Sahir: Rebel son of a rich father!

   By Vijay Darda | 23-10-2023

It has been 43 years since Sahir Ludhianvi passed away but his songs are still ruling our hearts!

I first met Sahir while studying in college in Mumbai. Jaidev, the music director, lived beneath my house. At the time, he was composing music for the film Hum Dono’s famous song Main zindagi ka saath nibhata chala gaya, har fikr ko dhuyen mein udaata chala gaya… It cast a spellbinding charm on my poetic mind and lyrical disposition. That was my first introduction to him, and it is still fresh in my mind.

He was such an exceptional person that the world would never be able to forget him. A complete human being full of humanity, who took a dip in the ocean of love and then sat on the threshold of sadness, containing the anguish so intensely that he crushed his own heart. He did not marry but penned unique words to express a father’s love and blessings… Babul ki duayen leti ja, ja tujhko sukhi sansar mile… This great poet gifted the world a message that it will never forget… Tu Hindu banega na Musalman banega, insan ki aulad hai insan banega or Allah tero naam, Ishwar tero naam…


Abdul Hayee Sahir, popularly known by his pen name Sahir Ludhianvi, was born on March 8, 1921 in Ludhiana and passed away on October 25, 1980 in Mumbai. He left behind a scintillating collection of poetry and songs, besides many anecdotes about his life. He was a truly great poet. Eminent poets such as Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Firaq Gorakhpuri and Iqbal were there when Sahir entered the realm of poetry. It wasn’t easy for anyone to make his or her mark! And Sahir didn’t even try to do so! The voice that came from his heart penetrated the minds of people and he became the caliph of poets. His first book titled Talkhiyan was published in 1943. Till his departure from this world, he neither left the company of poems nor did the poems leave him. His songs became immortal. His poetry became immortal. He himself became immortal!

Sahir Ludhianvi experienced every philosophy of life very closely. His father was a wealthy landlord with several wives. His father’s disregard for his mother continued to hurt him deeply. When his distraught mother separated from her husband, Sahir abandoned his father and the inheritance too. Perhaps this was all destined, for if poverty had not entered Sahir’s life, how would he have understood the hollowness of this society? Where would he have got the rebellious attitude which he became popular for? He wrote… Ye Mahalon ye takhton ye tajon ki duniya, ye insan ke dushman samajon ki duniya… His poetry created an uproar in Parliament when it came out in the form of a song in the film Pyaasa… Jinhe naaz hai Hind par woh kahan hain? Ye purpench galiyan, ye badnam bazaar, ye gumnam rahi, ye sikkon ki jhankar, ye ismat ke saude, ye saudon pe takrar, jinhe naaz hai Hind par woh kahan hain? This song of Sahir had exposed the painful reality of the red light area. A mirror was shown to the rulers. That was probably the first time when Parliament witnessed an uproar over a song.

Love as an emotion is repeatedly mentioned in the poetry of such a revolutionary poet because he lived this emotion wholeheartedly but fate did not approve of it. In his younger days, he fell in love with a girl who had become a bride at the age of just 16. The whole world knows her name — Amrita Pritam. How rebellious it must have been in those days to fall in love with a married girl. But the reality was that Amrita too, had fallen for him. The affair did not last long because Sahir was Abdul. Amrita’s father did not approve of this. It was natural for the husband to get angry. After a long correspondence, both of them started living separately. Sahir lived in Mumbai while Amrita in Delhi, but does love ever die? I am briefly discussing Amrita Pritam because Sahir cannot be understood by separating her. Imroz was a common friend of Sahir and Amrita. Sahir used to sing all the songs written for Amrita to Imroz first. As for Imroz, he was secretly in love with Amrita. He lived with her for the rest of her life! Whenever Amrita would go out with him on the scooter, she would write Sahir… Sahir… Sahir… on his back with her fingers! Imroz would feel Amrita’s immense love for Sahir on his back but he never despised it. This is called true love! Imroz and Amrita both remained faithful to their feelings!

Sahir’s love for singer Sudha Malhotra was no less but there too, religion became the hurdle. When Sudha’s marriage was fixed, it became clear that this affair would meet an abrupt end too. Sahir’s friends organised a gathering. Sudha was also invited. Many of Sahir’s poems were read there. When Sahir was invited to recite a poem himself, he sang… Chalo ek baar phir se ajnabi ban jaye ham dono..! This song later became part of the film Gumrah. Before that, Sudha had sung Sahir’s song in the film Didi… Tum agar bhool bhi jao toh ye haq hai tumko..! Such was their love! Sahir also wrote… Udein jab jab zulfen teri… Aye meri zohra jabeen… Main pal do pal ka shayar hoon…


An eminent writer herself, Amrita has written in her famous biography Raseedi Ticket that Sahir had a complex about his face and appearance and therefore, he could never develop the self-confidence befitting the poet of his stature. But I have met Sahir, known him and read him. To me, the person seemed like a skilled surgeon who dissects the anomalies of the system. How can anyone forget that a warrant was issued against Sahir in Pakistan due to an article published in Savera magazine. Ultimately, Sahir left Pakistan. He reached Mumbai via Delhi. His songs started making waves. The scale of his fame was such that he would charge one rupee more as remuneration than what Lata Mangeshkar received.

Javed Akhtar, who was with me in Rajya Sabha, had told me an anecdote related to Sahir. One day, Javed Bhai went to Sahir’s house to meet him. Seeing him, Sahir asked, “Why are you sad young man?” Javed Akhtar said he is facing financial problem and is about to run out of money. He asked him for some work. Sahir did not make eye contact but pointed towards the Rs 200 note kept on the table and asked him to keep the money, with an assurance to do something for him! Time passed. Financial problem became a thing of the past for Javed Bhai. Whenever he used to sit with Sahir in gatherings, he would say that he owed Sahir sahab Rs 200 and would add smilingly that he wouldn’t return it. When people would ask why, Javed Bhai would say, “Ask him only!” Then came that fateful day of October 25, 1980, when Sahir sahab departed from this world. He was buried in Juhu cemetery. Everyone left but Javed Bhai sat there for a long time. When he got up and was about to sit in his car, Sahir’s friend Ashfaq came running and asked him whether he had some money to give to the grave digger. Javed Akhtar asked, “How much?” Ashfaq said softly, “Just Rs 200!” What a strange coincidence, isn’t it!

Sahir Ludhianvi’s poetry contains every philosophy of life. He wrote… Main pal do pal ka shayar hoon, pal do pal meri kahani hain..! But Sahir’s story has become immortal. We will keep humming his poems forever!

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