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|Zafar's Poetry: Rebellion and Pain|
|by Prof. Shubha Tiwari|
The last monarch of India, Bahadur Shah Zafar was a gentle soul. He could not fight the British. He could not rise to the occasion. He was spoiled. He was used to a life of utter luxury. He failed to champion the cause of the freedom struggle of 1857. All these and many more legitimate allegations cannot wipe off the fact that Zafar was a patriot. He hated the British rule. He craved for restoring India's honour. He simply loved India. As we go through the poems written by Zafar and his contemporaries, we find that these great Urdu poets were genuine patriots. Their poetry breathes the simmering anger, despair and revolt against the British rule. Their's is a story of helplessness of simple souls before the cunningness and brutality of the more mechanized and organized lot.
Zafar and his contemporaries were quite different from the British. They lived in a world of honour, generosity, poetic replies, and beauty. The British had the sole aim of exploiting India. They eyed the riches of this nation. Their army was mechanized. Their sense of business was strong. The British had not come to India for listening shers, ghazals and quitaats. What we find here is a complete contrast of approach between the two forces. What Mangal Pandey and Laxmi Bai had, was instant valour. But even that did not work with the British. Bahadur Shah Zafar was not good at arms. But it does not mean that he was not patriotic. His heart cried for India. The concept of the physical entity called India was taking a definite shape during those days. Zafar was one of the first champions of this idea of Indianhood.
Once, someone taunted Zafar by saying :
(Your fort is crumbling down, pray for your life.
Zafar replied back:
(So long as the soldiers retain their faith and pride
The British naturally targetted Zafar. He had to pay a heavy price for his espousal of the first war of India's Independence. In this war, he not only lost his empire but his sons and nephews as well. Zafar has penned the Birish rampage effectively in this poem:
The concept of the physical entity called India was being formed around 1857. Although each ruler was confined and attached to his/ her own little kingdom, still, a wave of common culture and heritage ran through the country. Wherever the British ruled was identified as India. The British did not rule China at that particular juncture, therefore that region and other surrounding areas were out of the general consciousness regarding the concept of India. It was a unique point in the history of India when the idea of modern nation-state was being established. Nationality, nationhood and patriotism were new concepts in the sense that earlier people knew that they had to be loyal to their local ruler and that was all. All that was required was solidarity with the local zamindar, talukedar or king. In this steady growth of the ideal of India, Delhi occupied an important place. The city of Delhi was being recognized as the centre of political activities in India.
Zafar again and again expresses his ire against the rising British excesses on Indian soil:
Momin writes in a different vein. In the following lines, he articulates the conditions of despair and hopelessness in Delhi:
(I now acclaim and now denounce my failures and defeats.
Similarly, Zauq's love for Delhi is worth quoting:
All the poets of this generation, Zafar, Ghalib, Zauq and Momin, cherished a deep love for the country in their hearts. K.C. Kanda, a Zafar scholar, says,
Zafar again and again cries against the slavery of the British:
(He who is an inmate of this place dark,
These lines depict Zafar's own imprisonment. He is a slave just because he is an inhabitant of the place. He very well understood the loot of India. The cruelty of the British finds expression in his poetry.
The jackals here are the British. Reading these poems, one forms a sharp image of the British: Cunning, cruel and calculated.
Self-respect was the trade mark of these poets. They were scholars. They shunned British jobs. Kanda tells,'...Momin was averse to seeking personal favours through flattery or sham praise... he had also declined (like Ghalib) the poet of a professor at Delhi College....(2) This Delhi College later took the shape of Delhi University. We, with our 21st century eyes, cannot easily see as to why these great scholars and poets declined professorship. But for them, it was slavery and worse still, slavery of the British. They lived in their own world. Unfortunately they could not die in their own world. The famous lines of Zafar echo:
This love's street is India. In fact, the whole of this poem is an Indian's cry to reach back his motherland. The last days of Zafar at Rangoon filled his poems with unfathomable pain. He feels restless at an alien land:
(I feel ill-at-ease on this wasted heath,
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Comments on this Poem Article
Prof. Shubha Tiwari
08/08/2011 00:00 AM
08/07/2011 00:00 AM
Prof. Shubha Tiwari
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