By Afzal Usmani
Since the inception of Jnanpith Award (Gyaanpeeth Award) in 1965, only four Urdu writers and poets made it to this highest Literary Award of India and our beloved Alma Mater, Aligarh Muslim University has the pride that 3 out of 4 recipient of this highest literary award in Urdu language are AMU alumni. In 1989, Ms. Qurratul Ain Hyder, Ali Sardar Jafri in 1997 and now Prof. Akhlaq Muhammad Khan ‘Shaharyar’ for 2008.
Kunwar Akhlaq Muhammad Khan Shaharyar’ was born on June 16,1936 at Anwala village of Bareilly district in Uttar Pradesh. His father was in the U.P. Police and belongs to Village Chondhera in Bullandshahr. District He received his early education in AMU City High School and later joined AMU as a student. He completed his masters in 1961. He is a student of another legendary progressive movement writer Prof. Khalilur Rahman Azmi. He started his career as a journalist in Anjuman Taraqqi Urdu and later appointed as Lecturer in 1966 and promoted as Reader in 1972 and in 1986 he became a Professor in Department of Urdu, Aligarh Muslim University Aligarh. During his career at Aligarh Muslim University, he took keen interest in Academic activities and was the Editor of Fikro Nazar, a quarterly research journal of the Aligarh Muslim University from 1987 to 1996. In his tenure as Editor of Fikro Nazar, he published special issues of Fikro Nazar namely Namwaran-e-Aligarh (Teesra Karwaan - Jild I) in July 1988, Namwaran-e-Aligarh (Teesra Karwaan - Jild II) in March 1991, Hali Number in July 1991, Sir Syed Number in October 1992, Deputy Nazir Ahmad Number in 1994 and Shibli Number in 1996.
Prof. Shaharyar also served as Member-in-Charge of the Public Relations Office at AMU and also served as elected representative of Readers and Professors of Aligarh Muslim University in AMU Court. From 1994 to 1996, he served as Chairman of Dept of Urdu and retired from his services in 1996. Even after retirement, he was elected to AMU Court in the category of eminent people from Urdu Language.
Prof. Shaharyar started writing poetry before joining AMU as a faculty and in 1965; his first collection of poetry “Isme-Azam” was published. In 1969, his second collection, Saatwaan-Dar was published which was followed by “Hijr Ke Mausam” in 1978, “Khawaab ka Dar band hai in 1985, “Neend-ki Kirchain in 1995 and “Shaam Honey Waali hai” in 2004. He also compiled “Aasma(n) Ai Aasma(n) : Kuliyat of Khalilur Rahman Azmi, Mazaameen-e-Khalilur Rahman Azmi - Vol-I & Vol-II, Sher-o-Hikmat Vol-I and Sher-o-Hikmat Vol-II.
Prof. Shaharyar’s most celebrated work, Khawaab ka Dar band hai, won him the Sahitya Akademi Award in Urdu for the year 1987. In 1998, he was awarded “All India Bahadur Shah Zafar Award instituted by Delhi Urdu Academy. In 1999 he was choosen for Ghalib Award by Ghalib Institute New Delhi. In 2005, he received, National Iqbal Samman instituted by the Culture Department of Madhya Pradesh government. In November 2009 he was selected for the 18th Gangadhar National Award for poetry for 2008. He was conferred with this award by Sambalpur University, Orissa on its 43rd foundation day later this year. The award was instituted in 1989 in memory of the eminent Oriya poet, Swabhabha Gangadhar Meher. The only other Urdu poets, who have won this prestigious award are Sardar Ali Jafri in 1991 and Gulzar in 2005. He has also received Firaq Samman, Delhi Urdu Academy and UP Urdu Academy awards.
In February 2010, the renowned centre of Indian literatures Sahitya Akademi has published a compilation of more than one hundred English translated poetries of this distinguished Urdu poet and former teacher at the Department of Urdu, Aligarh Muslim University. The poetries of Prof. Shaharyar have been selected from his poetic collections Ism-e-Azam(1965), Satwan Dar (1969), Neend Ki Sarhad (1995) and Shaam Honewali Hai (2004). The translation has been done by eminent translators, Bedar Bakht and Marry Anne (Canada). Eminent critic and litterateur Prof. Gopichand Narang has penned a foreword for the book. Two collections of translated versions of Prof. Shahryar’s poetries have already been published by Sahitya Akademi (1990) and Rupa Company (2004). In June 2010 University of Hyderabad has decided to confer D. Sc. Degree (Honoris Causa)on Prof. Shaharyar at the 12th Annual Convocation of the University which was held on June 22, 2010. The Vice President of India, Mr. Mohammad Hamid Ansari was the Chief Guest and delivered the Convocation Address.
On 24th Sep 2010, Prof Akhlaq Mohammed Khan Shahryar was conferred with Ghyan Peet Award,the highest recognition in India in the field of literature and poetry. He was in Saudi Arabia for a Mushaira. For Shaharyar, his visit to this holy land proved rewarding with India conferring on him the most-coveted literary Gyanpeeth Award for 2008 on Friday. An elated Shaharyar thanked the jury for recognizing his services to Urdu.
Prof. Shaharyar is well recognized in Bollywood since he wrote songs for movie “Gaman”. Although quite well-known and duly acknowledged in poetic, literary and academic circles, Sharharyar shot into prominence after the classic composition for the Hindi feature film Umrao Jan ‘Dil cheez kya hai, aap meri jaan lijye, bas ik bar mera kaha maan lijye, is anjuman mein aap ko aana hai bar bar, deewar-o-dar ko ghor se pehchan lijye’. Even after becoming popular in Bollywood and worked with acclaimed Directors like Yash Chopra and Muzaffar Ali, he never left Aligarh and loved his teaching profession. He said he enjoyed teaching at Aligargh Muslim University and was never enamored of the money and fame in Bollywood. “I’m proud to be a poet and believe in writing poetry of a (high) standard and teaching”. Prof. Shaharyar refuses to be described as the writer of the film songs. He is proud of being a poet. He is the best living Urdu poet. At this time he has no match and there is no surviving Urdu poet who could stand at a par with him. Doyen Shaharyar’s poetic genius is on display in his couplet “Umeed se kam chashme kharidaar mein aye, humlog zara der se bazaar mein aye,” and he depicts the sensitivity of an artist, “Zindagi jaisi tawaqqo thi nahin kam hai, her ghari hota hai ehsas kahin kuch kum hai.” The romantic side of Shaharyar can be seen through in his presentation: “Woh bewafa hai, dil dukhata hai, magar humen to wahi shaks bhata hai.” He has written songs for several Hindi feature films, which became quite popular. His film songs also reflect the depth of thought presented in a simple and lucid language. He has penned songs for other movies that include “Ghaban” and Yash Chopra’s “Faasle” and Muzafar Ali’s movies. He claims to reflect social problems in his poetry.
From the very early age Prof. Shaharyar distinguished himself from a long list of poets of Dabistaan-e-Aligarh which includes the names of Faani Badayuni, Maulana Hasrat Mohani Asrarul Haq Majaz, Josh Malihabadi, Jan Nisaar Akhtar, Akhtarul Imaan, Khalilur Rahman Azmi, Majnoo Gorakhpuri, Ali Sardar Jafri, Munibur Rahman Bashir Badr and many more. The contemporary Urdu ghazal has reached its zenith in the poetry of Prof. Shaharyar. He is a role-model. He appeals through the use of symbols, metaphors and simple language. He is considered among the leading poets of India and his poetries have been published several native and foreign languages including Bengali, Marathi, Punjabi, Telgu, Malyalam, Russian, French and German. Prof. Sharyar’s seven books have been published in Devnagri script as well. Professor Shaharyar represented India in various literary meets and festivals of India held in USA, France, UK and other countries.