In times of turmoil, one can find solace in songs of Sahir Ludhianvi

Stirring verses Sahir Ludhianvi The Hindu Archives

Daring to express the most complex human emotions, poets are God’s special creatures. Go down the lanes of history, words of rulers have died with them, but verses of poets remain alive as they communicate everlasting truths that most are unable to hear and imbibe. Every age gives rise to a few great poets who make us discern the imponderable mysteries of the universe through a spontaneous overflow of emotions. And without a doubt, in the post-Partition era, such a profound voice was Sahir Ludhianvi.

His unique ability to serve unvarnished truths set Sahir apart as a people’s poet who inspired the finest ideals of mankind and many of his verses such as “Tu Hindu Banega Na Musalman Banega, Insaan Ki Aulaad Hai Insaan Banega” ( Dhool Ka Phool ) have acquired iconic status because of their lucid distillation of eternal wisdom. His stirring verses like “Ye Duniya Agar Mil Bhi Jaye To Kya Hai” and “Jinhein Naaz Hai Hind Par Wo Kahan Hain” (both from Pyaasa ), “Aurat Ne Janam Diya Mardon Ko, Mardon Ne Usey Bazaar Diya” ( Sadhana ) or “Wo Subah Kabhi To Aayegi” and “Chino-Arab Hamara, Hindustan Hamara” (both from Phir Subah Hogi ) are part of folklore since they knocked hard at social inadequacies as well as political and affluent classes.

Not that he spared the common citizens for their culture of hypocrisy, dogma, and hate. Several songs like “Bane Ho Ek Khaaq Se” ( Aarti ), “Khuda-e-Bartar Teri Zameen Pe Ye Jung Kyun Hai” ( Taj Mahal ), “Insaanon Ne Paise Ke Liye” ( Paisa ya Pyar ) and “Bataa Ae Aasman Wale” ( Marine Drive ) are critical of their follies! But the masses still adored him because he held a mirror to their anguish as well as shortcomings in a transparently, honest manner.

If a poet is to influence, enlighten and motivate, Sahir did it with remarkable distinction. Even in the throes of passion, this finest of romantic poets did not forget his duties and responsibilities. Ponder over just one sample: his unusual rejoinder “Par Thehar Wo Jo Wahan… Phir Teri Maang Siataron Se Bhari Jayegi” to his beloved when she beckons with “Aaj Ki Raat Badi Shokh Badi Natkhat Hai” ( Nayi Umar Ki Nayi Fasal ). His bosom is not short of love but devotion to a cause makes him plead with her to “wait till he had built houses for those sleeping on the footpath as well as helped the poor that are denied even shrouds for their corpses”.

Expression of pain

A rarer expression of solace is difficult to find except in Sahir’s “Tum Mujhe Bhool Bhi Jao” ( Didi ) wherein he reminds the beloved that in a world afflicted with hunger and thirst, love is not the ultimate necessity!

Seeing or reacting in a manner different from the ordinary came naturally to Sahir. Abhorrence to constrictions of social customs, luxury, opulence, and decadence made him a rebel of sorts and a saviour of the downtrodden. That is why for him Taj Mahal was not a monument of love but a grotesque advertisement of a king: “Ek Shahenshah Ne Daulat Ka Sahara Leke, Hum Gareebon Ki Mohabbat Ka Udaaya Hai Mazaak” ( Ghazal ). Time and time again, through various pertinent metaphors, he made us realise our fates were intertwined with each other and “Ye Ishq Ishq Hai” ( Barsaat Ki Raat ) is the perfect example of how this visionary could articulate similarities and synthesis of cultures and how love alone made us worship stones as incarnations of Gods.

As one re-engages with thousands of Sahir’s verses in his centenary year, it becomes evident that the poet sought equality, justice, peace and prosperity for all. Every genre came easy to him and be it bhajans, sufi songs, ghazals, nazms, love ballads or qawwalis, Sahir embellished each with a thought that was not just vividly different from the rest of his milieu but also immensely lyrical and awe-inspiring.

Though he did write quite a few patriotic songs, he remained a steadfast pacifist who always advocated love and understanding rather than war: “Khoon Apna Ho Ya Paraya Ho, Nasle Aadam Ka Khoon Hai Akhir, Jung Mashirk Mein Ho Ke Magrib Mein, Amne Alam Ka Khoon Hai Aakhir” (Shed the blood of our own or a stranger, It is ultimately the blood of mankind, Be it a war in the east or west, It is ultimately the murder of peace and tranquility).

As fear and prejudice haunt the lanes of Delhi once again, it would be wise to remember the sane advice of Sahir that war (killing) is itself a problem and can never resolve our problems.

As fear and prejudice haunt the lanes of Delhi once again, it would be wise to remember the sane advice of Sahir that war (killing) is itself a problem and can never resolve our problems.

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