Sahir Ludhianvi: His journey in his words

Recently, came by some salacious lyrics like

‘Teri raahein dekhein, mere hothon ke namak paare..namak pare’

I guess the lyricist was a miserable virgin who had never been fortuitous enough to even make out with a girl. How beautifully had Gulzaar saab once penned down even more intimate details:

‘Zubaan pe laga namak ishq ka’ (Possibly the most suggestive lyrics ever, but at no point lewd).

It is the era of potboiling lyrics, but can’t lyricists find better ways to ask for a Kiss than citing the day of the week (Fridays considered auspicious). A lyricist once imaginatively asked for a lot more…

‘Muddat ki Tamannao ka sila jazbaat ko ab mil Jaane do,

Jis tarah mili hai do ruhe, us tarah se lab mil jaane do.

Aanchal ko shane se jatak do julfo ko sine se hata du

jati hui rangeen gadiyo ko rukhne ka sabak mil jane do

In pak gunaho ki ghadiya aati hai, magar har raat ni

Is raat me sab kho jaane do, is raat me sab mil jaane do’

Fed up of the vacuous lyrics of today, I recall the era when Lyrics had an elegant touch of Urdu to it. And I revisit this with the life journey of my favourite Lyricist. I try and relate his important life events with some of the Lyrics he went on to write Later, and that is what this post is all about.

Before we start off with his journey, let me start with one of my favorite stories of him. The year was 1964 when, in the Dilip Kumar starrer classic Leader, the great Shakil Budayuni exalts Tajmahal as a monument of Love:

‘Ek shahanshaah ne banwaa ke haseen Tajmahal
saari duniyaa ko muhabbat ki nishaani di hai,
Iske saaye mein sadaa pyaar ke charche honge
khatm jo ho naa sakegi wo kahaani di hai’

But someone had a different views about the Taj, and wrote an entire song to drive home his point:

‘Ek shehanshan ne banake haseen Taj Mahal, hum gareebon ki Mohabbat ka udaya hai mazaak,

Mere mehboob kahi aur mila kar mujhe’

Beyond this banter, what exemplified his stroke of genius was that he went on to win his first Filmfare for a movie titled Tajmahal writing on something he thought of so lowly (Songs included the classic ‘Jo Vaada kia tha wo nibhaana padega’)

In the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” This Genius was Sahir Ludhianvi.

Sahir had a troubled Childhood, marked by testifying in court against his own father, and then staying underground to avoid his wrath. This troubled childhood shaped his personality, and even reflected in some of his lyrics like:

Kahin Qaraar Na Ho Aur Kahin Khushi Na Mile
Hamaare Baad Kisi Ko Ye Zindagi Na Mile

Siyaah-Nasib Koi Un Se Badhake Kya Hoga
Jo Apana Ghar Bhi Jala Den To Roshani Na Mile

Yahi Suluk Hai Gar Aadami Se Duniya Ka
To Kuchh Ajab Nahin Duniya Men Aadami Na Mile

Ye Bebasi Bhi Kisi Bad-Du’a Se Kam To Nahin
Ke Khul Ke Ji Na Sake Aur Maut Bhi Na Mile

Sahir grew up in Ludhiana, and associated its name with himself forever. However, on partition he decided to move to Lahore.

‘Ro ro ke inheen raahon me, khona pada ek apne ko
Hans hans ke inhin raahon me, apnaaya thha begaane ko’

However, once in Pakistan he started writing content opposing all the brutal violence all around

‘Jung to khud hi ek masla hai,jung kya maslo ka hal degi
Khoon aur maut aaj bakshegi,bhookh aur pyaas kal degi’

For a strong advocate of secularism, a secular India was an obvious choice over Pakistan, where an arrest warrant was eventually issued against him.

‘Maalik ne harr insaan ko insaan banaaya

Hum ne use Hindu ya Musalmaan banaaya

Qudrat ne to bakshi thi humein ek hi dharti

Hum ne kahin Bharat kahin Iraan banaaya’

He finally migrated to India and landed in the city he was to captivate with his words. His debut was justly titled ‘Badal rahi hai zindagi’, and indeed the face of Hindi film Industry was about to change. However, this movie went unnoticed, and nothing significant happened for the next 2 years till he made a mark with ‘Naujawaan’ followed by the cult ‘Baazi’. However, he never lost hope and followed what he believed in:

‘Tadbeer se bigdi hui taqdeer banale, taqdeer banale

Apne pe bharosa hai toh yeh daav lagale’

Pyaasa is considered a reflection of Sahir’s early years, and this was his turning point as he rose to a superstar status. Songs like ‘Jaane wo kaise log the’, ‘Jinhe naaz hai Hind par’ and ‘Ye dunia agar mil bhi jae to kya hai’ are cult songs.

A predominantly urdu poet, Sahir never exactly wrote Lyrics, but prose. He strongly believed that Films should not be confined to just entertainment, but should be a mirror to the society, encourage some soul searching. He wrote on pertinent issues to bring them to the fore. Some examples include, these lines he said after his disillusionment with Nehru’s Socialism:

‘Rehne ko Ghar ni hai, Saara jahan humara’

Or taking up the mantle of women empowerment,

‘Mardo ne banayi jo rasmein, unko hak ka farmaan kaha

Aurat ke zinda jalne ko kurbaani aur balidaan kaha

Kismet ke badle rati di, aur usko bhi ehsaan kaha!’

A gifted writer, who would not only wrote evocative lyrics for romantic ballads, but also tragic heart-rending poems, was believed to be reflecting on his own life through his words. His prose would rarely be wrong, apart from the one time he said these:

‘Kal aur aaenge nagmon ki khilti kaliyaan chun-ne waale
Mujhse behtar kehne waale, tumse behtar sun-ne waale’

Never has a lyricist wrench my heart like he did.

About the quality of Lyrics prevailing nowadays, the lesser said the better.As I write this with his songs playing in the background, I might break to sit back and feel them. This blog was too small to cover his entire story. In my next blog I would take his story further with his most iconic songs, his expulsion from college, a failed love story and an ironically tragic ending.

To summarize the 2 important part of his own life in his words, his love life may well be delineated by:

‘Tum mujhe bhool bhi jao to ye haq hai tumko,

Meri baat aur hai maine to mohabbat ki hai’

I would write about his death in my next blog, but the world proved him right after his death by being true to some of his most popular words

‘Ye mehlon, ye taqton ye taajon ki duniya
Ye insaan ke dushman, samaajon ki duniya
Ye daulat ke bhooke rawaajon ki duniya
Ye duniya agar mil bhi jaae to kya hai!’

Singham- The imbecile Lion

The movie was preceded by the ‘Happy New Year’ Trailer. The ‘Happy’ part was that finally Abhishek’s talent would be utilized in a role that undeniably matches his real life persona, that of a ‘Loser’. The trailer was like the last warning to run away before the ordeal was to begin.

Singham is about Ajay, playing a dark skinned Hulk who loses his cool only after somebody is killed. He then reigns havoc on goons and audience aside. Kareena mistook this as ‘Jab we Met’ sequel (How I wish that was true). She continues being inconceivably Loud glorified by Loud Burping (Her voice sounds similar, but this a literal burp). Even though deleting all her scenes would make no difference to the storyline, she still exists, just like the overzealous exceedingly Hamming Villain.

Highlight of the Movie are Ajay’s incredible slow-mo walks, reminiscent of his Gangajal. Atleast till he did it the 22nd time over, almost 1/4th the screen time. In a sequence, he emters in slo-mo, a couple of dialogues followed by the 2nd slo-mo, few people join him for the 3rd slo-mo & finally a group slo-mo, resulting in 5 Slo-mo and a brainfuck in the interval of 2 minutes 35 seconds. Add to that taking proud Selfies after assaulting a woman or Cops supported incessantly by a CM being helpless unless they decide to violently strip to their Vests, & you have the perfect recipe to leave you scarred for life.

To bring in Inclusiveness, dialogues are in every Local language ranging from Marathi to Gujarati. And yes, every dialogue a minimum of 7 Times to reinforce it. Because ‘blindly’ killing a man diagonally behind, with an AK47 was not enough, a song featuring a dialogue (repeated 30 times) was introduced to ensure a new Nadir was achieved for Bollywood. To sign off the fight against intelligence & anything sensible, lyrics like the following ensure it’s a job well done

‘Jigra Hai Tiger,

Dimaag se Hyper,

Aata majhi satakali,

Toh goli maarun jaise Sniper’

While a dogbite followed by an electric shock would be less painful, you should go watch this movie for the ghastly experience.

Blend In? Stand Out? Come crashing Down!

Fresh from a 10 Day break, I overheard murmurs about a Training in Mumbai. What Training? None that was relevant to anything I was doing, but still it was in Mumbai and I have a thing for the city. So barely a quarter hour through my return, I brazenly entered my Manager’s room to ask for a training pass to Mumbai. Someone quipped,

‘Amit! You’ve taken the Trainee Word too seriously! In case you forgot, there’s also a Management word that precedes it.’

Earnestly I replied, ‘Sir, agar Trainee Training pe nahi jaega to kaun jaega?’.

With all company guest houses booked to capacity, alternative was to book a Hotel. Before we get into the Hostel controversy, let me start from the very start. The ‘Blend in’ or ‘Stand Out’ argument.

For any Employee from a premier institute, especially joining a plant, pay disparity is a reality. One usually starts at a much higher pay than peers who would reach there after toiling for decades. A friend of mine fell into a guilt trap & tried to hide her salary figures to make people around her comfortable by being one of them. Tried to ‘Blend in’!

But doesn’t that take away all the leverage she had? People listen to those they look up to. The ideal equation is: Equal as friends, not as colleagues. Try to ‘Stand Out’

Keeping this safe distance helps in filtering projects that reach you. Away from the snobbish corporate office, plants often have their unique chaotic structure without clear task demarcations. People offload work with low visibility & the trainee is often the soft target. The leverage his only rescue!

When a stand you have taken needs convincing people, this leverage does half your job. Moreover, in a plant where on an average 80-85% job is clerical (for an HR professional, not IR), this continuous need of proving yourself to deliver work that’s a level apart from the rest might be your lone motivation while you keep crossing calendars waiting for that Invitation phonecall from Corporate.

However, Getting back to the story. The reservation desk returned with a booking in a shady hotel in Chembur as ‘All Hotels in Vashi were booked’ (Kidding me!). The hotel which was booked might well be the last place where a company of repute should keep its Management Trainee. The policy manual said I could spend hefty amount on hotels, but after-all its a policy manual. This was no way to treat your MTs. However, things were to have a happy ending after this initial hiccup, An awesome Hotel in Vashi was booked at the last moment. Someone saved the day! Sanity prevailed!!

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However, the fact that I have realized amidst all this was that it is easy to use PR mechanisms and negotiate on Numbers and generate fancy salary figures (inflated with bonuses) to get good slots in premier campuses. Hell, most placecomms do not even care much about salaries but just the ‘numbers’ that students are to them {Our’s being an exception}. It is however, a totally different ball game to actually respect and utilize such talent.

The ‘Blend in’ or ‘Stand Out’ argument soon returned. Before things got sorted, my immediate reaction was to stay with a friend (Its Mumbai after all) or just book my own hotel. Or should I escalate and get things sorted? Or may be, for this time chose to ‘Blend In’.

Overwhelmed with a lot to think about, this journey to ‘My City’ just seems a bit different.

I saw Men cry

It all started with contributing for the retirement party of some unfamiliar names. Entering the venue, I took time romancing the food- its texture, variety and aroma. Once contented, I looked around for the hosts. Down an inconspicuous corner were 2 odd men – tidy, impassive, willfully standing upright & bearing an eccentric anxiety. I was glued for the better part of the next hour.

 

The obvious introductions started. The hosts used to work in the admin department, coordinating accommodation for guests and employees. Every praise heaped on them would meet a complaisant smile, few fake ones maybe. There was an evident patch of wetness in their eyes, like a matinee screen running flashbacks of their 3 decade long association. What would they be thinking?  Their biggest achievement? The moment they wanted to quit? Or when they were about to be fired? Grievances or gratitude? 30 years on the same desk doing the same job sounds scary enough, letting it go in one day sounds terrifying.

 

Next phase was sharing fond memories of them. The wetness seemed to increase, smiles became more frequent. In between 2 speakers, they would look at the floor, almost to absorb the moment, maybe attempting to remember verbatim statements.

In all this, someone joked

‘Owing to their job role, they had to handle a lot of employee wives. Humse ek ni sambhalti, inne kitno ki sambhali hai!’

Amidst the spontaneous laughter, one of them let out a solitary drop of tear. Almost as if he used the joke as an excuse to let go of it. Oh Man! That guy needed a hug. Oh come on someone, tell him its fine!

 

Wait……… Men don’t have those luxuries. A man is not supposed to display weakness, or acknowledge other’s weak moment. It’s just not macho! It’s about getting yourself up, and he would have done that for ages now. In no time, those eyes were candidly wiped & the complaisant smile was planted back.

 

A couple of months back, it was about a pack of boys hug-cry-console for leaving a place they had made their home for a couple of years. But, there’s no pack anymore.

‘It wasn’t the boy who observed Men cry, it was a man who saw fellow men cry….’

I felt on the opposite end of the spectrum, as if we were going to exchange lives.

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It was to end with the best practice of giving retiral & benefits cheques on the last working day. What was striking was seeing their eyes lit up on receiving those. They read the exact amount to confirm what they already knew, having calculated this for half their age.

 

What was just a best practice, is now a means of consoling someone, a reward for years of prudence. A manifestation of the sacrifice and self-control they exercised while ignoring immediate needs to build these 6 digits. The human side of HR was visible, its importance known, Why I chose to be an HR? No other profession would make such an impact by just doing your job well.