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A lifelong affair: In love with love

Literature is like prayer. One has to raise art to a prayer. Songs may run away from bombs and bullets, but they have a piercing quality that mocks at limitations of time and space. Well-known Urdu poet Nida Fazli, back home in Delhi, the city of his birth, says as much in a freewheeling chat here with ZIYA US SALAM... .

Many moods of a multi-faced man... nida Fazil in Delhi.

"Tumhari qabr par
Main fateha padne nahin aaya
Mujhe maloom tha
Tum mar nahin sakte
Tumhari maut ki sacchi khabar jisne udai thi
Woh jhootha tha
Woh tum kab the
Koi sookha hua patta hawa se hil ki toota tha
Meri aankhen
Tumhare manjron mein qaid hain ab tak
Main jo bhi dekhta hun
Sochta hun
Woh... vahin hai... ''

DELHI'S VERY own Nida Fazli was back home after quite a while. It was but natural to drift into the past, let emotions overtake reason even if momentarily. And there is something about losing a near and dear one which defies all attempts at restrain. Death of a loved one is distressingly debilitating. It tests your strength, leaving you enfeebled. All that it leaves behind are memories which are but poor companions. Time heals, they say, but does it? Years later, tears may just roll down unannounced, the eyes brim over, no pretext, no reason. Just human. And it takes a human being with great sensitivity to put in words the crests and ebbs of the heart. Somebody who does not play around with words, somebody who respects human emotions and says things simply. And maybe simply beautifully. That is what 1938-born Nida Fazli does best - put pen to paper to put together words which tug at your heart, words that mock at the limitations of time and space. An eternal optimist his words resonate with hope.

That is something remarkable for a man who lost his father when quite young and the sad division of the country did not allow him to put him to rest one last time. And all that Nida Fazli had in terms of compensation were the words, "Tumhari qabr par... ."

It is this early brush with adversity that has not only steeled the man in him but also brings to fore the caring, loving individual. If he pulls no punches talking of those who have penned lyrics like "Karde mushkil jeena, ishq kameena... ", he is also effusive in praise of those who respect Indian languages, who speak the way we should.

"Ishq came into my life when I was alone, when my family had migrated to Pakistan. I fell in love with the sun's brilliance, the moon's radiance, the innocence of the children. Life is incomplete without ishq - love. But this is no way of deriding the best human emotion. A few years ago I had penned `Hosh waalon ko khabar kya bekhudi kya cheez hai, ishq kijiye phir samajhiye zindagi kya cheez hai' for director John Mathew Mathian's `Sarfarosh'. John had asked me to compose a ghazal but I almost had a fight with the music director over the composition. It was recorded thrice, ultimately it was decided that Jagjit Singh would sing the ghazal. Earlier, it was sung by Bhupendra and Jaswinder."

Nida Fazli refuses to agree with those who believe that Bollywood's lyricists are offering to cinemagoers what the masses want. "Those responsible for taste have lost taste. `Ishq kameena', `kambakht ishq... .' Can it get worse than this? Today, we have films in which songs are introduced to fill in the blanks in the story. What we don't realise is that songs run away from tamanche-talwar - weapons! Our leaders and some of the writers are destroying the dictionary. The common man wants good words and melody. Old songs are still better and songs like `Tu is tarah se meri zindagi mein shamil hai' are a slap on the face of those who argue that the masses accept only pedestrian stuff. Music directors no longer emphasise words. Many don't realise that good songs have a long life. We don't build bonds. We don't realise that a simple emotion like `ishq' can have so many shades. Words are like a person's personality, narrow or wide, lofty or small, depending on the outlook."

He notes with concern the general decline in songs and singers in Bollywood. "Lata Mangeshkar learnt Urdu from a moulvi for correct pronunciation. Asha Bhonsle learnt the same way. Jagjit Singh even now phones up to ask about `talaffuz' of particular words to get the right intonation at the time of recording. Unfortunately, we no longer have any pride in our language. Hindi is `rajbhasha' but English seems to be the operative language."

Recalls the man whose ghazals and life story were released in the "Aaj Ke Prasidh Shayar" series by Kanhaiyalal Nandan for Rajpal and Sons publishers, "Once in Italy I asked a man, `Where is Vatican?' Nobody answered. Not that they did not know. They don't like any other language. Unfortunately, here in Delhi or Mumbai, if you go to a five-star hotel and speak in Hindi or any Hindustani language, they won't pay you any respect. You ask them the same question in English and the reply is prompt and courteous! We are killing our own language."

Well, Nida Fazli, who came into prominence with his songs in "Raziya Sultan" and "Ahista Ahista", is doing hit bit to extend to posterity some of the delights enjoyed by our ancestors. He has penned 21 books and won the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1998 for `Khoya Hua Sab Kucch'. He recalls with obvious pride: "Language does not belong to any religion. Shailendra, Sahir Ludhianvi, Firaq Gorakhpuri, Jan Nisar Akhtar wrote beautiful words. Literature is like a prayer. One has to raise art to prayer. `Sab ki pooja ki ek aesi, alag, alag har reet, masjid jaye moulvi, koyal gaye geet'."

He reveals: "Our idea of Urdu is wrong. Urdu is not Muslim or Hindu. Bashir Vaiko was a big writer but he wrote in Tamil. Similarly, Rajendra Bedi has penned some beautiful words in Urdu. In the past, Abdur Rahim Khan-e-Khanan wrote `dohe' in Hindi. That does not make him a Hindu. Firaq's language was not Muslim. Now, we are only seeing the politicisation of language. Which is sad considering one of the foremost Urdu poets, Iqbal called Lord Ram as Imam-e-Hind, adding, "Ye Sheikh o Brahmin hume acche nahin lagte, hum jitne hain ye itne bhi sacche nahin lagte". Yes, the recipient of the Mir Taqi Mir Award for his autobiographical novel "Deewaron Ke Beech" is not through yet. He would like man to stop hating man, for man to be, well, a man. Matters little that once he composed, "Kabhi kisi ko mukammal jahan nahin milta, kabhi zamin to kabhi aasman nahin milta." A poet is entitled to his muse. And to hope.

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