The London-based digital platform, Cine Ink, dedicated to arts and culture, organised a pre-launch conversation with Saif Mahmood, the author of a forthcoming book: ‘BELOVED DELHI’ – A Mughal City and Her Greatest Poets.

In conversation with Cine Ink’s Pervaiz Alam, Saif Mahmood said the book features only eight poets; Mirza Rafi Sauda, Khwaja Mir Dard, Mir Taqi Mir, Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib, Momin Khan Momin, Bahadur Shah Zafar, Shaikh Mohammad Ibrahim Zauq and Mirza Khan Daagh Dehlvi. However, he admitted, it was not an easy decision for him to exclude poets such as Mufti Sadruddin Azurdah and Shaikh Ghulam Hamdani Mushafi.

‘BELOVED DELHI’ – A Mughal City and Her Greatest Poets encompasses the capital of India and its socio-political situation of the time when great Urdu poets were penning their incredible poetry.

Describing the book, Saif Mahmood says Delhi is not just a city; she is a phenomenon. She lurks in the shadow of a thousand stories weaved around her ethereal past. Her chaotic streets, her unruly traffic, her polluted air, her aggressive inhabitants and their hurried life – all form an integral part of the marvel we today know as Delhi.

Intrinsically intertwined with the city’s present is her violent history – a history of invasions and assaults. Each time she was razed, she came back to life and resurrected herself with startling vivacity. Gloomy and heart-rending, her past paints gory pictures of massacre and carnage. Struggling to breathe under this angry façade is a timeworn megalopolis teeming with art, heritage and poetry – the Delhi of Mir and Ghalib, the Delhi of the fabled Seven Cities.

It was Mir who said : Dil-o-Dilli dono agar hain kharaab Pa kuchh lutf is ujde ghar mein bhi hain My heart and my Delhi, though both are ruined There’s a distinct delight in this wrecked house too.

Each chapter is biographical in nature, taking the reader through the life and works of the poet while documenting his brief ancestry and the culture and society that he lived in. Each narrative is weaved around anecdotes taken from duly cited credible sources.

For each poet, the author quotes the poet’s original Urdu poetry with the author’s own translations into English. While doing so, he not only explains the verses quoted but also gives the background, context and story behind them. As explained above, each is interspersed with actual photographs of the places where these poets lived, composed, recited, performed and died – as those places exist today. The book has a word count of about 85,000 words.

The poets covered in the book are : Mirza Rafi Sauda [1713 – 1781] Khwaja Mir Dard [1721 – 1785] Mir Taqi Mir [1722 – 1810] Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib [1797 – 1869] Momin Khan Momin [1800 – 1851] Bahadur Shah Zafar [1775 – 1862] Shaikh Mohammad Ibrahim Zauq [1789 – 1854] Mirza Khan Daagh Dehlvi [1831 to 1905].

Author: Dr. Saif Mahmood is a New Delhi-based literary personality, poetry and literature critic, commentator, translator and rights activist. An Advocate of the Supreme Court of India, holding a doctorate in Constitutional Law in South Asia, Saif Mahmood is the Founder of South Asian Alliance for Literature, Art & Culture (SAALARC). Saif is a frequent face in literary events and television discussions and regularly speaks on varied platforms the world over.


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