New Delhi : Staunch admirer of Lokmanya Tilak, devotee of Lord Krishna, and votary of ‘Purna Swaraj’ and ‘Swadeshi’, he was often targeted by then British rulers with fines, property confiscation, and prison, but one time, this freedom fighter had enough. As police reached his house, he told them that taking him to jail was their work, and he would not help them by accompanying them meekly.
Consequently, four brawny constables grabbed a limb each, hosted him to their shoulders, and carried him out of his house and down the alley to the main road to their vehicle. The next day, an editorial in then Urdu daily ‘Zamindar’ quipped that Jesus Christ had entered Jerusalem on a donkey, but Maulana ‘Hasrat Mohani’ travelled to jail riding on four donkeys!
And yet the same Maulana Syed Fazlul Hasan ‘Hasrat Mohani’ (1875-1951), who could be as radical, stubborn, and even cantankerous in his political career, has to his credit, some of the most exquisite and evocative love poetry ever created in the Indian subcontinent.
While “Chupke chupke raat din ansu bahana yaad hai…” – that hauntingly crafted memory of young unsuccessful but unforgettable love – is the best known since B.R. Chopra’s “Nikaah” brought it back into public consciousness by the golden-throated Ghulam Ali’s rendition, the lesser-known ghazal: “Roshan jamaal-e-yaar se hai anjuman tamaam/Dahka huya hai aatish-e-gul se chaman tamaam” is no less a serenade to the beloved.
‘Hasrat’ had more treasures in his oeuvre to showcase various facets and motifs of romance – be it the hyperbolic “Aur to paas mere hijr mein kya rakha hai/Ik tere dard ko pahlu mein chupa rakha hai” (which seems to have inspired “Aur is dil mein kya rakha hai…” from Sanjay Dutt-starrer “Imaandar”), the ‘cruelty’: “Waqif hain khub aap ke tarz-e-jafa se ham/Izhar-e-iltifat ki zahmat na kijiye”, memory: “Phir aur taghaful ka sabab kya hai khudaya/Main yaad na aaun unhen mumkin ki nahi hai”, or exuberance: “Chup nahi sakti chupane se mohabbat ki nazar/Padh hi jaati hai rukh-e-yaar par ‘Hasrat’ ki nazar”, to take some aspects.
Hailing from Mohan village (Unnao), a few kilometres north of Lucknow, ‘Hasrat’ could have not withstood the pervasive impact of the Lakhnavi school. “Aaine mein woh dekh rahe the bahar-e-husn/Aaya mera khayal to sharmaa ke rah gaye”, “Gham-e-arzu ka ‘Hasrat’ sabab aur kya bataun/Mere himmaton ki pasti mere shauq ki bulandi”, and “Sher mere bhi hain pur-dard va lekin ‘Hasrat’/’Mir’ ke sheva-e-guftar kahan se laaun”, are some examples.
The influence was most marked in his most famous work: “Chupke chupke raat din…” where the tender descriptions of the various stages and moods of love make a compelling case that ‘Hasrat’ had an unusually fertile imagination or a vividly colourful adolescence, along with a gift for matchless phrasing.
Take the initial memory: “Baahazaaran iztiraab-o-sad-hazaaran ishtiaq/Tujhse vo pahle pahal dil ka lagana yaad hai”, the resulting loss of poise: “Tujhse milte hi vo bebaak ho jaanaa mera/Aur tera daaton mein vo ungli dabana yaad hai”, the playfulness: “Khench lena vo mera parde ka konaa daffaatan/Aur dupatte se tera vo munh chhupanaa yaad hai”, the sudden urge to tease: “Tujh ko jab tanha kabhi paana to az-rahe-lihaaz/Hal-e-dil baaton hi baaton mein jataana yaad hai”, and, of course, hidden trysts: “Do-pahar ki dhup mein mere bulaane ke liye/Woh tera kothe pe nange paaon aanaa yaad hai”.
There is also the fear of parting: “Aa gaya gar vasl ki shab bhi kahin zikr-e-firaaq/Woh tera ro ro ke mujhko bhi rulana yaad hai”, and its actualisation: “Waqt-e-rukhsat alvida ka lafz kahne ke liye/Woh tere sukhe labon ka thar-tharaana yaad hai” but also the cherished memory: “Chori chori ham se tum aa kar mile the jis jagah/Muddaten guzri par ab tak wo thikana yaad hai”.
But it will be unjust to slot ‘Hasrat’ only as an incurable romantic, despite his mindset as revealed above and even his appearance – when he reached Aligarh Muslim University to study in traditional dress (sherwani, flared pajamas) and a ‘paandan’ in his hand, he was promptly named ‘khalajaan’ (auntie dear).
His true contribution came in his revival of the Urdu lyric tradition – by unshackling it from artificiality that had accrued from its existence of courts of decaying and decadent principalities to make it a platform that could convey more common-place but realistic thought, and deep feelings.
‘Hasrat’ has to his credit 13 ‘diwans’ comprising over 700 ghazals and other verse forms, “Nukaat-e-Sukhan” on poetical techniques with examples from contemporary Urdu poetry, “Sharah-e-Diwan-e-Ghalib” which examines some of Ghalib’s ghazals, “Mushahidat-e-Zindaan”, an account of his life behind bars and conditions in the Raj’s jails, anthologies of his writings and some English translations of his own works.
And, ‘Hasrat’, who frequently visited the Braj region during Janmashtami, also wrote verses dedicated to Lord Krishna, both in Urdu and Awadhi.
“Aankhon mein noor-i-jalwa-i-be-kaif-o-kam hai khaas/Jab se nazar pe unki nigaah-i-karam hai khaas”, “Kuch hum ko bhi ataa ho ki ae hazrat-i-Krishn/Iqlim-i-ishq aap ke zer-i-qadam hai khaas”, and “‘Hasrat’ ki bhi qabool ho Mathura mein haziri/Sunte hai aashiqon pe tumhara karam hai khaas” is one example.
And in Awadhi: “Birha ki rain kate na pahaad/ sooni nagarya padi ujaad/Nirdai Shyam pardes sidhaare/Ham dukhiyaran chodchaad/Kaahe na ‘Hasrat’ sab sukh-sampat/Taj baithan ghar maar kiwaad.”
But poetry was just a part of the life of ‘Hasrat’, who disproved Percy Bysshe Shelley’s description of poets as “unacknowledged legislators of the world” by being a member of the Constituent Assembly that drafted free India’s constitution.
This crowned a four-decade stint as an outspoken, unbending freedom fighter – where he simultaneously was member of the Congress, the Muslim League (but steadfastly opposed Partition), and the Communist Party of India, stood up to Mahatma Gandhi, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbai Patel, championed ‘Swadeshi’ before the Mahatma, demanded full independence when both the Congress and the Muslim League were content with dominion status, and coined the “Inquilab Zindabad” slogan.
However, his political contribution has, over the years, been forgotten – or obscured – and it is as a poet only that ‘Hasrat’ is remembered in both India and Pakistan – in the names of schools, roads, libraries, and institutions in Uttar Pradesh, Mumbai and Karachi and on postage stamps (Pakistan in 1989, India in 2014). — IANS