Wednesday, January 1, 1997

'JOSH' in Hyderabad

Legends and Anecdotes of Hyderabad : 21

'JOSH' in Hyderabad
by Narendra Luther

Dagh was the first poet of note to come to Hyderabad. He became the poetic preceptor of the Sixth Nizam. Jaleel Manikpuri succeeded him and had the unique distinction of being the `ustad' of two Nizam. Urdu poets and men of letters from `Hindustan', as the British India was then called by the people of Hyderabad, flocked to the city in search of fortune.
That was especially so after the establishment of the Osmania University in 1918 which had Urdu as its medium of instruction. That gave rise to the need for large-scale translation of books from English into Urdu in various subjects. For that purpose a Bureau of Translation was set up in the University.
The last Nizam and Maharaja Kishen Pershad, twice premier of the State, besides being poets themselves, were also patron of letters.So was the Junior Prince, Muazzam Jah. Many poets and literatures were therefore attracted to the city which was referred to as `the bride amongst the cities of India. Some other nobles also vied with each other in extending their patronage to literary figures. In the early part of 20th century Hyderabad could boast of the best roll of honours amongst poets in India.
One of the most famous and interesting poets to come to Hyderabad was Shabir Hasan Khan `Josh Malihabadi'. Born in U.P. in 1898 in a well-to-do landed family, he was descended from a line of poets. He had socialist leanings and was fiercely anti-British. He was known as the `poet of the revolution' in India. He was a fire - brand poet with a rare mastery of vocabulary which he employed to protest against cant and oppression. Given below are two samples from his famous poems :
Ek dil, aur yeh hajoom-e-sogawari, haae, haae!
Yeh sitam, ai sangdil sarmayadari, haae, haae!
(One poor heart, and a flood of sorrows, alas, alas, O God !
How despotic is your reign, O Capitalism, alas !)
Ai khuda, Hindustan par yeh nahusat ta kuja ?
Aakhir is jannat pe dozakh ki hakoomat ta kuja ?
(How long, O Lord, will this land lie under an evil spell ?
How long, will this paradise bear the yoke of hell ?)
(Translation by Prof. K.C.Kanda)
According to his autobiography, `Yadon ki Baraat,' Josh had a dream in 1922 in which Prophet Mohammed, pointing towards the Nizam, told him that he would live under his patronage for 10 years. When his wife heard about his dream, she started coaxing him to go to Hyderabad. In 1924 Josh, armed with letters of recommendation from the leading poets of India, like Dr. Iqbal and Akbar Allahabadi addressed to Maharaja Kishen Pershad landed in Hyderabad. The Maharaja was out of job at that time but he recommended him to Akbar Hydari, then finance minister who had worked under him. When Josh went to see him, Hydari showed him a number of panegyrics which poets had composed on his getting knight-hood. Sir Akbar asked him whether he could also show his poetic skills likewise. Josh was enraged and made a very offensive remark about those who were honoured thus by the British. That killed his chances. But he was able to meet the Nizam through the efforts of Nawab Imad-ul-Mulk who told the Nizam about Josh's dream. Flattered by that, the Nizam appointed him in the Bureau of Translation of the Osmania University. He served there for about 10 years and according to him and contemporary accounts, enjoyed himself thoroughly.
Once, on a birthday of the Nizam, an editor of a local paper asked Josh to write a poem for the occasion. Instead of eulogizing the Nizam, as was expected, Josh concluded the poem by suggesting that he (Josh) should be hailed. This was followed by a poem against the feudal system which was recited in a gathering of some of the leading nobles of Hyderabad. The report of that recitation reached the Nizam. Because of these acts of insolence, Josh was sacked and asked to leave the state within 15 days.
Here the account given by Josh differs from that contained in the archives of the State as revealed by Dr. Dawood Ashraf a former Research Officer in the State Archives. According to Josh, the Nizam was keen to pardon him and sought a formal apology from him. This, the latter declined to tender. The Archives, however, show that though Josh submitted abject apologies and offered what the Nizam called a `lame excuse' of high fever for his impertinence. However, the Nizam did not relent. It was a rule in Hyderabad that those who were expelled from the State were given a pension of Rs.100 a month for life. Josh was also given the benefit of that. However, since he did not have enough money even to meet his travel expenses, an advance of Rs.1000 was sanctioned by the same Sir Akbar Hydari to whom he had been so rude and insulting when he had come to the State a decade earlier.
In 1943 Josh petitioned the Nizam to be permitted to visit Hyderabad. This request was rejected. In November, 1947 he repeated the request in order just to "see his friends and visit places which haunt me in my dreams". This too was rejected. In a `grapes-are-sour' vein, Josh wrote back saying it was all to the good. "In any case a visit before the revolution wouldn't have been enjoyable"
Nehru and Azad were amongst the admirers of Josh. He was given the job of editor of `Aajkal' Urdu monthly of the directorate of publication of the Government of India. He was also awarded Padma Bhushan.
In 1956 he migrated to Pakistan but was disillusioned there since he didn't get the material favours and honours which were presumably promised to him.
He died a frustrated man in Pakistan in 1982 missing both the country of his birth, and his adoption.