Born as Asadullah Baig Khan on December 27, 1797 in Kala Mahal, Agra, into a family descending from Aibak Turks who moved to Samarkand (modern-day Uzbekistan) after the downfall of Seljuk kings, he wrote under the pen name Mirza Ghalib. No one knew when this boy came to Delhi, aged only 13 years, that he is going to leave behind a treasure of quotes that will long be memorised, narrated and cherished generations after generations.

While for some he is the epitome of Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb, for others he is the finest Urdu poet whose poems capture the pathos of love and continue to remain relevant. For another bunch, he remains a symbol of pluralism if not an ‘auliya’. However, all universally agree that he was not just a poet of yore but a magician who weaved such magic with his words that they still haunt and cushion you simultaneously in trying times.

Gifted naturally with the talent of letter writing, here’s looking at top 10 couplets from the poet as we celebrate his 221st birth anniversary:

1. “aah ko chāhiye ik umr asar hote tak
kaun jiitā hai tirī zulf ke sar hote tak”

Translation: A prayer needs a lifetime, an answer to obtain
who can live until the time that you decide to deign

2. “bāzīcha-e-atfāl hai duniyā mire aage
hotā hai shab-o-roz tamāshā mire aage”

Translation: Just like a child’s playground this world appears to me
every single night and day, this spectacle I see

3. “bas-ki dushvār hai har kaam kā āsāñ honā
aadmī ko bhī mayassar nahīñ insāñ honā”

Translation: Tis difficult that every goal be easily complete
For a man, too, to be human, is no easy feat

4. “dard minnat-kash-e-davā na huā
maiñ na achchhā huā burā na huā”

Translation: My pain did not seek favors from any opiate
I don’t mind the fact that I did not recuperate

5. “hazāroñ ḳhvāhisheñ aisī ki har ḳhvāhish pe dam nikle
bahut nikle mire armān lekin phir bhī kam nikle”

Translation: I have a thousand yearnings , each one afflicts me so
Many were fulfilled for sure, not enough although

6. “kaaba kis muñh se jāoge ‘ġhālib’
sharm tum ko magar nahīñ aatī”

Translation: Ghalib, what face will you to the Kaaba take
when you are not ashamed and not contrite

7. “kahāñ mai-ḳhāne kā darvāza ‘ġhālib’ aur kahāñ vaa.iz
par itnā jānte haiñ kal vo jaatā thā ki ham nikle”

Translation: Wherefrom the ‘saintly’ priest, and where the tavern’s door
But as I entered he was leaving, this much I do know

8. “koī mere dil se pūchhe tire tīr-e-nīm-kash ko
ye ḳhalish kahāñ se hotī jo jigar ke paar hotā”

Translation: What pain your arrow, partly drawn, inflicts upon my heart
cleanly through if it had gone, would it this sting impart?

9. “mohabbat meñ nahīñ hai farq jiine aur marne kā
usī ko dekh kar jiite haiñ jis kāfir pe dam nikle”

Translation: In love there is no difference ‘tween life and death do know
The very one for whom I die, life too does bestow

10. “na thā kuchh to ḳhudā thā kuchh na hotā to ḳhudā hotā
Duboyā mujh ko hone ne na hotā maiñ to kyā hotā”

Translation: In nothingness God was there, if naught he would persist
Existence has sunk me, what loss, if I didn’t exist

(Couplet and translation credit: Rekhta org.)