This book has the unique distinction of presenting, in one compendious volume, the best of Ghalib in poetry and prose. It contains 104 ghazals, seven miscellaneous poems, and a bouquet of sixty-eight selected letters, besides a few striking couplets and vitas. The ghazals and poems are first given in the original form in calligraphic Urdu. This is followed, on the opposite page, by their English translation, couched in a language that is simple, lucid and rhythmical. The ghazals and poems have also been provided with a transliterated version in the Roman script. This should enable the non-Urdu knowing reader to have a feel and flavor of the Urdu text. In addition, the book contains a critical-cum-biographical introduction which is comprehensive, well-documented, and insightful.
It is hoped that the book will receive a welcome response from the lovers of Ghalib, who was an outstanding poet and is fit to rank with the greatest poets of the world, and a precious part of our cultural heritage.
Formerly a Reader in English at Delhi University, Dr K. C. Kanda is imbued with passion for poetry be it in English or Urdu. Besides holding MA and PhD degrees in English from the universities of Nottingham (UK) and Punjab, he is also a first class MA in Urdu from Delhi University. He has published ten books translating the best of Urdu Polly into English, covering various poetic genres: ghazi nazm, rubai, classical and modern, as also humorous Urdu poetry. He has also published representative selections of three famous poets—Mir Taqi Mir, Firaq Gorakhpuri, and (now) Mirza Ghalib. All these books have been highly acclaimed in India and Pakistan, and also by lovers of poetry abroad. Dr Kànda is a recipient of the Urdu Academy award for ‘expellee’ in translation. He is currently working on his latest book Masterpieces of Patriotic Urdu Poetry.
This book is my humble tribute to the great genius of Ghalib who has been my comfort and companion all through my life. My experiment with English translation of Urdu poetry began in 1989 with the publication of the Masterpieces of Urdu Ghazal, and Ghalib’s ghazal, yeh na thi hamari qismat ... was the starting point of my venture. But the Masterpieces contained of4iy twenty ghazals of Ghalib, for it was meant to be a more bred-based anthology covering nine representative poets of Urdu. I had always felt that 20 ghazals were too inadequate to give an idea of the richness and variety of Ghalib’s poetry. This book is intended to make up for this deficiency. It presents in one compendious volume, 104 ghazals, 7 miscellaneous poems, and 68 letters, which taken together, represent, in my view, the best of Ghalib in poetry and prose. I have taken care that the poems chosen for this anthology pass the test of artistic excellence, and are easily accessible to the average reader to whom this book is primarily addressed.
Translation of poetry is a tough and slippery task, but translating Ghalib is frightfully so, fraught as it is with the twin difficulties of the correct interpretation of a complex poet, and a faithful rendering of his thought into English. I have attempted to translate the original in a language that is simple, lucid and rhythmical. In addition, I have also tried to convey to the reader some idea of the musicality of Ghalib’s verse by retaining the accessories of rhyme or assonance. I am not sure if I have, despite my best efforts, succeeded in doing justice to the spirit and content of Ghalib’s lyrics. The layout of the book follows the pattern of my earlier books of translation of Urdu poetry. Each poem is first given in calligraphic Urdu. This is followed, on the opposite page, by its English translation, which, in turn is succeeded by transliteration in the Roman script. The transliteration is meant to help the readers who are not familiar with Urdu in the Persian script. However, due to compulsions of space, the letters of Ghalib are given only in Urdu language with a parallel translation in English, but without transliteration. I shall feel amply rewarded if the book adds to the aesthetic wealth of the lovers of poetry.
During the preparation of this book I have received constant encouragement from my time-tested friends, Dr J.S. Neki, Dr Gopi Chand Narang and Justice H.R. Khanna, all of whom are distinguished men of letters and connoisseurs of poetry. I offer my sincere thanks to them. Another .dear friend, Mr Parkash Chander, a veteran journalist and a lover of Urdu, gave me invaluable help by lending me some rare and useful books on Ghalib. I am beholden to him. To my son, Dr Arun Kanda, I owe special thanks for sparing his valuable time to type out the English portion of the manuscript on his computer. My ‘katib,’ Mohammed Salim, who did the Urdu text of the book on computer, has done a real good job, and deserves my appreciation. Finally, I am highly grateful to Mr S.K. Ghai, managing director, Sterling Publishers, without whose unflagging interest this book could not have acquired its present attractive lay out.
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