Remembering his verse

Ghalib Museum, recreating the life and times of one of the most admired poets, is eagerly awaiting a makeover

July 13, 2014 05:12 pm | Updated 05:12 pm IST

The museum has some gems to offer in terms of rare paintings, photographs and some old documents, but some paintings appear to be in dire need of restoration. Photo: Shailaja Tripathi

The museum has some gems to offer in terms of rare paintings, photographs and some old documents, but some paintings appear to be in dire need of restoration. Photo: Shailaja Tripathi

There are several museums in the city crying out for renovation. The Ghalib Museum is unfortunately one of them. Poor display, absence of captions, bad lighting and lack of space are some of the major problems of a museum that tries to re-create the times and period of Mirza Asadullah Khan or Mirza Ghalib (1797 – 1869). And it indeed has some gems to offer in terms of rare paintings, photographs and some old documents, but again some paintings appear to be in dire need of restoration. Aqil Ahmad, secretary of Ghalib Academy, which houses and maintains the museum, reveals that the museum along with the entire institution is to get a makeover soon. “Cataloguing is already being done,” says Ahmad, highlighting some of the items from the collection. “It recreates the times this famous poet lived in. His contemporaries, his acquaintances, his friends…everyone occupies a space.” He is right. Striking sketches of poets Momin Khan Momin, Sheikh Mohammad Ibrahim Zauq, mathematician Master Ramachander, Pandit Daya Shankar ‘Naseem’ (known for his iconic work Gul Bakawali), Sir Syed Ahmed Khan hang on the walls of the museum.

In order to give a sense of the period, the one hall museum showcases a few samples of clothes worn during those times, replicas of his favourite delicacies — shahi kofta, murgh ka saalan, jalebi etc. “There are no original belongings of Ghalib. He was a poor poet. He hardly possessed anything, but some of our paintings are very nice. We have a Ghalib painting done by M.F. Husain and there is a work by Satish Gujral.” But so ineffective is the display that it is difficult to sight even such masters. Manuscripts, samples of calligraphy, post cards and stamps of Ghalib’s times also form part of the collection but lack proper captions. Encased in glass are two mannequins of Mirza Ghalib writing and the domni he immortalised in the background, dancing to his poetry. But again there are no descriptions. Aqil assures that it will all change for the better.

An interesting exhibit is the invite to someone for the opening of the Agra Canal at Okhla near Delhi on March 5. Old coins of Mughal and Early British, 20 and 15 paise stamps issued by India and Pakistan on his death centenary, again a sketch of the jail in Delhi where he was imprisoned for three months and a few sculptures based on his poetry by Captain Birjendar Syal of Agra.

Founded in 1969 by Hakeem Abdul Hameed of Hamdard, in summers the museum doesn’t figure high on tourists’ agenda. On the third floor of Ghalib Academy in Nizamuddin, it is in the same vicinity of sufi Hazrat Nizamuddin’s tomb. The museum remains locked and is opened only when a visitor is there. “In winters we get a lot of visitors. Actually we get lot of people who come to the library. Those interested in Ghalib’s writing come here and they come to the museum too. Also, we get those foreign tourists who come to the dargah of Inayat Khan. He has massive following in Holland so we get a lot of Dutch visitors.”

(There is no entry ticket to Ghalib Museum. Photography is allowed and it is opened from Monday to Staurday, 10 a.m to 6 p.m.)

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