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Saturday, April 10, 2021

100 years of Sahir Ludhianvi: Not a pal do pal ka shayar

‘Beyond the magic of his romantic and patriotic poetry and lyrics, what people often forget is what he wrote about an ideal society’

Written by Divya Goyal | Ludhiana |
Updated: March 8, 2021 3:31:42 am
A rare photo of Sahir Ludhianvi.

‘Quran na ho jisme wo mandir nahi tera, Geeta na ho jisme wo haram nahi tera… Tu Hindu banega na Musalman banega, insaan ki aulaad hai, insaan banega’ – Dhool Ka Phool (1959)

Beyond love and romance, patriotism and empathy that reflected in his timeless nazms and writings, a hidden gem in the works of shaayar Sahir Ludhianvi, who turns 100 on March 8, was his unparalleled pitch for an egalitarian society, where not the religions but humanity was respected, above all.

Born as Abdul Hayee on March 8, 1921, in Ludhiana of undivided Punjab, Sahir Ludhianvi through his writings echoed his belief of ‘One God’, irrespective of people worshipping him as ‘Ram’ or ‘Rahim’.

More than 40 years after his passing, those treasures of his writings remain unparalleled still and he wrote: ‘Kaabe mein raho ya Kaashi mein, nisbat to ussi ki zaat se hai, Tum Ram kaho ya Rahim kaho, matlab to ussi ki baat se hai’ ; ‘Ishwar allah tere naam, sabko sanmanti de bhagwan, saara jagat teri santaan.. koi neech na koi mahaan… janam ka koi mol nahi… karam se hai sabki pehchaan..’

Veteran Urdu poet and writer Kewal Dheer (83), author of the book ‘Daastan-e-Sahir’, says, “Beyond the magic of his romantic and patriotic poetry and lyrics, what people often forget is what he wrote about an ideal society. He was a born Muslim but for him Ram and Rahim were one, he saw God as one and he respected humans, not the religions. That’s the mind and heart from where he wrote lyrics such as ‘Sansaar se bhaagte phirte ho, bhagwan ko tum kya paoge….iss lok ko bhi apna na sake uss lok mein bhi pachtaoge… ye paap hai kya ye punya hai kya, reeton par dharm ki mohrein hain… har yug mein badalte dharmon ko kaise aadarsh banaoge…’

Sahir completed his schooling from Khalsa High School in Ludhiana, and after separation of his parents, he was living with his mother and maternal uncle. He then got admission at SCD Government College, Ludhiana, in arts stream, and a copy of his admission form (with his signatures), which the college has now preserved as an illustrious document, shows that his interest was in five subjects — English, Persian, philosophy, Urdu and history — and his hobbies were ‘cricket’ and ‘photography’. Reinforcing the fact that talent matters more than the marks on the report card, Sahir’s admission form indicates that he wasn’t a brilliant student academically and had cleared matriculation in ‘second division’.

And today, for Ludhiana’s SCD College, its ‘expelled’ student is their most celebrated alumnus. The campus buzzes with the immortal memories of its shaayar student — his old group photograph hanged in the corridor, his not-so illustrious marksheets preserved in magazines, an auditorium and a botanical garden ‘Gulistan-e-Sahir’ dedicated in his name.

According to principal Dharam Singh Sandhu, Sahir was an arts stream student at college from 1939-41 but had spent only two years in college, and left when his graduation was still incomplete. “There was an era in Hindi film industry when not a single film came which did not have Sahir’s lyrics. Though he could not complete graduation from our college and left after two years, we are proud of his association with our college. This shows that more than the marks on the report card, it is the talent and passion of a student that matters. He wasn’t a brilliant student academically but entire world knows him today…”

The story goes that Sahir was expelled from college for having an affair with a girl, Ishar Kaur, and sitting on the college lawns with her, much to the disagreement of principal ACC Hervey, a British man.

But Kewal Dheer disagrees and says that he was not expelled but “asked to leave”. Another story suggests that he was asked to leave the college during his second year of graduation because his poems against British rule irked the authorities.

Dheer adds that before Ishar Kaur, there was another woman, Prem Chaudhri, whom Sahir loved and she was his classmate. “She had died due to tuberculosis and Sahir was heartbroken. He loved her,” Dheer says.

He was awarded Padma Shri in 1971.

He was almost a loner when he died in Mumbai on October 25, 1980, after a cardiac arrest, says Dheer. “After his mother’s demise, his drinking and smoking problem had increased, “ Dheer says.

But one person who was the most heartbroken after Sahir’s demise was another creative genius of Punjab — writer Amrita Pritam, who was madly in love with him.

In Sahir’s timeless nazm, which he had written for Amrita, he wrote…’Wo afsaana jise anjaam tak laana na ho mumkin, usey ik khoobsurat modh dekar chodna achha..’, indicating that probably for Sahir, his affair with Amrita was a ‘beautiful journey but without a destination’.

Amrita, on the other hand, was madly and deeply in love with Sahir. Her works — Sunehray (Messages), Dil Diyaan Galiyaan (Lanes of my heart), Aakhari Khat (The Last Letter), and her autobiography Raseedi Ticket — spoke of how madly she loved him.

And when in 1980, Amrita got to know about Sahir’s death, breaking into tears, she said, ‘Ajj main apne dil de dariya vich, main apne phul pravaahe ne…’ (Today, in my heart, I have cremated myself too).

Sahir’s musical classics which remain immortal in the Hindi film industry till today include: ‘Main Zindagi ka saath nibhaata chala gaya..’, ‘Kabhi kabhi mere dil mein khyaal aata hai’, ‘Abhi na jao chod kar ki dil abhi bhara nahi..’, ‘Main pal do pal ka shayar hun’, and ‘Tum agar saath dene ka waada karo.’

Among his classics that shook the soul of the country, raising voice against the establishment and demanding a society where poor and downtrodden are treated equally, were the lyrics that he penned for film Pyaasa (1957): ‘Ye koochey ye nilaamghar dilkashi ke, ye lut tey huye karwaan zindagi ke.. kahaan hain, kahaan hai, muhafiz khudi ke, jihne naaz hai Hind par wo kahaan hain?’ And ‘Ye mehlon, ye takhton, ye taajon ki dunia, ye insaan ke dushman samaajon ki dunia, ye daulat ke bhookhey riwaazon ki dunia, ye dunia agar mil bhi jaaye to kya hai…’

His works also spoke boldly of women’s oppression in society and inequality she faces throughout life. For the film ‘Sadhna’ (1958), he wrote that it is a woman who gives birth to a man but what he does to her is shameful. He ‘sells’ her, takes pleasure from her and then humiliates her. ‘Aurat ne janam dia mardon ko, mardon ne usey baazar dia… jab jee chaaha masla kuchla, jab jee chaaha dutkaar dia… mardon ke liye har zulm rava, aurat ke liye rona bhi khata. Mardon ke liye har aish ka haq, aurat ke liye jeena bhi saza..’

Knowing well of how things change when curtains fall on the play called life, Sahir wrote, ‘..Kal tumse juda ho jaunga, wo aaj tumhara hissa hoon… main pal do pal ka shayar hoon, pal do pal meri kahaani hai..’

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