He took the pen name of Ghalib, meaning ‘dominant,’ and so he was in his time. He was a witness to the Indian Mutiny and the suppression that followed and the ravaging of the courtly havelis . He had an easy manner, and made lots of friends, whom he showered with letters. The letters form a point of departure in creating a simpler and more straightforward style of prose in Urdu. He confessed his aim in letter-writing to a friend: “Main koshish karta hoon keh koi aisi baat likhoon jo parhay khoosh ho jaaye.” Which I translate as a couplet thus:
Before I recite a ghazal or two, a brief introduction to the form is in order. A ghazal (meaning, a conversation with the beloved) is a traditional form of poetry in Arabic, Persian and Urdu with a few simple rules. It is written in 5 to 12 groups of two-liners, called shers. Each sher stands by itself. The first sher is the Matla, and sets out the pattern to be followed in two respects, the Radif and the Qaaffiyaa. The Radif is the ending word (or words) of the second line of the Matla, and it must be repeated as the ending words of every second line of succeeding shers. The word that precedes the Radif is called the Qaafiyaa and it must be rhymed with words in the corresponding position in all the shers of the ghazal. One more rule is that the last sher, the Maqta, should reference in an imaginative way the author by his Takhallus, or pen-name. That’s all there is to it.
Ghulam Ali singing Aah ko chaiye ek umr asr hone tak
Begum Akhtar ‘s rendition of Koi ummeed bar nahin aati