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Writer?s block

I spent my adolescent years in Lucknow, with an abundance of tales ? dreamy and all too terribly romantic ? related to poets of the like of Majaz.

india Updated: Jan 04, 2006 00:47 IST

I spent my adolescent years in Lucknow, with an abundance of tales — dreamy and all too terribly romantic — related to poets of the like of Majaz. The mist was cleared a few weeks back, on a day that Delhi saw a discussion take place on this legendary poet who died so very young and, perhaps, unsung too. In fact, the mist has been clearing for the last few months during which I’ve been discovering the progressive writers of our country from decades gone by.

What men, what personalities had emerged right from the Thirties to the time of Partition — from Munshi Premchand to Sajjad Zaheer to Majaz. They were men with such force in their pen, who wrote from their hearts, with passion and emotion. They lived their ideals — or rather, died for them. Of course, the common enemy was the colonial power. Their writings gained tremendous momentum as their determination to oust the British from their native soil grew.

And, mind you, it was a collective power. As Mushirul Hasan, vice-chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia, has said: “Progressive writers movement didn’t lay confined to any particular language. Its strength lay in its base among writers and poets of Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi and Bangla. The PWG was the product of the anti-colonial struggle, so it expressed the aspirations of the workers, the peasant, the exploited masses…” The strength of their writing came from their selflessness. Most of these writers lived and died practically penniless, shorn sometimes of even their romantic dreams.

Yet, since we gained Independence, this glorious range of writers is slowly but surely fading from our minds. At a recent meet on progressive writers in Delhi, it was heartening to hear anecdotes and more serious details of their lives, from those who are descendants or were closely associated with them — like Javed Akhtar, Alok Rai, Qamar Rais, Kamleshwar, Mohammad Hasan, Ali Baquer.

But a time will come when there’ll be no one left to tell us these stories. None to tell us how emotionally drained Majaz sahib was that he was thrice admitted into the dark wards of a mental hospital. Or what havoc the Partition caused to the nerves of many others.

A few months back, when I met Saadat Hasan Manto’s grand nephew, I spent an entire evening simply asking him about the controversial writer — from stories about his weak nerves to his weakness for women. I felt so much lighter after Abid Hasan Minto patiently cleared all those mists surrounding Manto.

Hurry, let’s not let go of these men. Make them tell us dastaans and qissas that so very romantically centred around our writers of the years gone past.