By Anuj Kumar
November 20, 2016
THE PAIN LINGERS Rahat Indori: Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar
Known for his sharp visual imagery, poet Rahat Indori knows how to reach out to the last man in the row without undermining the presence of the front bencher. A sought after name in poetic soirees, Rahat wears modesty on his sleeve and makes complex emotions come alive through simple verses. In Delhi to launch his latest collection of poetry, “Mere Baad”, Rahat says a poet draws from his times. “Jaisi Hawayein Chalti Hain, Waisi Shaayri Hoti Hai. What he sees around reflect in his poetry.” And, it is open to interpretation. He reminds when Ghalib wrote, “Go Haath Ko Jumbish Nahīñ Āñkhoñ Meñ To Dam Hai, Rahne Do Abhī Sāġhar-O-Mīnā Mire Aage, on the surface it meant that he is so intoxicated that he can’t hold the glass but he was still capable of drinking through his eyes. In reality, it was an elegy to the pain of Delhi which was devastated after the attacks of Nadir Shah.”
Rahat usually answers questions about his poetry by drawing examples from the works of the masters. Rahat’s poetry has something for every generation. “Ustads of Ghazal made an unwritten rule that Ghazal should have five to seven Shers. Firaq used to have 22 to 25 couplets in his Ghazals. When critics asked why does he indulge in such long Ghazals, he said that his poetry is for three generations. One that has passed away, the current generation and the one that will emerge. You can pick the one that suits you the most. Similarly, I also try to reach out to different segments. If I recite five couplets in a soiree, you may not like all of them but each of them will find an audience. And it is a matter of satisfaction for me.”
Simplicity is his hallmark but it is sometimes described as dilution. “During the Mughal period, even a clerk knew Persian because it was the official language. Choosing the right language to convey your thought is a big thing. It should be language of the generation. For half his life, the kind of poetry that Ghalib did was of such pristine quality that if you recite them to today’s generation, they would say you are reciting from Quran. In fact, the critics of his time said that his writing is understood only either by him or God. Then he became so simple that his poetry was on the lips of everyone. But Ghalib always maintained that his true poetry was in Persian. What he wrote in Urdu was to please the Emperor. It is another matter that it became timeless.” As for himself, Rahat says, “Humne Sikhi Nahin Hai Kismat Se Aisi Urdu Jo Farsi Bhi Lage.”
Rahat holds that poet doesn’t reflect his personal pain. “Poet’s pain is this world’s pain. Pain and pathos are an integral part of poetry.” But then it comes as a surprise when a character in Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil describes Mohammed Rafi’s singing as crying. Is it a reflection of changing times? “Indeed. You no longer have to break the mountain to find your love. Today, people fall in love over mobile phone. And that’s why I say, Bichhad Ke Tujhse Kisi Doosre Se Milna Hai, Yeh Faisala Bhi Isi Zindagi Main Karna Hai. The lover wants to live...”
However, he adds, that doesn’t mean that suffering in love is over. “In our literature, when your love succeeds, the story is over. The interest is only up till the two are not united. So pain is still relevant and it may be the view of an individual character but I don’t agree with the comment on Rafi.”
Rahat is one of those poets who realised early that there is more to this world than just romance. He has written extensively on contemporary issues like globalisation, status of women in society and communalism. His couplet, “Mujhe Khabar Nahin Mandir Jalein Hai Ya Masjid Meri Nigaah Ke Aage To Bas Dhuaan Hai Miyan” continues to live on. “I am not a leader or a doctor but I want to tell the listener that there is smoke and it can burn your eyes.”
Then he also talks of the smoke in the literary world where those who write in simple language or dabble in films are not taken seriously in academic circles. He says, “Jhooti Bulandiyon Ka Dhuan Paar Kar Ke Aa, Qad Napna Hai Mera To Chhat Se Utar Kar Aa.” “I am against all kinds of inequality, including intellectual inequality. If you stand on the ivory tower, the whole world will appear short in stature.”
Having said that he is critical of his foray in films where he wrote for 40-odd films and made a successful partnership with Anu Malik with songs like “Aaj Humne Dil Ka Har Kissa” from Sir and “Dil Ko Hazar Baar Roka” from Murder becoming immensely popular. “I am not proud of what I did in Hindi cinema. It was a sort of commercial compromise. I started working on his conditions. The sad part is I could have delivered what Sahir or Shakil did but the industry didn’t expect me to write with that much depth. There was a time when words were the backbone of Hindi cinema. Songs used to take the story forward. Now, they don’t want words. They play the notations of harmonium and whatever the lyricist could feel becomes the lyrics. It could boil down to ‘Ek Do Teen’, ‘Dhinka tika’ and even ‘Pon Pon’. These days’ songs have no integral link to the story. The same song can feature in any other film,” says Rahat with a straight face.
The pressure of the crowd, he says, is seeping into Mushairas as well. “After a point, the poet is expected to come closer to the intellectual level of the crowd.” The digital world is impacting the lives of Urdu poets as well. “Now, you get to know what is happening in other parts of the world within minutes. I remain in touch with not only Urdu but also other literatures through computer,” says Rahat who taught Urdu at Indore University.
Progressive poets are known to be anti-establishment and in these times when independent voices are hard to find their role have become all the more important. He once wrote, “Tu Jo Chahe To Tera Jhoot Bhi Bik Sakta Hai, Shart Itni Hai Ki Sone Ka Tarazu Rakh Le.” It rings a bell. “That independence is going to stay. Words don’t die. As I recently said, Jo Duniya Ko Sunai De Use Kehtein Hain Khamoshi, Jo Ankhon Main Dikhai De Use Toofan Kehte Hain.”