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Her father’s legacy
By Intizar Husain
Here is a collection of poems whose publication carries a story with it. The poet is Ganga Dher Nath Nigam known to the Urdu readership of his time as ‘Farhat Kanpuri’. He was born in 1905 and died in 1952.
He was quite well known as a poet during the 1930s and ’40s along with other leading poets of those days such as Jigar, Firaq and Majaz. But he did not care to have his work collected in book form. Therefore, soon after his untimely death at the age of 47, his name receded in the background.
But the poet had left behind a daughter who was determined to see that her father’s writings did not go to waste. She is known as Mrs Vijay Nigam and now lives in San Jose, California. She says, ‘I have a love for Urdu literature and language. That is a heritage bequeathed to me by my Babuji. I feel proud to be in possession of this inheritance.’
This sense of pride is significant when seen in the background of what happened in the aftermath of Partition. Urdu, both as a language and as a literary tradition had to pay dearly because of being closely linked with the Muslim community.
The young generation of Hindus became hostile to the literary legacy of their forefathers. However, not all were swayed by this wave of anger and hatred. There were souls among them who had an awareness of the value of this legacy and they stuck to it with tenacity.
Mrs Nigam may be counted among them. She feels elated to find her father associated with the great literary tradition known as Urdu literature. She recalls in her Preface the good old days when Jigar, Firaq, Majaz and Majnu Gorakhpure had stayed as guests at her house and her father played host to them.
‘I am talking of the days when I was just a child. Majaz, though dead drunk, was always seen behaving in a gentlemanly way. Firaq so often got involved in a heated discussion with those present there. But the finest soul among them was Jigar Sahib.
He was a perfect gentleman. I am indebted to my Babuji for my good luck in having introduced me to such distinguished personalities.’
This helped her to have an awareness of the significance of poetry. And so she knew the value of the ghazals and rubayiat written by her father. She was keen to get them published in a collected form.
With that purpose in mind, she joined an Urdu class so as to be well versed in the language. Her teacher, Hameeda Chopra, introduced her to Prof Mamoon Aiman, who accepted the responsibility to compile Farhat’s verses.
The professor painstakingly collected all the verses and compiled them properly by keeping in view the significance of each poetic form the poet had employed for his expression. The compilation is accompanied by a Foreword and two critical articles, one by Satya Paul Anand on Farhat’s manzoomat and the other by Prof Yahya Nashit Syed on his rubaiyat.
So now we have a valuable collection of poems published by Maktaba-i-Sher-o-Hikmat in Hyderabad, India under the title Nerm Jhonkon Ki Sada. For this we are indebted to Mrs Nigam. She now stands as a challenge to the famous Persian proverb which implies that it is always the son who finishes the job left unfinished by his father.
Now we are in a position to assert that a daughter does it in a better way. She felt committed to the legacy bequeathed to her by her father and did zealously what her commitment demanded from her. For this the daughter deserves our compliments — perhaps even more so than the father.
But the father, I mean the poet, too stood committed to the literary tradition he is associated with. His insistence on humanistic values in the face of religious bigotry and communal separatism reminds us of the essential elements of Urdu’s literary tradition as represented by poets such as Mir, Ghalib and Nazir.
Ganga Dhar Nath, better known as Farhat Kanpuri, flourished as a poet during the first half of the past century. Most of the verses included in the present volume belong to that period. Those were the years when the freedom movement was gaining momentum.
And Farhat was not simply a poet. He was also a political worker aligned with the Indian National Congres and had been to jail for the cause of freedom.
So he was a poet with a political consciousness. Possessed with political awareness and humanistic thinking, he reacted strongly against the growing communalism and expressed his faith in humanism saying:
‘Main hun Shair, Maira Naghma Naghma-i-Insaniyat.’