Sunday, December 20, 2015

The House Of Mirza Ghalib and Karim's

Nothing like trips to different places in the old quarters of Delhi and so we decided to explore Ballimaran this weekend. Ballimaran is a street that takes off from Chandni Chowk and runs up to Jama Masjid from where yet another street veers off, the Gali Qasim Jaan, where we can find the Haveli, or house of Mirza Ghalib. He lived here, the foremost poet during the last days of the Mughal empire and is considered to be one of the greatest poets of the Indian subcontinent  (1797 to 1869). Only two rooms and a small courtyard of the house have been acquired and converted into a museum. 

Samples of his handwriting have survived in bound books such as these and there is nothing much more except a few of his robes and chess boards and tableau with a few of his couplets 

The reason why Ghalib's poetry has attracted the young as well as the old can be seen in these couplet, put up in posters

Another end of this street has the famous Sangam kebab joint, but it opens only in the evening and stays open well past midnight. So we decided to walk down Ballimaran to Jama Masjid Gate No. 1. from where a few steps into another street is another of the must visit places in Delhi, the Karim's restaurant. Having featured in a BBC documentary, this eatery is now quite famous and the queues testify to its popularity. 

Opened in 1913 to serve royal cuisine to the common populace, it is said that the restaurant was started by descendants of the royal Mughal chefs since the secret ingredients and techniques were passed on from generation to generation. I can very well vouch for the Mutton Jehangiri for its subtle aromas and delectable taste and I don't think mutton has been cooked better in many other places 

Yeh Ishq nahin aasaan, bus yun samajh lijiye
Aag ka dariya hai aur doob ke jaana hai!

It isn't easy, this love, let it be known
Immersed in the river of fire, one must come

Hazaron Khwawishein aisi
Ki har khwawish pe dum nikle
Bahut nikle mere armaan par
Phir bhi kam nikle

Thousands of desires, such
that every one is hard to attain
So many wishes met but
So many yet remain 

(Poetry by Mirza Ghalib, translations are mine, even as I must say that the ambience of Urdu poetry can hardly be translated. For example, the word Khwawieshen  doesn't quite answer to either desires as we know it, or wishes or wants, it is something that the heart desires in its dreams!)


  1. Sigh. It is always so lovely to wander through history with you - and wonderful to know that a poet's words have survived for hundreds of years (we should all be so lucky, LOL.)From latter days to the present, you took us on another interesting journey - you have so much history to explore where you live. You have very ably translated the poet's words.......though you post your own poems rarely, I remember what a brilliant poet you are and always wish for you to post some more...might you????? I hope the new year is good to you, my the years fly past. In 2016, my life will make another leap. I can feel it coming. Just in the nick of time, too.

    1. Thank you for your words of understanding Sherry, Ghalib led a very interesting life but his poetry shines across the centuries.

  2. This is a wonderful post, Soumyendu. The poetry is beautiful, and Karim's restaurant sounds delectable—another place to put on the list!

    Happy New Year to you!