Alvida Munawwar Rana

Amalendu Upadhyaya
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By Justice Markandey Katju

Recently one of the greatest Urdu poets of India, Munawwar Rana ( 26.11.52--14.1.2024 ) passed away at the age of 71. His death is a grievous loss not only to his relatives and friends, but also to all lovers of Urdu poetry, and to me personally.

Munawwar Rana was my friend. I came to know him only in 2008 when I was a Judge of the Indian Supreme Court when a grand, unprecedented, Urdu mushara-cum-kavi sammelan was held at my instance on the lawns of the Court, in which Munawwar Rana also participated and read his 'kalaam'.

The story of this event is narrated in detail in the link below, so I am not repeating it here. Such a mushaira was repeated in the Supreme Court and Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Courts in succeeding years, but as far as I know it has never been held in the Pakistan Supreme Court

I am myself a great lover of Urdu poetry, and so I met him thereafter many times.

Thoroughly secular, his poetry was in simple language, and therefore easily comprehensible to people who do not know the meaning of highly Persianised words. He wrote of the lives of people, and the problems facing the common man.

In one of the mushairas in which I met him he recited some verses of his long poem 'Mohajirnama', relating to the plight of 'mohajirs' ( migrants ) who had migrated from India to Pakistan.

These muhajirs had migrated to Pakistan around the time of Partition in 1947 as young men, carried away by religious zeal or fear in India at a time when communal passions were inflamed in the sub continent.

Later they realized their mistake, but by then it was too late to return, as they had lost their Indian citizenship, and hence could not come back, where many of their relatives still lived. They would often weep over their mistake, as Munawwar Rana, who often went to Pakistan to attend mushairas, himself told me.

Since my home town is Allahabad, the verses relating to it in the poem greatly touched me, moving me almost to tears, since living in Noida for long and far away from Allahabad I too felt nostalgia, like the mohajirs. who had migrated to Pakistan.

" Gale milti hui nadiyaan gale milte hue mausam

Allahabad ka kaisa nazaara chhod aaye hain

Kal ek amrood wale se kehna pad gaya humko

Jahaan se aaye hain is phal ki bagiya chhod aaye hain

Woh hairat mein hame takta rahaa kuch der, phir bola

Woh sangam ka ilaqa choota, ki chhod aayen hain ?

Abhi hum sonch mein ghum the ki usse kya kaha jaaye

Hamare aansuon ne raaz uglaa chhod aaye hain "

गले मिलती हुई नदियां गले मिलते हुए मौसम

इलाहबाद का कैसा नज़ारा छोड़ आये हैं

कल एक अमरुद वाले से कहना पड़ा मुझको

जहाँ से आये हैं इस फल की बगिया छोड़ आये हैं

कुछ देर तक तो वह तकता रहा मुझको फिर बोला

वो संगम का इलाक़ा छूट गया कि छोड़ आये हैं

अभी हम सोंच में ग़ुम थे कि उससे क्या कहा जाए

हमारे आंसुओं ने राज़ उगला छोड़ आये हैं

( Allahabad is famous for its amrood or guavas. Sangam is the name of the confluence of the two great rivers, Ganga and Jamuna which meet at Allahabad )

Since I was born in Lucknow ( in 1946 ) and have been there several times I was also touched by this couplet :

'' Moharram mein hamaara Lucknow Iran lagta tha

Madad maula rota Husainabad chhod aaye hain ''

Or this couplet :

'' Bhateejee ab saleeqe se dupatta odhti hogi

Wahi jisko jhoole mein humakta chhod aaye hain ''.

When he was ill and admitted to All India Medical Institute, Delhi I went to meet him to enquire about his health. Thereafter too I would regularly telephone him from Noida, where I live, to Lucknow where he resided, and kept in regular contact with him.

Hence it was a great shock to me on learning of his death

May his soul rest in peace.

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