were who you truly are. Now that I discover that you are the grandson of Nazir Bansi Dhar, I recognise you as my beloved son. Thus, from now on, if I address you in my letters as "Benevolent and Honored Friend," it will be a sin. You are undoublty unaware of the close ties between your family and mine. Listen. In the days of Najaf Khan and Hamadani, the father of your paternal grandfather was a constant companion of my maternal grandfather, the late Khwaja Ghhulam Husain Khan. When my maternal grandfather retired, your great-grandfather too unbuckled his belt, quit service, and never accepted employment again. All of this happened before I had reached the age of reason. When I became an adult, I encountered Munshi Bansi Dhar in the constant company of Khan Sahib. The latter initiateed a lawsuit against claimants to his estate of perpetual title, the village of Kaitham, and Munshi Bansi Dhar acted as his attorney in the case. Munshi Sahib and I were about the same age - he may have been a year or so older or younger. We played chess together and became fast and loving freons. It was not unusual for us to be together until midnight. Since his house was not far, I went there whenever I liked. Between their hues and ours, the only intervening buildings were the home of Machhya Randi and two blocks of rented homes owned by my family. Our larger mason is the one which is now owned by Lakhi Chand Seth. The baradari of stone which is joined to the main entrance of this mansion was my sitting-room and lounge. Then there was the mansion known as Ghatya-vali haveli and near Salim Shah's hovel, another mansion and another adjoining the Kala Mahal, and beyond that there was another block of rented houses called the Gadaryon-vala Katra and then another similar block called the Kashmiran gala Katra. On the roof of one of the houses in his last block, I used to fly kites and we used to have kite matches with Raja Balvan Singh. There was a veteran soldier names Vasil Khan in your family's employ who used to collect the rents from the tenants of the block of rented houses which belonged to your grandfather.
Keep listening, for I have more to tell. Your grandfather became very wealthy. He purchased extensive farmlands and established himself as a zamindar. He paid between ten and twelve thousand rupees as revenue to the government annually. Did his holdings come into your possession? Write to me in detail telling me what happened to those estates.
Tuesday, October 19, 1858
~ Ghalib's letter to Munshi Shiv Nara'in Aram
Ghalib's association with Aram began in 1858 when Ghalib negotiated with him to publish the Dastanbu (Bouquet of Flowers), Ghalib's account of his experiences during the uprising of 1857 (covering happening between May 11, 1857 and July 31, 1858), after which the two enjoyed a warm correspondence for the next five years. As we learn in this letter, Ghalib had enjoyed the friendship of Aram's grandfather, Munshi Bansi Dhar, though neither Aram nor Ghalib had apparently thought to make this connection before entering into their own relationship.
Today is Monday, the third of Jauary, 1859. Clouds enveloped the atmosphere near the end of the first quarter of the day. Now it is drizzling and a cold wind is blowing. And I have nothing to drink. Disinterestedly, I have eaten a meal.
Flood the horizon;
Yet my clay cup
Has not a drop of wine.
Sad and sorrowful was I sitting when the postman brought your letter. I recognised your personal handwriting on the envelope. This gladdened me. I read the letter. It contained no mention of obtaining my objective. This saddened me.
Tyranny has drive us abroad.
No news from home is happy.
In those low-sprites moments, I said, "Let's have a chat with His Eminence," and I began to write even though the letter needed no reply.
~ Ghalib in a letter to his close friend Khwaja Ghulam Ghaus Bekhabar.
Khwaja Ghulam Ghaus Bekhabar (1824-1904). is said to have been descended from Sultan Zainu'l-Abidin Bad Shah, one of the kings of Kashmir. Born in Nepal, Bekhabar was raised and educated in Benaras, finding employment at the age of seventeen under his maternal uncle, Sayyid Muhammad Khan, Mir Munshi to the Lieutenant Governor of the Province of North and West, making his home in Agra, the capitol city of that Province. Im 1843, during the regime of Lord Ellenborough, Bekhabar was transferred for a brief period to the Vernacular Secretary's office at the Governor General's headquarters. He eventually succeeded his uncle as Mire Munshi on the latter's retirement i 1885, at which time he moved to Ilahabad where he spent the remaining years of the life.
Bekhabar kept a hospitable table and was a most sociable and entertaining convesationalist. His home was daily gathering place for many lovers of literature, including his close friend, the poet Miraza Hatim Ali Beg Mihr. Himself a poet and writer of prose in both Persian and urdu, Bekhabar played a major role in the publication of Ghalib's 'Ud-i-Hindi', a selection of the poet's Urdu prose [ 1868, his letters mostly, something that Aram also wanted to publish around a decade ago. ].