The Ghat of the Only World NCERT Textbook PDF

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Chapter 6: The Ghat of the Only World

THE first time that Agha Shahid Ali spoke to me about his approaching death was on 25 April 2001. The conversation began routinely. I had telephoned to remind him that we had been invited to a friend’s house for lunch and that I was going to come by his apartment to pick him up. Although he had been under treatment for cancer for some fourteen months, Shahid was still on his feet and perfectly lucid, except for occasional lapses of memory.

I heard him thumbing through his engagement book and then suddenly he said: ‘ Oh dear. I can’t see a thing.’ There was a brief pause and then he added: ‘I hope this doesn’t mean that I’m dying…’ Although Shahid and I had talked a great deal over the last many weeks, I had never before heard him touch on the subject of death. I did not know how to respond: his voice was completely at odds with the content of what he had just said, light to the point of jocularity.

I mumbled something innocuous: ‘No Shahid — of course not. You’ll be fine.’ He cut me short. In a tone of voice that was at once quizzical and direct, he said: ‘When it happens I hope you’ll write something about me.’

I was shocked into silence and a long moment passed before I could bring myself to say the things that people say on such occasions. ‘Shahid you’ll be fine; you have to be strong…’ From the window of my study I could see a corner of the building in which he lived, some eight blocks away. It was just a few months since he moved there: he had been living a few miles away, in Manhattan, when he had a sudden blackout in February 2000.

After tests revealed that he had a malignant brain tumour, he decided to move to Brooklyn, to be close to his youngest sister, Sameetah, who teaches at the Pratt Institute—a few blocks away from the street where I live. Shahid ignored my reassurances. He began to laugh and it was then that I realised that he was dead serious. I understood that he was entrusting me with a quite specific charge: he wanted me to remember him not through the spoken recitatives of memory and friendship, but through the written word. Shahid knew all too well that for those writers for whom things become real only in the process of writing, there is an inbuilt resistance to dealing with loss and bereavement.

He knew that my instincts would have led me to search for reasons to avoid writing about his death: I would have told myself that I was not a poet; that our friendship was of recent date; that there were many others who knew him much better and would be writing from greater understanding and knowledge.

All this Shahid had guessed and he had decided to shut off those routes while there was still time. ‘You must write about me.’ Clear though it was that this imperative would have to be acknowledged, I could think of nothing to say: what are the words in which one promises a friend that one will write about him after his death? Finally, I said: ‘Shahid, I will: I’ll do the best I can’. By the end of the conversation I knew exactly what I had to do. I picked up my pen, noted the date, and wrote down everything I remembered of that conversation.

 This I continued to do for the next few months: it is this record that has made it possible for me to fulfil the pledge I made that day. I knew Shahid’s work long before I met him. His 1997 collection, The Country Without a Post Office, had made a powerful impression on me. His voice was like none I had ever heard before, at once lyrical and fiercely disciplined, engaged and yet deeply inward. Not for him the mock-casual

Language English
No. of Pages11
PDF Size0.6 MB

NCERT Solutions Class 11 English Chapter 6 The Ghat of the Only World

1. What impressions of Shahid do you gather from the piece?


The author Amitav Ghosh’s biography of Shahid reveals that the poet was a complex individual. Even the dreadful disease of cancer couldn’t break him down. He was a fighter who never gave up in the face of adversity. While in the hospital, he refused to use the wheelchair and preferred to walk on “his own feet.” He was also an exceptional teacher. Shahid had a deep appreciation for good poetry, music, and food. He was a fine poet himself, and enjoyed the company of other poets and writers. His wit and sense of humor were also one of a kind. He was a non-religious man. The political situation and violence in Kashmir affected him so much that the central theme of his poem became – ‘Kashmir’. He was a truly gifted individual.

2. How do Shahid and the writer react to the knowledge that Shahid is going to die?


Shahid was initially tense, but quickly revealed his feelings and asked Amitav Ghosh to write about him after his death. The writer was taken aback and didn’t know how to react to the situation. Later, he said the standard words, “Nothing will happen to you.” You’ll be fine.”

3. Look up the dictionary for the meaning of the word ‘diaspora’. What do you understand of the Indian diaspora from this piece?


The term ‘diaspora’ refers to ‘people who come from a specific nation, or whose ancestors came from it, but now live in various parts of the world.’

According to this article, Shahid, his brother, and two sisters were living in the United States of America. Not only them, but many Indians today move abroad for a variety of reasons such as education, employment, or some other reason. They run into each other now and then. The Indian diaspora is larger than that of any other country. In this piece, we see that despite having migrated abroad, Shahid spends every summer in Srinagar, indicating that though people settle elsewhere, the love for their country never dies and they never forget their motherland.

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