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Undaunted spirit of Urdu poets in Pakistan

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Undaunted spirit of Urdu poets in Pakistan

Two revolutionary Urdu poets — Josh Malihabadi and Faiz Ahmed Faiz — lived and died in strikingly similar conditions. Both challenged orthodoxy with their remarkable poetry but met a tragic end, writes Madan Lall Manchanda

Josh Malihabadi was one of the most renowned poets of Urdu after Iqbal who championed the cause of freedom and preached socialistic values. He displayed great courage and frankness in giving expression to his ideas and feelings — unmindful of the consequences. His revolutionary zeal remained unabated and he persistently raised voice against subjugation and oppression. Rightly termed as a bard of revolution, he engendered a sprit of revolt through his poetry. His fiery and impelling verse roused sentiments and swayed its listeners and readers:

‘Ke Azadi ka ik lamha hai behtar

Ghulami ki hyat-e-jawadan se’

(A moment of freedom is worth much more

Than the eternal life of slavery)

A romantic at heart, Josh’s poetic roar was vehement and surcharged with emotion and tended to instil fear in the minds of the adversaries. In his famous poem addressed to the ‘Sons of East India Company’, he gave the British government in India an ultimatum:

‘Ik kahani waqt likhega nae mazmoon ki

Jis ki surkhi ko zarurat hai tumare khoon ki

(Times will record chronology with yet another meaning

Which would need your blood as ink to write it).

Josh was equally vociferous. After the first flush of independence was over, he launched a new crusade against the rampant graft, black marketing, hoarding, bureaucratic regime, and the volte face opportunists. In a meeting attended by the then Prime Minister Pandit Nehru, he took the liberty to mount a scathing attack on the state of affairs and forewarned people against the neo-revolution that was on the way:

  ‘Sholon ke paikeron se liptne ki der hai

Aatish fishan pahar ke phatne ki der hai’

(Flames are about to engulf the bodies

 It is only a matter of time that the simmering volcano erupts)

Much against the wishes of friends and fans, Josh migrated to Pakistan. It was possibly because of his family circumstances. Later, he regretted this decision and pined to come back. His revolutionary and liberal views did not accord well with bigoted orthodoxy. He had no hesitation in calling himself an atheist if championing the cause of the downtrodden was considered un-Islamic. He did not believe in the theory of accountability and punishment. He said in a bold vein:

‘Tu aatish-e-dozakh se darata hai unhein

Jo aag ko pee jate hein pani kar ke’

(You are frightening those with hell fire

Who gulp fire as a liquid)

However, Josh found himself in trouble with the successive governments in Pakistan. It is indeed tragic that the last days of this great poet who enriched Urdu Poetry and created verse of unmatched beauty, were spent in utter dejection and despondency in Pakistan. He cried out

‘Main Karachi men hun

Jis tareh koofe men Hussain

Sab Shahadat ke hain aasar’

(I am in Karachi

The way Hussain was in koofe

 It seems I am set for martyrdom)

Josh, the great poet and humanist, breathed his last on February 20, 1982 in Pakistan. He died as a forlorn person in very unhappy circumstances.

The agony suffered by Faiz Ahmed Faiz under the dictatorial rule is no more different. This great poet whose verse marked the advent of a new era in Urdu poetry languished in jails for several years for his alleged involvement in the Rawalpindi conspiracy case. Not only that, he was in solitary confinement for a full year. An attempt was also made to stifle his voice. The following couplets which are reminiscent of those dark days vividly portray his mental anguish

‘Matah-e-lauh-o-qalm chhin gai to kya gham hai

Ke khoon-e-dil men dabo li hain unglian mein ne

Zaban pe mohar legi hai to kya, ke rakh di hai

Har ik halka-e-zanjeer men zaban main ne

(What if I have lost my treasure of pen and freedom

 For I have sunk my fingers in my blood

 What if my lips are sealed, for I have given

 Tongue to each and every link of the iron chain that binds me)

Faiz was a poet of robust faith and unflagging optimism. He was adored for the generosity of his outlook and for his fine aesthetic perception by millions throughout the sub-continent. His profound humanism knew no bounds and his sympathies for the lowly and the oppressed extended far and wide, beyond the national frontiers. Love for his own country was truly ingrained in him. As a redeemer of liberty of mankind, he bemoaned the lack of freedom of speech in his own country. His patriotic urge found expression thus:

‘Udhar taqaze hain maslehat ke

Idhar taqaza-e-dard-dil hai

Zaban sanbhalen, ke dil sanbhalen

Aseer zikr-e-watan se pehle’

(I am divided between what tact demands

And what the dictates of conscience are

It is difficult for the prisoners to choose

Whether to hold their tongue or follow their heart

Before talking about their country)

It is a great pity that this outstanding poet of light and dawn who was a great thinker and scholar was persecuted for some stray utterances. Under the mounting pressure of attacks by the frenzied Muslim orthodoxy, Faiz was obliged to quit his country in self exile. He came back from Beirut only to meet his sad end on 20th November, 1984. How widely his concept of religion differed from that of his opponents is evident in the following couplet of his last gazal:

‘Un ko Islam ke lut jane ka dar itna hai

Ab woh kafir ko musalman karne nahin dete’

(They are so scared of Islam losing its identity and grip That they do not now favour even conversation of infidels to Islam)

madanlallmanchanda@gmail.com

 
 
 
 
 

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