Sahir, Jalib, and the Sage

“Let’s see how does Sahir’s prophecy turn out to be in the current elections of the country, the results of which are expected to be announced on the 4th of June.”

Habib Khan from Quetta: During the independence movement in the 1930s and 1940s, many of the educated and well-settled people of Balochistan left their jobs to join the political movement, with great hopes for the future and well, whatever happened after independence for the good of the common man is open for all to see.

But these educated lot of Balochistan had to face extremely hard times, and I personally knew at least two of them; one had to literally beg on the streets of Quetta in old age, and another who could have easily retired as chief secretary of the province, had to work in a medical store, and later got a clerical job in a consulate in Karachi. There were many more, including writers, poets, historians, and (at least) one archaeologist, who could have had a much better life had they heeded the advice of a sage from the middle ages who had said:

پنجے رکن ایمان دے تے چھیواں جانئو ٹک
چھیواں نہ ملے سجناں تے پنجے جاواں مک

Five are pillars of faith, take sixth as bread.
If the sixth eludes you, consider the five as dead.

Today’s story is about two contemporary Urdu poets; one of them turned out to be wise enough to heed the advice of the Sage, and the other followed the example of those selfless but imprudent Balochistanis, and ended up in similar or even worse condition. I will focus more about their contribution to the film Industry of the subcontinent.

Habib Jalib had migrated to Pakistan and his poems show that he too had great hopes for the future in Pakistan; especially for the working class he says:

گھروں کو چھوڑ کر جب ہم چلے تھے
ہمارے دل میں کیا کیا ولولے تھے

یہ سوچا تھا ہمارا راج ہو گا
سر محنت کشاں پر تاج ہو گا

نہ چاٹیں گی کسی کا خوں مشینیں
بنیں گی رشک جنت یہ زمینیں

کوئی گوہر کوئی آدم نہ ہو گا
کسی کو رہزنوں کا غم نہ ہو گا

لٹی ہر گام پر امید اپنی
محرم بن گئی ہر عید اپنی

He did menial jobs in the newspapers, but didn’t get much support from the film industry because of his confrontational politics, though his service to the film industry had been enormous and unmatched on moral and courageous grounds. Top film actress of her day “Neelo” attempted suicide when she was forced to dance for the visiting Shah of Iran in Lahore, and Habib Jalib wrote:

تو کہ ناواقف آداب غلامی ہے ابھی
رقص زنجیر پہن کر بھی کیا جاتا ہے

Neelo’s future husband–film producer and director Riaz Shahid–included this song in his film on Palestine, “Zarqa” in which Neelo danced in chains.

In a similar incident in the so called democratic times, film actress Mumtaz jumped from the helicopter which had been sent to transport her to Larkana to dance in front of another (in)dignitary. Mumtaz broke her leg and was thus spared the humiliation. Again Habib Jalib’s pen was uncontrollable:

قصر شاہی سے یہ حکم صادر ہوا
لاڑکانے چلو ورنہ تھانے چلو

No film producer could risk facing the wrath of the authorities to include the poem in their films. It was printed in his book “Sar e Maqtal”. Most of his life was spent in jail and outside in abject poverty, and his children suffered too, and I heard that his daughter is driving a taxi in Lahore.

On the other hand, the poet who heeded the advice of the Sage was Sahir Ludhianvi. At the time of independence, he was living with his mother in Lahore in harsh conditions; he very wisely gauged the future for progressive writers in Pakistan, and moved to Mumbai in 1949, joined Bollywood, and became the top song writer of the country; earned enormous fame and money; he never married but lived a comfortable life with his mother in Mumbai, built a house and named it “Parchaiyan” after his epic poem of the same name.

Sahir’s name was considered as the key to success of a film, and it is said that in a movie which contained his poem, “عورت نے جنم دیا مردوں کو” ladies in burqas would watch the movie just for the song, and used to leave in tears as the song ended.

Sahir gave unforgettable songs to Bollywood and every song could be considered as a piece of world class poetry. Having chosen a comparatively democratic country, though Sahir did not have to witness film stars being humiliated by the feudals, he was particularly sensitive about the division of poor people on sectarian grounds.

Let’s see how does Sahir’s prophecy turn out to be in the current elections of the country, the results of which are expected to be announced on the 4th of June.

طبقوں سے نکل کر ہم فرقوں میں نہ بٹ جائیں
بن کر نہ بگڑ جائے تقدیر غلاموں کی

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