Ghalib Writes Back to Marx

Ghalib 2Following letter was written by Ghalib to Marx in response to latter’s earlier letter. It is referenced in India Office Library and is present on the website of merinews. The correspondence was dug out by Abida Ripley and was translated from Urdu by Tariq Iqbal.

The response seems to be a bit disappointing at one level. But considering Ghalib’s background and history of his dealings with the Palace, and then with the British, the response seems to be befitting in Ghalib’s own circumstances.


September 9, 1867

I received your letter along with the Communist Manifesto. How would I reply? First, it’s too difficult to understand what you talk. Second, I have grown too weak to write as well as speak. Today, I wrote a letter to a friend, so, I thought of writing to you too.
Your view about Farhaad (reference in Ghalib’s one poem) is mistaken. He is not any worker as you perceived him. Rather, he was a lover but his perception toward love did not impress me. He was lunatic in love and would think of committing suicide all the time for his beloved’s sake. And you talk of which inquilab (revolution)? That is a past, ended ten years ago! Now the Britishers roam broad-chested and everyone eulogises them here. The discipline of royalty and lavishness has become a thing of the past; and the tradition of guru and disciple is losing its charm.

If you don’t believe, pay a visit to Delhi and see all in flesh and blood….. And that’s not confined to Delhi only, Lucknow’s essence too is disappearing…where have those mannerisms gone…where are those gentlemen! Now, you predict of which revolution?
And in the middle of your letter I also learnt you talk of changing the mode of poetry writing. Mind you, poetry cannot be created but it comes to you naturally. And my case is distinct. When ideas flow in, they just merge into any forms, ghazal or quatrains.
I believe, Ghalib’s style is unmatched in the world of poetry, and because of that, the kings have already gone and you want me to be deprived of the nawabs and patrons who take care of me…

What goes wrong if I say a few lines in their praise!

What is philosophy and what it has to do with life, who knows better than me? My dear, which modern thinking you talk about? If you are interested in it, you better read Vedanta and Wahdat-ul-Wajood. And stop just harping on thought after thought, if you can, do some work in this direction…you are an Englishman, do me a favour. Please convey a recommendation letter to the viceroy, requesting for reissue of my pension….
Now I am feeling very tired. So, I am putting an end to it,

Humbly yours,


Source: Literary Encounter Between Ghalib and Marx: India Office Library digged out by Merinews, available on