Literary Shelf

Amrita Pritam & Sahir Ludhianvi:

Another Point Of View

I apologize in advance for not posting this, as a comment on Professor Tiwari’s article on Amrita Pritam. The reasons are, though she is erudite, she is averse to controversy and debate (as my attempts with comments to stimulate debate’s failure shows) and there are persons who frequent this website, who believe that any comments on any article should follow the adage that “brevity is the soul of wit”.

Since my desire is to promote genuine debate and I believe that ideas and information cannot be really conveyed by sound bites, I have chosen this controversial path at the risk of even more criticism and condemnation. Equally importantly, there are many crucial points which the previous article did not bring out or inform about, which would allow genuine debate by informed participants, to voice opinions. I beg Professor Tiwari’s indulgence for this transgression, in view of my intentions, my fervent desire to stimulate genuine debate, and not cheering, sycophancy and repetitious inconsequential incontinence.

History is replete with men and women who have been frustrated by their unrequited love or been incarcerated in a relationship, while desiring and craving for another, reciprocated or unreciprocated one. Faiz, who only gave an excuse for not being able to offer the all encompassing love like before, in “Aur bhi gham he Zamaane me mohabbat ke siwaa”, does not even come close to Sahir in his words.

Zindagi sirf mohabbat nahi, kuch aur bhi hai
Zulf or rukhsaar ki zannat nahi, kuch aur bhi hai
Bhukh aur pyaaas ki maari hui is duniyaa men
Ishq hi hi ek hakikat nahi, kuch aur bhi he
Tum agar aankh churao, to ye haq he tum ko
Maine tumse hi nahi, subse mohabbat kiyi he. 

The options in such situations are only two. Either one rebels against the norms of contemporary society and pursues an illicit relationship, heterosexual or homosexual and pays the price of the rebellion with the certainty, arrogance and conviction of Henley’s “Invictus” or one succumbs to the constraints of contemporary cultural convictions and commits suicide, like Alan Turing (perhaps Oscar Wilde) or sublimates life like Meerabai. All of these are acceptable and deserving of praise, sympathy and even condemnation and criticism, depending on points of view about morality and right. The reality is that they are so commonplace, that they deserve mostly a nod and indifference.

And what makes Sahir, not only a genius, but in theory at least a man of character, is the other ghazal which became a song in the film “Gumraah”.

Chalo ek baar phir se, ajnabi ban jaye ham dono

Na main tumse koi ummeed rakhoon dilnavaazi ki
Na tum meri taraf dekho galat andaaz nazaron se
Na mere dil ki dhadkan ladkhadaaye meri baaton mein
Na zaahir ho tumhaari kashm-kash ka raaz nazaron se
Chalo ek baar phir se..

Tumhen bhi koi uljhan rokti hai peshkadmi se
Mujhe bhi log kehte hain, ki yeh jalve paraaye hain
Mere hamraah bhi rusvaaiyaan hain mere maajhi ki
Tumhaare saath bhi guzri hui raaton ke saaye hain
Chalo ek baar phir se..

Taarruf rog ho jaaye to usko bhoolnaa behtar
Taalluk bojh ban jaaye to usko todnaa achchha
Voh afsaana jise anjaam tak laana na ho mumkin
Use ek khoobsoorat mod dekar chhodna achchha

For a real retelling of these tragic stories with any relevant meaning, the purpose and message, which is deserving of praise and even retelling is, whether that personal “Samudramanthan” (churning of mind and soul) generated either any Amrit (ambrosia) or Halahal (poison), which has a lasting and important message, emotional and intellectual, or concern for humanity in general. Amrita’s “dil ki kashmokashm” produced no great literature. The despicable sacrifice of young women and their love in the history of humanity, for the benefit of powerful men’s political, pecuniary and nefarious goals, has been the sordid story of humanity for millennia, since recorded history, and still prevalent in Islamic and even Hindu societies. If the apocryphal story of Pritam’s final attempt to make the tryst physically meaningful are true (which is doubtful), it became a farce because of her cop out due to her inability to betray her inherited, customary and conventional principles for the new avant garde norms and Sahir’s physical inability.

I think that a better analogy is in Margaret Mitchell’s, “Gone With the Wind”, in the relationship between the stupid Scarlett (like Amrita Pritam) ruled by her emotional infatuations and equally torn Ashley Wilkes (restrained by honor, but equally by the fact that there was nothing intellectual about Scarlett to love), who is tempted by his carnal lust, but restrained by his intellect and character, but still chooses the right path without regrets, rather than the moping but chaste Amrita Pritam and the pragmatic, selfish but incapable of understanding, Scarlett O’hara. Disaster at the end, like in Madam Bovary or Anna Karenina, is predictable knowing male human nature and all human history, and thus for Amrita Pritam, but unfortunately without any meaningful contribution to life, literature or substance, by Amrita Pritam, except a tired retelling of an often told tale.

Sahir was indeed a great poet and an atheist with an attitude, who even looked at the Taj Mahal, as an ostentatious exploitation by Shah Jehan of his riches, to shame us common lovers and our inability to erect such monuments for our own equally great love. Incidentally, consistent with the penchant of many talented men and women and notoriously prevalent in most totally untalented men of an Islamic persuasion, though an ambition of a large majority of all men of all persuasions, is the desire to plant their seed in as many wombs as possible and not only for the laudable purpose of attaining partial immortality. Sudha Malhotra, a talented artist was equally enamored with Sahir.

My point in this ruthless criticism is that such things are neither uncommon nor deserving of telling, unless and until the “manmanthan” (churning of the mind) generates a gem, genius, a qauntum leap of civilization or a masterpiece of art, literature or invention. Otherwise, they fall into mere tidbits of useless gossip, which is what all the writings of Shobha De can ever hope of only dreaming to aspire to.


More by :  Gaurang Bhatt, MD

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Views: 3593      Comments: 9

Comment Dr. Bhatt, there is no doubt that you are a passionate debater.Am sure you could debate on many other interests with such vigorous fervor.
But still you could not drive home your point..You could not convince me ....not the slightest.You sounded so agitated all along. Even when you were extending your apologies to Prof Tiwari, one could hear your heaving breathprints.You were trying too hard to make a point.
Art is not a hammer, always, Dr. Bhatt. Its far more fluid and far reaching than that.Not everyone are blessed to appreciate it.

13-Jan-2014 14:37 PM

Comment I was reading the blog and reached where there's the mention of Scarlet from Gone with the wind. The moment I crossed the word "there was nothing intellectual about Scarlett to love" stopped me from reading any further. I believed the author of this blog failed to understand as uncouth and shallow as Scarlet was, there was something about her that men couldn't resist and women couldn't stop envy. She was a real person and Ashley Wilkes was a spineless coward --- in reality he was not in her league. So, if Dr. Bhatt couldn't get that, I have no hopes of anything better on any other fronts, so stopped at that point.

15-Jul-2013 11:55 AM

Comment Excellent Debate,
i shared the entire episode for further knowledge and debate on this .
dr.salman abid
sahir ludhianvi genius global council,Hyderabad,india

dr salman abid
05-Apr-2013 14:04 PM

Comment What an Islamophobe!

03-Dec-2012 20:01 PM

Comment My limited talent could not comprehend what Dr.Bhatt wanted to say. He quotes some oft heard ditties wirtten by Sahir for the bollywood to prove some point. He could have gone through "Talquiyaan" and quoted some serious stuff.

The unrequitted love apart, their drifting apart has given us literary gems for which we shall ever be thankful. Otherwise also, Punjabi folklore is replete with tales of unreqitted love, be it Sohni Mahiwal or Heer Raanjha or Sassi Punnu etc. Consummation takes place only in heaven. True to this tradition, our literary luminaries also followed the "life imitating arts" pattern. We can only pray that "they are united in heaven".( Sahir may scoff at this prayer, the thorough atheist that he is!)

22-Mar-2012 15:35 PM

Comment There is a perspective that is missed: that of the feminine principle in the writing. One is immediately struck by the fact that it is a woman, Prof Shuba Tiwari, that is lauding the literary achievements of Amrita Pritam. Whereas a man's writing is condemned as effeminate if he descends into the delicate world of female observation, exploration and description, a woman, being feminine, can get away with it, especially, in woman's estimate. Likewise, what to a man is trivial and mawkishly sentimental is to a woman the stuff of life. In the article by Prof Tiwari, reference is made to readership of writings of Amrita Pritam and one must assume it is predominantly female, though it is not specifically qualified as such. If it attains to the level of art, it is predominantly in a woman's estimate. One has this experience in poetry, where a man reading a woman's poem on the love of her life is surprised at himself for feeling decidedly squeamish at the intensity of emotion expressed. Of course, he need not so blame himself. If he, however, decides to judge the poem by male standards, defining it as trivial and cloying in its sentimentality, then he is intruding into a world of feminine sensibility, rather like man entering a room full of women, and noticing how high-pitched their voices are, to assume nothing of serious import is being discussed, but merely feminine chitchat.

Finally, if I may just say that though, in the west, women have fought hard for and achieved equality with men on most issues, there yet remains the anomalous distinction between the two sexes, most evident in sport track and field events, where women have their own category of performance, lesser compared to that of men, much lauded nonetheless, which perhaps, less conspicously, manifests itself in other fields of human activity, the literary included, where the inherent physical inferiority of women is by no means extended to their intellectual or artistic capability, yet which is betrayed in that very quality which characterises it, what in a man would be roundly condemned as effeminate, but in a woman, and mostly to women, as sense and sensibility.

07-Oct-2011 09:16 AM

Comment There is a basic difference in our two approaches. I like a writer, you don't like. I take art for its own sake. I like to annihilate my vision into the vision of the artist. I don't want to make sense of everything. Life is not always logical. I like to go literature to forget myself, to live the life of others for some momnets. I don't claim to be a great scholar; but I'm definitely a literature-lover.
There's no question of being offended by your comments. With the kind of vast knowledge that you have and the kind of 'utility' tag that you attach to art; you're bound to have the kind of perception that you have.

Prof. Shubha Tiwari
04-Oct-2011 23:33 PM

Comment The earlier short stories of Amrita Pritam reveal an obsession with the calf love (infatuations) of girls trapped, unhappy or reminiscing about love affairs. Her behavior to me reflected her immaturity and that is what her writings project. Her poems of the partition reveal the usual horrors of it. Her obsession with unfulfilled love is what made her address her most famous poem to Waris Shah, who had melded a version of Hardy's "Far From The Madding Crowd " and "Romeo and Juliette" in a tragic ending more like that of "Sohni Mahiwal" and other similar stories in Sindh and Baluchistan and all over the world. I don't mean to say that Waris Shah had read the English novel or plays. These are just the classic tragedies all over the world. Even Shakespeare's plays are not original stories of his own. It is his words and language which make his works great literature. This is what is missing in Amrita and Shobha De's works. The former's mind is obsessed with love triangles and the latter with just plain trash and gossip. I understand that this is just my opinion and you may have a totally opposite opinion and it is possible that your view maybe more more prevalent, acceptable by literary critics and maybe even right.
Your understanding her yearning to say what she wants to say is a claim which everyone of us can make and that does not make her work great literature. I don't think her sayings are artistically powerful. You allude to some other motive that I may have. I tried to get you to compare the stories of a previous author you wrote about with his predecessor, but you chose to ignore it. That is your right and privilege and that was the only reason, I wrote about Amrita Pritam, as a separate article as I explained. The other reason was some totally irrelevant criticisms of the length of my comments. I did not want to give the impression that I was trying to correct or stand in official judgment of your views. That is why I repeatedly offered my apologies to you in this article, precisely to avoid offending you or any of your feelings. I am just an avid reader and not a professor of English and do not have your training to judge literature, but that does not mean that I cannot have my own opinion, the opposite of yours, despite the lack of specific credentials. After all, beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, and disagreement is also debate. Finally, as Brecht says,
“ Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.”

Gaurang Bhatt
04-Oct-2011 10:40 AM

Comment I smell another angle in your words. You need to pay attention to the eternal debate, 'art for art's sake or otherwise'. I hope you won't mind if I say that your obsession with 'art with a purpose', spoils many things. What would you say to Shakespeare's sonnets which were not written, neither intended for public consumption. These pieces of eternal beauty were composed to give solace to a weary artist's soul. I can fully understand, and identify with Amrita's yearning to say things she wants to say. And she says them powerfully and artistically. That qualifies her work for further reading and discussion. And Dr. Bhatt, debate is not always disagreement.

Prof. Shubha Tiwari
04-Oct-2011 05:29 AM

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