Thursday, May 02, 2013

Remembering Syed Amin Ashraf: Selection of couplets of the prominent Aligarh-based Urdu poet

By Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

A few months have passed but literary world is still in a state of mourning due to the demise of prominent Urdu poet Syed Amin Ashraf.

Ashraf, 80, was a leading Urdu poet, who avoided popular 'mushairas' and this is perhaps the reason that he didn't get the fame which he deserved.

But his command over language and idiom, had made him one of the foremost 'shayars' of the era in the country.

shahar-dar-shahar shab-e-taar* ka pheraa hoga
ham na honge, to andheraa hi andheraa hoga

[Syed Amin Ashraf]

Syed Amin Ashraf was born in Kachhauchha Sharif in UP, on June 20, 1930. A professor of English in Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), Urdu poetry was his first love. Though he began writing poetry in the decade of fifties, his first collection of poetry [divan] was published only in 2000.

This suggests how Ashraf sahab was indifferent towards publication of his own poetry.

In fact, he was the most important poet in the region. But he mostly remained confined to literary magazines and attended only select gatherings and 'mushairas'. Eminent Urdu writer Rashid Anwar Rashid recently wrote in Ajkal that, 'Only after Shaharyar's demise, Syed Amin Ashraf got recognition as the most important poet in Aligarh'.

Rashid is not off the mark. It is true that Shaharyar was a legend in his own right but his association with movies, particularly, his lyrics in Umraojan, made him a household name. Besides, Ashraf, wasn't a person who was interesting in pushing himself ahead. 

Some of his couplets:

halqa-e-shaam-o-sahar se nahiin jaane walaa
dard is deeda-e-tar se nahiiN jaane walaa

dekhtaa huuN muntashir shiiraaza-e-kaar-e-jahaaN
saa'at-e-naa-aafriida ki jhalak hai aur maiN

agar hazaar baras kii bhii zindagi hotii
to aarzuu yahii hotii ki aur jee lete

Ashraf sahab was aware of his literary standing. He said it it numerous couplets. In literary journal Kitabnuma, Dr Iffat Ara, wrote an obituary and she has also made a selection of his well-known 'ash'aar'.

munavvar aur mubham iste-aare dekh leta huuN
maiN sote jaagte, dilkash nazaare dekh letaa huuN

nasha-e-she'r uRaaye liye jaata hai mujhe
jaise rahvaar-e-sabaa, taKht-e-SulemaaN jaise

mauj-e-nasim ban ke ravaaN kuu-ba-kuu hue
ham bhii shariik-e-qaafla-e-rang-o-buu hue

Human beings don't get everything they wish for in life. An emotional, yet 'wazadar' person, he kept his pain to himself though it occasionally gets visible in his poetry. He did have a contended life and happy marital life. Yet, those who knew him, were aware about what he pined for and what kept him sad.

Jo milna hai vahi mil kar rahega
savaal-e-besh-o-kam bhii be-sabab hai

Amin Ashraf retired in 1990. It was only in later years that he took interest in publishing his works. Because of his command over Persian, one finds an enchanting quality in his couplets. Some of his couplets remind you of the legendary Irfan Siddiqui.

Ameen Ashraf maiN khud na-aashna lekin ye shohrat hai
butaan-e-shahar mein ek yaar-e-jaani main bhii rakhtaa huuN

koii sabab hai jo rahtaa hai Khauf-e-naadiida
muhiib saaya sa larzaaN hai farsh-e-jaaN par bhii

A 'qalandar' in the true sense, he lived life on his own terms.

ye maana aib bhii haiN saikRoN, kis meN nahiiN hote?
ameen ashraf, magar tujh sa qalandar ho nahiiN saktaa

A couplet from the 'naat' genre:

Ye dil diwana hai uska, jo diwana Muhammad ka
AzaaN koii kahe, ruuh-e-Bilaali aa hii jaati hai

After his first collection 'Jaada-e-Shab' was published in 2000, the second divan 'Bahar Eejad' came out in 2007 and Qafas Rang appeared in 2011. He had a large social circle and not just because of poetry but also for his innate humane qualities that he would be remembered for a long time.

Yehi voh rishte haiN jo saath saath rahte haiN
Khud apnaa sayaa hai, yaadeN bhii haiN, muqaddar bhii

After his death in Aligarh on February 7 this year, across India programmes were held to pay homage to the poet. As per his wishes, his mortal remains were taken to his hometown and buried in the hospice premises of Sufi saint Makhdoom Ashraf Jahangir Samnani RH.

Syed Ameen Ashraf is no more. But his legacy lives on. He will always be remembered as a poet and an extraordinary human being. He always encouraged youngsters and treated everybody with respect. An extremely humble and modest person, he enriched classical Urdu poetry with his own experiences and unique idiom.

[*shab-e-taar; dark night, darkness]
[Some couplets have been obtained from Dr Iffat Aara's article in Kitabnuma. Thanks are due to her. Photo courtesy Ibn Sina Academy of Medieval Medicine and Sciences]