Wednesday, Jan 26, 2022
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Pal, Do Pal Ka Shayar

Who was Sahir? Met with benign neglect by intellectuals, not quite a mass poet either. His poetry was touched by romance, but his romance was too touched by life to be frothy.

Pal, Do Pal Ka Shayar
Pal, Do Pal Ka Shayar -

Before he was Sahir Ludhianvi, he was Abdul Hai, born in a family of Punjabi landowners a hundred years ago this month in Ludhiana. He passed away in Mumbai in 1980. He was the only son of a rich landowner who had divorced Sahir’s mother. According to the great Urdu poet Ehsan Danish, Sahir declared his decision before the court to go with his impoverished mother rather than the rich father. From this very place, the rights of women became the foundation for human values for Sahir, so much so that the social exploitation of his mother left a deep impact on him, even affecting his romantic life. He rem­ained a bachelor all his life.

His anger at his class position led to his expulsion from college. However, even before he turned 25, he had published Talkhiyan (Bitterness), a bestseller till date. Sahir, of course, is known in the public imagination for his incredible career as a film lyricist. A partial collection of his film lyrics titled Gaata Jaaye Banjara (And the Gypsy Sings On) outsells most poetry books in serious bookstores. He has been credited with recasting class-rebellion in a romantic tone in film songs to shoehorn his politics into the filmi idiom. But his popularity was not only through film songs. The poems which had found fame through his collection Talkhiyan, reached the non-Urdu­-speaking classes years later through the film Pyaasa. However, he was strangely ignored by the intelligentsia. For example, in his analysis of Urdu literature, Mohammed Sadiq, after a chapter each on Ghalib, Iqbal, and even Akbar Allahabadi, dismisses Sahir in one paragraph, beginning with “Though deficient in imagination, Sahir has a strong intellectual app­roach.” But the poet lives on in public imagination.

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