Poets are vain. Scholars are even vainer. Now, imagine one who is a bit of both.
He was one of those”vanity personified types”. He had answers to all questions or at-least he claimed to have answers. He selected his audiences carefully; he always made sure they are ignoramuses compared to him. He quoted verses out of thin air, even thick mist sometimes. His understanding of history,languages,poetry,aesthetics,art,drama and literature seemed too vast to be true. To me it looked as if he had perfected the art of lying. In my opinion, that probably was the only art that he had. Almost nonchalantly he dismissed and even rubbished everyone else’s knowledge.He had grudging admirers by the day who turned knife sharpening foes by the fall of dusk.They all hated him and he knew it.In a way he enjoyed being hated.
And then his travels....
His travels had often taken him far and wide,he would tell me. He would often reminisce about his travels to the other Himalyas, to villages where ordinary tourists do not go, to saints who lived in caves and to ghosts of his own making.It was strange that he was never eaten by a beast nor did he fall prey to a mermaid who enticed him to make love to her.But that he had been an avid traveller was known to me,since I did sometimes travel with him.His experiences were strange almost alien to us city bred uncultured and ignorant chatterati.That is how he described people like us.
Somehow every once in a while he managed to get an audience of rag-tag youngsters and old assholes to hear him. He hated them all for their ignorance yet he loved them because they were his only audience.He would tell me ,It wasn’t as if I don’t have audiences elsewhere, but what I knew as a matter of fact was that they were his only audience for what he called his favourite subjects.
It would hurt him immensely if someone ever laughed or even slighted his vanity.After all how could a vain be insulted for the only trait that he has.
In the height of his vanity he would quote Ghalib’s heights of vanity,partly as a cover up for his lesser vice and partly to justify his own.
hotaa hai nihaaN gard men seharaa mere hote
ghisataa hai jabiin Khaak pe dariyaa mere aage
aashiq hoon mashooq farebi hain mera kaam
majnoon ko bhi bura kehte hain laila meray aage
A bird this morning came to my house to inform me about the death of this vain.
Someone had insulted his vanity so much that he had apparently tried to shed away his vanity and his soul slipped too. The dead body started evaporating. As the cloud of his body went up, someone was heard singing
huee muddat ke ‘GHalib’ mar gaya par yaad aata hai
wo har ek baat pe kehana, ke yooN hota to kya hota ?