Ghazal 36, Verse 11


re;xte ke tumhii;N ustaad nahii;N ho ;Gaalib
kahte hai;N agle zamaane me;N ko))ii miir bhii thaa

1) of Rekhtah, you are not the only Ustad, Ghalib
2) they say that in an earlier time/age there was even/also some Mir/'master'


ustaad : 'A master; craftsmaster, skilful man, adept, expert; preceptor, tutor, teacher; professor'. (Platts p.48)


zamaanah : 'Time, period, duration; season; a long time; an age'. (Platts p.617)


miir : 'Chief, leader, master, head'. (Platts p.1105)


I have heard from Mirza [Ghalib] himself that Mir Taqi, who was Mirza's compatriot [from Agra], having heard his boyhood verses, had said, 'If this boy finds some accomplished Ustad, and he puts him on the right path, then he will become a peerless poet. And if not, he'll start babbling nonsense.'

==Urdu text: Yadgar-e Ghalib, p. 109


The meaning is manifest. (36)

== Nazm page 36

Bekhud Dihlavi:

They call the composition of poetry in Urdu 'Rekhtah'. He says, 'In Urdu poetry, oh Ghalib, you're not the only Ustad. They say-- that is, it's well-known-- that in a previous age there was some poet 'Mir' as well.' With what excellence he has established his own equality with Mir in the art of poetry! (72)

Bekhud Mohani:

'Ghalib, in Urdu poetry you are not the only Ustad. Rather, among the ancients Mir too was an Ustad.' That is, in Urdu poetry there have been only two Ustads. (88)


Rekhtah: the Urdu language. The dictionary meaning is cement for a building. The way a house is built from lime, gravel, bricks, stones, brick-dust, etc., in the same way the Urdu language has developed from the mingling of Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and various Prakrits. For this reason they call the Urdu language 'Rekhtah'. (177)


The old name of Urdu was 'Rekhtah'. The closing-verse is boastful. But he's made fine use of the name of Mir to adorn it. In the style of the first line, he's created an effect of self-deprecation-- that is, you are not the only Ustad of that language, there are others as well. All the renowned ones have always agreed on the excellence of Mir Taqi. Thus his name has been used, so that there would remain no scope for rejection. (105)


About Rekhtah:

(1) Rekhtah is two things at the same time. (a) A macaronic verse where the linguistic features of Persian are grafted on to Hindi templates; (b) a macaronic verse where the linguistic features of Hindi are grafted on to Persian templates.

(Please note that when I say 'Hindi', I mean 'Urdu'; 'Urdu' as a language name did not become known, far less current, until the very end of the 18th century, though the terms Rekhtah and Hindi continued to be used for the same language until the last quarter of the 19th century.) In the above sense, Rekhtah is a formal genre. It had a short life, almost entirely in Northern India, up to about early 18th century.

(2) Over time, the language in which the above kind of poems were written came to be called Rekhtah. In the meantime, Hindi became popular in and around Delhi as a literary language and Hindi began also to be called Rekhtah. In course of time, the term Rekhtah began to be preferred, though not overwhelmingly, as the name for the written language, while the spoken language was more often called Hindi. The term Rekhtah began to be used for 'poem written in Rekhtah', apparently as a throwback to the earlier practice. The term Rekhtah, to denote a text written in the language called Rekhtah / Hindi / Hindvi, continued to be used until about the end of the 18th century.

However, there are two other ways the term Rekhtah has been used, though not in Urdu:

(a) In Gujarati, there was a genre called 'Rekhta' until about the end of the 19th century. It was a kind of folky song, but I don't know more about it.

(b) There was a genre called 'Lavani Rekhta' in which I have found poems in the North Indian folk drama (especially the 'Nautanki') of the late 19th century). While 'lavani' is a well-known metre in modern Hindi prosody, based on the Sanskrit 'pingala', there is no metre called Rekhtah in Urdu or Modern Hindi. The poems that I have seen with the heading 'Lavani Rekhta' do not present any special metrical or linguistic features. Perhaps the term meant 'a poem in the Rekhta mode and the lavani metre.' I haven't found anyone attaching any importance to the term.

(--answer to an inquirer's emailed question, June 2005)


SPEAKING: {14,4}

This is one of the few verses in the divan that are explicitly about Urdu poetry and its history. In a typically complex way, Ghalib pays tribute to Mir, the only other Ustad he depicts as worthy of comparison to himself. Implicitly but clearly, he relegates all other Urdu poets to something less than full mastery (or even consigns them to complete forgettability).

Even toward Mir, his compliment is understated, to put it politely. Actually, it's more like backhanded. He locates Mir in the vaguest possible limbo: 'They say (but of course it's hard to tell about these rumors) that in an earlier age (when dinosaurs roamed the earth) there was some Mir (at least, that was said to be his name)'.

Then of course 'Mir' is not only a pen-name, but also a word (see the definition above), so the reference might even be construed as applying to any (unnamed) great 'master' among Ghalib's predecessors.

And we could also of course interpret the understated second line as ironic-- a tribute to Mir's radical well-knownness and immense prestige: 'They say that long ago there was somebody called Shakespeare...'.

Actually, Mir's lifespan (1722-1810) overlapped a bit with Ghalib's (1797-1869), and Mir's poetry was unquestionably a most valuable source of ideas and techniques for him. However, Hali's anecdote above, in which Mir is said to have commented on Ghalib's very early poetry, is almost certainly apocryphal. (Although if Ghalib was in fact a couple of years older than he claimed to be, as Mehr Farooqi considers possible, it might open just the smallest window of opportunity.)

Compare Ghalib's much more genuinely admiring tributes to Mir, in {92,7} and {92,8x}.