Alcohol-Imbued Poetry: Remembering Jigar Muradabadi
By A.H. Cemendtaur
From lofty to humble, Urdu poets have used creative noms de plume to describe themselves, but it is not common for them to use body organs as poetic names. Heart (dil), liver (jigar), and gallbladder (pitta) have their uses in the Urdu language — for example, good friends are known as jigri-doast (liver friends) — but Jigar Muradabadi (born Shaikh Mohammad Ali Sikandar, in 1890) was the first one to underscore the importance of a vital organ by using it as his pen name. A literary evening dubbed Soz-e-Jigar arranged to remember the life and work of Jigar Muradabadi was held at the India Community Center on July 15.
The program was presided over by Ms. Vijay Nigam, daughter of Farhat Kanpuri (Gangadhar Nath Nigam), and emceed by Bay Area Urdu teacher Hamida Banu Chopra. Several Urdu lovers read Jigar’s poetry in the program.
Amjad Noorani an advisor to The Citizens Foundation (TCF), USA, a non-profit organization working for the education of underprivileged children in Pakistan, recited two ghazals: ‘ Kam Aakhir jazba e bay ikhtiyar aa hee gaya’ and ‘Ishq ko bay naqab hona thaa.’
Anshuman Chandra, an accomplished musician and one-half of the Bay Area band SaazMantra, sang Jigar’s ‘ Jahle khirad nay din wuh dikhay’ and ‘Ik lafz e muhabbat ka adna yeh fasa.’
Almas Hameed Shabvani, a local singer, recited ‘Har su dikhai daitayN haiN who jalwah gar mujhay.’
Alka Hingorani, a former student of Hamida Chopra, read Jigar’s ghazal ‘ Isee chaman main hee hamara bhee aik zamana thaa’ and the poem ‘Tajdeed-e-Mulaqat.’
Hamida Chopra read Jigar’s politically motivated poetry from her school days: Kabhi shakh o sabz o barg per, kabhi guncha o gul o khar per//Mein chaman meiN chahay jahaN rahooN, mera haq hai fasl e bahar per.
U.V. Ravindra, a poet who uses Khurshid as his pseudonym, read Jigar’s two ghazals: ‘Oas paray bahar per, aag lagay kinar meiN’ and ‘Dunya kay sitam yad na apnee hee wafa yad.’
Anil Chopra, professor of civil engineering at the UC, Berkeley, read assorted couplets from Jigar’s poetry, including ‘Shikast-e-Tauba’ written on the relapse of alcoholism.
Ashraf Habibullah, the main sponsor of the program, is a connoisseur of art and poetry. As a speaker he is a wonderful entertainer. Ashraf came to the Soz-e-Jigar mehfil with his custom-made jacket studded with LED lights; he recited Jigar’s ‘ Shaer fitrat hooN meiN jab fikr fermata hooN meiN.’
Bombay music composer of ghazals, Ravi Date, read Jigar’s ‘Fikr manzil hay na hosh e jadeh e manzil mujhay’ and ‘Tum iss dila e wahshee kee wafaoN peh na jana.’
Hamida Chopra read a paper on Jigar Muradabadi recounting Jigar’s life and his association with Asghar Gondvi. Chopra also described Jigar’s alcoholism and said Jigar considered adding water or soda to his alcohol, shirk.
Vijay Nigam remembered Jigar Muradabadi as his father’s friend who considered her his own daughter and kept paying her visits even after Nigam’s father passed away. Nigam described Jigar’s visits to be very short, meant to assure her of his support to her—the tonga (horse-carriage) he would ride to her home would wait outside, Jigar Sahib would just come in, ask Nigam’s well-being, put his hand on her head and would leave right away. Nigam said Jigar’s kindness left a lasting impression on her.
Anupama Chandratreya has that rare quality in her voice that makes the poetry she sings, sink in your head. The Soz-e-Jigar program started and ended with Anupama Chandratreya’s recitation of Jigar’s poetry (Jalwa baqdr e zarf e nazar dekhtay rahay and Tabiyat inn dinoN baigana-e gham hotee jaatee hai).
Why do over one hundred people regularly convene at these literary meetings, arranged every three to four months by Hamida Banu Chopra and her group, even when no new literary work is presented in these gatherings? The answer is simple: the names are big, the poetry is familiar, and the regulars get a kick out of the active participation in such literary events.
Listen to the audio recording of the program here:
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