Mir Taqi Mir And the Mushaira of Lucknow: Interesting Anecdotes
Revered amongst the connoisseurs of Urdu poetry as Khuda-e-Sukhan, or, God of poetry, Mir Taqi Mir with his heart-rending verses and captivating flight of thought has moved many poetry lovers. Such has been the influence of his poetry and his personality that he is regarded as no less than a legend.
And, this legend, like many others, is at the centre of numerous accounts related to him, some of which are seemingly apocryphal while some are reasonably true. Like the one which our blog brings to you, a fascinating anecdote involving an old, aged Mir attending his first Mushaira in an unfamiliar, uncharted territory, Lucknow. So, are you ready to dive into Mirian mythos? You better be!
Last Days in Delhi
Old Delhi’s Kucha Chelan had long been Mir’s abode. However, the year 1748 saw a turn of events. King Ahmad Shah Abdali was sacked and Mir’s beloved Dilli started to plunder. For years his eyes witnessed this magnificent city go into ruins. Gradually, the treasury of the empire too went bankrupt and the genius of this man was no longer enough to subsist. His poetry still saw many connoisseurs but no benefactors. Mir Taqi Mir, who took his pride in his state of poverty and contented in being deprived of worldly comfort, finally bid farewell to his dearest Shahr-e-Dilli in 1778 and took refuge in the city of Lucknow.
Lucknow and the Mushaira
Aged 60, Mir Taqi Mir, finally arrived in the court of Lucknow at the request of Nawab Asaf-ud-Daulah in the year 1782. Being a traveller customarily staying in a Sarai (inn) Mir, learnt about a Mushaira that was about to take place one evening. Not being able to contain himself, he composed a Ghazal right away and vied in the Mushaira.
Even a poet of Mir’s stature had to put up with hostility and a show of impertinence from a rakish and cheeky audience which poked fun at his old-fashioned dressing sense.
Wondering what Mir Taqi Mir wore at the Mushaira? Here’s a portrayal- his head adorned an outworn turban and his body covered in a robe made out a fabric that never seemed to end. Distinctly apparent over this robe was a handkerchief fastidiously tucked onto the belt. Just below this elongated robe was a hardly visible pyjama made out of silk and cotton wherein the width of his legs seemed as wide as the width of the cloth. His feet took cover in curled-up, pointed shoes with their tips trying to reach the length of his robe. His belt too was stacked from both sides, the right side saw a Saif, or, a straight sword and the left saw a dagger. What completed this strange look was a frail staff that helped this old man take another unwished step!
Clearly, this figure saw Mir Taqi Mir become an object of derision which culminated when someone from the audience sneeringly asked, ‘Where is your Majesty’s native place?’ Mir, already disturbed at what had unfolded in front of his eyes in this foreign land, extemporaneously composed this famous verse-set and recited,
“Oh easterners, why do you ask about my home and origin?
considering me a stranger, calling out to me with laughter?
Delhi, which was the choicest place in the world,
where the choicest ones of the age lived
Which was looted and desolated by the heavens,
I am a dweller of that very ruined land
The pathos that these verses created saw everyone profusely apologizing to Mir. And as the day dawned, Mir’s arrival in Lucknow became a matter of pride and celebration. Learning about this incident, the Nawab, bestowed a stipend of two Hundred Rupees upon him. And, akin to Delhi, respect and repute once again rose to vacate a place for the genius named Mir Taqi Mir.
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