The Poetry of Hafeez Meeruthi -2
By Dr Basheer Ahmed Khan
Garden Grove, CA
People are born with different inclinations. Hafeez Sahib was born to be a poet. Apart from the nobility which he inherited from his ancestors the other thing which shaped his personality was the ever growing tension between Hindus and Muslims, fanned for political gains by communalists, leading to several riots in his province of UP.
This made every sensible person to awaken to the need of returning to the decency of human nature, discarding the acquired barbaric traits that we had acquired from the “Free Thinkers” who made us social and political animals from the human that we were created by God.
Twentieth century was a century of turmoil and turbulence which has spilled over to this century. Life in the past century was not so difficult and people who had some sensitivity could think about the problems their societies faced and also write about them objectively. It is important that we visit them now when our intellectual world is dominated by coached and couched intellectuals who are taking us along the beaten path. This is essential in order to understand the root cause of our problems to deal with the bitter fruits that we are forced to eat now. Some of the writers of the old times failed to keep the integrity of their heart and lost it to their deceptive intellect and suggested very radical and harmful measures which have dehumanized our societies. Those who maintained the integrity of their hearts and observed the situation calmly, analyzed it impartially, and presented the solutions in a lucid and constructive way without losing their wit contributed positively to literature and society.
Intellectuals who simmer like coal on the inside without submitting to the fire outside become a diamond. And those who succumb to the outside heat burn themselves and their societies with their rage. In response to his own personal problems and those of the society, Hafeez Meeruthi simmered from inside to perfect his humanity and beautify his poetry to give us some of the powerful, inspiring, and revolutionary poetry of our time. In an atmosphere where people like to spread darkness, Hafeez Sahib is on the lookout for a place where he can light the lamp and spread the light.
Her Simth Zul-mathon Kay Paras-thar Hain Yahan
Sham’a Kahan Jala-yein Kahan Raushni Karein
When the poet in Hafeez Meeruthi studied the status of contemporary poetry before embarking upon it, he found it dismal. In one of his couplets he says:
Kahan Ye Sath-ha Pasandi Adab ko Lay Aayee
Jahan Nazar Ki Bulandi Na Dil Ki Gehra-yee
The reason for it, he says, is:
Dekh-nay De-thay Nahin, Soch-nay De-thay Nahin
Who Jo Baithay hain Nigah o Fikr par Khabza Kiye
And its consequence:
Ho Gaye Log Apa-haj Yahi keh-thay Keh-thay
Abhi Chal-thay hain Zara Raah Tho Hamwar Banay
To bring about the change it is necessary that the writers do some plain talking to awaken the masses as he says in the following couplet.
Hum Nay Jo Mehsoos Kiya Likh Bai-Thay Sawday Lafzon Mein
Hum Diwane Ye Kya Janay Kya Shai Dana-ee Hothi Hai.
He further says in another couplet:
Ab Khul ke Kaho Baath tho Kuch Baath Banaygi
Ye Daur e Isharaath o kinayath Nahein Hai.
Explaining the reason as to why he takes personal risk for the good of the masses by speaking the truth, he says:
Akhl Walay tho Samajh lay-thay hain Dil walon Ki Baath
Akhl ke Maron ko laiking Kaisay Samjha-yay Koi
He further says:
Khirad Ki Baaath Pay Hans Kar Guzar bhi Ja Ai Dil
Khirad ko Far-khay Yakheen O Gumaan Nahin Maloom
But Hafeez Sahib is not naïve to ignore the dangers of ignoring intellect and following emotions. He says:
Hul Ho Tho Kis Tarah Koi Mas’ala Hafeez
Cha-ye Hooway Hain Akhl Pe Jazbath In Dinon.
The reason for the numbness of intellect before emotion according to Hafeez is:
Dekh-nay De-thay Nahin, Soch-nay De-thay Nahin
Who Jo Baithay hain Nigah o Fikr par Khabza Kiye
The other reason he gives for the inaction of the sincere people is:
Rah Ro-kay Hu-way Rah-Numa Bai-thay Hain
Ab Koi Khafila Guz-ray Tho Kahan Say Guzray
Such leaders use Shaikh and Brahman to promote communal divide and divert the attention of people from actual problems, says Hafeez in the following couplet.
Zeh’n Pay-chi-da Masa-yel Se Hita-nay Kay Liye
Roz Yeh Shaikh O Brahman Ka Tamasha Na Karo
These leaders cause riots and bloodshed to establish their leadership.
Bay Saha-ron Ka Intizam Karo
Ya-nay Ek aur Khath-lay Aam Karo.
After causing destruction they blame the suffering people, says Hafiz.
Sitham Ko who Karam Sa-bith Karenge
Zihanath Unko Bakshi Hai Khuda Nay.
Scoffing at the fence sitters who are silent about the atrocities around them, Hafeez Sahib says, if people are silent the stench of the burning bodies will speak the truth:
Hisar e Jabr Mein Zinda Badan Jala-ye Ga-ye
Kisi Nay Dam Nahin Mara Magar Dhooan Bola
He cautions the wicked people who are playing with the lives of the others to take heed from the past when several such arrogant, powerful and selfish people were destroyed by the passage of time.
Apni Hasthi pay Na Ithra-ye Koi Koh-e-Ghrroor
Waqt Nay Phenk Di-yay Aise Utha kar Kith-nay
He cautions that if the loot continues unabated and people do not entrust their affairs to honest and sincere people a day will come when they will long for a drop and they will not get it, in the following couplet:
Abhi Kya Hai Kal Ek Ek Boond ko Tar-se Gi Ye Dunya
Jo Ahle Zarf Ke Haathon Mein Pai-ma-ne Nahin Aathe.
If the people behave responsibly it is possible that every individual will be happy like a bird which is free to build its nest on any branch it likes, says Hafeez in the following couplet:
Kabhi Aisi Bhi Ruth Laye-gi Fithrath Baghe Aalam Mein
Ke Jab Jis Shaakh Par Chaha Basera Kar liya Hum Ne.
This was the poet Hafeez Meeruthi who was put into jail in 1975 as a risk to public order when PM Indira Gandhi imposed Emergency. But the local Hindu magistrate who knew him as a poet released him in the very first hearing. After his release from jail he was invited to three mushairas where powerful politicians and local officials were also present. The pressure on him was that he should support the emergency. But he declined. Some of the couplets which he recited in these mushairas were:
Mujhe Ye Mashwira Khush Haal Log Dethe Hain
Zameer Bech De Apna Khudi ka Sauda kar
People suggest that I should sell my conscience and compromise my convictions for convenience of life.
Hafeez ko bhi hai Tha-yeed e Zulm ki Tha-keed
Ye Log Shamaa se keh-the hai Thoo Andhera Kar
These people are asking the lamp to bring darkness instead of spreading light.
Har Zaalim Se Tak-kar Li hai Such-che Fun-karon Nay Hafiz
Hum who Nahein Jo Dar Kar Kehden Hum Hain Tha-bay-Daron Mein.
The real artists have always confronted the transgressors all through history, and Hafeez is not the one to surrender before the transgressor, he says in the above couplet.
Expecting his incarceration a second time, he said:
Paigham Ye Mila hai Janab e Hafeez Ko
Anjaam Pehle Soch Lein Phir Sha’eri Karein
He was incarcerated again, and this time a local magistrate who knew him and his poetry was not enough to save him from a long prison sentence because he was the target of big guns. Even as he was taken to prison he said:
Zanjeerayn Tho Cut Jayeingi Un-ke Nishan Rah Jayenge
Mera Kya hai Zalim Tujh Ko Badnam Kareingi Zanjeerayn
One day the chain will be broken and I will be free, but the marks of these chains will discredit the one who has chained me. Hafeez Sahib was released at the end of Emergency. The chains were broken and he was set free. Words that emanated from the heart of an oppressed become a reality is evident by the tragedies which PM Indira Gandhi had to suffer in her personal and political life.
During his struggle with cause of justice Hafeez Sahib lost his wife and his daughter and job, but he did not leave his mission. His mission took him to the nook and corners of India and also to a greater part of the free world. He visited the UK, US, Emirates etc. How serious he took his mission is evident from this couplet:
Jamood e Zindagi mein Bay Piye hilna bhi Mushkil Tha
Jihad e Zindagi mein Yad Maikhane Nahim Aathe.
When I was idling it was difficult for me to move without a drink, but in the struggle of life I hardly remember the pub.
The first mushaira in which I heard him was much later at Mysore in early eighties when Hafeez sahib had finished almost all the tests of his active life. This was the time when the Soviet Union had occupied Afghanistan and enraged Muslims all over the world. Alluding to the helplessness of the Afghans before the powerful Soviet Union, Hafeez sahib said in one of the couplets of his ghazal that got a great applause was:
Bay Asaa Apni Kaleemi Ho tho Ho
Waqt Ke Fir-aun se Ghabra-yen Kya
We may not be having the power of the staff of Moses to enforce the words expressing our outrage at the aggression of the Soviet Union, but this should not deter us from speaking against the tyranny of the pharaoh of our time.
The following couplet of Hafeez is not just the gist of his message but also a manifesto of mainstream Urdu literature.
Hamari Khadr Karo Chaudveen Ke Chaand hain hum
Khood Apne Daagh Dikhane Ko Raushin ki hai.
A verbatim translation of this couplet would be: value us for we are the full moon which lit itself to show its scars. But there is more meaning to it than this for the one who shares the universal consciousness which Urdu literature engenders. In Urdu literature Apne does not stand just for the self but for the entire mankind because the benefit and loss of one ultimately results in the benefit and loss of all. Moon gradually increases in its luminosity by accepting and reflecting sunlight. This goes to say that we should have the quality of the moon to accept the light which is shown on us by the source other than self to see our own defects and show them to others and this should be a gradual process as we see in the cyclical phases of the moon. Alas! We resent and take revenge on those who throw light on our defects, and we are fascinated by the fleeting, flashing and colorful light of the discotheque which blurs our senses to understand the realities that we face in our real life.
Hafeez Sahib felt the vacuum in the life of such people despite all their laughter, dance, music, inebriation and opulence of material success. Hundreds of people die every day because of this pop culture either by committing suicide or from an accident. Millions of families are suffering its economic, social, and legal pangs and these were not hidden from sensitive eyes of Hafeez Sahib. He knew that the cause of it is that they were made to forget their real nature and live an unnatural life. He wants to bring them closer to nature through his struggle as a poet. The following couplet reflects this desire of his:
Yeh Naach-thi Gaa-thi hu-wi Is Daur Ki Tahzeeb
Kya Janiye Kis Karb Ka Izhar kiye hai.
The last time when I met him was when he came to Mysore in the late eighties and stayed at my uncle's house along with other poets who had come for a mushaira. He was a diabetic patient with neuropathy and failing kidneys. Yet, he came and presented his poem to inspire people to understand their responsibility to themselves and to the society.
As I was surfing the net to find out the date of Hafeez Sahibs I found a documentary on him which was made by the Hindus of Meeruth. It is worth watching on the web address: www.facebook.com/hafeezmeeruthi/timeline?ref=page_internal This documentary confirms every word that I have written on him. He is shown on his death bed struggling with pain. When he is asked to give his message to the viewers of the documentary, he says: I pray that all people live happily as one.
Hafeez Sahib was given a hefty check by the UP Government not in recognition of his services to literature and mankind but as aid. He refused it and said that he will not compromise on his principles and will not accept anything from rulers who were responsible for the sufferings of his people. But when the local people including many top Hindu officials of the District administration who knew of his economic condition raised money and honored him at a function and presented him with a check of the same amount he accepted it with graciousness. The actual state in which he was in during this time is evident in this couplet:
Hum Zaroo-Ruth Aur Anaa ki Kash-Makash Dekha Kiye
Bheek Thukraya Kiye Da-Man Bhi Phai-laya Kiye.
Kanwar Mehender Singh Bedi introducing Hafeez Sahib in one of the mushairas said: One who enjoys popularity in his home town among his people who know his in and out alone is the man worthy of recognition. Hafeez Sahib was no doubt one such man whose inside was more beautiful than his outside.
Hafeez Sahib breathed his last on January 8, 2001 when I was in the USA. Last time when I visited India I got a book compiled by Aziz Baghravi and Intizar Nayeem about the poetry and personality of Hafeez Meeruthi from which I have taken most of the information for this article.
May his soul rest in peace and make us all restless to understand our real nature and come back to it for our own sake. Amen.