A son of Ludhiana’s soil rose to shine so brightly by virtue of his penning immortal poems and lyrics which also became a reason for many of Bollywood’s popular films success also. Sahir-literally mean a magician, he added his city’s name to his pen name to be fondly known as Sahir Ludhianvi.
Sahir’s father Fazil Mohammad, a wealthy aristocratic landlord originally of Village Sekhewal nearby later shifted to Ludhiana where Sahir was born on 8th March 1921 to his mother Sardar Begum who was a descendent of Kashmiri parents making a living in the city. Sahir’s family name given to him was Abdul Hayee at the birth which also was given for admission when he went to school and college.
Sahir was the only child in the family though his father married 10 times earlier too. Sahir’s father, however often tortured Sardar Begum who objected to Sahir’s father flirting with other women. Ultimately, she chose to live separately with young Sahir with his less than10 then and shifted to her parental house in Abulapur Basti. Sahir’s father went to court for custody of the child, but Sahir chose to live with her mother. Mother always wanted his son to get educated.
Sahir did his matriculation in 1937 from Malwa Khalsa High School, Ludhiana a popular school where wards of Ludhiana’s many a Sikh families came to study. It’s believed that he remained an avid reader of books and started writing Urdu poems in school itself which his poet teacher liked and it made him popular in school though he was only a mediocre in studies. Pen name Sahir was taken by him after his matriculation and later Ludhianvi was added to it though his college admission form also is with his original name Abdul Hayee.
Later Sahir got admitted to local Government College (now known as SCD Govt College). Sahir had chosen English, Philosophy, History and Persian as his subjects while he chose hobbies as Photography and Cricket as per his admission form preserved in the college. The form gives Sahir’s maternal uncle Abdul Rasheed as guardian. Soon Sahir’s progressive poetry stated getting accolades from young students in the college. A handsome Sahir soon became talk of the college and he was also elected secretary of the students union and later as a president also.
There are many stories about a handsome youthful poet Sahir’s expulsion from the college attributing his proximity to the girl friends as well as his bold writings and speeches against the imperialist British regime and atrocities of landlords on the poor. In fact, it was local administration which feared for students uprising then and it prevailed upon the college principal to expel Sahir by making a plausible pretext of teasing girls, though there was no complaint against him in the college in writing on record. Sahir was perturbed and so was his mother who sent him in the year 1940 to complete his degree at Dyal Singh College, Lahore.
But, competition of degree was not in his fate as Sahir had to struggle a lot to finance his studies by sending his poetry to be published in local newspapers and magazines there and his studies neglected due to his literary activates. By then, Sahir had already completed his first book Talkhiyan for which he convinced famous Gurbax Singh Preetlari and his book was published in the popular literary news magazine Preetlari in 1943. He also wrote his poem Nazre College in 1943 which depicts his pain of expulsion and love for the college.
The year 1944 gave him the desired breakout when his famous poem Taj Mahal became instant hit in a mushaira at Amritsar. Sahir’s Taj Mahal laments: “…Ek Shahensha Ne Daulat Ka Sahara Lekar, hum Gharibon Ki Mohabbat Ka Udaya Hai Mazaq..”Sahir shifted to Mumbai in 1946 and soon his poetry and lyrics were acknowledged by the likes of poets Kaifi Azmi and many film producers.
Sahir never forgot Ludhiana and often visited it. He also came to his Alma Mater in 1950s and then was a special guest at Golden Jubilee Celebrations in 1970 when he was honoured with a Gold Medal by the Union Education minister VKRV Rao. In the mushaira in the college on 22 Nov,1970 he read the famous poem, ’A Nai Nasal Tujh Ko Mera Salam’
Sahir in his own times was equally pained like the commoners of the world at large today who feel helpless to address the issues of preventing loss of innocent lives due to wars and bloodshed among the nations.On the anniversary of Tashkent Declaration which was a peace agreement between India and Pakistan signed on 10 January 1966 to resolve Indo-Pak war of 1965, Sahir Ludhianvi wrote an immortal poem, ’A Shareef Insano’. A portion from this is produced here:
“…Khoon apna ho ya paraya ho,nasle-aadam ka khoon hai aakhir,
jung mashrik mei ho ya magrib mei,amnei alam ka khoon hai akhir.
bum gharon pe girei ki sarhad par,roohe taamir jakham khaati hei.
Khet apne jalein kei auroun ke,jeesat fakon sei tilmilati hei.
Tank aagei badhei ya peeche hatein,
kokh dharti ki baanjh hoti hai,fateh ka jashn ho ya haar ka soug,
zindagi maiyato pe roti hai.Jung to khud hi ek masla hai,
jung kya maslo ka hal degi aag aur khoon aaj bakshegi,
bhook aur ehityaj kal degi.
Isliye sharif insano ,jung talti rahe to behtar hai
Aap aur hum sabhi ke aangan me shama jalti rahe to behtar hai ..”
“Bloodshed be it of ours or strangers, it’s is the blood of humans. War, be in the East or West it is the murder of global peace. Bombs be they fall on our homes or borders; the maddening thunder jolts our spirits. Burning agro fields, here or across the borders will only give humans a traumatizing hungry belly. Battle tanks, may these move forward or retreat, the land it mows on is rendered barren. The victorious may rejoice, or the defeated may grieve but the kin of those killed keep weeping for their dead ones. War in itself creates problems. What solutions can a war offer then? Today, it will rain fire and blood, tomorrow get hunger and scarcity. So, Oh! Noble humans avoid war at all costs. Let the lamp of life and love burn in the courtyard of humanity every time.”
Sahir who wrote 734 songs for 113 movies had won many awards including the Filmfare award for best lyricist twice, in 1964 and 1977 for his songs ‘Jo Waada Kiya Nibhana Parega ’ and ‘Kabhi Kabhie Mere Dil Mein Khyal Ata hei ’. ‘…Na Hindu Banega Na Muslamaan Banega ..Insaan Ki Aulad Hei Insaan Banega..’ is another popular song written by Sahir for film Dhool Ka Phool.
He was also given Padam Shri in the year 1971. Sahir breathed his last in Mumbai om October, 25,1980.
A city of affluence Ludhiana owes much to Sahir Ludhianvi. Let it build a suitable memorial and restore the name of college road as Sahir Road again at least,as it was named by the municipal corporation in 1980s but later sign board got removed. Sahir’s Alma Mater has permanent remembrance for him by way of Sahir Auditorium,Sahir’s Botanical Garden besides a special corner for Sahir’s books in the library.
Brij Bhushan Goyal
An Alum of SCD Govt College, Ludhiana and Organising Secretary for it’s Alumni Association