‘A riveting resurrection of the city of poets, the city of history, Saif Mahmood’s learned and evocative book takes us to the heart of Delhi’s romance with Urdu verse and aesthetics.’—Namita Gokhale
Urdu poetry rules the cultural and emotional landscape of India—especially northern India and much of the Deccan—and of Pakistan. And it was in the great, ancient city of Delhi that Urdu grew to become one of the world’s most beautiful languages. Through the 18th and 19th centuries, while the Mughal Empire was in decline, Delhi became the capital of a parallel kingdom—the kingdom of Urdu poetry—producing some of the greatest, most popular poets of all time. They wrote about the pleasure and pain of love, about the splendour of God and the villainy of preachers, about the seductions of wine, and about Delhi, their beloved home. This treasure of a book documents the life and work of the finest classical Urdu poets: Sauda, Dard, Mir, Ghalib, Momin, Zafar, Zauq and Daagh. Through their biographies and poetry—including their best-known ghazals—it also paints a compelling portrait of Mughal Delhi. This is a book for anyone who has ever been touched by Urdu or Delhi, by poetry or romance.
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• A fascinating portrait of Mughal Delhi through the lives of its Urdu poets • Mini biographies of Delhi’s greatest Urdu poets—Ghalib, Mir, Momin, Dagh Dehlvi, Bahadur Shah Zafar and others—interwoven with their best ghazals (in roman script and in translation) • Splendid analyses of popular shers that can still be heard in everyday speech and Bollywood songs • The author is a star among lovers of Urdu literature in India and Pakistan and a regular at literary festivals in both countries • The book also contains extraordinary photographs of the present condition of the streets and mohallas of Old Delhi where Ghalib, Mir, Momin, and other poets lived • Book to be released by former Vice President Hamid Ansari in Delhi, to be followed by readings in Mumbai, Lucknow and Hyderabad
‘Many books have been written on Delhi…but Saif’s book occupies a distinct position for being a beautiful admixture of the Urdu poetry of [its classical] age and its history.’—Zehra Nigah ‘The depth he has brought to the work of Urdu poets, and their relationship to the culture and the society they lived in, is astounding. Reading this book is like talking to an engaging and sensitive conversationalist.’—Zia Mohyeddin
Dr Saif Mahmood is a New Delhi-based author, poetry and literature critic, commentator, translator, rights activist, and an Advocate of the Supreme Court of India. Founder of the South Asian Alliance for Literature, Art & Culture (SAALARC), Saif has won particular acclaim for his passionate recitations of Urdu poetry, especially of such progressive and contemporary poets as Faiz, Majaz, Sahir and Jaun Elia. His writings on literature and law and his English translations of Urdu prose and verse have appeared in several prestigious Indian and international publications.