ISLAMABAD - The 221th birth anniversary of Mirza Ghalib, the poet who took Urdu to the zenith of glory, was observed on Thurday. Born on 27 December 1797, in Agra, Ghalib was a nobleman in the court of the last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar, and was a good friend and poetry coach to Zafar. Ghalib was, truly, the poet who took Urdu to the zenith of its glory as a poetic language.

He is said to have written his first poem at the age of 11, and by 19, was writing verses that became increasingly incomprehensible to even his contemporaries. And yet, even today, his popularity across the Urdu-Hindustani speaking people of the subcontinent is unparalleled.

Ghalib had been married at the age of 13 to Umrao Begum, but it was an unhappy marriage, compounded by the death of seven infant children. He once wrote there was only one pain greater than marriage, the pain of life itself.

This pain echoed throughout his poetry, and is considered one of the key reasons for his resonance with generations of poetry-lovers, alongside his obvious mastery over Urdu and its parent labguage, Persian.

Ghazals like Hazaaron khwahishein aisi and Dil-e-naadaan tujhe hua kya hai are perfect examples of this heady cocktail of pain and wordplay, and windows into the life of their creator. Two sites associated with Ghalib are now shrines to him, the Ghalib Haveli in Ballimaran, which was bought from local shopkeepers and turned into a walk-in tribute gallery, and his tomb at Nizamuddin, near the tomb of the Sufi saint Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. While he earned fame as a poet in Zafar’s court, it was nothing compared to how the world remembers him today.

In his own words,

Hui muddat ke Ghalib mar gaya, par yaad aata hai

Woh har ek baat pe kehna ki yun hota to kya hota.