Kaifi Azmi – A Heart Which Contained the Sorrows of the World

Dr. Raj Bahadur Gour

In the foreword to ‘Maha Prastavana’ by the famous Telegu poet Sri Sri, the famous Telegu humourist Chilam had said that Krishna Shastri is a poet who gives all his pains to the world, and Sri Sri makes the sorrows of the world his concern. And, the same was the view of Krishan Chander about Kaifi: ‘Only a person … whose heart contains the sorrows of the world is capable of such poetry.’

I, and people like me, have known Kaifi since 1943 or around that time. What Kaifi used to do prior to that, what he used to write, I am not aware about; and even if I were aware that would not have made much difference as whatever Kaifi is today, that Kaifi was ‘born’ in Bombay [where the headquarters of the Communist Party of India was located after 1942], where he came from Kanpur, around 1943.

It is difficult to say whether Banne Bhai (Sajjad Zaheer, [who played a leading role in organizing the Progressive Writers’ Association]) searched out Kaifi or whether Kaifi discovered Banne Bhai; it appears that both were in search of each other from the very beginning, and courtesy Qaumi Jang, [People’s War’, weekly organ of the Communist Party of India during the people’s war period], the two were discovered and brought together.

Perhaps Kaifi, while he was living in Kanpur, happened to see an issue of Qaumi Jang. The beauty of Qaumi Jang was that even those who politically differed with CPI were appreciative of Qaumi Jang because of its high journalistic standard and honest content. Kaifi also belonged to this vast group.

So Kaifi sent one of his poems to Qaumi Jang although he was not very hopeful that it would be published, and was very happy to see it published in the journal. Naturally Kaifi felt very happy, but Banne Bhai felt happier, as he had found the talented young person for whom he had been searching.

And then Kaifi landed in Bombay, and got closely associated with the CPI and Qaumi Jang.

Now there came about a qualitative change in Kaifi. He was no longer the romantic poet of yesteryears. But love and romantic accent is there in his poetry. In Bombay, Kaifi started living with the workers, and used to recite his poetry to them. He used to listen to their problems, write in Qaumi Jang and sell Qaumi Jang on the streets of Bombay.

Two collections of poetry pertaining to this period – Jhankar [‘Clinking’] and Akhir Shab [‘The Ultimate Night’] – were published subsequently. The third collection, Awara Sijde [‘Wayward Supplications’] came much later, and Kaifi was also awarded a prize by the Sahitya Academy for this third collection.

The Kaifi of Jhankar and Akhir Shab was criticized for indulging in propaganda for the Communist Party (and this charge was leveled against all progressive cultural workers). It was said that their poetry is temporary, earns applause from the workers, arouses the passions of the people in public meetings, and that is all. It is not for enjoying at leisure.

‘Progressive literature is propaganda’. Okay, so what? And today great critics have accepted that propaganda if appropriate can belong to the classic literature, and that is the greatness of Krishan Chander who took propaganda to the level of literature and even noted critics had to accept that.

Kaifi has indulged in propaganda in several poems of Jhankar and Akhir Shab. He has dealt with issues that are of highly temporary nature, whereas the values of literature are ‘eternal’, so that people read it for centuries.

The edition of Akhir Shab published from Karachi in August 1977, contains a reply to this observation. Here below is reproduced a passage from the foreword wherein Ilya Ehrenberg was quoted:

‘It is not compulsory for a writer to only produce such literature as is for the future centuries; he should also have the ability to produce literature which is only for the fleeting moment – provided that during that fleeting moment the fate of the nation is being decided.’

Now ponder over this. In August 1944, Gandhi and Jinnah were to meet. The country was fed up with colonial bondage, and was demanding such a step as would break the shackles; but that would be possible only if the Congress and Muslim League unite, else disappointment would engulf the people. There the Nazis faced humiliation at Stalingrad and now the Red army is on the offensive. The possibility of a world free of fascism is beginning to be seen. Democracy and independence are about to be ushered in, but here in India there is hopelessness. Against this backdrop there is the reinvigorating news of the meeting between Jinnah and Gandhi. At that ‘moment’ Kaifi says:

Ek Darya rat ki aghosh mein jalne laga
Teergi yad ki kafoor hui jati hai
Nakhuda jod ke sar baithne wale hain idhar
Aur udhar sans ukhadne lagi toofanon ki
Mauj kashti ke tale choor hui jati hai


[One river was aflame in the lap of the night
The intensity of remembrance evaporates
This side, the so-called leaders are going to put their heads together
And that side the whirlwinds are gasping for breath
The wave is getting crushed under the boat]


Or see this:

Yeh guftagu guftagu nahin hai, bigadne banne ka marhala hai
Dhadak raha hai faza ka dil ke zindagi ka ma’amla hai
Yeh tirgi ka hujoom kab tak yeh yas ka izdaham kab tak
Nifaq-o-ghaflat ki aad le ke jiye ga mardum nizam kab tak
Rahen ge Hindi aseer kab tak rahe ga bharat ghulam kab tak
Gale ka tauq aa rahe qadam par kuchh is tarah tilmila ke uthna

(‘Naye Khake’)

[This dialogue is not a dialogue: it is the stage of making or spoiling
The heart of the environment is beating fast for it is the question of life
How long shall remain this enveloping darkness, how long this mammoth sadness
How long shall this wretched system survive taking cover under discord and unconcern
How long shall Indians remain prisoners, how long shall Bharat remain subjugated
Rise with such a force that the chain around your neck falls on your feet]

[‘New Designs’]

That was also a ‘moment’ when the Congress and Muslim League leaders were having a dialogue with Lord Wavell. Both were in the spirit of ‘surrender’ as if both had ‘faith’ in Wavell. Against this ‘surrender’ Kaifi protests that very ‘moment’:

Jao Chatgaon ke janbaz gunahgar sahi
Veer Punjab ke Bengal ke badkar sahi
Tha Bhagat Singh khatawar khatawar sahi
Lal Kapoor ke ghaddar the ghaddar sahi
Mopla se to kabhi shikwa-e bedad suno
San byalis ke kashton ki to faryad suno

[Okay the warriors of Chittagong were sinners
Okay the brave of Punjab and Bengal were wrongdoers
Bhagat Singh was at fault, okay he was at fault
The sons of Kapoor were treacherous, okay they were treacherous
But at least sometime listen to the complaints of injustice from Mopla
At least listen to the prayers of the 1942 martyrs]

Here are those important ‘moments’ that do not recur in the lives of the nations, and on such occasions, the heartbeat of the poet becomes the echo of the heartbeats of the people, and revolution starts flowing out of the pen of the poet, which produces a literature that may not be considered as great literature by some critics but that becomes engraved in the hearts of the people and the history of revolutions. The poetry of Kaifi from that period is such a literature.

The Maharani of Travancore, her Chief Minister, the great loyalist and toady of the British C. P. Ramaswamy Iyer, have started playing Holi with the blood of the freedom fighters. This makes Kaifi restless. He also joins those freedom fighters drenched in blood and says:

Yeh raja yeh Angrez ke meherban
Hain Bharat mein England ke pasban
Jahan pai hai rehzanon ne aman
Woh deewar woh dar girate chalo
Baghawat ka parcham uthate chalo

[These kings, these well-wishers of the British
These are the guards for the British in India
Where the dacoits have found shelter
Bring down that wall, that door
Keep flying high the flag of revolt]

In Telangana, the toiling people had revolted against the faithful of the British. Makhdoom Moiuddin said: ‘Chamak rahi hai daranti, uchhal rahi hai kudal’ [The sickle is flashing, the spade is restless]. Along with Makhdoom, Kaifi is also to be found somewhere there in the jungles and the hills of Telangana, and says he:

Yeh shehr yari yeh tajdari wajood par bar ho gai hai
Jafa ki khoogar ghareeb dunya jafa se bezar ho gai hai
Zameen har chhawani nigalne pe aaj tayar ho gai hai
Ke bhook bedar ho gai hai


[This pseudo-life, this glamour, has become a burden on existence
Poor mankind accustomed to suffering is now fed up with tyranny
The earth is ready to swallow every cantonment today
Now that its hunger has awakened]

Remember the turbulent days of 1945. On one side, the workers and the farmers were restless for independence. The waves of freedom are raging in the whole oppressed world. On the other hand, the differences between the Congress and the Muslim League are taking the form of Hindu-Muslim tension. The leaders are imprisoned in their own boundaries. Kaifi begins on this note:

Ghulami ke sab garm paikar hain
Yahan khanajungi ke aasar hain
Abhi apne daman mein kuchh tar hain
Abhi tauq par hath jate nahin
Tarapte hain apni hadon mein jaanb
Baham ho ke toofan uthate nahin

[All signs of subjugation are there
Here are the signs of civil war
Still there are some remnants of life
However our hands do not reach to the shackles
They swirl within their limits
They do not join together and become a whirlwind]

It is not that India is short of ‘ammunition’ for gaining independence. It is the dearth of courage amongst the leaders. What shall the people do in that case? Listen to Kaifi:

Nigahon mein durjan hai teer bhi
Hai qabze mein Tipu ke shamsheer bhi
Bain shan gardan mein zanjeer bhi
Muraqa yeh ab dekhe jate nahin
Qadam khud badhata hai ab karawan
Agar rahbar rah pate nahin

[Tipu has the sword also with him
but, there is also the chain around the neck
One cannot see these sights any longer
The caravan will now march forward on its own
If the leaders are not able to find the way]

The gallant fighters of the Indian National Army are being tried. Rasheed, Sehgal and Shahnawaz are the ideals of the young. The protest against the injustice of the British is on one side, and on the other side, there is a ‘mercy petition’ to condone the death sentence. Listen to Kaifi:

Hai to bedad magar yeh nai bedad nahin
Isi zanjeer mein jakde hue hain kitne Rasheed
Naam bhi jin ke hum ko puri tarah yad nahin
Chadh ke phansi pe utar aya hai Sehgal, sad shukar
Kitne Sehgal isi phansi pe magar jhul gaye
Un shaheedon ka har qatra-e khoon Shahnawaz
Rafta rafta jinhen arbab-e watan bhool gaye
Jane hum reham ki darkhwast karen ge kab tak
Kab tak ayeen ki mohtat mazammat ho gi
Ek ek naam pe kohram mache ga kab tak
Kab tak is tarah bil-iqsat baghawat ho gi

[It is injustice, but not a new one
How many Rasheeds this very chain binds
Those whose names we hardly remember
Thank God that Sehgal has returned from the gallows
But how many Sehgals were hanged on these very gallows
Every drop of blood is Shahnawaz
Gradually, whom even our countrymen have forgotten
I don’t know how long we will be praying for mercy
How long shall there be cautious denouncing of the constitution
How long shall there be loud protests on each name
How long there will be revolt in instalments in this way]

It is hardly surprising that the traditionalist mind gets alerted at the terminology of ‘biliqsat baghawat’ [revolt in instalments]. In the struggle for freedom, this is what bourgeois reformism did: it divided the ‘revolt’ in so many instalments that the revolutionaries lost their lives but the revolution could not be made.

In that period, Kaifi gave the call in his poem ‘Akhri Marhala’ [The Last Obstacle]:

Abhi khulen ge na parcham abhi pade ga na run
Ke mushtail hai magar muttahid nahin hai watan
Pukarta hai ufaq se lahoo shaheedon ka
Ke ek hath se khulti nahin gale ki rasan
Yeh intishar, yeh halchal, yeh morchon mein shagaf
Mazaq udate hain azm-e jehad ke dushman
Yeh yas kyon? Yeh tamanna-e khud kushi kaisi
Nau ba fatha hai qalb-e awam ki dhadkan

(‘Akhri Marhala’)

[Right now the flags are not going to fly, nor is there going to be war
As the country is agitated but not united
The blood of the martyrs calls from the sky
That the knot cannot be undone with one hand
This confusion, this movement, this gulf between different groupings
The enemies of our determination to fight make fun
Why this disappointment? Why this desire for suicide
The heartbeat of the people is the harbinger of victory]

[‘The Last Obstacle’]

These are the initial days of 1945. The scenario of the Second World War is rapidly changing. The draconian dictator who used to dream of sipping tea in Leningrad is now restless in his home. The Red Army is advancing towards Berlin; and ultimately, the red flag started flying over Berlin in May 1945. In such a ‘moment’ of epochal import, Kaifi says:

Dhal gai shab, subh-e ishrat ka payam aa hi gaya
Aftab-e Masko bala-e baam aa hi gaya
Jin ko chid thi ilm-o hikmat se adab se rag se
Ho gaye thande ulajh kar zindagi ki aag se
Jashn yeh hawwa ka hai aur eid yeh adam ki hai
Karnama Roos ka hai fatah ek alam ki hai

(‘Fatah Berlin’)

[The night is over: the message of the morning of happiness has come
The sun of Moscow is shining on the horizon
Those who detested knowledge, literature and art
They now stand defeated after having had an encounter with life
This is the celebration of Eve, and this is the Eid of Adam
This is the heroic work of Russia, but it is the triumph of mankind]

[‘Victory over Berlin’]

Recall those horrifying days of 1946 and 1947 when the fire of Hindu Muslim riots was blazing. Those very people who had participated in the joint struggle of Khilafat and boycott led by Gandhiji and the Ali brothers (Maulana Mohammad Ali and Shaukat Ali), when the elevating scenes of Hindu Muslim unity were common, were playing Holi with each other’s blood. The ‘Direct Action’ of the Muslim League was ‘clashing’ with the ‘slogan of freedom’ of the Congress. The riots of Noakhali in Bengal and Bihar had shaken the country, and on the other side the workers, the peasants and the common people wanted to move, and were moving, to the new destinations of freedom. This was the ‘moment’ when Kaifi wrote his famous ‘Khana Jangi’ [Civil war]. Real national facts were presented in the traditional dress of Mathnawi. If today Meer Hasan and Daya Shankar Naseem were there then, this ‘moment’, they would also have done the same, because today their ‘Badar Muneer’ drenched in blood was the victim of her own countrymen. This poem of Kaifi is very long, and he used to take 40 to 45 minutes to recite this. But when Kaifi used to recite it to the common people, the working people, then they used to get completely engrossed because it is the story of murder of their yearnings and non-fulfilment of their desires. Kaifi says :

Jab se aa kar gaye hain ahl-e mishan
Zindagi ka bigad gaya hai chalan
Khun ro khun ae bana khali
Ho gaye dekh ghar ke ghar khali
Fitrat-e shara mein fasad nahin
Rehzani dakhil-e jihad nahin

[Ever since the [Cabinet] Mission has departed
The ways of life have gone awry
See the rows and rows of houses that have been vacated
The riot is not there in the nature of religious edicts
Dacoity is not part of the crusade]

Rast iqdam khoon mein doob gaya
Aaj Islam khoon mein doob gaya

[The Direct Action is drenched in blood
Today Islam is drenched in blood]

Ae bahar un ko kuchh tasalli de
Behnen roti hain bhaiyon ke liye
Teri ruhaniyat ka kya kehna
Tu ne bachchon ka khoon choos liya
Khoon mazhab pe, khoon iman par
Khoon Vedon pe, khoon Quran par
Lash Tipu se surman ki lash
Lash Nanak se peshwa ki lash
Lash Swaraj ki khilafat ki
Lash har jehad har baghawat ki
To Mohammad Ali ki lash hai yeh
To Tilak se bali ki lash hai yeh
To Bhagat Singh se jawan ki lash hai yeh
To hai yeh Mopla kisan ki lash
Lash hai yeh alahdiyat ki

Lash hai yeh Akhand Bharat ki

[O spring, give some solace to them
The sisters cry for their brothers
What to say of your spirituality
You have sucked the blood of children
There is blood on religion, on faith
Blood on the Vedas, blood on the Quran
The corpse of the brave Tipu
The corpse of a spiritual leader like Nanak
The corpse of Swaraj, of Khilafat
The corpse of every struggle of every revolt
So this is the corpse of Mohammad Ali
So this is the corpse of the brave like Tilak
So this is the corpse of the young Bhagat Singh
So this is the corpse of the peasant from Mopla

This is the corpse of united India]

But Kaifi is not content with showing just one scene in his Mathnawi. He is conscious of those efforts of workers and peasants that were still prominent as sparks and were about to burst out. Someone has to blow air and then see.

Ab yeh toofan badhta jaye ga
Ab yeh sailab chadhta jaye ga

[Now this whirlwind will keep advancing
Now this flood will keep rising]

The third collection of Kaifi Awara Sijde is indicative of a qualitative change, where the romanticism of Kaifi adopts the new dimension of revolutionary realism and humanism. At this juncture sincerity blossoms further by the maturity of art. Kaifi has himself said that the ‘process of creation’ of the poet is the sub-conscious part of this very (people’s revolutionary) struggle. And the poet is transformed completely while living these. ‘One objective of poetry is also to shape the personality’. Moving from Jhankar to Aakhir Shab, Kaifi got transformed, and then became the consummate poet of Awara Sijde, yet a poet who is still evolving. If the difference felt in the poetry of Awara Sijde and Aakhir Shab and Jhankar, represents the poetic evolution of Kaifi on one side, then it is also the masterly expression of the great difference between the times of these compositions. The change in situation is inevitable with the passage of time, and this is liable to influence literature, and this is the feeling one gets on reading Aakhir Shab and most of the poems of Awara Sijde. Even then when Kaifi says that

Kabhi aage kabhi peechhe koi raftar hai yeh
Hum ko raftar ka aahang badalna ho ga
Zehan ke waste sancha to na dhale gi hayat
Zehan ko aap hi har sanche mein dhalna ho ga


[Sometime forward, sometime backward, what is this
We shall have to change the style of walk
Life is not going to prepare the mould for the mind
The mind shall have to shape itself according to every mould]


Then it is clearly apparent that he is severely perturbed by the bitter reality of traversing forward backward on zigzag paths. And he saw that the same communist movement, which had taught him the lessons of struggle, which had taught him to sing the songs full of life in favour of revolutionary forces, was becoming a victim of disunity and disintegration. The agony that he then felt is somewhat represented by his poem ‘Awara Sajde’.

Tum bhi mehboob mere, tum bhi ho dildar mere
Ashna mujh se tum, tum bhi nahin, tum bhi nahin
Khatm hai tum pe masiha nafsi, chara gari
Mehram-e dard-e jigar tum bhi nahin, tum bhi nahin
Jin se har daur mein chamki hai tumhari dehliz
Aaj sajde wahi awara hue jate hain

[You are my beloved, and you are my wellwisher
You also do not have acquaintance with me, and you also do not
The benevolence, the beneficence stops at you
But you are not aware about the pains in my heart, and you are also not
Those who have paved your way in every period
Those very bowings are becoming wayward today]

But Kaifi had not lost hope of a revolution and a bright future; and this is the point from which his poetic compositions take off. At times in the face of the offensives of the environment, Kaifi is also to be found in this mood:

Chand rekhaon mein, seemaon mein
Zindagi qaid hai Seeta ki tarah
Ram kab lauten ge maloom nahin
Kash Rawan hi koi aa jata

[Life is imprisoned like Sita
When will Ram return, it is not known
Wish at least some Ravan had returned]

Then by 1969 Kaifi says this:

Hum woh rahi hain jo manzil ki khabar rakhte hain
Panv katon pe, shagoofon pe nazar rakhte hain
Kitni raton se nichoda hai ujala hum ne
Raat ki qabr pe buniyad-e sehar rakhte hain
O’ andhere ke khuda shama bujhane wale


[We are those travelers who are aware about the destination
With our feet on the thorns, we keep our sights on the flowers
For how many nights we have kept awake
We laid the foundations of the morning on the grave of the night
O, god of darkness, extinguisher of candles]


On January 26, 1974, on the occasion of the Republic Day celebrations, Kaifi also lit lamps, but the matter was like this:

Ek diya naam ka azadi ke

[One lamp in the name of independence]

And what kind of freedom?

Chahe jis mulk se gehoon mango
Hath phelane ki azadi hai
Ek diya naam ka khush hali ke

[Ask wheat from any country that you please
You are free to beg
One lamp in the name of well-being]

But, how bad is the condition?

Pet khali hai mera jeb meri khali hai
Ek diya naam ka yak-jehti ke

[I am hungry, I have no money
One lamp in the name of unity]

And this unity is being slaughtered.

Qaum ko ladte jhagadte dekha

[I saw the nation engulfed in infighting]

And the wife alerts the poet to this situation

Dur se biwi ne jhilla ke kaha
Tel menhga bhi hai milta bhi nahin
Kyon diye itne jala rakhe hain
Aya ghusse ka ek aisa jhonka
Bujh gaye sare diye
Han magar ek diya naam hai jis ka umeed
Jhilmilata hi chala jata hai

[The wife called from a distance in an irritated tone
Oil is expensive, and also difficult to procure
Why have you lit so many lamps
And then came a gust of the wind of anger
All lamps were blown out
But, yes, there is one lamp, called hope
Which keeps on burning, shining]

And the other name of this candle of hope is Kaifi.

In my opinion, the best poem of Awara Sijde from every viewpoint – that of art and content – is ‘Ibn-e-Maryam’ [The son of Mary]. Kaifi sees a statue of Jesus Christ by the roadside and he sees Christ as a symbol – a symbol of sacrifice, sacrifice for faith and for the people. Here Kaifi also makes an implicit reference to the lesson of the Bhagwad Gita, which says that whenever mankind is engulfed by evil, then God himself would be born for the emancipation of mankind. Kaifi sees the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in this light.

Aur kharish zada se kuchh kutte
Lete rehte hain be niyazana
Dum marode ke koi sar kuchle
Katna kya woh bhaunkte bhi nahin

[And somewhat diseased dogs
Keep lying unconcerned
Whether one twists the tail or smashes the head
Leave alone biting, they do not even bark]

These are of course the ‘accustomed-to-suffer-poor’ who, leave alone bite, do not even bark.

And, there in the jungles of Vietnam, the ‘readers of the Bible’ have ‘crucified’ cities and wounded and bulldozed the countryside. Kaifi addresses the statue of Jesus Christ thus:

Tum yahan se hato khuda ke liye
Jao woh Vietnam ke jungle
Us ke masloob shehr, zakhmi ganv
Jin ko Injil padhne walon ne
Rond dala hai, phoonk dala hai
Jane kab se pukarte hain tumhen
Jao ek bar phir hamare liye
Tum ko chadhna padega suli par

[For God’s sake you go away from here
Go to those jungles of Vietnam
Its crucified cities and wounded villages
The readers of the Bible have
Trampled upon these
One knows not for how long they have been crying out for you
Go, once again for our sake
You will have to suffer crucifixion]

Kaifi has also written ghazals, and these ghazals also have the confluence of romantic tradition, contemporary realities and enlivening struggles of life. Now see these couplets of a Ghazal.

Mere junoon-e parastish se tang aa gaye log
Suna hai band kiye ja rahe hain but khane
Jahan se pichhle pehar koi tashna kam utha
Wahin pe tode hain yaron ne paimane

[The people have got fed up with my obsession for idolatry
It is said that the houses of idols are being closed
The place from which last time one returned thirsty
It is just there that one’s friends have broken the goblets]

Pattharon ke khuda wahan bhi paye
Hum chand se aaj laut aaye
Hai jahan zamin ka ghusl-e sehat
Jis dil mein ho jitna khoon, laye
Sehra sehra ho ke kheme
Phir piyase lab-e firat aaye

[The gods of stone were found there also
We returned from the moon today
Where there is celebration of health-recovery of the earth
Each heart shall bring as much blood as it has
After wandering in the deserts, returned to the camp
Again returned thirsty to the Euphrates]

Khar-o khas to uthen rasta to chale
Mein agar thak gaya, qafla to chale
Belche lao khodo zamin ki tahen
Mein kahan dafn hun kuchh pata to chale

[The obstacles shall be removed, the way shall be cleared
Even if I am tired, let the caravan move on
Bring spades and open the layers of the earth
I shall locate the whereabouts of my burial]

Aaj tuten gi tere ghar ki nazuk khidkiyan
Aaj dekha gaya diwana phir tere shehr mein
Jurm hai teri gali se sar jhuka ke lautna
Kufr hai pathrao se ghabrana tere shehr mein

[Today the fragile windows of your house will be shattered
Today again that madman was spotted in the city
It is a crime to return with a bowed head from your lane
It is a sin to be afraid of stone-throwing in your city]

Mein dhoondta hun jise woh jahan nahin milta
Nai zamin, naya asman nahin milta
Nai zamin, naya asman bhi mil jaye
Nae bashr ka kahin kuchh nishan nahin milta
Woh tegh mil gayi jis se hua hai qatl mera
Kisi ke hath ka us par nishan nahin milta

[I am not able to find the world that I am searching for
A new earth, a new sky is not to be found
Even if I were to find a new earth and a new sky
No trace of the new human being is to be found
That sword has been found with which I was murdered
However no fingerprints are to be found on that]

Kaifi has loved and also written poetry of love. For a whole-timer revolutionary, the very thought of marriage creates new complications. If there were to be a collision between family life and public life, then what would happen? If the life partner were to look towards the life struggle in an inappropriate manner then what would happen? There is nothing surprising if such questions raise their heads in the mind of a young activist of a young political party; and if an immature mind thinks in a child-like manner. When Sahir said:

Himmat hai to duniya se baghawat kar do
Warna maan bap jahan kehte hain shadi kar lo

[If you have the guts then revolt against the world
Else marry wherever the parents desire]

Then the wrestlers of the literary world, who had many beloveds, started objecting. Kaifi has stirred these strings of love in this way:

To kya tum mujhko jala hi lo gi, gale se apne laga hi lo gi
Jo phool jude se gir pada hai tadap ke us ko utha hi lo gi
Bhadakte sholon, kadakti bijli se mera khirman bacha hi lo gi
Ghaneri zulfon ki chhanv mein muskura ke mujh ko chhupa hi lo gi
Ke aaj tak azma rahi ho
Yeh khwab kaisa dikha rahi ho
Nahin mohabbat ki koi qeemat jo hoti qeemat ada karo gi
Wafa ki fursat na de gi dunya hazar azm-e wafa karo gi
Mujhe jeene do ranj-o gham se sahare kab tak diya karo gi
Junoon ko itna na gudgudao pakad loon daman to kya karo gi
Qarib badhti hi aa rahi ho
Yeh khwab kaisa dikha rahi ho


[So will you enliven me, embrace me
The flower that has fallen from your hair, you will lift it urgently
You will save my hearth from the rising flames and lightening thunder
You will smile and hide me in the shadows of your long hair
That you are testing me until today
What is this dream that you are showing me
There is no price of love: if there were, would you have paid
You might make thousand determinations of love, but the world shall give you no time for love
Let me live with sorrows, how long shall you provide me support
Do not tickle my obsession so much; what will you do if I were to hold on to your lap
You are coming closer and closer to me
What is this dream that you are showing me]


How pious is the love of these poets? When Makhdoom makes love then also he feels happy to see this scene, as this is not the sin committed in the darkness of night.

Khuda bhi muskura deta tha jab hum piyar karte the

[God also used to smile when we used to make love]

And Kaifi says:

Ya baj rahi hon jhutpute mein ma’zuron ki ghantiyan
Ya munh andhere dur se aati ho awaz-e azan

Ae bint-e Maryam gunguna
Ae ruh-e naghma gae ja

[Or the bells of the temples are ringing in the evening
Or the sound of Azan comes from far away at dawn

O son of Mary start humming
O soul of song keep singing]

Kaifi fell ill seriously. He suffered a paralysis attack also. There is nothing surprising if, in such a situation, an ordinary human being feels disappointed and dejected, and becomes unconcerned towards life. But Kaifi is of a different mettle. The candle of ‘hope’ always keeps burning in his case. And no strong wind has been able to blow it out till date. He says:

Rat jo maut ka paigham le ke aayi thi
Biwi bachchon ne mere
Us ko khidki se pare phenk diya
Aur jo woh zehr ka ek jam le ke aayi thi
Us ne woh khud hi piya
Subh utri jo samandar mein nahane ke liye
Rat ki lash mili pani mein


[Night that had come with the message of death
My wife and children
Threw it away from the window
And the glass of poison that it had brought
That it drank itself
When the morning went into the sea to have a bath
It found the corpse of night in water]


Here wife is the symbol of those high values that are the capital of Kaifi’s life and his life partner. And the children are the symbol of future. The window is ‘hope’ and if ‘night’ is disease, then morning is the foreboding of ‘wellbeing’.

This is Kaifi and his poetry. Here is that ‘traveller’ who knows about the ‘destination’ and has the guts to found the morning on the ‘grave of the night’. Kaifi holds aloft the candle of revolutionary poetry and is a reality that walks in the caravan of progressives.

(This article was written before Kaifi Azmi’s death. Following the passing away of the poet it was reproduced in the Urdu monthly Hayat in June 2002. The text, including the extracts from Kaifi Azmi’s poetry quoted in it, has been translated from the original in Urdu by Hasan Abdullah for Revolutionary Democracy. Insertions by the translator are in square parentheses/)

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