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Grand old man of Urdu poetry Gulzar Dehlvi bids adieu, tributes pour in from Urdu world

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Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

BHOPAL: Legendary Urdu poet Anand Mohan Zutshi 'Gulzar Dehlvi', who had just recovered from Coronavirus, passed away at his residence in Delhi. 

Gulzar Dehlvi, 94, was a renowned poet, had a strong belief in the idea of 'composite culture' and was always at the forefront, in the fight for secularism apart from championing the rights of Urdu in independent India. 

He was born in a family of Kashmiri Pandits that had settled in Dehli in the Mughal era. His father Pt Tribhuvan Nath 'Zaar' Dehlvi was a 'shaagird' of Dagh Dehlvi. His mother Brajrani 'Bezaar Dehlvi' was also a poetess and he literally learnt to compose couplets in his mother's lap.

Gulzar grew up amid literary giants. His father 'Zaar' Dehlvi was a well-known poet and a Urdu, Persian litterateur. In his childhood, he saw legends like Saa'el Dehlvi, Mirza Bekhud, Brijmohan Dattatreya 'Kaifi', Baba-e-Urdu Abdul Haq frequently arrive, in his household.

He had the talent and was prolifically writing and reciting poetry when he a teenager. To get a sense of the era he saw--Gulzar Dehlvi recited in presence of Allama Iqbal (at the residence of Pt Amarnath Sahir Dehlvi in mid-1930s), got latter's applause and went on to become a famous poet. No wonder, he could say: 

Zaar sahab the walid-e-banda
Aur Saa'el the mere awwal pir
Main hoon Gulzar, Daagh ka potaa
Aur Urdu zuban meri jagir 

During the 1940s, he was active in freedom movement, participated in Congress and Youth Federation's events. Post-partition, he dedicated himself to the cause of communal harmony, especially, ensuring peace in Delhi. The wound were fresh. There was anger among refugees from Punjab.

The character and demography of Delhi had undergone a major transformation. Still, if a lot survived, it was due to the presence of the secularists like Gulzar Dehlvi. In fact, his immense contribution in maintaining peace by ensuring participation in processions and festivals of all communities, bringing religious-social-political leaders of all the groups together in those fragile times, needs to be mentioned. 

In fact, he was part of the committee that was formed by the Centre to stop communal riots and ensure peace. In the aftermath of 1971, on goverment request he went to camps and addressed the people. Gulzar Dehlvi was committed to the idea of secularism, composite culture and Hindu-Muslim harmony.

From Ramlila Committee to Idara-e-Nizamia, he has been associated with religious and cultural organisations of all the communities. It was at his instance that Govt of India began publishing the monthly 'Science Ki Dunia' in Urdu. He attended innumerable 'mushairas' all over the world and actively penned poetry for almost 80 years. 

In this 'qataa', he says how constitution can be amended, nations created, all things changed but not our syncretic culture. That was his firm belief.

aaeen to ham roz badal sakte hai.n

akhlaaq mei.n tarmeem nahii.n ho sakti

ham roz naye mulk bana sakte hai.n

tahzib ki magar taqseem nahiiN ho sakti

Gulzar Dehvli was an epitome of tehzib but never compromised when it came to secularism and Urdu--either it was his reply to former UP CM Sampooranand over the latter's anti-Urdu policies or his strong words to the then PM PV Narasimha Rao after the demolition of Babri Masjid. 

Such was his love for Urdu that he wrote in a couplet that on the day of judgment, he would ask God for just one favour--give me Urdu. That's the couplet:

na-karda gunaaho.n ki jazaa jab dega

maangunga sar-e-Hashr, Khuda se Urdu

Undoubtedly, his death marks an end of era for the culture of Delhi--once the heart of Urdu world. As Urdu lost a towering personality, a man who spent his entire life in serving the language, one of his couplets, sums up the tragedy. 

Gulzaar, aabruu-e-zubaa.n ab hamee se hai

Dilli mein apne baad ye lutf-e-sukhan kahaaN

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

Journalist for more than 20 years. Had started his career with National Mail in the nineties. Worked as Special Correspondent with Hindustan Times, as an Assistant Editor with DB Post, later Contributing Editor with The Huffington Post, writes for First Post, The Wire, Newsd & several other major publications.