Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Josh Malihabadi--Shah e Lughat, Shair e Inqalab-Greatest Urdu poet after Iqbal, Badshah e Marsia

December 5th is the 111th birthday of Josh Malihabadi. He was a freedom fighter and known as Shair e Inqalab (Poet of the Revolution).

Oh, dwellers of the planet Earth,
The thundering sound which is coming from the heavens
One solitary moment of life in freedom is better than eternal life of slavery
He was impressively articulate against the British rule:
My mission is change,
My name is youth,
My slogan is revolution,
Revolution and Revolution.

The British Government banned many of his revolutionary poems, such as ‘To the Sons of East India Company’ The quality and quantity of his compositions have secured for him a distinguished and permanent place in the galaxy of great Urdu poets.

Born on December 05 1898 in Maliabad, Shabbir Hassan Khan Josh acquired early education in Lucknow and passed Senior Cambridge from St. Peters College Agra in 1924.

He was the greatest revolutionary poet of pre independence period. Some of his revolutionary poems were even broadcast from German Radio during Second World War. Josh migrated to Pakistan in 1956, initially stayed at Karachi and later moved to Islamabad. He also remained associated with Urdu Dictionary Board and Ministry of Information. He died on February 22 1982. He left more than 25 literary works.


Josh's continued recognition by the Pakistan Academy of letters (a very prestigious and exclusive hall of fame for poets and literature heavy weights) and their feat of publishing more than a dozen books on Josh is a testament to his enduring endearment in Pakistan.

Josh was critically acclaimed as the King of Marsia and given the title of the greatest Urdu port in the world after Iqbal is no small eulogy--specially if it comes from the lips of people like Faiz, Abdul Haq and Iftikhar Arif of the Pakistan Academy of letters.

Josh without Urdu would have been a dead Josh. In Hindh (aka "India") Josh was asphyxiated and a fish out of water. Watching the demise of Urdu in Bharat was too painful for him--he couldn't survive in a pond that was drying up.

In Pakistan he found an ocean to thrive in.

And thrive he did with articles books and money showered on him. He died a happy and rich man in Islamabad

His "Yadoon kee baraat" is a fantastic example of literature shattering the paradigm of current culture...Josh's "rangeen mizajee" (wandering eye and “happy” lifestyle) is legendary---and his provocative style endeared him to the elite and the masses in Pakistan--then stories have endured the test of time. 
Every year Josh's birthday is celebrated in Pakistani---as a salute to a great Pakistani poet!

qadam insaaN ka raah-e-dahar meN tharraa hii jaata hai
chale kitnaa hii koii bach ke Thokar khaa hii jaataa hai
nazar Khwaah kitnii hii haqaaeq aashnaa, phir bhii
hujuum-e-kashmkash meN aadmii ghabraa hii jaataa hai
khilaaf-e-maslahat maiN bhi samajhta huN, magar vaaez
vo aate haiN to chehre pe taGaiyyur aa hii jaataa hai
havaaeN zor kitnaa hii lagaaeN aaNdhiyaaN ban kar
magar jo ghir ke aataa hai vo baadal chhaa hii jaataa hai
shikaayat kyuuN ise kahte ho ye fitrat hai insaaN kii
musiibat meN khayaal-e-aish-e-rafta aa hii jaataa hai
samajhtii haiN maal-e-gul meN kyaa zor-e-fitrat hai
sahar hote hii kaliyoN ko tabassum aa hii jaataa hai
Shabbir Hasan Khaan Josh Malihabaadi



Here is an article from the Pakistani Dawn

Irreverent open-mindedness  — a legacy of Josh

By Rauf Parekh

An oft-quoted literary anecdote has it that once Asrar-ul-Haq Majaaz, in one of his inspired moods, quipped that “I am the king of diction”. Someone asked him: “And what about Josh Maleehabadi?” “He is the king of dictionary,” pat came the reply.
Uttered in a light vein, the remark’s first part is also true of Josh. He is ranked by critics among the poets of Urdu known for their command over the Urdu language, the others maestros being Nazeer Akberabadi and Meer Anees. A connoisseur of words, Josh coined new phrases and gave fresh resonance to the old ones.

Though the existence of Lucknow and Delhi schools of Urdu poetry has been denied – and perhaps rightly so – it is hard to overlook the fact that there are certain characteristics that manifest themselves more emphatically in Lucknow’s poetry. The Lucknow school of poetry, for instance, favoured an attitude that laid stress on physical pleasure, gaiety and delicacy bordering on sensuality and Epicureanism.

Interestingly, it greatly appreciated some religious notions at the same time and the development and popularity in Lucknow of two particular genres that are poles apart – marsiya and rekhti – lends credence to the view that certain traits do set Lucknow’s poetry apart. The masnavis of Lucknow poets are more explicit when it comes to erotic scenes and rekhti, too, betrays a peculiar attitude of society that pursued temporal interests rather than spiritual ones.
The strange aspect of Josh’s poetry is that its subject and form do not conform to the Lucknow school of Urdu poetry, although he inherited some of its attributes like verbal grandeur and splendour bordering on pomposity and verbosity, not to mention a somewhat conscious stress on the physical aspect of beauty and love. An iconoclast to the core, Josh not only rebelled against ghazal and chose nazm, or poem, to express himself, but also questioned the effectiveness and utility of ghazal on account of its limitations that its form and subject-matter force on it, not withstanding the fact that ghazal was and still is the most popular and preferred genre of Urdu poetry.

Quite contrary to the Lucknow school’s literary traits, his poetry reflects contemporary political and social issues. An ardent supporter of independence, he challenged the colonialists and imperialists in his patriotic poems of the 1920s and 1930s.

He sings of nature and liberty and mocks hollow formalism, be it religious or otherwise. The hallmark of his poetry is an irreverent and contemptuous demeanour towards certain religious icons and practices, especially the ones that denote an ostentatious religiosity. His unorthodox views and an anti-mullah stance irked many who saw it as agnosticism and atheism. Pathologically averse to any authority and naturally inclined towards rationality, he never backed down in the teeth of opposition from detractors. However, his devotion to, and veneration for, Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), Hazrat Imam Hussain and some other religious figures remained unwavering.

Born Shabbir Hasan Khan on December 5, 1898 in a small town near Maleehabad, UP, to a family of aristocrats and poets, Josh got his early education at Lucknow. Later, he was educated at Agra and Aligarh but could not continue his studies and had to seek a job. He found one in Hyderabad State but had to quit it in 1934 due to his political affiliation. He afterwards launched his own magazine, ‘Kaleem’, in Delhi. About a year later, the magazine was merged with the Progressive Writers’ Association’s magazine, ‘Naya Adab’. He had a brief stint at Shalimar Pictures of Poona and then became editor of ‘Aaj Kal’, a magazine published by the Indian government. At the time of his migration to Pakistan in 1956, he was an adviser to All India Radio in addition to being the editor of the magazine. In Pakistan, he was made an adviser at Taraqqi-e-Urdu Board, now Urdu Dictionary Board, and was just as hugely popular in Pakistan as across the border.
It is paradoxical that a poet who later turned against ghazal rose to eminence not only for his nazms but ghazals and was termed the “poet of the youth” for his youthful poetry and freshness of thought and diction. Later, he was dubbed as the “poet of the revolution” and despite the fact that his thought evolved over the years, he remained a progressive till the very end. Aside from 23 collections of his poetry that came comparatively in quick succession in the early part of his life – the first appeared in 1921 and the last one in 1980 – he is known for his prose as well. At least six collections of his prose have so far been published and the most popular among them is “Yaadon ki barat”, a candid autobiography that brought him much fame and notoriety in equal measure.

Dr Hilal Naqvi is a Karachi-based scholar, poet and university teacher. An ardent admirer of Josh Maleehabadi. In order that Josh’s works are read and evaluated and re-evaluated, he has launched a literary journal called “Josh Shanasi” from Karachi. He thinks that in the modern era of Urdu poetry, Josh is, after Iqbal, the greatest, the most creative, the most multi-faceted and the most open-minded of all poets. The third issue of the journal has lately been published and in addition to other valuable contributions, it contains an invaluable index of the sources that discuss Josh. A result of Dr Hilal Naqvi’s own research, it alphabetically enlists the books, research papers, critical essays, magazines, newspaper articles and souvenirs published on Josh. It certainly is a treasure trove for Josh lovers and shows Dr Naqvi’s commitment to the revival and review of Josh’s legacy.

And the publication of a new edition of Josh’s book, “Nujoom-o-jawahir” makes one feel that Dr Hilal Naqvi’s prayers have been answered, at least in part. The Josh Literary Society of Canada has published the book with three prefaces, each one of them representing three generations of Urdu critics: Prof Gopi Chand Narang, Prof Sahar Ansari and Mubeen Mirza.

As the book, a collection of quatrains, was first published in 1967 (incidentally the last collection of poetry by Josh, except for his ‘Josh Maleehabadi ke marsiye’, published in 1980), the book certainly called for a re-evaluation.

Prof Narang in his preface has raised the question of ‘Urdu canon’ and whether such a thing exists and if yes, should Josh make a part of it. While admiring Josh for his rationality and evaluating his poetic genius, Prof Narang has said, not in so many words, that Josh may not belong to "Urdu Canon". And that some aspects of Josh’s poetry are so sparkling that their brilliance would not dim easily. In other words, Josh does not make it to ‘Urdu canon’.

Prof Sahar Ansari’s preface shows how well-read he is. He is of the opinion that the greatness of a poet or artist can not be gauged by the calendar and that a poet would become a legend without the crutches of propaganda and patronage if he or she is capable. He feels that Josh is becoming ever more prominent because he is a metaphor of humanity, peace and iconoclasm. Mubeen Mirza, the youngest of the preface-writers, rejects at the very outset what he calls ‘the pedagogical style of criticism’. He feels that this school of criticism first decides whether a literary piece is the stuff of the classics or not and then looks for the logic and evidence to substantiate the argument. He feels that one should look for contemporary relevance in a literary work instead and then decide if it radiates eternal humanistic values or not. In brief, as he puts it, Josh’s poetry is an attempt to grasp the experiences of an existentialist’s mind.

Josh was the product of a peculiar culture, social mores, literary traditions and religious ideals that held certain values in great esteem and respect. His literary upbringing was characterised by Lucknow’s literary tastes that emphasised the correct use of language and maintained an extrovert and flippant attitude towards life. Josh died on February 22, 1982, in Islamabad. http://www.dawn.com/2009/02/17/fea.htm. February 17, 2009 Tuesday, Safar 21, 1430 drraufparekh@yahoo.com

IPB Image

soz-e-Gam de mujhe usne ye irshaad kiyaa
jaa tujhe kashmakash-e-dahar se aazaad kiyaa
vo kareN bhii to kin alfaaz meN teraa shikwa
jinko terii nigah-e-lutf ne barbaad kiyaa
itnaa maanuus huuN fitrat se kalii jab chaTkii
jhuk ke maiNne ye kahaa, ''mujhse se kuchh irshaad kiyaa?''
mujhko to hosh nahiiN, tum ko Khabar ho shaayad
log kahte haiN ki tumne mujhko barbaad kiyaa

Even though this great Urdu poet was born in India he did not stay there all his life. Josh Malihabadi he was disgusted with the politics of and the state of affairs of Bharat (aka "India")--wrote against Nehru and vocalized his abhorrence for the policies of Nehru---  It wasn't just Nehru and the policies that he was disgusted with--he had begun to hate Bharat (aka "India"). 

It takes a special effort to leave ones ancestral lands, relatives, culture, and friends. Josh Malihabadi did just that---he left Bharat in disgust never to return--and migrated to Pakistan.  My making the pilgrimage to Pakistan, Josh became a Pakistani by choice. Josh in Pakistan provoked the  cultural norms, challenged the sexual morays and enriched the discourse of language, culture, and media.  He was a darling of the press and pretty much owned several spots on PTV. Josh was the delight of any mushaira and poetry session. 

The real flavour of Malihabad, 25 kilometres from Lucknow, lies not in its delicious mangoes, but in its lifestyle soaked in traditions. The Pathans of Malihabad have always been a law unto themselves and boast an impressive pedigree of great Urdu poets. Name of Josh has attained the distinction of a synonym for Malihabad. Today, Malihabad is known as much for the great Urdu poet Josh Malihabadi it produced, as for its mangoes. So it would be most apt to talk about the great tradition of poetry among the Afridi Pathans of Malihabad, still so alive.

Afridi Pathans have always been lovers of poetry. It would not be wrong to say that every Afridi child is born with a poetic potential, but only some of them use it. Malihabad has producedc many famous Urdu poets, the most acclaimed being Josh Malihabadi, who dominated the scene of Urdu literature for over half a century. He emerged on the literary horizon of India as a personification of revolution or inquilaab, and won for himself the title of Shair-i-Inquilab (the Poet of Revolution). The belief that one moment of freedom is far better than years of existence under bondage formed the core of his philosophy.http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_s0CIonKsTTQ/SC1LBgnu85I/AAAAAAAAASE/4Ersp11uQEU/s400/Josh-Malihabadi-Great-Afridi-Poet.jpg&imgrefurl=http://malihabad.blogspot.com/2008/05/malihabad-oasis-of-poets.html&h=400&w=282&sz=24&tbnid=XN5ZnGM5Uy00VM:&tbnh=124&tbnw=87&prev=/images%3Fq%3DJosh%2BMalihabadi&hl=en&usg=__NMwq3GNj0Qkw9rjWsFTZJLt4vNg=&ei=z-8eS8L4GsjR8Qam5Zlt&sa=X&oi=image_result&resnum=8&ct=image&ved=0CB4Q9QEwBw


Here is another article from the Pakistani newspaper called Dawn


Marsia is a non-sectarian genre — Dr Hilal Naqvi By Naseer Ahmad http://www.dawn.com/2008/05/08/fea.htm

As a first-year student of Sirajuddaula College, Syed Hilal Raza Naqvi accompanied his teacher, Syed Mujtaba Hussain, to the residence of Josh Maleehabadi, who lived a kilometre or so from the college. He was mesmerized by the poet’s personality and his way of reciting poetry.
The first visit was followed by a series of visits that strengthened his bond with Josh. Inspired by the great poet, the teenager soon began to write poetry under his guidance. Earlier he had embarked on his literary journey through a sort of college newspaper, whose title Mehr-i-Neem Roz was also suggested by Josh Sahib.

Josh, whom Dr Naqvi describes as the greatest Urdu poet of the 20th century after Iqbal, had made successful attempts to gain notoriety through his autobiography Yadon ki barat. He had many shagirds (students) who made him proud in his own lifetime.

Dr Hilal Naqvi must have been among the youngest of the lot that got a chance to learn the art of poetic composition direct from Josh as another Josh disciple Mustafa Zaidi was 20 years senior to him. He is still so indebted to Josh that he continues paying homage to Josh Sahib through his writings. Whatever he has already done on Josh is a remarkable job. He has written as many as six books on him, the latest being Josh: shakhsiat aur fun, published by Pakistan Academy of Letters. He has had access to some of Josh’s rare and unpublished works.

Dr Naqvi’s 1,000-page PhD thesis was on the subject of Beesween sadi aur jadeed marsia. Now he is preparing a DLitt (Doctor of Letters) thesis. The head of the Urdu department of Gulistan-i-Jauhar government college and a member of the visiting faculty of Karachi University, he is also supervising many students of MPhil and PhD at Karachi University’s Urdu department and Pakistan Study Centre.

Renowned poets and critics such as Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Ali Sardar Jafri and Kaifi Azmi have hailed Hilal Naqvi as a distinct voice in marsia writing. Dr Naqvi also admits that poetry is his basic identity. But it is not his only attribute. He excels in research also. His 16-odd books on various topics, besides his poetry collections, testify to it.

Talking about the contribution of marsia to Urdu literature, he says the elegiac genre has evolved over the centuries and has kept pace with changing times. “Although Mir Anees’ marsia is still relevant, if we write that kind of marsia today, people will not appreciate it. Now marsias have varied topics. Our topics are mostly current issues,” he says.

“A poet may praise Nelson Mandela, discuss the Kashmir issue or the role of the sole superpower in current world politics.”
He says marsia is a genre of literature and it should not always be taken in religious terms. “It is not sectarian in nature and may be written by a Sunni, Shia and even an atheist, in accordance with their own ideologies and beliefs without compromising the basic ingredients of marsia.

“I admire Allama Shibli Naumani, a conservative scholar, for his book on marsia titiled Muazna-i-Anees-o-Dabeer. There has been no book on the topic that could surpass Shibli’s work.”

Josh Maleehabadi, Sadequain and Naseem Amrohvi were not traditional religious persons. Their marsias had topics which discussed everyday problems and the poets wrote in their own way the necessary ingredients of the genre.

Even people like Faiz Ahmed Faiz have written marsia, which they considered as a means to raise their voice against oppression and in favour of right.
“Now shorter marsias are also gaining popularity though there are poets who write as many as 2,000 stanzas in a single marsia. But one cannot shorten marsia only because people don’t have the time for it. In that case it may also be argued that since people don’t have the time, literature’s ‘bisat’ (chessboard) should be folded up.”

He is a staunch supporter of nazm (poem), which he says has far greater potential than ghazal to present an idea. It was poem that enabled him to present Haath (hand) and its physical and metaphorical usages in as many as 600 lines. Another of his elegiac poem titled Chiragh, or lamp, takes one on an journey back to the beginning of the universe and the caverns where the prehistoric man was supposed to live.
Marsia is no longer confined to the musaddas pattern. It is being written in free verse also.
He, however, deplores that although numerous marsias being churned out across Pakistan and in some foreign centres, the writers’ motivation and motive is religion and thus no big name has emerged during the last few decades. Previously there had been eminent poets who wrote marsia such as Josh Malihabadi, Naseem Amrohvi, Syed Aal-i-Raza, Saba Akbarabadi, …..

Though his family was from Amroha, Dr Hilal Naqvi was born in 1950 in Rawalpindi, and arrived in Karachi at the age of seven. His family moved here because there was no university in Rawalpindi where his siblings could continue their education. His son is in Canada preparing for a PhD after doing his MS from Oxford University. His daughter is a Karachi University student, doing her Master’s in English.
He says he enjoys a very cordial relationship with his family members. “My wife, my son and daughter-in-law, all have a friendly relationship with me,” say Dr Naqvi. “I apply literature to life and live a pleasant life.”

Like every sensitive soul, he is also affected by the goings-on and cannot suppress his poetic outpouring:
Meikada chashm ko, aariz ko kanwal kia likhain
Shehr mein khoon jo barsay tau ghazal kia likhain
Jiss mein qanoon bhi her gaam badal jata ho
Uss kharabay mein koi baat atal kia likhain

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