Wednesday, June 30, 2010

An Ode to Nationalism - Sir Iqbal to Sahir Ludhianvi

Sir Allama Mohammed Iqbal was one of the greatest sons of undivided British India – a poet, an intellectual and a philosopher, having affiliations with the old feudal order. His name shall always be associated with what remains to this day, the most sacrosanct template of patriotic sentiment – ‘Saare Jahaan Se Achcha Hindustan Hamara’, first published in the journal ‘Ittehad in 1904.

Initially, Sir Iqbal was a staunch nationalist, which he used as a contemplative metaphor to define the universality of external forces. Beneath a tumultuous psychological struggle, lay his justification of conscience & reason - ‘Ghurbat Mein Hon Agar Ham, Rahta Hai Dil Watan Mein, Samjho Vaheen Hamein Bhi Dil Ho Jahaan Hamara’. However, his trips to Europe brought about a change in his thought-process and he soon became a vocal supporter of Islam. In his publication, ‘Tarana-e-Milli’ (1910), Sir Iqbal’s retained the same rhythm & metre but abandoned the earlier sentiment for – ‘Muslim Hain Hum Watan Hai, Sara Jahaan Hamara, Cheen-O-Arab Hamara, Hindustan Hamara’.

Strangely enough several years later, a young lad from Ludhiana, Abdul Hayee, who attained celebrity status as a poet & litterateur with a more lyrical name, Sahir Ludhianvi, used these lines as a muse for satire to articulate his pronounced Leftist leanings – ‘Chin-O-Arab Hamara, Hindustan Hamara, Rehne Ko Ghar Naheen Hai, Saara Jahaan Hamara’. The song was used for a Raj Kapoor film – ‘Phir Subah Hogi’ (1958), which was inspired by Fyodor Dostoevsky’s ‘Crime & Punishment’. Unlike Sir Iqbal, who reveled in semantic paroxysms that raised emotional prejudices – ‘Aye Aab-e-rud-e-Ganga, Voh Din Hai Yaad Tujhko, Utra Tere Kinare, Jab Karvan Hamara’, Sahir’s poetry stemmed from a rank abhorrence to the capitalist cult and a bitterness towards the bourgeoisie – ‘Kholi Bhi Chin Gayi Hai, Benchein Bhi Chin Gayi Hain, Sadkon Pe Ghoomta Hai, Ab Karvan Hamara’. Having been a member of the Progressive Writers’ Association, Sahir had cultivated an egalitarian mentality that called for a social policy that supported the working class. His poetry focused on the moral dilemmas of human psyche and their chilling consequences. Thus, what was a broad, dialectical interpretation of individual torment for Sir Iqbal – ‘Iqbal Koi Mehrum, Apna Naheen Jahan Mein, Maalum Kya Kisiko, Dard-e-Nihaan Hamara’, became an untrammeled cry of the oppressed and the anguished for Sahir – ‘Taleem Hai Adhuri, Milti Naheen Majuri, Maloom Kya Kisiko, Dar-e-nihaan Hamara’.

Sir Iqbal’s poetry had the power to offer a philosophic background to the Muslim intelligentsia in a featherbed of religious sentiment – ’Tauheed Ki Amanat, Seenon Mein Hai Hamare, Aasaan Naheen Mitaana, Naam-o-Nishan Hamara’. Sahir, an atheist, believed in raising his voice within the system rather than breaking away from it. If Iqbal was rational, then Sahir slithered into the meta-rational. At the end of his poetic diatribe, Sahir realises his mea culpa as he ends optimistically with – ‘Mil Jul Ke Is Watan Ko, Aisa Sajayenge Hum, Hairat Se Munh Takega, Saara Jahaan Hamara’.

Despite inspiring two diametrically opposite sentiments, the twain of the rational of Sir Iqbal and the meta-rational of Sahir did learn operate symbiotically - one showing the way, the other following and thus exploring some bitter truths, as they were.

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