meet the poet

For Sahir Ludhianvi, the best kind of love was unrequited

On the celebrated Urdu poet’s 96th birth anniversary, a reminder of his contradictory attitudes towards women and relationships.

The poetry of Sahir Ludhianvi was deeply empathetic to women, and yet, Ludhianvi remained single and, as they say, unfulfilled throughout his life. His early poetry spoke of unrequited love, never more evident than in his film songs. When Ludhianvi wrote from a woman’s point of view, it felt as though he had been able to get under her skin.

He authored the celebrated song Aurat Ne Janam Diya Mardon Ko (It is the woman who has given birth to the man) in the film Sadhna (1958), in which the protagonist was a prostitute played by Vyjayanthimala. The songs he gave to so-called fallen women – cabaret dancers, street singers and molls – are rare gems of grace and reflection. He penned a Vaishnav bhajan for the character of the street walker Gulabo, played by Waheeda Rehman, in Pyasaa (1957). In Baazi (1951), Geeta Bali lures Dev Anand by singing the philosophical song “Tadbeer se bigdi hui taqdeer bana le, apne pe bharosa hai to yeh daon laga le” (Gather the resolve to change your fate, if you have faith in yourself then take a bet.)

Play
Tadbeer Se Bigdi Hui from Baazi (1951).

The qawwali singer played by Shyama in Barsaat ki Raat (1960) could have been a gopi or Radha herself, when she sang in Na To Caravan Ki Talaash Hai, “Bahut kathin hai dagar panghat ki, Ab kya bhar laoon main Jamuna se matki” (The path to the water’s edge is difficult, but should I fill my pot at the river Yamuna?)

Ludhianvi’s mother was a strong woman, forced to leave her feudal landlord husband so that she could raise her son away from the depraved environment at home. She lived on meagre means, on an allowance provided by Ludhianvi’s grandfather, and received constant threats from her husband that he would kidnap their son.

The only wish of hers that Ludhianvi did not honour, was that he marry her niece. His relationship with the poet Amrita Pritam ended when she returned disillusioned from Mumbai, where she had gone to build a life with him. Pritam could not bear Ludhianvi’s use of abusive language, which frequently undermined women.

Play
Na To Caravan Ki Talaash Hai from Barsaat Ki Raat (1960).

For Ludhianvi, desire remained restricted to his verse. The poet accepted the fact that consummation of a relationship, whether it was serious or a fling, was simply not to be. This became evident in his early poem Kabhi Kabhi, included in his first anthology Talkhian and later in the celebrated title track from Yash Chopra’s 1976 film Kabhi Kabhie. The anthology included Taj Mahal, in which the poet implores his beloved not to meet him at the monument, which he calls an expensive advertisement by an indulgent emperor.

However, it was his poem Chakle, or Brothels, which remained his most emotive ode to womanhood. Chakle was later used as a song in the film Pyaasa. Ludhianvi decries the exploitation and oppression of women across faiths and communities.

After Ludhianvi’s death in 1980, the poet Painter Bawari dotted Ludhiana with cloth banners that read, “Hai Sahir”. Speaking of the old days and Ludhianvi’s youth, Bawari agreed that Chakle was the poet’s most evocative work: “He raises the curtain of the hypocrisy in society, calls prostitutes by the names of most revered women of the three religions of the time and that too in a climate of communal turmoil…there will never be a poet like him.”

Sahir Ludhianvi and Amrita Pritam.
Sahir Ludhianvi and Amrita Pritam.
We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

The perpetual millennial quest for self-expression just got another boost

Making adulting in the new millennium easier, one step at a time.

Having come of age in the Age of the Internet, millennials had a rocky start to self-expression. Indeed, the internet allowed us to personalise things in unprecedented fashion and we really rose to the occasion. The learning curve to a straightforward firstname.surname@___mail.com email address was a long one, routed through cringeworthy e-mail ids like coolgal1234@hotmail.com. You know you had one - making a personalised e-mail id was a rite of passage for millennials after all.

Declaring yourself to be cool, a star, a princess or a hunk boy was a given (for how else would the world know?!). Those with eclectic tastes (read: juvenile groupies) would flaunt their artistic preferences with an elitist flair. You could take for granted that bitbybeatlemania@hotmail.com and hpfan@yahoo.com would listen to Bollywood music or read Archie comics only in private. The emo kids, meanwhile, had to learn the hard way that employers probably don’t trust candidates with e-mail ids such as depressingdystopian@gmail.com.

Created using Imgflip
Created using Imgflip

And with chat rooms, early millennials had found a way to communicate, with...interesting results. The oldest crop of millennials (30+ year olds) learnt to deal with the realities of adolescent life hunched behind anonymous accounts, spewing their teenage hormone-laden angst, passion and idealism to other anonymous accounts. Skater_chick could hide her ineptitude for skating behind a convincing username and a skateboard-peddling red-haired avatar, and you could declare your fantasies of world domination, armed with the assurance that no one would take you seriously.

With the rise of blogging, millennial individualism found a way to express itself to millions of people across the world. The verbosity of ‘intellectual’ millennials even shone through in their blog URLs and names. GirlWhoTravels could now opine on her adventures on the road to those who actually cared about such things. The blogger behind scentofpetunia.blogspot.com could choose to totally ignore petunias and no one would question why. It’s a tradition still being staunchly upheld on Tumblr. You’re not really a Tumblr(er?) if you haven’t been inspired to test your creative limits while crafting your blog URL. Fantasy literature and anime fandoms to pop-culture fanatics and pizza lovers- it’s where people of all leanings go to let their alter ego thrive.

Created using Imgflip
Created using Imgflip

Then of course social media became the new front of self-expression on the Internet. Back when social media was too much of a millennial thing for anyone to meddle with, avatars and usernames were a window into your personality and fantasies. Suddenly, it was cool to post emo quotes of Meredith Grey on Facebook and update the world on the picturesque breakfast you had (or not). Twitter upped the pressure by limiting expression to 140 characters (now 280-have you heard?) and the brevity translated to the Twitter handles as well. The trend of sarcasm-and-wit-laden handles is still alive well and has only gotten more sophisticated with time. The blogging platform Medium makes the best of Twitter intellect in longform. It’s here that even businesses have cool account names!

Self-expression on the Internet and the millennials’ love for the personalised and customised has indeed seen an interesting trajectory. Most millennial adolescents of yore though are now grownups, navigating an adulting crisis of mammoth proportions. How to wake up in time for classes, how to keep the boss happy, how to keep from going broke every month, how to deal with the new F-word – Finances! Don’t judge, finances can be stressful at the beginning of a career. Forget investments, loans and debts, even matters of simple money transactions are riddled with scary terms like beneficiaries, NEFT, IMPS, RTGS and more. Then there’s the quadruple checking to make sure you input the correct card, IFSC or account number. If this wasn’t stressful enough, there’s the long wait while the cheque is cleared or the fund transfer is credited. Doesn’t it make you wish there was a simpler way to deal with it all? If life could just be like…

Created using Imgflip
Created using Imgflip

Lo and behold, millennial prayers have been heard! Airtel Payments Bank, India’s first, has now integrated UPI on its digital platform, making banking over the phone easier than ever. Airtel Payments Bank UPI, or Unified Payment Interface, allows you to transfer funds and shop and pay bills instantly to anyone any time without the hassles of inputting any bank details – all through a unique Virtual Payment Address. In true millennial fashion, you can even create your own personalised UPI ID or Virtual Payment Address (VPA) with your name or number- like rhea@airtel or 9990011122@airtel. It’s the smartest, easiest and coolest way to pay, frankly, because you’re going to be the first person to actually make instant, costless payments, rather than claiming to do that and making people wait for hours.

To make life even simpler, with the My Airtel app, you can make digital payments both online and offline (using the Scan and Pay feature that uses a UPI QR code). Imagine, no more running to the ATM at the last minute when you accidentally opt for COD or don’t have exact change to pay for a cab or coffee! Opening an account takes less than three minutes and remembering your VPA requires you to literally remember your own name. Get started with a more customised banking experience here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Airtel Payments Bank and not by the Scroll editorial team.