In 2015, I was in Bhopal, teaching Urdu poetry, when I received an invitation from a friend to attend a mushaira (an assembly of poets) in Indore. He didn’t forget to add that Rahat Indori and Munawwar Rana, two prominent names in jadeed (modern) Urdu shayari, would grace the mushaira. I boarded a taxi and after a few hours, I was in Indore, the place Rahat sahab hailed from. I read Rahat Indori as a student of Urdu poetry, but never heard him recite his couplets and ghazals. Needless to say, it was a great experience. His one couplet still reverberates in my consciousness, ‘Dirhal mein rahkar shayari kee nahin maine/ Apne dard mein duboyee hai qalam maine’ (I didn’t write poetry living in ivory towers/ Instead, I dipped my pen in my own pain).
Rahat was an intrepid poet who called a spade a spade, nay a shovel. Like Sahir Ludhianavi, who he adored, Rahat never held himself back from speaking out his mind, and when I met him, he told me quoting a poet, “Main jhooth ke maahaul mein sach bol raha hoon/ Duniya se kaho sar mera neze pe ucchhale” (I proclaim the truth sans a smidgen of fear/Impale my head on your spear).
The best thing about Rahat was despite appearing, and also acting like a megalomaniac, he never hesitated to quote other poets — many of them have a habit of quoting themselves all the time. They are often egotists and full of I, me and myself. Never a great admirer and supporter of politics, politicians (arbaab-e-siyasat) and any political dispensation, it was Rahat who could say in his inimitable style:
Jo aaj saahibe masnad hain kal nahin honge
Kiraaydaar hain zaati makaan thodi hai
Sabhi ka khoon shaamil yahan ki mitti me
Kisi ke baap ka hindustan thodi hai
The critics of Urdu poetry, especially the just departed (December 25) Shamsur Rahman Faruqi, didn’t like the ruggedness and loudness of Rahat, but to quote him (Rahat), “Cheekhoon nahin toh sada meri kaanon tak pahunchti nahin” (If I don’t scream, my voice doesn’t reach those whom I want to jolt out of their slumber). Hailing from a humble background, Rahat saw the vicissitudes of life and the upheavals of circumstances: Sookhi roti khaayee, paapad bela/ Aaj log kahte hain shayar albela (I ate a dry chapati and worked hard/ Today, people call me a poet par excellence). Rahat invariably stole mushaira whenever he recited his poetry.
Manzar Bhopali once said of him, “Mushaire loot le gaye/ Jab bhi humare beech Raahat sahab aaye” (Whenever Rahat sahab came/ He just captured the mushaira). Rahat had an uncanny knack to fathom the mood of his audience. He was never very intricate and his poetry wasn’t laden with Persian and Arabic words.
He once said in Jaipur, “Aapka hoon, aapki zabaan mein baat karta hoon” (I belong to you or I’m one of you, so I talk in your language). He was a people’s poet who instantaneously struck a rapport with his audience — Tahtul alfaaz mein baat kah jaata hoon/ Main aabshaar ki maanind bah jaata hoon (I speak in a simple language/I flow like a cascade).
Indeed, Rahat’s poetry flows like a cascade, and he knew how to ram home his point in a caustic manner. In a nutshell, Rahat’s poetry gives solace to heart, mind and soul. And, Rahat means ‘solace’ or ‘tasalli’ in Urdu.
(The writer is an advanced research scholar of Semitic languages, cultures, religions and civilisations. He teaches linguistics, psycho-linguistics and philology at world’s premier varsities and contributes to world's leading publications and portals in various languages.)