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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

jigar muradabadi -- a qaci shakoor

Jigar and his school

By A. Qavi Shakoor

Jigar Muradabadi occupies a lofty niche in Urdu literature's hall of fame. He belongs to that special breed of achievers who come, see and conquer the world around them, and serve as a source of profound inspiration for a generation or two, leaving behind a beckoning imprint upon the field of their choice.

The mushaira was at its peak. A poet, gifted with the subtle art of combining lyrical verse with sublime melody that went straight to the listener's heart, was reciting his ghazal, drawing unending plaudits from the appreciative audience. Suddenly, a young man stood up with a loud cry and fell down on the floor in a faint. He had simply been overwhelmed by the rhyming beauty of the soul-stirring couplets:

Kiyoon mast-i-sharab-i-aaish-o-tarab takleef-i-tawajah farmain
Awaz-i-shaikast-i-dil hi to hai awaz-i-shikast-i-jam nahin

Amazing, no doubt, but not wholly unbelievable, for the poet whose lines elicited such a unique tribute was none other than Ali Sikandar Jigar Muradabadi, a great exponent of romantic passion as well as an enthralling performer at mushairay.

But who was the young fellow who fell down in a faint? A nameless poetry lover, an aficionado, a fan? Yes, all of these, but far from being nameless. Diligently doing his utmost shortly to become a celebrity in his own right, the bright student was 'our own' Farid S. Jafri, noted journalist and writer.

Jigar Muradabadi occupies a lofty niche in Urdu literature's hall of fame. He belongs to that special breed of achievers who 'come, see and conquer' the world around them, and serve as a source of profound inspiration for a generation or two, leaving behind a beckoning imprint upon the field of their choice.

Ghairon ki jafa yaad na apnoon ki wafa yaad
Aab kuch bhi nahin mujh ko mohabbat kay siva yaad

After the debacle of 1857, the peninsular subcontinent found itself changed beyond recognition. The defeated and disheartened Urdu speaking families, led by bewildered scholars and intellectuals, finding themselves in a situation of utter hopelessness, desperately sought refuge in nostalgia and Puritanism. Wallowing in pessimism and melancholy, they began to frown upon everything smacking of the farangi lifestyle, or threatening to collide with their ancient way of life. Liberalism, life's pleasures and fine arts all came to be stigmatized as sinful symbols of the licentious Western civilization.

But, luckily and mysteriously enough, Urdu poetry, nourished in the richly amorous, humanitarian and permissive tradition of Persian verse, escaped the dragnet of a dour establishment, and was soon acting as the only outlet from the claustrophobic insularity of an obscurantist milieu.

At this crucial juncture, Dagh Dehlavi rose upon the scene, unleashing a remarkable metrical phenomenon. A great poet, Dagh was certainly more than a great poet - a cultural institution of enduring value to be sure. He enabled the Urdu verse, confined to the jaded courts of Delhi and a few princely states, to spread its wings and conquer the whole subcontinent, including its far-flung, non-Urdu-speaking provinces. Astutely taking advantage, like an entrepreneur, of the efficient railways and postal system introduced by the new rulers, Dagh broke fresh ground in the field of literature by establishing a full-fledged Graduate School of Poetry, thereby appointing himself as Urdu poetry's supreme ustad (teacher/guru) and encouraging thousands of aspirants, including the young Jigar (in his early teens), to become 'long distance' students of a great master and join ranks with the exalted Nizam of Deccan, also a 'pupil' of Dagh.

As a result of this gushing interest in poetry, mushairay suddenly erupted throughout the vast land, offering a delightful escape from the prosaic humdrum of daily life. In the mushaira hall or shamiana, they all forgot their differences and prejudices. Hindus ceased to be Hindus, and Muslims ceased to be Muslims, joining each other in a new realm, where fantasy embraced fact, and dreams merged with the realities of life. In the words of Nushur:

Jab kabhi shugal-i-badah hota hai
Aik alam ziyada hota hai

Poetry also gives you an additional world, or at least an extra dimension to life.

Ghazal, a compact lyrical poem consisting of independent couplets and dealing with the themes of love, wine and life's mysteries, was the main offering at these functions, while nazm, the descriptive set-piece and rubaee or qataa played second fiddle. Good poetry, coupled with a resonant delivery, was the demand of the audience, and Jigar soon emerged as the ideal performer of mushairay, so much so that Baba-i-Urdu, Moulvi Abdul Haq, never lavish with praise, made the remark: "All good mushairay are Jigar mushairay."

Jigar was also inspired and influenced by Asghar Gondvi, an accomplished ghazal writer:

Jisse lena ho uss se aa kar aab dars-i-junoon lay le
Suna hai hosh mein hai asghar diwana barsoon se

On Dagh's death, his mantle did not fall upon the shoulders of a single poet, but was shared by a number of his outstanding disciples such as Noah Narvi, Sael Dehlavi, Josh Malsiani, Seemab Akbarabadi, etc, each of whom had already begun to assist Dagh in correcting the load of verses sent to the master for improvement. Jigar, as one of the youngest students of Dagh, was, of course, in no position to found a poetry academy, and indeed, even in later years, when he had become the most respected and sought-after poet, he never thought of presenting himself as a guide or mentor to budding versifiers. Nevertheless, there soon emerged a Jigar school of poets. These poets were not Jigar's pupils; they were young men who admired his poetic diction, his romantic imagery and his incomparably mellifluous style, and had also developed a great fondness for the affable and kind-hearted person that Jigar was. They emulated him and each one of them became famous. The list includes such names as Behzad Lucknavi, Shakil Badayuni, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Ravish Siddiqui, Khumar Barabankvi and Nushur Wahedi.

What listener would not sit spellbound when Nayyara Noor recites (in the poet's own style) Behzad's following lines:

Ae jazba-i-dil gar mein chahoon har cheez muqabil aa jaye
Manzil ke kiye do gaam chaloon aur samne manzil aa jaye

And who can forget Shakil's:

Latif pardon se thay numayaan makeen ke jalway makaan se pehle
Mohabbat aaina ho chuki thi wajood-i-bazm-i-jahan se pehle

Or Majrooh's:

Mein akela hi chala tha janib-i-manzil magar
Log sath aate gaye aur karawan banta gaya

Both Shakil and Majrooh joined the film world, achieved great success and enriched filmi poetry by giving it an uplifting literary fragrance. Jigar was himself pressurized by many producers to write lyrics for their films, and he was on the point of joining the Poona-based W.Z. Ahmed when Maulana Mahir-ul-Qadri dissuaded him on the plea that working for cinema would be a sin. Jigar gave up the idea, returned the advance money he had already received, and did not much care when he soon learned that the pious poet was himself writing songs for films!

Ravish was a permanent fixture at mushairay:

Ghameen na ho jo gurezan hain chand paimanay
Nigah-i-yaar salamat hazar maikhanay

Khumar always delighted the audience:

Wohi phir hamain yaad aane lagain hain
Jinhain bhoolnain mein zamane lagain hain

As regards Nushur, he 'looted' Karachi's Dawn mushaira, over half-a-century ago, by the following couplet:

Paisay ka pujari duniya mein such poocho to insaan ho na saka
Daulat kabhi eman la na saki sarmaya musalman ban na saka

Although a poet of romance, Jigar, a humanist to his ringer-tips, could not remain unconcerned when, on the eve of Partition, he saw the horrible sufferings of bleeding humanity:

Shair nahin hai woh jo ghazal khwaan hai in dinoon

The political leaders' dastardly behaviour led him to say:

Jahel-i-khurd ne din woh dikhaye
Ghat gaye insan barh gaye saaye

Jigar had been offered estates by the Nawab of Rampur and by Sir Kishan Prashad, the Sadr-i-Azam of Hyderabad. But the wandering minstrel had little use for worldly goods. He already had a paradise - poetry.

Jigar was, by popular suffrage, the prince of mushairay, but unlike the other eminent Urdu poets, he remained a very selfless person, always ready to accommodate anybody, including his foes. Saghar Nizami, a protege of Allama Seemab and a melodious poet, was a touchy fellow. At a certain poetic function, Jigar and Josh were given independent rooms while the rest of the poets had been placed in a large hall. Saghar lost his temper. "Tell me, in what way am I inferior to Jigar or Josh?" he exploded, "Why don't you give me a separate room, like you have allotted to them?" Jigar immediately came out of his room, offered it to Saghar and took the latter's place in the hall.

One word about Josh Malihabadi. Literary busybodies made it known all round that Josh had shied away from ghazal simply because he could never beat Jigar in that exquisite genre. Both of them were good poets, with their own temperaments and preferences, and they always remained on good terms.


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