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Ghalib’s Agra forgets him on birthday

Mirza Ghalib, whose contribution to Urdu literature was perhaps as significant as that of Shakespeare to English, was born here on this day over 200 years ago. The Taj city Saturday not only forgot to celebrate his birthday but also does not have a decent memorial to the poet, activists said.

Despite repeated demands to name a road or an auditorium after the famed poet, the municipal corporation has not responded and Agra University has turned down a demand to set up a Ghalib chair to promote research and work in Urdu literature.

Syed Jaffrey, director of the Mirza Ghalib Academy, wants better facilities and support from the government to promote research in Urdu literature.

“Agra, which has given so much to the Urdu culture, should have a decent memorial for the poet. The municipal corporation has proposals pending to name a street after the poet but there has been no follow-up,” he said Saturday.

The haveli in Kala Mahal area where Mirza Asad Ullah Khan ‘Ghalib’ was born in 1796 is now a girls’ inter-college. The mansion has no memorial to the poet.

The Uttar Pradesh tourism department had at one time planned to take over the haveli and convert it into a memorial, but the plan was shelved for some reason.

Ghalib moved to Delhi where his poetic talent blossomed and found new expression at a time when Bahadur Shah Zafar was the Mughal emperor.

Sandeep Arora, a member of the city’s hotel and restaurant association, said when foreign tourists ask to be taken to Ghalib’s birthplace, Agra citizens feel “very embarrassed”.

“The central and state governments should jointly build a fitting memorial and a library in Agra for Urdu poetry lovers,” he said.

Surendra Sharma of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society said Ghalib’s house “should be converted into a national memorial” for the poet “whose contribution to Urdu literature has been as significant as that of Shakespeare to English literature”.

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