Two days ago a nazm echoed through Aligarh Muslim University as the institution celebrated its founder’s day on October 17. Alumni around the world, 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 reigns in the hearts of millions of people, was born on October 19, 1911.
Considered the Keats of Urdu poetry, Majaz was one of those rare gems whose poetry reflected two most important aspects: romance and revolution. At a time when legendary Urdu poets like Faiz, Jazbi, Sardar Jafri, Sahir Ludhiyanvi were at their peak, Majaz rose to fame and carved out a niche for himself. His infatuation was such that people flocked to the place where he was present.
Born in Rudauli (then in Barabanki, UP) during Diwali celebrations, he was called Asrarul Haque and later took the name of ‘Majaz Lakhnavi’. He belonged to a Zamindar family and had a good education. At a young age, Majaz had a penchant for Urdu poetry. His fame came when he reached AMU as a student where he had the company of literary legends like 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, Hand,
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 mesmerized; the silence established that Majaz had arrived on the scene. There was no turning back. Majaz gave his alma mater a famous nazm, which is now the university tarana (anthem).
Majaz’s popularity grew by leaps and bounds and there were more women than men among his admirers. At AMU, the girls kept her book ‘Aahang“under their pillows. They would pledge to keep ‘Majaz’ as their children’s names.
Himanshu Bajpai, Daastango, who made several daastans on Majaz, recalls an incident: “Once, Ismat Chugtai told Majaz that the girls loved him and Majaz quickly replied, ‘And they marry a rich person. “
Truly, Majaz had a failed love life, and despondency got him admitted to a mental asylum in Ranchi. His alcohol addiction has taken its toll. Chugtain asked him: “Liquor or wine, who destroyed your life, Majaz?” Witty and humorous, as always, replied, “I gave them both that right.”
His poem Awara was also an instant hit.
Shahar ki raat aur principal 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 at the behest of the residents of White Baradari in Lucknow, which ultimately turned out to be his last public gathering before his disappearance.
His poetry, as I said above, was both romantic and revolutionary. Some of her lines for the empowerment of women are still relevant today.
Tere Mathe pe ye anchal bahut hi khub hai lekin,
Tu est aanchal se ek parcham bana leti toh achcha tha.
Bajpai recounts an incident: “Once, the famous film actress Nargis came to meet Majaz. She requested her autograph and Majaz obliged by writing the lines above on her blank dupatta. He identified with anyone in need – perhaps it brought him closer to the progressive movement. In her poetry, Majaz raised the issues of women’s liberation and feminism, which are still debated today.
Majaz’s revolutionary couplets also reigned over the masses. While other poets raised the tone in their revolutionary couplets, Majaz made his verses that could be sung with the revolution. ‘Bol, Ari O Dharti Bol, Raj Sinhasan Daanwa Dolis one of those poems. It’s just amazing to see someone write about the intricacies of the world so beautifully – ‘Sideboard 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 gadi (look) with him while drinking, but Majaz laughed at him saying: “You drink while keeping a gadi, I drink while keeping a ghada (launcher).”
In December 1955, his end came abruptly, after he collapsed in Lucknow, and died before reaching Balrampur Hospital. The current generation may remember him as the uncle of Bollywood lyricist Javed Akhtar.
The poet, whose kingdom was in the hearts of millions, is buried in a six-foot grave at Nishatganj cemetery with his own lines of a nazm on the epitaph.
Ab iske baad subah hai aur subah-e-Nau Majaz
Ham by hai khatm Sham-e-Gareebaan-e-Lucknow
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