Nasir Kazmi, Ambala’s gem of a poet

Nasir Kazmi, Ambala’s gem of a poet

Photo for representation only. - File photo

Gurupdesh Singh

Most of us know Nasir Kazmi by his ghazals, not by name. Very few among us would have missed his famous Ghulam Ali ghazal, ‘Dil mein ik lehar si uthi hai abhi’, or Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s ‘Gham hai ya khushi hai, tu meri zindagi hai tu’.

It is difficult to say who established Nasir Kazmi as a niche poet — the critics or the musicians. It is no mere coincidence that this Pakistani poet is the darling of almost every celebrated ghazal singer on both sides of the border. His poetry instantly strikes a responsive chord with a delicate mind: ‘Dil dhadakne ka sabab yaad aaya; vo teri yaad thi ab yaad aaya’, sung beautifully by Asha Bhosle.

Born in December 1925 at Ambala to a Subedar Major of the British Indian Army, he finished his matriculation from Muslim High School, and moved to Lahore for his college education. He came back to Ambala in 1945 and continued living there until 1947, when his family decided to migrate to Pakistan, where they settled in Lahore. Until his death in 1972, Lahore remained his favourite haunt, where he enjoyed the company of other men of letters and nightly sojourns in its historic streets: ‘Gali gali meri yaad bichhi hai, pyare rasta dekh ke chal; mujh se itni vahshat hai to meri hadon se door nikal’.

A contemporary of such Pakistani stalwarts as Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi, he succeeded in keeping himself on the sidelines of progressive poetry, yet making a distinct place for himself with his simple diction and lilting lyricism. Partition, nostalgia, grief and fickle love are some of the recurrent themes in his poetry: ‘Shahr-dar-shahr ghar jalaaye gaye; yoon bhee jashn-e-tarab manaaye gaye’.

Nasir is downright romantic, melancholic, a brooding loner in his poetry. He is like a child who loses his sand castle in the evening tide and hopes to find it with the rise of the sun. In his nostalgia, he is a bridge that connects us to our pre-Partition past, a mirror that reflects our age-lines, a voice that we love to hear after the thunder of the day is done: ‘Eh dost hamne taraq-e-mohabbat ke bawjood; Mehsoos ki hai teri zaroorat kabhi kabhi’.

Nasir also wrote a nazm recalling his days in Ambala and rues the huge loss and grief that his departure from the town left in him: ‘Ambala ek shahr tha sunte hai ab bhi hai, Main hun usi mitte hue karihe ki roshni’ (I hear there’s still that town Ambala, the source whose light I am).

Nasir died young. The government of Pakistan issued a postage stamp in his honour in 2013. May this poet of our common heritage live forever!

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