NEW DELHI: Mirza Ghalib’s haveli in Ballimaran in Old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk has been partially restored with help from Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR). The 214th birth anniversary of one of India’s most famous Urdu and Persian poets, marked the inauguration of a permanent exhibition at the Mughal-era haveli. About 130 square yards of the 400 square yard property is being used for the exhibition at present.
“The objective is to make the haveli an important part of the heritage tourism trail of Delhi. The exhibition will weave together a lively tale of Ghalib’s life and works, which will be attractive to both foreign and Indian tourists,” said Suresh K Goel, Director General of ICCR.
“Since we cannot display the original items because of security reasons, we will have digital replicas of his letters and other personal belongings,” said Goel, adding that the next step would be finding a way of looking after the exhibition and maintaining the articles on display. Suggestions of revenue from sale of books and tickets have been pouring in, and Goel says that meetings with members of the Ghalib Memorial Committee will help decide the future course of action.
A single guard is on duty at present, and most visitors to the building suggest putting up of signage at the nearest metro station, as well as at the entrance to Ballimaran from the main Chandni Chowk road. Ghalib’s haveli has always attracted tourists from across the world, and even today draws an average daily crowd of at least 90 people, say residents of the area.
A few replicas of kitchen vessels and clothing from Ghalib’s era are on display. The Urdu poet’s favourite food and pastimes are mentioned, and some books and verses from his world famous works are also being showcased. There is also a brief description of his wife Umrao Begum, whom he married at the age of 13. Firoz Bakht Ahmed, a heritage activist who was among the first to seek restoration of the neglected building, is relieved that a step has been taken in the right direction. He had filed a PIL in 1996 and the Delhi High Court had subsequently ordered restoration of the haveli. Ahmed says that a coal depot, a heater factory and shops were being run from the haveli. “Even today, there’s an STD booth and a guesthouse just adjacent to the haveli,” he says.