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Harivansh Rai Bachchan: Man & poet
" Mitti ka tan, Masti ka Mann, Kshan bhar jeevan – Mera Parichay" this is how Dr Harivansh Rai Bachchan described himself. In good old days in 1950, when I was a student of Allahabad University for graduation and lived in KPUC – a hostel named as Kayastha Pathshala University College, Dr Bachchan , a lecturer in the English Dept of the University took our seminar classes on the hostel premises. The association of the lecturer and a small group of seminar students was quite close, conversation quite frank and language used was conversational Hindi and English.

As stated it was a seminar of the English language learning where we could get our doubts removed and the lecturer did not mind stupidity of greenhorns who were teenagers. Never mind the English language seminar, students invariably insisted on listening to amorous lines of Madhushala, a masterpiece of Harivansh Rai ji. He never disappointed us.

The teacher and the taught were frank in mutual assessment. The man and the poet could never be separated from each other. We loved to be close to both. He was on the threshold of embarking on a journey to the United Kingdom to enroll as a research scholar in the Cambridge University to work on W B Yeats, the Poet of Ireland. Many scholars in India doubted the sagacity of our teacher in doing research on an Irish poet, not heard of in the portals of our alma mater. Nevertheless, Bachchan ji had made up his mind and did not wish to deviate. 

Bachchan the man

Harivansh Rai Shrivastava was Bachchan ji's real name. Reputed to be a man from Allahabad, now Prayagraj, he was born in a village, Babu Ki Patti, district Pratapgarh, United Provinces on 27th November 1907. Pratap Narain Shrivastava was his father and Saraswati Devi his mother. He received his education in the normal way but failed in the High School because of his amorous activities devoting more time than desired to courting a nubile girl he could not take to nuptial vedi. Meanwhile his elders fixed his marriage with a 14 year old girl, Shyama, when Harivansh Rai Ji was 19. They loved each other but she died of TB that she had contracted from her mother. Our Poet was saddened beyond description and lived like a recluse for many years.

Of course, He had quite a few extra-marital relationships every now and then. He chose not to hide them and described them in detail in his writings, specially the autobiography. He wrote with aplomb about sexual escapades of his near ancestors because he found them quite natural. On losing his first wife, Shyama, he wrote a touching piece ,"Kya Bhooloon Kya Yaad Karun",thought he would spend the rest of his life as a forlorn widower. The marriage with Shyama lasted a decade but the couple was childless. A dramatic change came into the poet's life after he met TEJI SURI, a young lively Punjabi girl fond of dramatics and acting in Bachchan's Hindi version of Shakespearean plays frequently. The two tied the nuptial knot despite opposition from Harivansh's kith and kin. He wrote the next volume of his autobiography named " NEED KA NIRMAN PHIR."

It would be appropriate to mention some of the poet's amorous flings in and around the household before doing the Saat Phere with Miss Teji Suri. The nubile girls or women in early age who have had the pleasure of sharing bed or locking lips with Harivansh Rai Bachchan were quite a few. Some relationships may be mentioned here. Champa was deeply sexually involved with Harivansh Rai and even conceived a baby. She was widow of a close friend of his, Karkal. Champa was taken away to Haridwar by her mother to keep the relationship under wrap. There is no authenticity about the developments thereafter.

 Another woman he loved and lost was Prakashvati or Prakasho, wife of Yashpal, a close friend of the freedom fighter, Sardar Bhagat Singh Ji. Not much light was thrown on this escapade since the great freedom fighter was remotely related and chronicle writers went silent on further developments.




Teji Suri is a lovely girl quite apart. It was at a common friend's house that Harivansh and Teji were introduced to each other. At the insistence of common friends, Harivansh Ji agreed to recite a poem of his and became quite emotional. Eye witness account emphasizes that Teji became more emotional and tears rolled down her cheeks, She kept on looking at Harivansh Rai and the seed of love germinated in both hearts. Indeed it was the beginning of their love life and continued until theirVivah sanskar. It would be appropriate to write a few lines of the relevant poem that  generated Love between the two hearts. The poem runs thus:

                      " Kya karoon Samvedana lekar tumhari ?

                        Kya Karoon?

                       Main dukhi jab jab hua, samvedana tumne dikhayee,

                       Main kritagya hua hamesha, riti donon ne nibhayee

                        Kintu is aabhar ka ab ho utha hai bojh bhari,

                       Kya karoon samvedana lekar tumahri ?

                       Kya Karoon?

                      Ek bhi uchhvas mera

                     Ho saka kis din tumhara?

                     Us nayan se bah saki kab

                     Is nayan ki ashru dhara?

                     Satya ko moondein rahegi

                      Shabd ki kab tak pitari?

                     Kya karoon samvedana lekar tumhari?

                       Kya karun? "

One finds a deep philosophy of life in many poems of our Poet. One is really convinced that Past is Past. Grieve Not on what you have lost. Forget the Past and look forward to Future. A man must make his life worth living by living in the Present and invest in making the Future livable. That is how a Man lives Life, a Man loves Life. Life is worth living beautifully. One cannot but recall the Poet's line on the subject and they run thus:

               Jo beet gavi so baat gayi

            Jeevan mein ek sitara tha

           Mana who behad pyara tha

                                                                    Woh doob gaya so doob gaya


Amber ke aanan ko dekho

Kitne uske tare tute

Kitne uske pyare chhoote

Jo chhoot gaye phir kahan mile

Per bolo toote taron per

Kab Amber shok manata hai?

                                                               Jo beet gayi so baat gayi.


The two other volumes of Bachchan's autobiography were named : Basere se Door and Dash dwar se Sopan tak. In the 50 years plus that Harivansh Rai Bachchan ji did active and meaningful writing, he published 24 Treasury of Poems, Four autobiographies, 29 collections of essays and sundry writings.

Of course, MADHUSHALA remains evergreen and ever shining.He wrote it in 1935, followed by Madhubala in 1936 and Madhukalash in 1937.


It would be worthwhile mentioning that Dr Harivansh Rai Bachchan remained a teetotaler throughout his life. When questioned how could  he write on wine and women so beautifully well, he answered that since he comes of a KAYASTH family, he knows that his ancestors loved wine and drank so much that Wine flows in his veins too. He was full of life till he breathed his last on 18th January 2003 at the ripe age of 95 years. Indeed the nagging doubt remained till his last breath what would happen beyond Madhushala. He expressed it beautifully well:


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