Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Yagana rediscovered

MUSHFIQ Khwaja has done a great job. He has managed to pull out a poetic genius from the oblivion where he had been pushed by his hostile contemporaries. They saw to it that he was personally humiliated as a poet. His uncompromising attitude in respect of his literary opinions and his unorthodox thinking in matters of religion made their task easy. While still alive, he was consigned to the grave along with his poetry. His poetic work remained unpublished. Most of us had heard of him only as a crackpot with no respect for the greats of Urdu poetry.

Seen in this background, the publication of Kulliyat-i-Yagana by Academy Bazyaft, Karachi, may be deemed as a significant literary event. Here, we see the resurrection of a rebel poet, who had to pay dearly for his revolt.

Yagana Changezi emerged as a poet in the early decades of the 20th century with a vision of his own, which distinguished him from his contemporaries. He was born in Patna in 1884, but as he grew up and developed a passion for poetry, he went to Lucknow and owned the city to the extent that he deemed himself a Lucknavi. How ironic that he deemed himself a Lucknavi, but the city gradually turned hostile to him. The period of honeymoon soon came to an end. He found himself at clash with his contemporaries in the city who, with their traditional thinking, found it hard to reconcile with his rebellious temperament. It came as a shock to them that the young poet had no respect for Ghalib, who for them was an icon.

Yagana was a born rebel. He relished in being an idol-breaker. Seeing Ghalib venerated as a demigod, he turned anti-Ghalib. This sent a wave of anger in the literary crowd in Lucknow. He came under heavy attack from different quarters and elsewhere. But he stuck to his guns. He staged a revolt against Ghalib in a grand way, which culminated in his booklet titled, Ghalib Shikan, first published in 1934.

Yagana had also lived for some time in Lahore. Mushfiq Khwaja’s research tells us that in those years, he had often been seen among poets gathering at the residence of Allama Iqbal. During those years, he was an admirer of Iqbal and had paid compliments to him while writing about his masnavi in his Ayata-i-Wajdani. Iqbal, too, had regard for him. When one admirer sought guidance from him in respect of a problem of language, he directed him to contact Yagana.

But Yagana’s admiration for Iqbal was short-lived. How long could the young rebel reconcile with the man who was held in high esteem as a great poet? He turned anti-Iqbal. However, his main target was still Ghalib and his devotees. This had provided him with a pretext to wage a war against the poets of Lucknow.

Yagana added to his troubles by poking his nose into religion. In the beginning, he had expressed his liberalism by saying: Krishn ka hoon pujari Ali ka banda hoon. But he was not content with this. He went further and said things which hurt the religious sentiments of orthodox Muslims of Lucknow. This gave a golden opportunity to his adversaries. Their campaign on this issue infuriated the Muslims of the city, which led to an ugly situation resulting in public humiliation of the poet.

From then on, Yagana went into isolation. He was now a lonely man. His family had shifted to Pakistan. In his last years, he lived in wretched conditions. He died on the night of February 4, 1956. And Mushfiq Khwaja tells us that only 12 men participated in his burial.

Such was the man who, because of his rebellions temperament and cynicism, was fated to live in a hostile world. In his rebellious exuberance, he entangled himself in all kinds of controversies, literary as well as religious. Consequently, he did much controversial writings at the cost of his poetry. Even while presenting his volume of poetry, he interpolated these writings in it to the extent that they eclipsed his verse. Much of his work, which brought with it a different poetic vision, remained unpublished.

In fact, Yagana had hitherto stood in dire need of a researcher and critic, who knew the value of his ghazal and was sensible enough to overcome all kinds of prejudices, which his controversial prose writings provoke in us. Mushfiq Khwaja has proved himself to be such a researcher. Ignoring all such prose writings, which act as stumbling blocks in the way of understanding his poetry, he has concentrated on his verse. He took years in research of this precious work. He has dug out almost all of what Yagana had written. And so it is for the first time that the complete poetic works of Yagana have been published in a single volume.

Pains have been taken to determine the date of writing of most of the poetry included here.

Mushfiq Khwaja tells us that he has also dug out more than 100 articles written on different topics in a serious way. He expects to dig out some more pieces. He intends to compile them along with personal letters written to friends and contemporaries and present them in another volume.

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