Think Lucknow and the mention to the city of nawabs will be incomplete sans mention of Khushbir Singh Shaad, Lucknow's very own local shayar (poet).
Known for his six book s on poetry complete with brilliant thought provoking muse penned both in Hindi and Urdu, Shaad has also penned verses for Bollywood movies like Dhokha made by none another than the radical film maker Mahesh Bhatt. Needless to say his words have moved hearts.
It's little wonder that a poet with immense talent to connect with the audience was recently decorated with the coveted Literary Award For the Best Poet Of the Year 2008 given to him in April this year. Presented by a well known US based literary Organisation called Anjumane-e-taragui-e-urdu in North America, the award ceremony gave Khusbhir Singh Shaad the perfect timing to release his sixth book Jahan Tak Zindagi.
Needless to say he not only wowed the audience with his muse packed with powerful emotions and sufiana (spiritual) touch but once again he put Lucknow on the world's literary map.
In an interview to Anjali Singh of Citizen News Service (CNS) post his return from the US, Shaad talks of his global fan following and what inspires him to pen such powerfully charged verses that gets everyone who reads it to respond in awe.
You have been named the Best Poet of The Year 2008, how does that make you feel?
Very honored. It has touched my heart to see so much love and affection from my readers.
You are one of the most popular shayars(poet) who has a global fan following, why do you feel that people living abroad identify so much with your muse?
Meri lavazon mein shayad unko watan ki khushboo aati hai (they can perhaps feel the spirit of their country in my verses) that's why I think l my fans internationally feel for my work. You see living away from their country their only connection to it is through art creative expressions that reach them from here. They come to all the mushayaras(poetic evenings) to get a feel of their country irrespective of their caste or creed. I am very touched to see how they respond when I recite the shers(couplets).
You write in both Hindi and Urdu, does your audience understand the poetry?
Yes. The spirit of the shers I write has Urdu in it. Urdu jaan hai shayari ki (the essence of poetry is in the Urdu language) so anyone who loves shero shayari will surely acquaint them selves with a smattering of Urdu. And most of my readers in Pakistan, UK, USA, Middle East and Norway speak Hindi and Urdu both.
So if a person does not know Urdu they will not be able to understand shers?
No, they will be able to understand shers but the depth that the sher conveys will remain hidden from them. I too learnt Urdu at the age of 40 when my guru Wali Asi Saheb who was a very revered poet in Lucknow advised me to do so me when I published my first book Jaane Kab yeh Mausam Badle in 1992 . He said at a felicitation ceremony organized for the release that without knowing Urdu every poet is incomplete in his poetic expressions. He then made me promise that I would learn Urdu in one year and my next book will be penned in that language. I promised him I would comply and requested Sultan Khan sahib, a retired Information officer in the Uttar Pradesh state Govt to teach me Urdu. On learning the language I understood what Wali Asi Saheb meant about the essence of shayari can only be expressed in Urdu. In fact learning Urdu also gave me an idea how to say shers in the correct meter prior to that I had no clue how to measure the right meter.
How did you become a shayar (poet) was anyone in your family also as creative?
(Laughs) Oh no. My family was not into shero shayari at all, the nearest they came to creativity was my fathers's pet name 'Dilgeer' which means a melancholic soul. But since the age of 14 I used to love listening to poetry as I was sentimental. I would spend hours just walking on the roof of my home. Then when I bought a book on poetry by Hind Pocket books my interest in penning what I used to think developed. That's how I began writing. Then I became a shagird (student) of Wali Asi Saheb and the sky was the limit for me.
Despite being so popular you are not known to attend many mushayaras in India and never go to any in Lucknow either. Why so?
Well to be honest, I don't believe a true shayar should attend mushayaras today as these functions have denigrated to a level which is not befitting a poets stature. Kabir the well known sufi poet was born with the talent of saying shers but he never attended a single mushayara, he was just committed to his art and truly expressed his emotions. Today people cash in on emotions, the couplets poets recite now have no relevance in modern times. Naturally these shers are said for effect not coming from the heart. Shayari should reflect contemporary society but most poets don't know how to pen such muse and border on vulgarity. I most certainly would not want to be a part of such a gathering, so I just avoid attending some functions. Those who know my work read my books and understand what I write about.
It can't be all that bad?
Well it is. To give you a small example, when a sher is said clapping is taboo and it is an insult to the spirit of the shayari being read, it is against poetic etiquette. But these days in every poetry session the poets themselves encourage the audience to clap for them after every sher. So nowadays the so called creative fabric are not even aware what is the proper behavior while saying a sher. So what can you expect from them when it comes to creativity.
Whom do you consider your biggest critic?
Myself. Arz kiya hai, "Mujhse Badkar Kaun hai dushman mera mere siwa. Hai mumkin meri hi zaat le doobe muhje" (There is no greater enemy of mine than myself, its possible I may destroy myself one day). What I mean to say is that a poet should live in the moment. Lamho mein jeena seekh lena chaiye (they should learn to live in the moment) only them they will be able to evolve on a daily basis. I set a benchmark for myself and I am brutally honest when I critique my own work. If I don't do that the subjects I write on come back to haunt me, kyunki kirdar shero mein apna haq mangte hain muhjse (the characters in my poetry ask for justice for themselves to be treated and written about honestly).
You have a unique style of expressing your emotions through poetry, full of pain and melancholy. Why so?
Kiya Zindagi ne pehle har tarah se mustradd mujhko. Phir Uske baad bakshi mere hone ki sanat mujko (Life rejected me in every way before it gave me the honor that was due to be). So I guess I learnt a lot from life and the different aspects that I lived through which then finds expression in my poetry.
What about your family, what is their opinion to your shayari? Your daughter Asmit is known to call you a khazana(treasure).
(Smiles) Yes her various links on the net have shers I have penned. But I am deeply indebted to my wife and daughter for the support they have shown me. Has it not been for them I would have never reached the place I have through my work. The best I can describe what my family mean to me is through two shers I penned for them, “Meri Khatir Jisne Duniya Bhar Ki Khushiyan Chod Di, sochtha hoon usko kya mila mere siwa” (I often think she who has turned away all the world's happiness what has she got expect me in return.) “Kabhi dekhi nahin koi shikayat uski ankho mein. Who meri Bebasi aur Bekasi shayad samajhtha tha” (I have never seen any complaints in their eyes ever, maybe they understand my helplessness.)
All we can say is Wah! Shaad Saheb Wah!
Anjali Singh, CNS
(The author is a Special Correspondent to Citizen News Service (CNS) and also the Director of Saaksham Foundation. Email: [email protected], website: www.citizen-news.org )