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Zafar Sehbai: Master Urdu poet known for his couplets and linguistic command all over the country

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Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

BHOPAL: Mention the name Zafar Sehbai and a cosmos of Urdu poets suddenly appears in your imagination.

The stars that once shone on the language firmanent may not be around now, but you can get a glimpse of the bygone era if you meet the veteran poet.

To meet him is to meet a man who has one foot in the era of progressive writers' movement and whose other foot is in the world of modernist movement in literature.

In fifty years, he has not just written poetry but also carried on the tradition of 'islaah' and taught young poets the basics of the art. 

Sample the couplets: 

Ye dunia, ek kh(w)aabo.n ki zamee.n hai 

Yahaa.n sab kuchh hai aur kuchh bhi nahee.n hai


Zakhm khaate hue, maqtal mein imaamat karna

kitnaa dushwaar hai, sach ki hifaazat karna


nishaan-e-sajda pe apne bohat ghuroor na kar

woh niyato.n se nateeja nikaal leta hai 


Zafar Sehbai says it straight. He doesn't believe in circuitous routes and this is the reason, his couplets mirror his personality. Born in pre-partition era [in 1946], Zafar Sehbai spent hours at night, reading the 'daastaans' in his childhood. It was Fasana-e-Ajaib, Qissa Sair Kohsaar, Tilism Hoshruba and similar books, that helped him master the idiom and perfect his language at an early age.

He joined a library and started reading contemporary novels. However, the family had a tough time as his father who worked in the textile mill, lost the job due to closure of the mill. Along with his father, he went to Mumbai. There, he wrote 'geet' and worked for a year. However, he returned to Bhopal, later. 

Bhopal was then a city that had veteran poets like Sheri Bhopali, Wakeel Bhopali, Azmat Bhopali, Maqsood Imrani and several others. Sehbai was inspired to write more. His initial ghazals were approved by Sehba Qureshi. But by now, he was getting known in the literary circles of Bhopal. 

Surprising it may seem but his ghazals were published when he was barely stepping into his teens. The year was 1958, when his poetry appeared in weekly 'Seema', an Urdu newspaper published from Bhopal. Over the years, his ghazals got published in literary magazines. 

The first collection was published in 1977. MP Urdu Academy gave him 'Ghalib Award' on it. Thereafter, it was no looking back for him. He was a distinct voice and an important poet in Central India. Despite his nature that he shuns publicity and exposure, Zafar Sehbai attended mushairas in many countries of the world. 


Some of his couplets:


zara mein tanz ka neza nikaal leta hai

voh ho khafaa to kaleja nikaal leta hai


Chaman jalaana nahi hai, ujaale karna hai

Mujhey sharar nahi, Allah sirf jugnu de


Jo bujh rahe hain woh chehre ujaal jaaunga

main apna khoon chiraaGho.n mein Daal jaaunga


makaalma karein kis se, sunaa'e.n kisko kalaam

kh(w)aab-o-khayaal hue jaa rahe hain log tamaam


peD saaya bhi hai khud saaye se mahroom bhi hai

jitna shadaab hai ye, utna hi mazloom bhi hai 


One of the major poets of our era, Zafar Sehbai's ancestors had arrived from the frontiers with Nawab Sultan Jehan Begum and had made Bhopal their home, losing touch with that faraway land. He has seen harsh circumstances in life and today he is a famed poet, in fact, a leading light in the galaxy of Urdu poets in Central India. 

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.