Life and times of Majaz Lucknowi

The postal department issued a postage stamp on Majaaz Lucknowi on 28th March 2008.He was remembered as a revolutionary poet who sang of love.

Asrarul Haq Majaz ,lovingly referred to as the Keats of urdu Poetry was born in 1911 in Rudauli,near Barabanki which is about 30 Kms from majaz-lucknowi2Lucknow (UP).He belonged to a well off family of Zamindars who moved to Lucknow and Majaz was brought up in this city of Nawabs with a flair for poetry and good things in life.

Majaz completed his B.A. at Aligarh Muslim University.A darling of poetry-lovers, Majaz was so popular among Girls   that they used to fancy him as their life partner and would say that if nothing works out I will name my son after him so I can remember him all the time.

He was the first Urdu poet who looked at woman as a partner and as a companion rather than just an object of beauty.He believed in equality of woman in all aspects of life and called upon them to start a revolution as one of his famous Ghazal suggets :

तेरे माथे पे ये आंचल बहुत ही खूब है लेकिन

तू इस आंचल को गर परचम (flag) बना लेती तो  अच्छा था

Majaz and Jazbi were the original voices of the ‘Progressive Writers’ movement that later brought Faiz, Sardar Jafri ,Sahir and scores of other poets along and for the first time turned poetry into an instrument of changing lives of masses.They also had a vital role to play in the independence struggle.

खून जो बह निकला है उस खून में बहा दो उनको

उनकी खोदी हुई खन्दक में गिरा दो  उनको

यह  तो हैं फितना ए बेदार दबा दो इनको

यह मिटा देंगे तम्मुदन(civilization) को मिटा दो इनको

No other generation of poets was as popular  as the young poets  during the ‘Progressive Writers’ Movement in the era of 1930s and 40s. The choice of words and the melody  of his poetry enthralled the audience and they wanted more and more of his kalaam( verse).
Majaz was an obvious choice when All India Radio Delhi started airing its programs post independance .He named the Urdu programme he hosted as ‘Awaaz’. It was during this time in Delhi that Majaz fell in love.Very little is known about who was the girl or what happened but she was from the high society is well established.Some say that she left him for an officer serving in the IAS and some say that she was already married.

बताऊं क्या तुझे ऐ हमनशीं किससे मोहब्बत है

मै जिस दुनियां में रहता हूं वो उस दुनियां की औरत है

कोई मेरे सिवा उसका निशां भी पा  ही नहीं सकता

कोई उस बारगाहे नाज़ तक़ जा ही नहीं सकता

As he lost out out in love, his heart was shattered completely and he left Delhi and came back to his watan (homeland)Lucknow.

रुख्सत ऐ दिल्ली ! तेरी मेहफिल से अब जाता हूं मैं

नौहां गर जाता हूं मैं ,नाला बालब ** जाता हूं मैं

*(with a sad song on my lips)

He got settled in Lucknow and along with his potery,his wit too became legendary. One famous incident which people narrate is :

To urge him to slow down on his drinking  Josh once told him

मजाज़ घडी रख कर पिया करो ,मैं बीस मिनट में एक पेग पीता हूं

To which Majaaz  in his inimitable style replied

घडी रख के पिया करूं जोश साहब ? मेरा बस चले तो मैं घडा रख के पिया करूं

People wanted to have the honour of drinking with the great poet. There is a scene in Movie Pyaasa in which Mr Ghosh the famous editor has araanged for such a Mehfil( gathering) in his house in which Majaaz has been invited along with Jigar Moradabadi to recite poetry.Vijay (Guru dutt) is serving wine to the guests when overwhelmed by Majaaz’s Ghazal he breaks down and starts singing ” Jaane woh Kaise log the  Jinke Pyaar ko Pyaar milaa”.It is a wonderful scene and I have it on my blog tiltled “हम पी भी गये छ्लका भी गये”

With pain in his heart his drinking went out of control and he became a declared alcoholic . He suffered his first nervous breakdown in 1940.He talked incoherently and  started asking money from friends and other acquaintances.His parents tried fixing up his marriage with a girl but at the last moment the girls’ father turned down the proposal as he had a reputation of being insane in the society. This lead to his second nervous breakdown in 1945 when he used to go around talking about his greatness – a megalomania of sorts.He would make a list of great poets and after Ghalib,Iqbal etc. he would put his own name .. he had to be admitted to an asylum in Ranchi.

Majaz recovered for the sake of his family and sisters (one of whom got married to Jaan Nisaar akhtar,father of Javed Akhtar)but life was never the same for him again.He could not relate to the world around him and so he became a loner and an introvert.He moved to Bombay for a while and started working there.He even tried to get some work in Films but the post-partition riots and the violence in Mumbai of which Majaaz was a witness moved him tremendously. Independence had not been able to fulfill the dreams of a poetic heart.Misery and injustice still ruled and only the power had changed hands.He never gave up his drinking and thought it to be his only companion till his life’s end.He said :

इस मेह्फिले कैफ ओ मस्ती में इस अंजुमन ए इरफानी में

सब जाम बक़फ बैठे ही रहे हम पी भी गये छ्लका भी गये

and he lamented it too ..

हम मैक़दे की राह से होकर गुज़र गये

वरना सफर हयात का बेहद तवील था

Another famous incident highlights his relationship with famous poet Saahir Ludhyaanwi.Sahir  introduced Majaz in the journal ‘Savera’ published from Lahore with these lines “Majaz has gone insane twice – he is drunk all the time and wanders aimlessly.”

In spite of being terribly hurt Majaaz responded like a poet citing his famous couplet…

कुछ तो होते हैं मोहब्बत में जुनूं के आसार

और कुछ लोग भी दीवना बना  देते हैं

One goes crazy in love and often people drive you mad too …

But Saahir loved Majaz and both were very good friends.When everyone around taunted Majaz about his drinking,he used to say…

मैं शराब पीता हूं,तुम क्या पीते हो? आदमी का खून ?

Saahir used these lines when  he wrote lyrics for a song sung by Mohd.Rafi  in Naya Raasta.It was picturised on Balraj Sahni. :

मैने पी शराब तुमने क्या पिया ? आदमी क खून ?

An incident relating to Josh Malihabadi is also interesting.

Majaz had been discharged from the mental hospital and though he looked normal, he was not entirely cured. Josh was not aware of this.Majaz once called the Commissioner of Delhi and asked him for one hundred rupees. When Josh heard this, he remarked that by this action of Majaz – the very dignity of poetry had been compromised.Majaaz responded in his own way :

जो गुज़रती है कल्बे शायर पर,शायर ए इंक़लाब क्या जानें ?

How can a revolutionary poet know the state of a romantic poets heart ?

In such a state Majaaz used to roam about the streets of Lucknow and often used to get ‘fans’ who would ask him to  recite poems for a bottle.They either dumped him after the party or asked their drivers to drop him home if they were more decent.

On a chilly winter night, he was taken away by a group of ‘fans’ who left him all alone on a hotel roof after drinking till late night, and he died alone in the bitter cold in an unconscious state. He was just 44 years old.The whole nation and especially the people of Lucknow mourned the death of their dear and beloved poet.

सारी मेहफिल जिस पे झूम उठ्ठी है मजाज़

वो तो आवाज़े शिकस्त ए साज़ है …………

The music on which the world has applauded

actually came from the breaking of an instruments string.

Wonderful !

Perhaps he knew that his end would come in such a manner and mocked his friendships by saying :

मेरी बर्बादियों के हमनशीनों ,तुम्हें क्या मुझे  भी गम नहीं है !

Although Majaz  wrote about Love and Beauty, his poems always retained a  certain level social consciousness in them. Instead of fantasizing about a world of Love and Beauty somewhere else, Majaz rebelled against the customs and traditions which constrain true love in real life.He dreamt of a place full of love but he never forgot to challenge the establishment where he lived.He had the courage to challenge injustice and his words had the power to move the masses.In the preface to Majaz’s ‘Aahang”, Faiz Ahmed Faiz writes “Majaz never beat the drums of revolution, he hummed revolutions!”

Below lines best describe the true colors of his poetry :

बख्शी  हैं हमको इश्क़ नें वो जराअतें मजाज़

डरते नहीं हैं सियासते अहले जहां से हम

Love has given me such an audacity that I don’t fear the politics of this world

This couplet is mentioned on the postage stamp in the picture above.

Another aspect of his poetry was the natural flow and the melody which is so peculiar in all his Ghazals and Nazms.It seems he sang them before he wrote them and not the other way round.Any composition can be hummed in your own way such is the beauty and intensity of his poems. He could see poetry in life around him and even such everyday objects as Railway train became the subject of his musings.Let’s have a look at below verses fro ‘Raat or Rail” :

फिर चली है रेल स्टेशन से लहराती हुई
नीमशब की खामोशी में ज़ेर-ए-लब गाती हुई
{इस्टेशन == station, नीमशब == midnight, ज़ेर-ए-लब == humming}
ड़गमगाती, झूमती, सीटी बजाती, खेलती
वादी-ओ-कोहसार की ठंड़ी हवा खाती हुई
{वादी-ओ-कोहसार == valley and mountains}
तेज़ झोंकों में वो छमछम का सरोद-ए-दिलनशीं
आँधियों में मेह बरसने की सदा आती हुई
{मेह == rain}
जैसे मौजों का तरन्नुम जैसे जलपरियों के गीत
इक-इक लय में हज़ारों ज़मज़में गाती हुई
नौनिहालों को सुनाती मीठी मीठी लोरियाँ
नाज़नीनों को सुनहरे ख़्वाब दिखलाती हुई
ठोकरें खाकर, लचकती, गुनगुनाती, झूमती
सर-खुशी में घुँघरूओं की ताल पर गाती हुई
नाज़ से हर मोड़ पर खाती हुई सौ पेच-ओ-ख़म
इक दुल्हन अपनी अदा से आप शरमाती हुई
{पेच-ओ-ख़म == twists & turns}

Truly amazing !

I will end this post with my favorite lines from Awaara :

रास्ते में रुक के दम ले लूं ,मेरी आदत नहीं

लौट कर वापस चला जाऊं मेरी फितरत नहीं

और कोई हमनवां मिल जाए ,ये किस्मत नहीं

ऐ गमे दिल क्या करूं ऐ वहशते दिल क्या करूं

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4 comments on “Life and times of Majaz Lucknowi

  1. Anonymous says:

    BAHOT HI ACCHA. MAJAZ SAHEB KE BARE ME JYADA JAANKAR ACCHA LAGA.

  2. inam says:

    Beautiful writeup! Majaz was truly one of a kind.

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