What is five thousand rupees, today,
And who was even Mirza Ghalib, today, who cares?
But the same parasites who swallowed your kingly recompense
with no regard for qasidas, for the giver,
nor even for the usual “commission” of five per cent
are the now-fattened new baadshaahs of India, eating up
ninety nine per cent of all recompense and reward,
and the recompense that is literature
they cannot even recognize.
The earth says: you may have been obsequious to these nawaabs and badshaahs, Ghalib Sahib,
But at least you produced work of beauty which endures.
So what is literature, or what is poetry, to these new badshaahs, who cares?!
4 April 2011
*There is a story, possibly apocryphal, that the famous poet Mirza Ghalib was once travelling through Lucknow, and he sent a qasida (a variety of panegyric) about Naseeruddin Haider, who was not yet the ruler, to the then-ruler, Naseeruddin’s father, Ghazi-uddin. No one now knows what the father thought of the gesture, but the son was pleased or impressed enough to order a gift of Rupees five thousand, then an enormous sum, to Mirza Ghalib. However, the pelf was pilfered in the process and nothing ever reached the poet.