Har Ashiq Hai Sardar Yaha’n,
Har Mashuqa Sultana Hai !
– Ali Sardar Jafri
I remember my last meeting with Ali Sardar Jafri in Hotel Taj, Lucknow. Those were my Aligarh days and Jafri Saheb was a big TV Star those days, with respect to his popular Television Series, Kahkashan ! The series was scripted, researched and produced by him and it was all dominated by Aligs in one way or the other. Hasrat Mohani, Jigar Moradabadi, Josh Malihabadi, Majaz Lucknawi, Firaq Gorakhpuri and Makhdoom Mohiuddin were captured. Mesmerizing Ghazals by Jagjit Singh added much flavour to the series. Majaz, the Hero of AMU and the author of Tarana is widely covered; the Tarana in Kahkashan is really melodious ! Ali Sardar Jafri did in the 1990s what we are thinking today, to document the life of legends through Multi-media. It was Sardar Jafri’s dream to make such a serial on Urdu writers as a tribute and also with the intent to popularize and expose the general Indian audience to the modern masters of Urdu poetry.
I was fortunate to celebrate his Centenary which was organized in 2013 by the Lucknow Society. Majaz dedicated his ‘Aahang’ as follows, “Faiz Aur Jazbi Ke Naam, Jo Mere Dil-o Jigar Hain. Sardar Aur Makhdoom Ke Naam, Jo Mere Dast-o Bazu Hain”. In the 1930s, he was admitted to Aligarh Muslim University, where he soon got exposed to Communist ideology and this was a new direction in his life. It was only in 1986 when AMU honored him with Honorary D.Lit. and he attended the annual convocation where President of India, Giani Zail Singh delivered the convocation address. He always carried the Aligarh emotions with him and was one of the staunch supporters of the Aligarh Movement and never gave up his association with Aligarh Movement.
Ali Sardar Jafri was born in 1913 at Balrampur in the district of Gonda. He was brought up in a religious atmosphere at Lucknow. It is said that at the age of eight, he could recite 1000 verses from the poetry of Mir Anis. He himself began writing when he was only fifteen. His literary career began at the age of 17 when he began writing short stories. His entry into the world of Urdu literature began with short stories from his collection Manzil (1938). However, he soon turned to poetry and devoted most of his time to this genre. His revolutionary and patriotic poetry brought him into the limelight, following which, in 1940, he was also taken into custody for his political activities. He also worked as a member of the Communist Party of India and participated proactively in its trade union activities. Through his poetry, he tried to create political awareness among the masses.
Jafri had multiple talents and other than poetry he also wrote plays and short stories. He was the editor of Naya Adab, a quarterly magazine published in Mumbai. He also successfully translated a few works of Shakespeare. He was instrumental in reducing the gap between Urdu and Hindi by publishing the works of four classical poets, i.e., `Ghalib, Meer, Kabir and Meera, in both languages together in the same book. To felicitate his contribution in the field of literature and journalism, Jafri received many honors and awards. He was also honored with the Padma Shri in 1967. In 1999, when Prime Minister, A. B. Vajpayee made a historic peace trip to Pakistan, he presented Sarhad, the first-ever album of anti-war poems of Ali Sardar Jafri (sung by Seema Anil Sehgal) to his Pakistani counterpart. This was indeed the greatest tribute to the poetic vision of Jafri. He died in Mumbai on 1st Aug 2000.
Shikayatein Bhi Bahut Hain Hikayatein Bhi Bahut,
Maza To Jab Hai Ki Yaro’n Ke Rubaru Kehiye !
– Ali Sardar Jafri