The Poet-Patriot

  • Makhdoom Mohi Ud Din
  • Publish Date: May 6 2017 2:24AM
  • |
  • Updated Date: May 6 2017 2:26AM
The Poet-Patriot

Revisiting Mehjoor’s poetry and politics

Makhdoom Mohi Ud Din

Mehjoor, the nom de plume of Ghulam Ahmad, is paradoxical for the poet lived in the midst and proximity of his people. Only émigrés and exiles do not feel dissociated. He was not the exile of Evelyn Waugh, “To have been born in a world of beauty, to die amid ugliness is the common fate of all us exiles.” 

Dhup ye sazan boze kus myun soz-i-dil

Kus chu Mehjurus waray hamraaz myun

Who would listen to rhyme and passion?

Who is Mehjoor’s confidante?

Mehjoor was born and brought up in a village of Pulwama with no tradition and history of poets. But lady luck had smiled on him as he was born into a family that taught and read Persian and Arabic. Moreover, his age was one of fuelling and fermentation, his were the people of mentorial and appraisal. Mehjoor won laurels from such eminences as Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, Prem Nath Bazaz, Abdul Ahad Azad, Jia Lal Kilm, Devender Satyarthy and Balraj Sahni. Noted critic and historian Mohd Yousf Teng criticised Abdul Ahad Azad for beating Mehjoor’s drums and pushing himself into comparative oblivion and obscurity. This does not diminish the stature of the virtuoso versifier. Mehjoor met Iqbal, Abdullah Bismil, Shibli Nomani and built a reputation beyond the valley. He received accolades from Rabindra Nath Tagore. Yet, Mehjoor still had a grouse against his times. 

Mehjoor why came you so early

You could have delayed your arrival

So that the people flock to buy you 

Like they buy the saffron flowers 

(From “Kong Posha Hunsna Ki Josha”, translated by TN Raina.)

Mehjoor started out by composing verse in Persian and Urdu but it could not bring him fulfillment and felicity of expression. 

Mey manun hukmi yaran pyom nachaar 

Agar chi Kashris nesh chus bezaar

Mehjoor’s vision and worldview was not defined and delimited by the limits of his native land and language. Aspiration of a better world free from all forms of tyranny and inequality cannot exist as a concrete isle. We have failed Lal Ded and Sheikh Ul Alam. Able transliterations of saint-savants proved elusive and so the dissemination of their transcendental message suffered. Mehjoor and Azad suffer similar neglect.

Mehjoor’s particularity of the ballad catapulted him to notice and popularity. It represented a radical break from well-worn topics, travelling creatively with the tide of history. Mehjoor beautifully absorbed the expressions and nuances of the Kashmiri folk, thus enhancing the relevance and receptivity of his poetry. The deployment of the imagery was his own, showing keen awareness of the physical world around him. His poetry is replete with Classism and Romanticism. It has simplicity, elegance and proportion. It lends deep import to the objects of nature. Mehjoor had acuminous perception of and interest in the socio-economic reality of his people. He imbibed the ideas of age without being a camp follower. For him socialism was not a revelation, so he extolled no particular revolution. His preaching and pontification for amity and amelioration of labour was without recourse to socialism. He adopted Rasool Mir’s diction and style; he was neither subdued nor subtle but direct and didactic. Part of his poetry, though, is invested with imagery, metaphor and simile, lending it layered import.

Mehjoor’s elegiac criticism of society reflected his desire to alter it. An ardent Kashmiri nationalist, his lyrics are laden with fervor for human freedom, brotherhood of the man, unity of Hindus and Muslims, and dignity of labour. Mehjoor’s poetry was politically committed although he did not throw his lot with political activism. His poetry brought alive the haplessness, helplessness and misery of the Kashmiri people. “Valo Ha Baghvano”, for one, created a stir and cast a spell.

 

Come gardener, create! The glory of spring

Make the gul bloom and bulbul sing

Create such haunts 

(Translated by TN Raina)

 

Iqbal’s “Tasveri Dard” approximates in its import Mehjoor’s “Captive Bird”. Both poems endeavor to awaken their countrymen from inaction and inertia. 

 

Who will set you free the captive bird crying in your cage?

Forge with your own hands the instruments of your own deliverance 

(Transliterated by TN Raina)

 

Mehjoor’s poems were no less effective in liberating the Kashmiri mind from moral torpor and thralldom. The cataclysm of Partition left Mehjoor scarred. He expressed his tragic disillusionment. Mehjoor was a poet-patriot, not a poetaster to conform his poetry to political exigencies of the times. The partition of the sub-continent was unnatural, even more unnatural were following accessions and alliances. It straddled loyalties across demarcations and divisions. Mehjoor composed “Though I would like to sacrifice my life and body for India but my heart is in Pakistan.” 

“To be a nationalist writer is easy, to be national writer is hard,” VG Kiernan, the transliterator of Faiz Ahmad Faiz and others, remarked. Mehjoor was arrested and put behind bars. This was dilemma, not confusion as PN Bazaz claims. Mehjoor held Kashmir and Muslim identity creatively. The ‘Kashmir idea’ was not racialising his outlook of Islam, thus undoing the humanising work of it. There existed no dichotomy in Islam and Kashmiri nationalism for him. The best of his poems were in the pursuit of Hindu-Muslim unity, the unity that could sustain and survive without sinking religious individuality. “He is a revivalist and looks back to the mythical golden age in ancient times for inspiration,” PN Bazaz writes in Struggle for Freedom in Kashmir. 

Mehjoor was neither a revivalist nor a pan-islamist. Bazaz used socialist praxis to assess Mehjoor’s religious outlook. The religion, the vehicle of spiritual tradition, is to be built on past and precedence. There are lamentations over the disarray, disunity, disorganisation in and dismemberment of the lands and people of the Muslim world in Mehjoor’s poetry. He was not a pan-islamist even remotely; Muslims in Kashmir are not a minority and he did not throw his lot with pan-Islamism to settle for his subjugated status.

The events after 1947 punctured the aura of ‘Azadi’. Mehjoor, like other poets of the sub-continent, gave vent to this disappointment. The verve gave way to poignancy. Dr Nazeer Azad has underlined convergence in the dreams of Azadi gone sour for Mehjoor and Faiz by juxtaposing Faiz’s “Subh-e-Azadi” with Mehjoor’s “Azadi”. The song of Azadi continues to reverberate. Its recent echoes are Kashmir and Kanaiya Kumar. 

Makhdoom Mohi Ud Din is with the Department of Fisheries, J&K. he can be reached at mmuddin2804@gmail.com.