Master poet Munawar Rana mulls over Lucknow as it once was

Munawar grew up loving poetry but it took him a while to express his feelings in verse.

When he did take up the pen, it was to move away from the highly Persianised and usual imageries of the physical beauty and treacherous ways of pretty women to enquire into the female soul.

The result was an emotional eulogy to mother in everyday vocabulary that struck a chord in every reader’s heart and propelled the poet to great popularity as he said that it was impossible for a mother to curse and to remain ill tempered every mother is averse:

labo par uske kabhi baddua nahi hoti
bas ek maan hai jo kabhi khafa nahi hoti

Born in Rae Bareli in 1952, the large family was scattered with the creation of Pakistan in 1947. Many members of his family left Rae Bareli for the Pakistan and the poet’s father went to Kolkata in search of work. Munawar spent a good part of his life in Kolkata where he wrote in Bengali and performed on stage as well.

In the mid 1960s Munawar was sent to study at the Saint Johns High School on Victoria Street in the old city of Lucknow.

Munawar looks back on that time as the golden period of Lucknow when there were more poets in the city than government officials or businessmen. There was song and poetry in the air and not the screech of revolving red lights of VIP cars like jackals crying at sunset in the countryside.

Lucknow was as it exists in the imagination of writers and lyricists.At that time he had loved poetry but was not a poet. He came from a family of maulvis or religious scholars who had little interest in poetry. But the atmosphere in the city was so poetic and mushaira were held almost every evening.

Munawar describes Lucknow of the 1960s as a city of dreams when nothing mattered more to people here but the love in their heart for each other. People did not meet other human beings for profit but for the pleasure of being together. Love was the common language of communication and everyone greeted everyone with just adaab! What religion the friend practiced was never the concern of the other. It would be no exaggeration to say that Lucknow was then a paradise of the way life should be lived by all humanity.

The world of people like Munawar began around the Akbari Gate and ended in Aminabad. There was no this nagar and that nagar. There was patangbazi or war amongst kite flyers all right but war of fists was not encouraged.

It was impolite to boast that this is mine and that is mine and everything from a home to other material possessions were introduced as being there because of the other.

The most popular meeting place of poets was at the Kazim Tea Stall on Victoria Street. Next door was the home of Nadir Khayam, younger brother of delightful poet Saghar Khayyami. The literati of Lucknow was followed from this tea stall to another one in Naqqas and the Chand Cafe near Akbari Gate.

Soon Munawar had to give up this luxuriously literary life in Lucknow to return to Kolkatta to graduate in commerce despite the fact that he wanted to study liberal arts or law.

But his father wanted him to be practical and prepare himself to take over the family transport business.

He did as his father asked him to do but to this day believes that the transport business, job in a bank and marriage in old age should be a no for all sensible human beings.

He was afraid of his father but adored his mother and told her that she should get the father to throw him out of the house so that he continue to read, write and indulge in poetry.

That did not happen and over time he got used to the worldly ways of business but continued to write plays and poetry on the side, also in Bengali.

Director BR Ishaara who made path breaking films like Chetna became a fan of Munawar and invited him to Mumbai. But his father was getting on in age and being the eldest child, Munawar stayed back with the family. His belief was that whatever fame and fortune was fated in his share, he would receive it anyways.

The transport business left him little time for theatre and writing but by now poetry had become part of his life. He had signed his verses with Munawar Ali Aatish, a pseudonym which well known poet Wali Asi changed to Rana. When in Lucknow, he had accompanied Wali Asi to all the mushaira held so regularly in the city where he gained much appreciation and recognition which he enjoys to this day.

What bothers Munawar most about modern society is the callous attitude of the youth towards elders in society. That is what inspired him to write his best selling poem Maa and that is why he concludes that if both Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif, prime ministers of India and Pakistan listen to their respective mothers the chances of a lasting peace in South Asia will only become more real.

Munawar’s Maa

Labon par uske kabhi baddua nahi hoti
bas ek maan hai jo kabhi khafa nahi hoti

Is tarah mere gunaahon ko wo dho deti hai,
maa bahut gusse mein hoti hai to ro deti hai

Maine rote hue ponchhe the kisi din aansoo
muddaton maa ne nahi dhoya dupatta apna

Abhi zinda hai maa meri mujhe kuchh bhi nahi hoga,
main jab ghar se nikalta hoon dua bhi saath chalti hai

Jab bhi kashti meri sailaab mein aa jaati hai
maa dua karti hui khwaab mein aa jaati hai

Aye andhere dekh le munh tera kaala ho gaya,
maa ne aankhein khol di ghar mein ujaala ho gaya

Meri khwaahish hai ki main phir se farishta ho jaun
maa se is tarah liptun ki bachcha ho jaun

‘Munawwar’ maa ke aage yun kabhi khulkar nahi rona
jahan buniyaad ho itni nami achhhi nahi hoti

Lipat jaata hoon maa se aur mausi muskurati hai,
main udru mein ghazal kehta hoon hindi muskrati hai

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