Sahir’s Soul Shrieked & Screamed Against Injustice ,It Sang The Praises of Love & Saw Great Dreams For India
Ali Peter John
I was releasing my first book ,”Voices in turmoil “in my own school which was run by Catholic priests .I had invited my guru,K.A.Abbas as the chief guest and to release my book. The priests came to know about Abbas being in the school and almost stopped my event because for them ,Abbas was a Communist and against god and should not have been given permission to enter the school I didn’t let Abbas Sahab know about their problem with him , because I knew he would bring the house down with his anger .The event continued and there was a press conference in which I was asked many questions . One of them was about who my favourite poets were .I said Sahir Ludhianvi and the entire press and the audience looked at me as if I was a mad man . Not one of them knew who Sahir Ludhianvi was and they did not want to show their ignorance.I didn’t change my mind even as they kept asking me questions about the many English poets and writers I had read and studied.
I too had not read any of Sahirs poems ,but I had heard all his great songs in the many films I saw .There was something about his poetry that could even make a fifteen year old boy react to them .
I saw dreams of seeing Sahir some day in my life . But I didn’t have to wait for long .
I had the greatest opportunity of working with Abbas Sahab who changed my entire life .
It was in Abbas Sahab’s library that I was dazzled to see some of the greatest Urdu writers and poets and sitting in one corner was the man I was looking for ,Sahir Ludhianvi himself . Abbas Sahab always introduced me to all his great friends and so did he introduce me to Sahir Ludhianvi who took an Instant liking for me and without knowing me , asked me ,”miyaan shaayar ho kya ? Likhte vikhte ho kiya? Miyaan , kuch bhi karo lekin hum logo ki rozi roti mat cheenna”
Those words coming from Sahir who I had hero -worshiped was too much to take for me ,a boy from a village who was destined to meet some of the greatest names in India .I didn’t have my lunch or batata vada and paav that afternoon .I was both full and drunk on the words of Sahir which I still cannot forget even after fifty years .
I was sure ,I don’t know why that I would meet Sahir again ,but as I said there was some power which was guiding me on my way ahead
Abbas Sahab advised me to look for some other job as I would have no future working with him on hundred rupees a month .He helped me in getting a job in” Screen”where I was destined to work for the next forty -eight years .It was while I was in “Screen “that I met giants , geniuses and pygmies alike .
I was assigned to attend a party to celebrate a song written by Sahir for a film called “1965” . The party was at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Colaba .How could I miss a party where Sahir was sure to be there ? That one night changed many things in my life.I had a long talk with Sahir and drank the best whisky with him . He taught me how to hold my glass and he told me that I should never insult liquor by adding water or soda with it , but drink it neat . His way of dressing in trousers ,a loose shirt and especially his “Nehru jacket “caught my fancy and to this day ,even now as I am writing this piece on Sahir, I am still wearing a jacket like Sahir used to wear
We became friends and I remember all the many mornings when I had breakfast with him at his bungalow in Versova .We had several dinners in some of the best hotels . Next to poetry ,if Sahir love anything ,it was whiskey and delicious food .
I had seen him in the best of his moods and even in his worst moods .He never liked working with the big music directors and was happy working with composers like N.Dutta ,Ravi, Roshan and other smaller composer because he didn’t like interference in his work from anyone . Talking about the big composer , he once said ,”Unka kiya ,unkey toh naukar baithe hain London aur America mein .Woh dhun banaate hai aur ye saale chor log unke dhune churakar bechte hai “.He always demanded one rupee more than any composer he was working with .
He was a big loser as a lover even though he wrote great poetry about love . His losing the love of Amrita Pritam has become a legendary love story now and there is always a mention about the singer Sudha Malhotra as his other lover , but Sudha Malhotra says that it was only a professional relationship .
His friends like Abbas Sahab , Rajinder Singh Bedi , Majrooh Sultanpuri and his own doctor -friend Dr.R.K.Kapoor asked him not to live the dangerous way in which he was living .But Sahir seemed to be on a self-distructive spree and no advise could make him change his life style
He had started calling sick , but he didn’t care to even consult his own friend Dr.Kapoor
One evening on October 25 ,he was drunk and asked a taxi driver to take him to his bungalow Versova .He kept the taxi waiting and told the driver that he would be back in ten minutes .He went in and rested on the lap of Dr.Kapoor and died of a massive heart attack.
His funeral was attended by almost every one in the industry .I don’t have any money to travel to the kabrastaan in Santa Cruz .I borrowed a rupee from a friend and first went to his house in Juhu which was an apartment which was a part of his own building called” Parchhaiyan”, but the funeral procession had already left .I ran in the direction of the Kabrastaan and reached before he could be buried in an ordinary and very cheap grave as it was his will .There was no one to even to pay the men who prepared his grave .The now famous poet and lyricist Javed Akhtar remembered that he had taken a loan of two hundred rupees from Sahir when he (Javed)was a starving struggler and he paid the grave diggers the money they had to be paid .It was a very strange way of paying off a loan ….
The Mumbai Municipal Corporation built a marble plaque in his honour ,but it was vandalised the very same night and no one has tried to find out who the culprits were and no attempts have been made to place another plaque in his honour again .
These days , thirty- nine years later people are vying with one another to pay their respects to Sahir Ludhianvi and some are even staging plays and planning to make biopics about him .
Wouldn’t it be better if people followed his beliefs and principles and tried to fulfill his dreams to see that “subah jo kabhi toh aayegi , the subah when there will be no injustice ,no poverty ,no women would be sold in bazaars and no children would have to beg in the streets and at traffic signals .
As I come to the conclusion of this piece on Sahir ,I experienced a very eerie happening .My friend , Manohar Iyer whoes worship of Sahir had made him dream of building a holy place or a temple in honor of Sahir, is lying in the ICU of a leading hospital. He was doing a four hour long show on Sahir on which he had been working since the last three months . He was coming to the end of the show , when he suffered a heart attack .Is this the price a Sahir Bhakt woul have to pay ?If I know Manohar well ,I know he would have said ,”Sahir par ek jaan kiya,Sahir ke liye kayee Jaane dene ke liye tyaar hai ye Sahir ka poojari “
His apartment in *Parchhaiyan” is like one big and dark wasteland with all his books, trophies and awards lying in a rotting state .His bungalow in Versova has been demolished for a multi storey building to some up .
Sahir lives even though he died thirty nine years ago and Sahir will live as long as poetry lives.
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