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Firaq Gorakhpuri - Lonely forlorn
Raghupati Sahay, better known as Firaq Gorakhpuri was indeed an eminent Urdu poet, a man of many parts who lived well but died a lonely man. His life is fascinating and leaves all readers of his poems spell bound.

Of course, in the present age, not many men and women of the new generation are familiar with Firaq's life and work in the realm of Urdu poetry but he will live on in the memory of men of letters as long as Urdu poetry and Philosophy of the East last. His life and poems are etched in our hearts because we lived and studied in the Allahabad University when Firaq Saheb taught us English Literature and recited his poems both on the campus and in the Mushairas.

Firaq in Arabic means Quest, it also means separation. Our poet was incessantly in quest of Truth and was separated from falsehood. He lived and worked in his own style and brooked no nonsense. Known for his mastery of the art of repartee and command of languages like English, Urdu, Hindi and Persian, he never fell short of vocabulary to express his ideas. His appreciation of beauty, both male and female, brooks no competition. Right from the days of his adolescence, he was enamoured of ROOP or physical female appearance and found great joy in clothing his ideas with words. His work ROOP bears a witness to it. He never hesitated in using Hindi and Sanskrit words in his Urdu poems and the outcome was always a success.

One might wonder how Firaq was fond of feminine beauty when his fondness for boys or handsome young men brought him into the category where litterateurs like Oscar Wilde, some eminent poets of Urdu and Persian stood. Firaq never made an attempt to shake off the dust of homosexuality and never made an endeavour to put a stop to his sheltering youngsters like Ramesh Dwivedi in whose company he found Love. The poet goes to any length to prove that the Beloved in Persian and Urdu poetry was always a boy; so was saqi. In his own case he preferred to continue his relationship with Ramesh even after the latter got married and fathered two children. Let us let this issue rest at that for the time being.

Decorations galore

Firaq's nephew (sister's son) did justice to his Mama's life and works when he wrote his comprehensive biography FIRAQ – THE POET OF PAIN AND ECSTASY. Ajai Mansingh did justice to both the life of loneliness and Himalayan heights of his poetry. Firaq was honoured with the prestigious JNYANPITH AWARD for his magnum opus GUL-E- NAGHMA in 1969. Of course, he was also honoured with the Sahitya Academy Award for his meritorious contribution to the Urdu poetry. It is interesting to note that the award was personally given to Firaq by Pt Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India.

Nehru and Firaq were very close to each other from the pre-independence days when the former appointed the latter as Under-Secretay of the All-India Congress Committee and asked him to live on the premises of the Swaraj Bhawan in Allahabad on a salary of Rs 250.00 per month. Firaq worked there for about four years and came in close contact with many national leaders like Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das, Pt Motilal Nehru, Hakim Ajmal Khan, Rafi Ahmed Kidwai and so on. Firaq had resigned from the Civil Service and joined the Freedom movement. He was jailed for a year and a half for boycotting the reception of the Prince of Wales, son of King George the Fifth but he had no regrets for leaving the slavery of the British government. He prided himself in being a part of the Freedom Movement.

Firaq was lonesome

Firaq took pride in being eulogized by the men of letters and the masses. But he felt very lonely all his life. Many a night he would spend without a wink of sleep and turn in bed sleepless. The cause was his lawfully wedded wife, Kishori Devi whom he could not bear to look at or sleep with lovingly. They did have three children in the wedlock but it was just a sexual and biological necessity as he himself acknowledged. She was ugliness personified, had no interest in literature of any language and was married by a stratagem of near relatives. Firaq never accepted her as a loving better half. He lamented in these words:

AUR AISE MEIN MUJHE BIYAHA GAYA, BHALA KIS SE,

       JO HO NA SAKTI THI HARGIZ, MERI SHARIKE HAYAT "

Of course, in conversation with loved ones, he confessed that his wedded wife was a GRIHINI, not an ARDHANGINI – a housewife but not a life partner. She was indeed the tragedy of his life. He said so without any inhibitions and the words are:

GHAME FIRAQ TOH USDIN GHAME FIRAQ HUA

JAB UNKO PYAR KIYA MAINE JINSE PYAR NAHIN.

Firaq looked for beauty and close company but in Kishori found None. Naturally, aloofishness became his nature. He found no joy nowhere and admitted it thus:

"logon ki samajh mein na aa saka, kuchch mujh ko bhi hai taajub sa,

Suun meri Udaasi ka karan Aye Humdum, BAHUT AKELA HOON."

In his despondency Firaq found solace in comparing his predicament to that of the Hindu deities. He compared himself to SHIVA taking poison to save humanity. He wrote:

SHIVA KA VISHPAN TOH SUNA HOGA,

Main bhi Aye Dost Pi Gaya AANSOO."

FIRAQ LOVED ALCOHOL

Firaq loved to drink alcohol to his heart's content. Many a time he could not recite his own poems in a state of intoxication and faltered. He had to be helped to his bed for the night's sleep. But he derived solace from the historical facts of many men of letters who loved the wine cup and what was therein. He wrote:

AAYE THE HANSTE-KHELTE MAIKHANE MEIN FIRAQ

JAB PII CHUKE SHARAB, TOH SANJIDA HO GAYE.

Nevertheless, Firaq was too much full of himself. He thought he was the best in every sphere and was second to none. In a literary gathering , a compere crossed the LAKSHMAN REKHA and said that Dr Amar Nath Jha was the best man in every sphere there. Firaq got up and said " Jha Saheb is an old friend of mine. I know he hates to hear a false praise of his persona." There was a stunning silence.

Firaq loved to write in Hindi too. He knew that poets were always short of cash and yet kept themselves and others happy. He expressed thus:

" Nirdhan kavi ke paas kya – Kuchch peeda kuchch preet

        Kuchch andekhe sapne hain – dard bhare kuchch geet."

He wrote English prose too and excelled in his style. He was always down to earth and man in the street admired him immensely.

Alas! He was more lonesome towards the evening of his life. He had a major fall due to weakness, was admitted to the AIIMS in New Delhi where he breathed his last on 3rd March 1982 at the age of 85 years.

Firaq will always be remembered as a great poet who expressed his thoughts well that the common man understood and loved him for it. He wrote:

"AANE WALI NASLEIN TUM PER FAKRA KARENGI HUMSARO,

JAB WHO JAANENGI TUMNE FIRAQ KO DEKHA THA."

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