Life is a Fog…in the Darkest Void : Remembering Rahat Indori

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By Nazarul Islam, Edited By Adam Rizvi, New York, TIO: Eminent Urdu poet Rahat Indori (1950-2020) who succumbed to Corona virus-related complications on Tuesday was an unwavering light that kept the ‘mushaira’ poetry alive for generations, a fearless voice who unfailingly showed a mirror to the establishment.
A people’s poet, he was not meant to be read in literary journals; he was made to be experienced in poetic ‘soirees’ where his unique style of delivery kept the audience hooked for hours.
He had a couplet for every emotion, every occasion. In his #ghazals, he used traditional tropes without falling for the cliched poetic idiom. His protest poetry was reminiscent of #Habib Jalib and #Dushyant Kumar’s work and his revolutionary and reactionary tone made his popularity soar among youngsters till the end as it kept them abreast with the challenges of today. The Urdu poet’s reach could be gauged from his popularity on social media.
Known for his sharp visual imagery, Rahat Qureshi, who grew up in Indore and worked as an Urdu professor in Devi Ahilya Bai University, knew how to reach out to the last man in the row without undermining the presence of the purist. “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,” he once told me. He loved to respond to questions with his couplets. When asked how he conveys complex emotions in simple words, he said, “Humne Sikhi Nahin Hai Kismat Se Aisi Urdu Jo Farsi Bhi Lage.” (By luck, I haven’t learned such Urdu which also appears as Persian.)
He didn’t consider it as dilution and maintained poetry should be done in the language of the generation, one is catering to. “Jhooti Bulandiyon Ka Dhuan Paar Kar Ke Aa, Qad Napna Hai Mera To Chhat Se Utar Kar Aa,” (you should cross fake peaks of smoke if you want to measure my height, you have to come down from the roof), he would respond to the critics, who would find him dramatic on stage and took umbrage to sexual innuendos that, at times, laced his poetry.
Rahat was against all kinds of inequality, including intellectual inequality, and said if you remain standing on the ivory tower, the whole world will appear short in stature.
Son of a mill worker, pain, and pathos was integral to Rahat’s romantic poetry but maintained that it didn’t reflect his personal pain. Instead, he would say it reflects the pain of the world and changed with time. So he wrote “Bichhad Ke Tujhse Kisi Doosre Se Milna Hai, Yeh Faisala Bhi Isi Zindagi Main Karna Hai.” which captured the fickleness of the modern-day love as the practical lover wants to move on.
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There was more to his poetic universe than just love and longing. He wrote extensively on contemporary issues such as globalization, the status of women in society, and communalism that reflected in his literary collections such as “Rut”, “Mere Baad” and “Do Kadar Aur Sahi”. His couplet, “Mujhe Khabar Nahin Mandir Jalein Hai Ya Masjid Meri Nigaah Ke Aage To Bas Dhuaan Hai Miyan” continues to live on. Here without taking sides he talks of the damage that communal fire could cause to society.

He dabbled into Bollywood as well and stitched a successful partnership with Anu Malik and Mahesh Bhatt with songs such as “Aaj Humne Dil Ka Har Kissa” (Sir) and “Dil Ko Hazar Baar Roka” (Murder).
His “Chori Chori Jab Nazrein Mili” (Kareeb) continues to be a chartbuster though many have forgotten the film. Similarly, his association with A.R. Rahman in Meenaxi where he wrote “Ye Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai” was also appreciated. However, he was not too happy with his innings in the glamour world and rued that he got an opportunity in times when the lyricists had to write for pre-designed notations and the same song could fit in any film.
In the last few years, he became an independent voice who mirrored the feelings of those who wanted to talk against religious polarisation. His “Kisi Ke Baap Ka Hindustan Thodi Hai” became a popular hashtag during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. His lines “Lagegi Aag to Aayenge Kai Makan Zad Mein, Yahan Pe Hamara Hi Makan Thodi Hai” would send crowds into raptures as they hinted at the reality of today’s India.
Once I asked him the dangers to the independence of a progressive poet in today’s times and he said words don’t die. “That independence is going to stay.” He took a pause and then said. “Duniya Ko Sunai De Use Kehtein Hain Khamoshi, Jo Ankhon Main Dikhai De Use Toofan Kehte Hain.” (The one that the world could hear is called silence, the one that you could see in the eyes is called the storm.)
Rahat has fallen silent, the storm that he generated through his words continues to swell.
Death is as natural as birth, yet it is difficult for us to look at these two laws of life as essential to one other.  They are both terrifying, mysterious, and sacred, but mostly, they both make us understand that we are part of nature and we should accept the conditions that nature imposes on our existence. The people pleaser and poet #Rahat Indori proved in life that fear of death is the symptom of being out of touch with the sacred mysteries of life. Perhaps each one of us fears death because we haven’t achieved the level of wisdom where everything in life is connected and holds a higher meaning.
Compiled and Curated by Maham Abbasi

Nazarul Islam

Nazarul Islam

The author is a former Educator, based in Chicago (USA).

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