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Published in the 16-31 Aug 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Poet Par Excellence

By Asif Anwar Alig

Losses are reversible and painful as well. Death of Jagan Nath Azad on July 25, 2004 bogged down the aesthetics of Urdu poetry in several aspects as his death is an eternal loss of an era, where poetry worked as a medium to teach humanity. Professor Azad (1918-2004) wallowed the credentials conferred upon him by the Urdu world as a renowned poet, prominent literati and fathomed a critic who gave new dimension to Urdu literature.

The turning point in Azadís literary aspirations was not exceptional. He was born and brought up in a respected family where Urdu was flourishing under Tilok Chand, his father and a poet par excellence of his time. Azad wrote his first verse of poetry at the tender age of five and his first teacher was none other than his father who corrected his lines. The verse was: Paharoun Ke Uper Bane Hein Makan. Ajab Unki Soorat Ajab Unki Shaan. Tilok Chand as a critics corrected the second line: Ajab Unki Shaukat, Ajab Unki Shaan and appreciated his sonís creative connotations.

Azad never looked back in anger. Even his father never knew that this boy would emerge as a prominent poet in future and would cross all heights of success even leaving him behind. 

Allama Iqbal was his role model as a poet. He indirectly prepared himself to become a person who finds himself a true human being instead of a Hindu. He was not too much influenced by Hinduism or Islam. Theoretically he followed Hinduism and in practice he knew and practiced the intricacies of Islamic values. This was one of the reasons that his life became a role model for humanitarians to emulate.

Azadís lifelong struggle to unite the masses of both India and Pakistan is one of the foremost achievements of his career. After the bloody Partition, he never forgot Lahore. Neither he kept himself aloof in India. His poetry was a silent protest against the division. Time and again Azad felt that unity in diversity is the only key to bring peace to both the countries:

Kaho Dair-o-Haram Walo! Yeh Tum Ne Kiya Fasoun Fouki
Khuda Ke Ghar Pe Kiya Biti, Sanam Khanoun Pe Kiya Biti

(Tell the guardians of Mosque and Temple, What confusing atmosphere you have created. Did you know what happened with the house of God and the mentor of peace).

Hindu Koi Yaa Koi Musalman Nazar Aaya
Hasrat Hi Jiski Naa Wa Insaan Nazar Aaya

(Someone came up as Hindu and some as Muslim. What I had realized to see was none but a human being). 

Artificial partitions never hampered Azadís emotional bonding with the masses in India and Pakistan. 

As a professor of Urdu in Jammu University, Azad took all steps and fought tongue to toe for establishing the Iqbal Chair. He repeatedly wrote letters to the then chief minister of Jammu & Kashmir, Sheikh Abdullah in this respect. This way India showed the way to recognise one of its greatest poets.
Jagan Nath Azad is no more with us today. But his contributions for the promotion of Urdu literature and poetry would remain a towering step for the future generations to follow. Urdu world has lost one of the pioneers who scintillated Iqbalís philosophy and a selfless servant of Urdu who worked tirelessly ignoring the religious and cultural boundaries. His works and contributions will remain a source of inspiration for us to form new wave poets who respects the idealistic and humane literary and journalistic approach of Jagannath Azad. ę

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