You don’t have to be an erudite intellectual to appreciate the beauty of Urdu poetry. When an illiterate truck driver asks a painter to write on the back of his truck: “Ya Elahi gharat kare truck banane wale ko,
ghar se beghar kar diya truck chalane wale ko.”
You won’t fail to appreciate the dry curt humor and sense of helpless of the truck-driver that he had expressed through this couplet. When an antique dealer offers you a pillow cushion with a couplet on it developed with threads telling:
“Takiye pa sir rakha a kisi mast khwab ka,
goya ke qasr-e-husn pa gumbad shabab ka.”
You don’t have to be Moulana Hali or Aley Ahmed Surror to delve the deeper meanings of a lover who might have once gifted that pillow cover to her beloved with the feelings that emanated from the bottom of his heart. You don’t have be Moulvi Abdul Haque to enjoy the fainted line of an old post-card that had an inscription: “Bedard zamane ko bahana sa banakar, main toot ke roya hoon teri yad men aksar” that you had discovered in the discarded cupboard of an attic of a newly rented house. You simply love, respect and salute the last Moughal Emperor Bhahdur Shah Zafar when you read: “Hindiyoun me boo rahe gee jab talak Eman ke, Takht-e-London per chale gee taigh Hindustan ke.” It was composed by him in response spontaneously when he had opened the cover of the platter on which the head of Shahzada Moughal, his brave son, was sent by Col Hudson with a couplet:
“Dam damon main dum naheen, aab khair mango jan ke,
Aey Zafar bus ho chuki Shamsheer Hindustan ki.”
Here I can’t help but reproduce some parts of my article “The Rise and Fall of Urdu Language” that is still available on internet.
“When Kalyan Singh, the famous Aya Ram Gaya Ram of BJP, the fellow who had masterminded the demolition of Babri Masjid, was shown the door for the first time, he used the Urdu language to express his true feelings: ‘Hum Wafa sha-ar the nazron se gir gaye unki. Shayad unhen talash kisi Bewafa Ki Thee’ – meaning, I was loyal and fell in his esteem. Perhaps he was looking for a treacherous buddy.
“Humko unse wafa ki hai umeed, jo nahi jaante wafa kya hai (We hope for loyalty from those who do not know the meaning of the word),” quoting famous Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib.
Sushma Swaraj, the Leader of Opposition stood up with a smile. She quoted the famous Urdu poet Bashir Badr: “Kuch to majbooriya rahi hongi yun koi bewafa nahi hota (There must have been some compulsions, one is not disloyal for no reason at all).”
She then broke into a second verse: “Tumhe wafa yaad nahee, Humein jafa yaad nahee, Zindagi or maut ke toh do hee tarane hain, ek tumhein yaad nahee, ek humein yaad naheen (You don’t remember loyalty, we don’t remember disloyalty, life and death have two rhythms, you don’t remember one, we don’t remember the other).”
Sushma Swaraj too got a thunderous response from her party members. The prime minister just smiled. This is not the first time both have exchanged Urdu and Hindi verses to hit out at each other.
This brouhaha reminded me the famous line that reflects the wounded spirit of an Urdu poet: “Urdu ka Janazah hai baree dhoom se uththe….” It is the coffin of Urdu, let it be shouldered with all the pomp and gaity. To write about this unfortunate language is a painful exercise. This complex and thorny subject can’t be met justice within a short article. For a rational mind it would be a pathetic sight and heartrending scenario to witness a most enchanting seductress, an animated Venus of Languages being dragged to the altar of Fanaticism, Islamophobia, Prejudice and Ignorance – an unprecedented historical callous ritual of SATI inflicted upon a ‘Medium of Expression’. A Language murder de-jure in broad day light of civilization.
The lovers of this beautiful damsel had given her several names: Hindi, Hindavi, Dakni, Lashkari, Rekhta and the last in this chronology is Urdu. Ameer Khusrau, the famous sufi saint, poet, musician, inventor and warrior is supposed to be the father and ‘Khari Boli’ has adopted this baby of Khusrua as its own daughter. Born and brought in pure Indian environment it had taken the impact of Persian or Farsi somehow, the language of Kings and courtiers. It is interesting to learn that with the death of Emperor Aourengzeb, the use of Persian declined in Indian sub-continent. A new language was finding its entry in the towering shoes of Farsi. It was Urdu.
Most of the experts of Lingua Franca agree that no living language of the world could match the power of command, respect, clout and visceral stirring that is imbibed in the two magical Urdu words – “INQALAB ZINDABAD” It was the idiom of Indian Independence.
“Sarfaroshi ki tamannah ab hamarey dil men hai, dekhna hai zor kitna bazooey qatil men hai” I covet to offer my head today, Let me test the strength of my executioner.
Urdu was a language that was common among all faiths of Indians. The Christians missionaries used this medium to preach, propagate and proselytize the north Indians. It is used for the same purpose by missionaries in Pakistan even today.
It is a language that was adored, nurtured and disseminated by Whites, Hindus and Sikhs. The great novelists and short story writers of Urdu were Premchand, Krishanchandar and Rajendra Singh Bedi; the greatest poet of Urdu Masnawi was Pandit Daya Shankar ‘Naseem’. The most versatile and novel Urdu poets were Brij Narayan ‘Chakbast’, Tilwak Chand ‘Mehroom’, Pandit Raghu Pati Sahay ‘Firaq Gorakhpuri’. The all times great critics of Urdu Literature are Gopi Chand ‘Narang’ and Jagan Nath ‘Azad’. Even today the two intellectuals who are the embodiment of all that is fine with Urdu are two Gulzars and both of them are Hindus or Sikhs. One from Delhi, Gulzar Dehelwi and other from Punjab, our very own ‘Jai Ho’ wale Gulzar. This is just the tip of the iceberg. I am forgetting thousands of names of non-Muslims who are and who were proud of their language – Urdu. The famous stalwart of Urdu, Pandit Anand Narain ‘Mulla’ Ex-Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court has once said,” I could forsake my religion but not my language Urdu.” Let me narrate here his famed couplet:
“Woh aour hain jinhen touba ki mil gayee fursat,
hamen gunah bhee karne ko zindagi kum hai.”
Those may be others who got time to seek forgiveness, for me, the allotted time is very short to commit even the Sins.
Today the fake proponents of Hindi Language, along with the band of Islamophobic fanatics claim that Urdu is a language of Muslims only; a language of Pakistan; a language of terrorists.
Nothing is farther from truth! Before the establishment of Pakistan none of the entities that would become West and East Pakistan spoke Urdu language. The languages prevalent in those regions were Bengali, Punjabi, Pushto, Baluchi and Sindhi. The mass migration of Muslims from UP, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi and Hyderabad effectively changed the demography of those regions. The Sindhi majority of Karachi was reduced to a minority and Urdu was proclaimed as National language of Pakistan. What is happening to the language of Mohajirs, the migrants from India, in Bangla Desh and Pakistan makes a pathetic study for any aspirant to think of those areas.
After independence, Congress played the vicious game of ‘play with the hares and hunt with the hounds.’ To questionable role played by Sardar Patel and Govind Ballabh Pant to marginalize Urdu from the national scene is now buried in the history books. The subject how Moulana Abul Kalam Azad was craftily isolated in banishing Urdu would earn galore of Ph. D’s for the aspirants of history, social and political science.
But still there is a silver lining for the dark clouds of Urdu. The young generation of Non-Muslim youth who don’t carry the heavy burdens of history, are taking the bull by the horns. For them Lata Mangeshkar, Jagjeet Singh, Punkaj Udhas, Sonu Nigam, Peenaz Masani, Ghulam and Mehdi Hasan with their superb pronunciation and renditons are the maestros of their fields of Ghazals, Sufiana kalms and geets. Hindi is coming with the new most popular component – Hindi Ghazal.” End quote
And all this background I’d prepared to tell the readers that I simply enjoy and love Urdu in all forms and undoubtedly certainly I’ve no claims over the knowledge and versatility of this beautiful language.
Over the last three centuries Urdu has produced great poets of super intelligence and excellence of presentation. However the 18th century was the century of Meer, the 19th belonged to Ghalib and the 20th was the century Eqbal and Faiz. There is a plethora of twinkling stars in the galaxy of Urdu but there are no moons. Whether this trend will continue in the present century, I if don’t know. Parveen Shakir died young and left a mark but is nothing more than skin deep if we consider the Urdu poetry as a body. This is my opinion. I’m a tyro, a green horn and illiterate whose opinion counts for nothing.
Meer was a natural poet who used the metaphor of the broken, shattered, distraught heart to describe both his own personal loss as also the pillage and destruction of Delhi. He loved Delhi from the bottom of his heart. It was his adopted capital and the deserted streets and empty houses of Delhi became symbols of the passing away of a lifestyle and an aesthetic urbane milieu of his works.
Ghalib was a philosopher, a versatile and learned intellectual who infused the Ghazal with a depth and multi – layers of the form had not hitherto seen. Ghalib also contributed significantly to freeing the Ghazal from the constricting grip of a cold heartless beloved, a successful rival and the perpetually unsuccessful lover-the poet-drowning himself in wine or wallowing in masochistic self pity. He tried to put across the realities of life; challenged the worn out concepts of traditions and beliefs. He was a daring explorer of language and thought. He was a perfectionist and there is no confusion in his thinking. Ghalib raised fundamental questions of existence and being, raised doubts about received world views and established that the Ghazal was capable of tackling complex ideas. The imagery of Ghalib’s poetry drew as much from his immediate surroundings and the rich cultural heritage of South Central Asia that had in turn drawn from the myths of ancient Greece and Egypt, tales and fables that also resonated in the Torah, the Bible and the Quraan. Ghalib lived in strange times, an order was dying and the new was yet to replace it. Ghalib was a witness to these cataclysmic times. The rapid collapse of the Mughal court led to the replacement of a system of patronage with unending uncertainty and penury. The Mutiny of 1857 took away with it the last vestiges of an order that India had known and the ruthless crushing of the uprising led to an era of unprecedented changes whose impact was to inform the creation of literature in a fundamental and far reaching manner. Ghalib, like many of his contemporaries, was deeply shaken by these events and suffered the consequences of this upheaval.
Eqbal is a poet who has left an indelible and everlasting impression upon mankind. It is wrong to assume that Eqbal is the poet of Muslims or he belongs to Urdu literature alone. Eqbal transcends all boundaries. You cannot put him in any category. Like all great poets, he belongs to the whole mankind.
‘Sare Jahan se achcha Hindustan Hamara,
Hum bulbulen hain iski yeh gulsitan hamara.’
MY INDIA is the best amongst all the nations of the world. We are its nightingales and this is our garden. That’s how ‘the poet of East – Allama Sheikh Mohammed Eqbal’ showered his unlimited love for his country. – India.
‘Khake witan ka humko har zarra devta hai” (Each dust particle of my motherland is god to me).
In Focus Eqbal has a great and unique vision of India and he had described his dream of a new India in these words:
“Sach keh doon aye Brahmin gar tu bura na mane. (Should I speak the truth Oh Brahmin if you aren’t offended?)”
Aa ek naya shiwali hum phir se yan bana de’n. (Let us make new temples again)
Shakti bhi shanty bhi bhakto ke geet me hai. (There is strength and peace in the hymns of worshippers)
Dharti ke waasiyon ki mukti preet me hai. (Peace of inhabitants of the world lies in love)
MULLAHS HAVE issued a fatwa on Eqbal for daring to see this dream for a new India.
Eqbal, like so many Muslim intellectuals was disillusioned with the policies of Congress and suggested a federation of Muslim states to protect the culture and civilization of Muslims. The purpose of this article is not to re-open the old controversial chapters of history as Allama Eqbal had died long before independence in 1938. The least I can say is he loved India. That he belongs to Pakistan is travesty of truth. “This is not the whole Truth,” said Professor Abdul Haq, an eminent Urdu critic. “Eqbal foresaw a federal structure for a free India, in which a Muslim-dominated north-western region could be a cultural unit like many others,” he said. As far as the idea of Pakistan is concerned, Iqbal denied that he was the originator of this idea. “Eqbal has clearly denied this in his letters to Raghib Hussain. People don’t talk about these letters since they don’t favor their point of view,” said Dr Haq.
Dr Abdul Haq said that Eqbal is the most misunderstood poet of the 20th century. “We must look at Eqbal in totality if we want to understand him,” he said. Eqbal’s tragedy was that his poetry was used by different groups to serve their own interests. His poetry had so many facets that he seemed to assume different roles in different phases of his poetry: he was a staunch nationalist, a vocal communist, an advocate of Hindu-Muslim unity, a humanist, a believer in Islamic revivalism, a freedom fighter, and an advocate of international brotherhood. No poet in Urdu, and I’m sure in any other Indian language too, has shed as many tears on India’s misery and colonial captivity.
Uth ke ab dore jahan ka aur hi andaz hai
Mashroq-o-maghrib me tere dour ka aghaz hai
“Get up now that the style of the world has changed. It is the beginning of your age in the East and West.”
Faiz Ahmed Faiz is a poet I find nearest to my inner feelings which I’ve no ability or intellect to express. He says what I think; he says what I want to say. I need a separate space to talk about Faiz. He lived a troubled and restless life, Faiz’s work, political ideology, and poetry became immortal and remained an extremely popular and influential figure in the literary development of Pakistan’s arts, literature, and drama and theatre adaptation. Faiz’s work is considered the backbone of development of new Urdu literature, arts and poetry. Along with Allama Eqbal, Faiz is often known as the “Poet of the East” While commenting on his legacy, classical singer Tina Sani said:
Faiz Ahmad Faiz… (was) like a comrade, his thoughts were soft but effective and inspired the classical singers as it did others in the plays we did… Faiz’s poetry never gets old because the problems and situations in this country have not changed. Today we sing him because of his beautiful poetry, missing out on the reasons behind his poems that had predictions..
To conclude this article, I’ve like to talk about my friend Dr. Shafaat Faheem Amrohvi. He is few years senior to me in this world and we had played the same games; drank the same water and breathed the same air till we parted and joined again in Aligarh Muslim University. He has always had a poetic temperament. My Urdu was between poor and weak. I had been below average and low brow in the fields of study – somehow managed to survive and have nothing to boast about. However, I liked his poems when he was a beginner and do still like him when he is transformed into reputed poet.
He has been a lucky inheritor of creative writing. His father, grand-father and forefathers were scholars of religion and Urdu, Persian and Arabic languages. He never had to struggle to recall the appropriated words for his poetry. Words would line up for him at his command. He has the mastery to play around and create new terms – a rare trait in his genre. In some of his works I can see my face.
“Yeh raaz na samjha hai na samjhe ga zamana,
hum jeetey hue khel ko kyuon haar gaye hain.”
I’ve not been happy when he came to my house with his latest couplet:
“Mere har dost ke lafzon se tapakta hai lahoo, mera khoon pee ke mere dost paley hon jaise;
Meri sanson se nikalta hai ummedon ka dhuyan, mere jazbat mere saath jaley hon jaise.”
I’s dumb founded; I didn’t like what he had said. For me, the friendship is unbroken divine relationship, always pristine, pure and bright. I can’t believe that a friend could ever be an adversary. Friendship is a proof of Godliness.
And I had also imbibed some streaks of poetry by then. I asked him to let me rest for a while. While leaving the room I asked him to complete the couplet that began with my words – “Kamzarf chirghon ne dhuyan chor diya hai…………………………” Next time he came to my room in Ziauddin Hostel and reassured me that blood did never ever wring out of my words in any form. It was, according to him, was written in a different situation. He had completed my lead with the following stanza:
“Ummed-e-Sahar hote he tareek-e-iye shab men,
Kam zarf chiraghon ne dhuyan chor diya hai.”
I was left with nothing to disagree except that he did never confessed that the lead line was given by me.