Shaharyar

KAMK_Shaharyar

Shaharyar - Doyen of Urdu poetry

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.


Prof. Shaharyar receiving the Jnanpith Award on 19th September 2011 in New Delhi from Amitabh Bachchan

Prof. Shaharyar receiving the Sir Syed Lifetime Achievement Award from Prof. P.K. Abdul Azis, Vice-Chancellor of AMU Aligarh

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.


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L-R: Prof. Ale Ahmad Suroor, Col. Bashir H. Zaidi, Prof. Shaharyar

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.


Kuliyaat
Haasil-e-Sair-e-Jahan (Kuliyaat)
Shaam Honey waali hai
Shaam Honey waali hai
Mazaameen-e-Khalilur Rahman Azmi - I
Mazaameen-e-Khalilur Rahman Azmi - Vol-I
Mazaameen-e-Khalilur Rahman Azmi - II
Vol-II
Sher-o-Hikmat- I
Sher-o-Hikmat- Vol-I
Sher-o-Hikmat- II
Sher-o-Hikmat- Vol-II
Fikro-Nazar-Quraaniyaat-1999
Fikro-Nazar
Fikro-Nazar-Sir Syed Number
Fikro-Nazar-Sir Syed Number
Fikro-Nazar-Shibli Number
Fikro-Nazar-Shibli Number
Nazir Ahmad Number
Fikro-Nazar-Shibli Number
Fikro-Nazar-Naamwaraan-e-Aligarh-III-Part 2
Fikro-Nazar-Naamwaraan-e-Aligarh-III-Part 2
Fikro-Nazar-Naamwaraan-e-Aligarh-I
Fikro-Nazar-Naamwaraan-e-Aligarh-I
Haali Number
Fikro-Nazar-Haali Number

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.


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With President of India, Giani Zail Singh at Rashtrapati Bhawan, New Delhi
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Receiving Ghalib Award from Ms. Shiela Dixit, Chief Minister of Delhi
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Receiving Certificate of Acknowledgment at First Sir Syed Day on 17th Oct 2003 in Phoenix AZ USA

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.


With Prof.Munibur Rahman and Dr. Moin Ahsan Jazbi
With Ahmad Faraz
With Dr. Ghulam Rabbani Taban and Prof. Iftikhar Alam Khan
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With Prof. Iftikhar Alam Khan, Former Director Sir Syed Academy, AMU Aligarh
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With Participating Poets in International Mushaira in Saudi Arabia on 24th Sep 2010
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Presiding over the First Sir Syed Day on 17th Oct 2003 in Phoenix AZ USA
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Reciting his poetry in the First Sir Syed Day Mushaira on 17th Oct 2003 in Phoenix AZ USA
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With members and well wishers of AAA of Arizona in Phoenix AZ USA
AMUOBA_Riyadh_Shaharyar1 Mr. Mohammad Zaigham Khan, President A.M.U.Old Boys’ Association Riyadh presenting Memento to Prof. Shaharyar
AMUOBA_Riyadh_Shaharyar2 Prof. Shaharyar Delivering the Speech at his Reception Organized By AMUOBA, Riyadh
AMUOBA_Riyadh_Shaharyar3 Prof. Shaharyar at his reception in Indian Embassy, Riyadh. Indian Ambassador H.E Talmiz Ahmad, Mr. Hifzur Rahman, Second Secretary Indian Embassy, Riyadh Saudi Arabia can also be seen in the picture.

L to R - Prof. VK Abdul Jaleel, Mr. VN Rai, AMU VC and Prof. Shaharyar at K. P. Singh Memorial Lecture, AMU Prof. Shaharyar at K. P. Singh Memorial Lecture, AMU - L to R - Prof. VK Abdul Jaleel, Mr. VN Rai, and Prof. P.K. Abdul Azis, VC AMU


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At his residence in Aligarh
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At his residence in Aligarh
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With Bilal Usmani at his residence in Aligarh in Oct 2007
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With Afzal Usmani at his residence in Aligarh in Oct 2007






Remembering Shahayaar: Ek Saal Beet Gaya : Kaleem Kawaja

International Mushaira 031


Renowned Urdu poet Shaharyaar passed away on February 13, 2012 in Aligarh.

"Muddat hoi mur gaya Shaharyaar, magur yaad aata haiy
Ke hur baat pe kahna ke youn hota to kiya hota, aur youn hota to kiya hota"

(with apologies to Ghalib for plagiarising his shair)

The following is a tribute to this very gifted intellectual gentleman of literature.

Kaleem Kawaja
==============

REMEMBERING SHAHARYAAR:

EK SAAL BEET GAYA:



By: Kaleem Kawaja

"Nahin haiy mujh se taalluq koi to aisa kiyon
Ke tu ne murh ke faqat ek mujh to dekha kiyon

Main ajnabi to na tha shahar-e-arzoo ke liye
Tamaam umar raha phir yahan akaila kiyon

Meri in aankho ko kub roshni se nisbat thi
Azal se mere taaqub mein haiy andhera kiyon..............Shaharyar

As I realize that today it is one year since the passing away of Shahryar I scratch my head hard to bring up the old memory files of about twelve to fifteen years ago of my meetings and conversations with him and the pleasent time I spent with him on several occassions over the years. In the year 2000 he sent me his then latest collection of ghazals, "Mere Hissay Ki Zameen" through one of our common friends who visited him in Aligarh. As I realize that he passed away after long illness my memories become very poignant and personal, and I feel guilty that I did not spend more time to visit him in recent years on my visits to India.

Unlike many popular Urdu shaairs one may find in mushairas, Shaharyar was very different. He was shy and hated being in the glare of spotlight on the stage in mushairas or to ever seek publicity or to speak about himself or his creations - that were many and illustrious. In the cut throat world of today's mushairas where many a popular shaairs present their ghazals in "tarannum" or use other provocative suggestions to attract attention and "daad", typically when it was Shaharyar's turn to recite his poems, the hall will become quiet. His quiet and dead-pan style of delivery immidiately divided the audience into two segments; those who came to listen to poetry and those who came to see a show. It made the second category of people stop their "bazaari" behaviour and either pay attention or leave. I still remember his comment that he is often apalled when someone says about a certain shaaer that, "Unhoon ne mushaira loot liya" ??

When I first met Shaharyar I had known about his hit lyrics in hit movies like Umrao Jaan and Gaman, that were then the rage in India. Thus I expected him to be a Bollywood showman. What I found was a contrast; a gifted intellectual who treated Urdu poetry as a sophisticated institution that deserved respect and deserved to be admired for its literary richness; not the sensation of bazar. He strongly believed that if we think Urdu poetry is sensuous and emotional, we should flavour it with due respect. In the face of increasing bazaari showmanship that has become a feature of mushairas he wanted to change mushairas into literary events. He often said that it is for the Urduwalas to respect Urdu shaairee and educate the audience to respect it.

In the decade of 1990s when both Shaharyar and Faraz visited North America often for mushairas, one could see that Faraz - another great and literary shaair - was an ebulient showman, whereas Shaharyar was a quiet, retiring professor. This was an essentially different and unique style of Shaharyar that came through not only in mushairas but also in private social gatherings. He seemed to say: If you have interest in Urdu poetry take the time to understand it. And yet he was the writer of immortal lilting mujra-ghazals from Umrao Jaan;

"Dil cheez kiya haiy, aap meri jaan lijye
bus ek baar mera kaha maan lijye"

In the highly competitive world of Urdu mushairas where many a poets resort to "mazloomiat" and "majboori" at the hands of "zamaana" to become popular, Shahryar refrained from that. His overriding message was that we have to look into the mirror, recognize our faults and contradictory behaviour, and do not blame others for our problems. He abhored the exploitation of religion to cover up our own lack of effort as the reason for our failures in life. In talking about the ever present Muslim-Hindu tension in India he felt that the common Muslims and common Hindus suffer through the same deprivations and injustices. And that between the two there is a bond of commonality that we should emphasize in practice on a daily level in oder to improve our society. He felt that Muslims have an important role in keeping India secular.

Shaharyar defined man's majboori (helplessness) as being an inherent part of life (azal se abad tuk); something that started with Adam and Eve and is for eternity. It is for man to use his God-given intellect and abilities to find solutions to dispell majboori. Thus he valued how the Indian and Muslim civilizations were once king but today the Western civilization has gone far ahead in converting majboori into opportunity, while we are still lamenting our majboori. Thus in Shaharyar's poetry you rarely find enunciations of majboori. Instead you find him thinking of how to surmount majboori.

"Jo Chahti haiy Duniya wuh mujh se nahin ho ga
Samjhauta koi khwab ke budley nahin ho ga

Ab raat ki deewar ko dhaana haiy zaroori
Yeh kaam magar mujuh se akailay naheen ho ga

Khush fahmi abhi tuk thi yehi kaar- e- junoon main
Jo main nahin kur paaya kisi se nahin ho gaa".................Shaharyar

Indeed Shahryar was a different Urdu poet in the sense that his verse could make an impact on the thinking and educated people of South Asia. Shaharyar often challenged the well educated thinking men from the Indian subcontinent to think and act differently. He exhorted them to not look at poetry and poets as mere entertainment, but look at the poems as inspiration to hear "your own inner voice" and use all your resources to improve our southasian society. I remember that in my conversations with him in those days he often asked why educated Southasian Muslims of our generation lack the courage to take bold action, to bring reforms and change the cycle of dogmatism that still pervades our society. He warned that if our generation is not going to listen to our inner voice, the consequences for our society may be more retrograde.

"Hur taraf apney ko bikhra paao gay
Aainon ko tor ke pachtaao gay

Jub badi key phool mahkain gay
Nekiyon pur apni tum sharmaao gay

Rooh ki deewar ke girnay ke baad
Be badan ho jaao gay, mur jaao gay"..............Shaharyar

Shahryar was every inch an intellectual professor that he was in real life. His style of communication, his attitudes, his very respectful and sauve mannerism were so heart warming. It was hard to believe that he was an Urdu teacher from small town Aligarh. He appeared to be a professor of any deep humanities or scientific subject. Indeed in him I found the definition of what I think of true Aligarians - representatives of a sophisticated intellectual center of Southasian Muslims. Despite living at AMU for his whole life he carefully kept himself out of all the political currents that unfortunately engulf that century old illustrious university. Yet despite his high stature in the Urdu circles, his very prestigious Sahitya Academy Giyan Peeth award and his tremendous success in Bollywood (a-la Umrao Jaan, Gaman, Anjuman) he never behaved snobbish. At AMU he was always found mingling with junior university teachers and students.

In meeting Shaharyar even for an hour one was struck by his deep rooted sharafat and his shareef pedigree. Like others he encountered crises in his life but he always dealt with them witrh his deep rooted sharafat. On some occassions in mushairas and other gatherings I witnessed how elegantly and in what a shareef manner he dealt with barbs tossed at him.

Shaharyar's poems were not driven by or a reaction to any specific events; thus there is an element of timelessnes about them that basically deals with our lives, our attempt to deal with uncertainity and majboori. Books of Shahryar's Urdu poems have been translated into English, French, German, Russian, and in Bangla, Telagu and Hindi. Professor Shahryar retired as chairman of the Urdu department in 1996. Shahryar the literary intellectual and the deep thinking poet who added so many nuggets to Urdu poetry will be remebered for a long time and his poems will be read for a long time by the thinking people, especially those who are familiar with Urdu and Hindi languages.

"Pahley kub shham- o- sahar zikar tha youn duniya kaa
Chal gaya mujh pe aakhir ko fason duniya kaa

Ibtada jo bhi ho anjaam haiy hur ek ka yeh
Zinda rahney ki hawas aur junoon duniya kaa

Paae junoon pe kaisi uftaad aa paree haiy
Agli musfaton se inkaar kur diya"................Shaharyar




=======================


The writer a community activist in Washington DC, can be reached on kaleemkawaja@gmail.com

Remembering Shahryar : My Reminiscences

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Remembering Shahryar (1936-2012):

My Reminiscences



Dr Mohammad Sajjad*



To pen down in memory of somebody who kept me so dear to himself is too difficult a task. I am choked with emotions too deeply, even though we knew it for the last so many months that the cruel hands of the greatest truth called DEATH is going to snatch him away from us.

Munhasar marney pe ho jis ki ummeed
Naa ummeedi us ki dekha chahiye (Ghalib)

My friend, Syed Ekram Rizwi, devastated with the news of Shahryar’s death, called me saying, ‘only dust is left in Aligarh now’

hadd-e-nigaah tak yahan ghubaar hi ghubaar hai

While joining the namaaz-e-janazah at the AMU Graveyard [Minto E], I could recall what he had said few years back, when he was about to retire from the services as professor of AMU. He was living in the type ‘A’ quarters of AMU which is located just across the graveyard separated by the ‘Gulistan-Syed’ which was then a desert like field. Somebody reminded him, ‘Sir, you will now have to quit the university quarters and you are yet to have a house of your own’. To this, pointing his fingers towards Gulistan-e-Syed, in his characteristic way, Shahryar sb told very casually, ‘ab makaan wakaan kya banana, ab to sirf yeh maidan paar karna hai. He had also composed a poem,

Ghar ki Taameer tasawwur hi mein ho sakti hai
apnay naqshay ke mutabiq yeh zamin kuchh kam hai

When I had come to Aligarh as a student, I was already some sort of a fan of Shahryar, the poet who composed beautiful songs for a marvellous film of Muzaffar Ali, Umrao Jaan. I was dying to see him, and when I saw him on a 50 cc moped Hero Majestic, the naive, innocent student in me was stuck with his simplicity that in contrast with the ‘professors’ I was familiar with [before coming to Aligarh] were riding Bajaj scooters or Rajdoot motorcycles of 150 cc, if not cars. The ‘film’ of Shahryar, moving on that moped, remains preserved in my memory, quite indelibly.
In the last 12-13 years, he had made me become much closer to him, sharing too many things about the culture and politics of AMU, about some interesting persons of the campus and also about so many other things. By late 1990s, we had started feeling much agitated about certain aspects of AMU. In order to comprehend these, we started looking into history of AMU; in order to share our feelings we resorted to pamphleteering which was also a kind of catharsis. In this way we came across one of his poems, ‘Muslim University ki Fariyaad’

Mujawiron ki bheerh ney
Mujhey phir ek qabr mein badal diya
Main keh raha hoon der sey
Main zinda hoon
Meri sada mein baaz gasht kyon nahi
Merey khuda
Mujhey sazaein jitni de
Pe yun nahin

This particular poem further increased our appetite to get closer to him in order to have more frequent longer sessions of conversations with him; he used to offer us too much of cold drinks, which was an added incentive. He however remained reluctant about sharing his feelings/ observations which moved him to the extent of making him compose this kind of poem, which is his angst against the deeply entrenched vested interests of his alma mater.

When we shared that his poem has been used in one of our pamphlets, he seemed glad about it but simultaneously expressed his mild disapproval, then he went on to say with a lovely smile, ‘aap log to hamari nazm ka siyasi istemaal kar key mujhey merey apnon se door karna chahtey hain, aap ke liye apney mehboob idaray mein khushgawaar tabdiliyan aham hain, hamarey liye to merey zaati taaluqaat aham hain, khwah woh ‘un mujawiron ki bheerh’ hi mein kyon na hon.[you people are making political use of my poem and thereby you intend to create gulf between me and my acquaintances, for you more important is to bring about pleasant changes on the campus, for me more important is continuing good relations with the people, howsoever they might be the vested interests spoiling AMU]. We recalled his lines,

Tujh ko ruswa na kiya khud bhi pashemaan na huey
Ishq ki rasm ko is taraha nibhaya ham ney

Few years later, in 2002, his student and my friend, Ehsan was selecting his poems to be published in a volume by the Saitya Academy, the poem ‘Muslim University ki Fariyaad’ could be included only on our insistence, as he had strong reluctance about including it. One of the reasons was, he was disappointed by the fact that a ‘conspiracy of silence’ was maintained on this poem by the insiders of AMU. He would then ask us to be a bit pragmatic, by exercising certain degree of restraint in our pamphlets. He was reminding us of possible administrative wrath, and that in such situation, we would be left alone to fend for ourselves. As said by him,

Guzray the Husain ibn-e-Ali raat idhar se
Ham mein se magar nikla nahin koi bhi ghar se

Simultaneously he would also add, betey inhin kaawishon se likhna parhna aur duniya ko samajhna bhi seekh paogey, halaan ki aisi targheeb de kar main tum baaghi naujawanon ki tez dhaar ko kund karney ka gunaah bhi kar raha hoon [My son, with such efforts you would grow intellectually and also become worldly wise, however by asking you to be moderate I am also committing the crime of blunting the edge of the productive rebellion in youth]. He would further say, ‘I am no pessimist, yet I must say that you and your friends were engaged in letting flowers blossom in the desert of AMU, it was an exercise in futility, yet, this was undoubtedly an exercise worth doing at least for sometime in the prime of youth’. It was kind of asking us to recall his lines,

Justuju jis ki thi us ko to na paaya ham ney
Is bahaaney se magar dekh li duniya ham ne

He would often share, ‘in AMU, those who are today expressing their grievances against infirmities of Indian secularism, are/ were the worst kind of communalists’, while saying so he was also equally critical of the ‘progressives’ and Leftists of the campus. According to him, quite a lot of such ‘progressives’, have also degenerated into ‘vested interests’, i.e. ‘mujawiron ki bheerh’, who have turned AMU into a qabr, dead-place.


Few years back a very renowned scholar of AMU was conferred a big honour which was pending since long, responding to this conferment, the scholar had been very bitter in press. Having read such responses of lamentation in the Hindu, Shahryar sb called me to visit him in the forenoon of next Sunday, to discuss something on the issue. I went there and he started the subject he was resenting the gesture of the renowned scholar. He said, howsoever his colleagues might have erred by denying the conferment of this honour upon him; it was petty of the scholar to have said such things in press, more so when quite a few of such instances were factually wrong as well.


Having heard such remarks from him more than once, I once mustered the courage of submitting a request to him: ‘kindly write down your memoir’. For sometime he prevaricated on the issue and maintained silence or gently pushed it aside by bringing in other subjects. As I persisted with this demand for too long then he passed a highly pertinent remark, ‘betey, khudnawisht to bahadur log likhtey hain jin ke andar apney gunahon ka aitraaf karney aur sach likh kar apnon aur ghairon mein jo taaqatwar hain unhen naaraaz karney ney ki jasaarat ho, aur main to nihayat buz dil insaan hoon’ [my son, autobiographies can be written only by the brave people; by those who have the guts of confessing their follies and have the courage of speaking truth, by one who can afford antagonizing the powerful; I am too timid a person]. Later on he elaborated upon it and said that if he had to write his autobiography he will end up antagonizing too many people close to him, and that was, by his own admission, quite unaffordable for him. He however later on composed a poem with this line:

Buz dil honey ka khamiyazah sapney mein bhi bhugta hai

He then gifted me Wahab Ashrafi’s autobiography, Qissa Be-samt Zindagi Ka, and said, ‘you should appreciate one good thing about this autobiography that the author has made frank confession of the indignities he inflicted upon himself just in greed of a position [jaah-o-martaba ki laalach], Chairman, Universities Service Commission’.
Once I wanted to know his views/observations about anti-Bihari prejudices among some sections of AMU-ites. I thought this particular query of mine would be quite provocative. But that was not the case. He narrated, ‘you see, the Muslims of UP, particularly the decadent feudal elites, take pride in their chaste Urdu, which they are abandoning or unlearning for whatever reasons, as against it, the Muslim students, coming from Bihar as well as from eastern UP, are generally well-versed in Urdu, with appreciable degree of interests in creative literature, regardless of their preferred disciplines of studies’. He would then add with a smile, bordering on laughter, meri beti ney to shaadi ke liye ek Bihari ko hi pasand kiya, aur Patna ke hukkaaam aur siyasatdanon se lekar Bihar ke adab dost log to mujh se itni zyadah mohabbat kartey hain ki agar sachai kuchh aur bhi hoti to main Bihariyon ki himayat mein hi kharha rehta, itni dayanatdaari ki tawaqqo to mujh se rakh hi saktey ho.


In 2009, in the Wisconsin (USA) journal, Annual of Urdu Studies, I published a long essay on a novel dealing with naxalism in Bihar. This was an outcome mainly of his persuasion. As said earlier, most often, he disliked the idea of talking about his own poetry, and in order to push it aside he used to bring in other issues. This is how he enquired about my opinion on the origin, development and trajectory of the naxalite movement in Bihar. After listening to me, he asked whether I had read Dhamak, an Urdu novel by Abdus Samad, as my answer was in affirmative he immediately sort of issued a command to write something on this. I gladly abided by it and having taken help of few more well-wishers it was published, when finally I showed him a print of the published version, he was very happy to see it. As he saw his name acknowledged by me in the essay, he became dismissive about his role in prompting me to do the job. Then he went through my essay on (under)depiction of 1857 in the fiction of Qurratulain Hyder which I had presented in a seminar in BHU (now published in a volume edited by Rakhshanda Jalil); he asked me to render it in Urdu which he sent to Humayun Zafar Zaidi to publish it in a volume edited by him, and published by the Maktaba Jamia.


The academic-literary world of Urdu in India is said to be bitterly divided between two groups, Shamsur Rahman Faruqi and Gopi Chand Narang. Shahryar sb was dear to both. Only a lovely person like him could manage such things so beautifully.


In one such sessions of conversation, I took the liberty of knowing his assessment of the better known ‘communists’ of AMU. Having said few good things about them, he shared few confidential anecdotes, taking my strong assurance that I won’t be writing it till he is alive. He said, ‘I am making a confession that I have partly contributed in getting a recruitment of an ineligible candidate as Reader, approved by an Executive Council (EC) member, who was a Dean as well [the member, a renowned academic, is no more now]. I was persuaded by my teacher, the renowned scholar, to persuade an EC member close to me, to do the favour in the EC meeting, I requested the EC member; with lot of reluctance, he finally agreed to oblige me only by remaining silent on, rather than opposing, the recruitment’. That Reader became Professor and then Chairman, but he never made even a courtesy call [to Shahryar sb]. He became too belligerent against the renowned scholar as well who had curried all these favours [for the Reader] from these people sullying his own image. Then Shahryar sb became fairly explicit about the moral of the story. He said, ‘my son! Here is a lesson for you. Never ever extend such outrageous favours to incompetent people in academia, such people turn very badly unfaithful to their benefactors’. While narrating this painful anecdote, Shahryar sb was visibly uncomfortable with the discourtesy/perfidy of the Reader who also became Professor and then Chairman of a very prestigious Department.


We had heard a lot [and read] about the angst of Rahi Masoom Raza against few people of AMU. We therefore remained curious about knowing the version of Shahryar sb. He was generous enough, and had enough love for me to have granted this much liberty to me and have shared such things. He said that Rahi had some grievances against him also. The reason was: in one of the selection committees for the position of lecturer (temporary), Rahi did not turn up for interview, whereas Shahryar was called at eleventh hour by the Dean and was selected. Rahi did not turn up, as he was told that Shahryar has been called specially by the Dean; that the ‘match’ was already ‘fixed’, and therefore there was no point in appearing before the Selection Committee. Fact of the matter, as shared with me by Shahryar was that one more vacancy had emerged, and therefore there was absolutely no question of substituting Rahi with Shahryar. But given the temperament of Rahi, he never believed this version and nursed the grievances against the ‘system’ (Dean) as well as against the ‘rival candidate’ (Shahryar); in fact Rahi never even allowed anybody to explain the matter. Shahryar was sad about this, but he could not do anything; he was particularly angry with one of the ‘friends’ common to both Shahryar and Rahi, who rather than helping reduce the tension, kept working towards widening the gulf between the two. Shahryar valued personal relations to great extent, yet he suffered the pain of losing relationship. Probably because of having undergone these experiences:

Kabhi kisi ko mukammal jahan nahin milta
Kahin zameen to kahin aasmaan nahin milta

He often used to call me at his flat in the Safeena Apartment, Aligarh, to have long casual chats. How could he live in a city like Mumbai, where felt sorry for common people falling prey to exploitation and alienation, and for which he once said,

Seeney mein jalan aankhon mein toofaan sa kyon hai
Is shahr mein har shakhs pareshan sa kyon hai

Not long ago, he asked me to provide him with biographical accounts of Nur Jahan, the Mughal Empress, but the condition put by him was that it should have some illustrative photographs. The purpose was: his good friend Muzaffar Ali was contemplating the idea of making a film on the subject, and Shahryar was supposed to compose lyrics for the film. I told him that he had got so many good friends who are big and highly accomplished historians of Medieval Indian History, and it was therefore strange to turn towards me, a semi-literate student of the history of Medieval India. He said, ‘I don’t have to read serious details of the history of Nur Jahan, I only have to scan through some anecdotes, some photographs which should help me create lyrics for the film’.


It was, in fact, merely his tremendous love and affection for me that he indulged me too much. Very affectionately, he would always instruct me to keep producing researches, staying away from the ‘bitter’ and petty factionalism within my Department.


His passing away is a terrible personal loss for me. Yet, we must remember that his eternal sleep (Neend) is to dream (Khwaab) for a world much better for the humanity.


*Dr Mohammad Sajjad is a Senior Lecturer at Centre of Advanced Study in History Aligarh Muslim University (India) and can be reached at sajjad.history@yahoo.com


Shaharyar: The Thinking Man's Urdu Poet; The Intellectual; The Paragon of Sharafat

International Mushaira 031


Shaharyar:

The Thinking Man's Urdu Poet; The Intellectual; The Paragon of Sharafat



By: Kaleem Kawaja*


"Nahin haiy mujh se taalluq koi to aisa kiyon
Ke tu ne murh ke faqat ek mujh to dekha kiyon

Main ajnabi to na tha shahar-e-arzoo ke liye
Tamaam umar raha phir yahan akaila kiyon

Meri in aankho ko kub roshni se nisbat thi
Azal se mere taaqub mein haiy andhera kiyon..............Shaharyar



As I heard of the passing away of Shahryar I tried to scratch my head hard to bring up the old memory files of about twelve to fifteen years ago of my meetings and conversations with him and the pleasent time I spent with him on several occassions over the years. In the year 2000 he sent me his then latest collection of ghazals, "Mere Hissay Ki Zameen" through one of our common friends who visited him in Aligarh. As I realize that he passed away after long illness my memories become very poignant and personal, and I feel guilty that I did not spend more time to visit him in recent years on my visits to India.


Unlike many popular Urdu shaairs one may find in mushairas, Shaharyar was very different. He was shy and hated being in the glare of spotlight on the stage in mushairas or to ever seek publicity or to speak about himself or his creations - that were many and illustrious. In the cut throat world of today's mushairas where many a popular shaairs present their ghazals in "tarannum" or use other provocative suggestions to attract attention and "daad", typically when it was Shaharyar's turn to recite his poems, the hall will become quiet. His quiet and dead-pan style of delivery immidiately divided the audience into two segments; those who came to listen to poetry and those who came to see a show. It made the second category of people stop their "bazaari" behaviour and either pay attention or leave. I still remember his comment that he is often apalled when someone says about a certain shaaer that, "Unhoon ne mushaira loot liya" ??


When I first met Shaharyar I had known about his hit lyrics in hit movies like Umrao Jaan and Gaman, that were then the rage in India. Thus I expected him to be a Bollywood showman. What I found was a contrast; a gifted intellectual who treated Urdu poetry as a sophisticated institution that deserved respect and deserved to be admired for its literary richness; not the sensation of bazar. He strongly believed that if we think Urdu poetry is sensuous and emotional, we should flavour it with due respect. In the face of increasing bazaari showmanship that has become a feature of mushairas he wanted to change mushairas into literary events. He often said that it is for the Urduwalas to respect Urdu shaairee and educate the audience to respect it.


In the decade of 1990s when both Shaharyar and Faraz visited North America often for mushairas, one could see that Faraz - another great and literary shaair - was an ebulient showman, whereas Shaharyar was a quiet, retiring professor. This was an essentially different and unique style of Shaharyar that came through not only in mushairas but also in private social gatherings. He seemed to say: If you have interest in Urdu poetry take the time to understand it. And yet he was the writer of immortal lilting mujra-ghazals from Umrao Jaan;


"Dil cheez kiya haiy, aap meri jaan lijye
bus ek baar mera kaha maan lijye"

In the highly competitive world of Urdu mushairas where many a poets resort to "mazloomiat" and "majboori" at the hands of "zamaana" to become popular, Shahryar refrained from that. His overriding message was that we have to look into the mirror, recognize our faults and contradictory behaviour, and do not blame others for our problems. He abhored the exploitation of religion to cover up our own lack of effort as the reason for our failures in life. In talking about the ever present Muslim-Hindu tension in India he felt that the common Muslims and common Hindus suffer through the same deprivations and injustices. And that between the two there is a bond of commonality that we should emphasize in practice on a daily level in oder to improve our society. He felt that Muslims have an important role in keeping India secular.


Shaharyar defined man's majboori (helplessness) as being an inherent part of life (azal se abad tuk); something that started with Adam and Eve and is for eternity. It is for man to use his God-given intellect and abilities to find solutions to dispell majboori. Thus he valued how the Indian and Muslim civilizations were once king but today the Western civilization has gone far ahead in converting majboori into opportunity, while we are still lamenting our majboori. Thus in Shaharyar's poetry you rarely find enunciations of majboori. Instead you find him thinking of how to surmount majboori.


"Jo Chahti haiy Duniya wuh mujh se nahin ho ga
Samjhauta koi khwab ke budley nahin ho ga

Ab raat ki deewar ko dhaana haiy zaroori
Yeh kaam magar mujuh se akailay naheen ho ga

Khush fahmi abhi tuk thi yehi kaar- e- junoon main
Jo main nahin kur paaya kisi se nahin ho gaa".................Shaharyar

Indeed Shahryar was a different Urdu poet in the sense that his verse could make an impact on the thinking and educated people of South Asia. Shaharyar often challenged the well educated thinking men from the Indian subcontinent to think and act differently. He exhorted them to not look at poetry and poets as mere entertainment, but look at the poems as inspiration to hear "your own inner voice" and use all your resources to improve our southasian society. I remember that in my conversations with him in those days he often asked why educated Southasian Muslims of our generation lack the courage to take bold action, to bring reforms and change the cycle of dogmatism that still pervades our society. He warned that if our generation is not going to listen to our inner voice, the consequences for our society may be more retrograde.


"Hur taraf apney ko bikhra paao gay
Aainon ko tor ke pachtaao gay

Jub badi key phool mahkain gay
Nekiyon pur apni tum sharmaao gay

Rooh ki deewar ke girnay ke baad
Be badan ho jaao gay, mur jaao gay"..............Shaharyar

Shahryar was every inch an intellectual professor that he was in real life. His style of communication, his attitudes, his very respectful and sauve mannerism were so heart warming. It was hard to believe that he was an Urdu teacher from small town Aligarh. He appeared to be a professor of any deep humanities or scientific subject. Indeed in him I found the definition of what I think of true Aligarians - representatives of a sophisticated intellectual center of Southasian Muslims. Despite living at AMU for his whole life he carefully kept himself out of all the political currents that unfortunately engulf that century old illustrious university. Yet despite his high stature in the Urdu circles, his very prestigious Sahitya Academy Giyan Peeth award and his tremendous success in Bollywood (a-la Umrao Jaan, Gaman, Anjuman) he never behaved snobbish. At AMU he was always found mingling with junior university teachers and students.


In meeting Shaharyar even for a few hours one was struck by his deep rooted sharafat and his shareef pedigree. Like others he encountered crises in his life but he always dealt with them witrh his deep rooted sharafat. On some occassions in mushairas and other gatherings I witnessed how eloegantly and in what a shareef manner he dealt with barbs tossed at him.


Shaharyar's poems were not driven by or a reaction to any specific events; thus there is an element of timelessnes about them that basically deals with our lives, our attempt to deal with uncertainity and majboori. Books of Shahryar's Urdu poems have been translated into English, French, German, Russian, and in Bangla, Telagu and Hindi. Professor Shahryar retired as chairman of the Urdu department in 1996. Shahryar the literary intellectual and the deep thinking poet who added so many nuggets to Urdu poetry will be remebered for a long time and his poems will be read for a long time by the thinking people, especially those who are familiar with Urdu and Hindi languages.


"Pahley kub shham- o- sahar zikar tha youn duniya kaa
Chal gaya mujh pe aakhir ko fason duniya kaa

Ibtada jo bhi ho anjaam haiy hur ek ka yeh
Zinda rahney ki hawas aur junoon duniya kaa

Paae junoon pe kaisi uftaad aa paree haiy
Agli musfaton se inkaar kur diya"................Shaharyar


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The writer a community activist in Washington DC, can be reached on kaleemkawaja@hotmail.com