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‘Aziz Lakhnavi’: Lucknow’s beloved in the world of poetry

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Image source: www.headstuff.org

By Vikas Datta

If we compare poetry to a landscape, it would be one that is constantly but gradually evolving with its contours keeping on changing. Features that may have once loomed large may later be barely indistinguishable from the remaining terrain. Urdu poetry is one such relatable aspect.

In English poetry, there were times when Sir Philip Sidney, John Donne, Alexander Pope, Robert Southey, Christina Rosetti or Edna St Vincent Millay (and many others) were the best-known but now may only be known to a handful of connoisseurs, or dedicated literary scholars. Urdu was no different.

Mirza Asadullah Khan ‘Ghalib’ is today the most well-known Urdu poet, but in his own time, his contemporary Sheikh Ibrahim ‘Zauq’ was much more well-regarded and followed though now virtually eclipsed. There were scores of others, much feted in their times, but now banished to the boundless void of obscurity – though hopefully not gone so far as they can’t be brought back into current consciousness.

Like, perhaps, this representative from an illustrious cultural city, and credited with being among those who gave a new lease of life to the ghazal.

In his time, Mirza Muhammad Hadi ‘Aziz Lakhnavi’ (1882-1935) was esteemed highly by both peers like Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, Allama Shibli Nomani, Abdul Halim ‘Sharar’, the incomparable biographer of Lucknow, Mirza Muhammad Hadi ‘Ruswa’ of “Umrao Jaan” fame and Allama Mohammad Iqbal and Akbar Hussein Rizvi ‘Akbar Allahabadi’ who even wrote couplets – in Persian – extolling his art. But now, few will recall his name.

As his sobriquet indicates, Aziz chose to be identified with the “Dabistan-e-Lakhnau” or the Lucknow School of Urdu poetry. It was however often criticised for its “shallowness”, “undue focus” on linguistic acrobatics and wordplay, expression of sentiments, like love, at a basic, profane level, and a certain coarseness but is this criticism justified?

No, says prominent scholar Khaliq Anjum, who has brought out a selection of Aziz’s works, noting these features were never a representative of the whole school and are mostly seen in a part of the work of a trio of early 19th century poets associated with it. And then these characteristics can also be found in some associated with the rival Delhi school too. And Aziz, even if he dealt with issues of love, brought to it a certain refined sensibility to his verse, he says.

Details about the poet’s life are sketchy, but we know he was born in Lucknow in February 1882 to a family originally from Iran’s Shiraz, was the son of Mirza Mohammad Mehdi, studied at the city’s famed Firangi Mahal seminary, and later was private secretary to deputy commissioner Mirza Mohammad Abbas Khan.

In poetry, he was a protege of Syed Ali Naqi Zaidi ‘Safi Lakhnavi’ and his own proteges included Shabbir Hasan Khan ‘Josh Malihabadi’ and Nawab Jafar Ali Khan ‘Asr Lakhnavi’. His sole published work was his collection “Gulkadah” (1915), which drew appreciation from Iqbal when the second edition appeared in 1931, with him specially singling out this couplet: “Apne markaz ki taraf maayil parvaz tha husn/Bhulta hi nahi alam teri angdai ka”.

As said, Aziz wrote on love and all its phases in his characteristic style – be it its effect: “Aag to dil ki bujh lene do phir kuch puchna/Hosh kisko jo bataye kya raha kya jal gaya”, the sorrows of parting: “Thi subah aur sitaare kuch jhilmila rahe the/Bimaar-e-shaam-e-furqat duniya se ja rahe the”, its lingering pain: “Shama bujh kar rah gayi parvana jal kar rah gaya/Yaadgar-e-husn-o-ishq ek dil par daagh rah gaya” and so on.

He could be playful too: “Yeh mashvara bahm uthe hain charah jo karte/Ke ab mareez ko achcha tha Qibla-ruu karte” begins one ghazal and its second sher could be familiar to those in romance: “Zabaan ruk gayi aakhi sehr ke hote hi/Tamam raat kati dil se guftagoo karte” and the difficulties could be no better encapsulated as in the ending: “Pahunch ke hashr ke maidan mein haul kyun hai ‘Aziz’/Abhi to pehli hi manzil hai justju karte”.

Aziz could get lofty too: “Batla rahi thi ahl mohabbat ki justju/Jitna voh qareeb tha, itna hi door tha” or “Hujoom shauq ka bas qissa mukhtsar yeh hai/Ke main jo chahta hoon voh kaha nahi jaata” or even “Khuda mahfuz rakhe ishq ke jazbaat-i-kaamil se/Zameen gardun se takraai jahaan dil mil gaya dil se”.

This was brief selection with the hope it interests some towards Aziz, who is a delightful and thoughtful poet, and once wrote: “Kab akele is jahan se ham gaye/Le ke apne saath ek aalam gaye”.

Not many could claim this privilege! (IANS)

Next Story

With Rapid Urbanization, Lucknow Loses 46 Percent of its Water Bodies

According to a survey conducted by the Lucknow Municipal Corporation, there were a total of 964 ponds in the city in 1952. The number declined to 494 in 2006

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lucknow skyline, water bodies
File:Anandi Water Park located by the Sharda Canal on eastern outskirts of Lucknow. Wikimedia Commons

With rapid urbanization changing the skyline of Lucknow, the state capital has also lost 46 per cent of its water bodies. Most of them are also polluted with waste and sewage.

The state government and the Supreme Court have made various interventions to stop instances of land-grabbing and construction over water bodies but the situation remains beyond control.

Officials are unwilling to speak on the issue since encroachment, invariably, has the backing of political leaders. The District Magistrate also did not respond to calls. According to a survey conducted by the Lucknow Municipal Corporation, there were a total of 964 ponds in the city in 1952.

The number declined to 494 in 2006. Land records of the municipal corporation state the city has 964 tanks and ponds, a majority of which are now unidentifiable due to reclamation.

lucknow skyline
File: Lucknow Skyline From Gomti Nagar. Wikimedia Commons

In the Sarojini Nagar area, where 14 water bodies have been encroached upon, Samajwadi Party leader Sharda Pratap Shukla is said to be a “big fish”. Some of his illegally- constructed buildings were demolished but reappeared months later.

“Each time we try to demolish the encroachments, we face tremendous political pressure and the matter is laid to rest,” said an official of the Lucknow Development Authority (LDA) who did not wish to be identified.

In 2006, the Supreme Court had said that the protection of natural lakes and ponds honours the most basic fundamental right – the right to life – which is guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution. But Lucknow’s official records reveal a grim picture.

Ponds and pools, which act as a sponge and thermo-regulators, help in the accumulation of rainwater and enhance the groundwater level in the area. But water bodies in Lucknow’s core urban area have become largely extinct. This has made it vulnerable to severe flooding in the future. The state capital has already reported four major flood events in the past decade.

The situation of the Gomti River is at its worst today. The Gomti is a groundwater-fed river and is replenished by its various tributaries. According to the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB), the flow of the Gomti has reduced by 35 to 40 per cent over the years. At some points, one can easily cross the river on foot since the water is only waist deep.

lucknow, water bodies
Experts say that the situation is getting worse by the day with about 300 water bodies around Lucknow currently undergoing plotting for construction. Wikimedia Commons

The river is at its filthiest along the 13-km stretch in Lucknow and has been declared as the most polluted river stretch in the country by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). Increased biotic pressure, reduced ecological flow, deterioration of major tributaries, siltation and encroachment of the river’s catchment area has left the river dry and filled with sewage and sludge.

Ashok Shankaram, an environment activist from the city, filed a petition against the encroachment of 37 water bodies in the Allahabad High Court in 2014 and the court sought answers from the LDA and the municipal corporation, but received only an elementary reply.

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The reply, given in 2015, did not contain any information about concrete steps taken against land-grabbing. Another PIL in this regard was filed in the high court last week. Experts say that the situation is getting worse by the day with about 300 water bodies around Lucknow currently undergoing plotting for construction.

Sources say that Uttar Pradesh has lost more than one lakh water bodies (tanks, ponds, lakes and wells) to the hands of illegal encroachment. The Yogi Adityanath government has not gone beyond providing lip service to the issue and no specific action has been taken to save water bodies from the clutches of land- grabbers. (IANS)