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Sunday, November 28, 2021

Remembering Majaz Lakhnavi, the Keats of Urdu poetry

Majaz, uncle of lyricist Javed Akhtar, was one of those rare gems whose poetry reflected two most important aspects: romance and revolution.

Written by Faisal Fareed | New Delhi |
Updated: October 19, 2021 4:37:13 pm
Majaz Lakhnavi, Majaz Lakhnavi Keats of Urdu poetry, Asrarul Haque, Urdu poetry, Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), Urdu poet, indian express newsBorn in Rudauli (then in Barabanki, UP) during Diwali celebrations, he was named Asrarul Haque and later took up the name 'Majaz Lakhnavi'. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Two days ago, a nazm reverberated across Aligarh Muslim University as the institution celebrated its founder’s day on October 17. Alumni across the globe, who proudly address themselves as ‘Alig’, sang: Ye Mera Chaman, Ye Mera Chaman.

The author of this famous nazm, Asrarul Haque, popularly known as ‘Majaz Lakhnavi’, whose poetry still rules the heart of millions, was born on October 19, 1911.

Regarded as the Keats of Urdu poetry, Majaz was one of those rare gems whose poetry reflected two most important aspects: romance and revolution. In an era when legendary Urdu poets as Faiz, Jazbi, Sardar Jafri, Sahir Ludhiyanvi were in their prime, Majaz rose to fame and carved a niche for himself.

Born in Rudauli (then in Barabanki, UP) during Diwali celebrations, he was named Asrarul Haque and later took up the name ‘Majaz Lakhnavi’. He belonged to a zamindar family. At a young age, Majaz had an inclination towards Urdu poetry. His fame came when he reached AMU as a student where he got the company of literary legends as Ali Sardar Jafri, Ismat Chugtai, and others. During one of the mushairas, Majaz, dressed in sherwani, delivered his famous poem:

Khoob Pehchan lo Asrar Hoon Main,
Jinse-Ulfat ka talabghar hoon, Main,
Ishq hi Ishq hai Duniya Meri,
Fitna-e-Aql se Bezar hoon Main,
Ek Lapakta ho Shola ho, Ek Chalti Hui Talwar Hoon Main.

The audience was mesmerised; the silence established that Majaz had arrived on the scene. There was no looking back. Majaz gave his alma mater a famous nazm, which is now the university tarana (anthem).

Majaz’s popularity rose by leaps and bounds and there were more females than males among his admirers. At AMU, girls used to keep his book ‘Aahang’ beneath their pillows. They would commit to keeping ‘Majaz’ as the name of their children.

Himanshu Bajpai, Daastango, who has rendered several daastans on Majaz, recalls one incident: “Once, Ismat Chugtai told Majaz that girls love him and Majaz quickly replied, ‘And they marry a rich person’.”

Truly, Majaz had a failed love life, and the dejection got him admitted to a mental asylum at Ranchi. His addiction to liquor took its toll. Chugtai asked him, “Liquor or wine, who destroyed your life, Majaz?” Witty and humorous as always, he replied, “I have given this right to both of them.”

His poem Awara was also an instant hit.

Shahar ki raat aur main naashaad o nakara phirun
Jagmagati jagti sadko pe awara phirun
Ghair ki basti hai kab tak dar-badar maara phurin
Ai Gham-e-Dil kya karun, Ai Vahshat-e-Dil kya karun.

Majaz had recited this nazm on the request of people at White Baradari in Lucknow, which eventually turned out to be his last public gathering before his demise.

His poetry, as said earlier, had both romance and revolution. Some of his lines for women empowerment are still relevant.

Tere Mathe pe ye anchal bahut hi khub hai lekin,
Tu is aanchal se ek parcham bana leti toh achcha tha.

Bajpai narrates an incident: “Once, famous film actress Nargis came to meet Majaz. She requested for his autograph and Majaz obliged by writing the above lines on her white dupatta. He identified himself with every deprived person — perhaps this brought him closer to the progressive movement.” In his poetry, Majaz had raised the issues of women liberation and feminism, which are still discussed today.

Majaz’s revolutionary couplets, too, ruled the masses. While other poets raised the pitch in their revolutionary couplets, Majaz rendered his lines that could be sung with revolution. ‘Bol, Ari O Dharti Bol, Raj Sinhasan Daanwa Dol‘ is one such poem. It is simply unbelievable to see anyone write on the worldly intricacies so beautifully — ‘Bahut Mushkil hai Duniya ka Sanwarna, Teri Zulfo ka Pencho Kham nahi Hai‘.

Alas, Majaz remained a loner. Josh Malihabadi even advised him to keep a ghadi (watch) with him while drinking, but Majaz laughed it off, saying, “You drink keeping a ghadi, I drink keeping a ghada (pitcher).”

In December 1955, his end came abruptly, after he collapsed in Lucknow, and passed away before reaching Balrampur Hospital. The present generation may recall him as the uncle of Bollywood lyricist Javed Akhtar.

The poet, whose kingdom was in the hearts of millions, is buried in a six-feet grave at Nishatganj graveyard with his own lines from a nazm on the epitaph.

Ab iske baad subah hai aur subah-e-Nau Majaz
Ham par hai khatm Sham-e-Gareebaan-e-Lucknow

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