Ibn-e-Insha: The Romantic Revolutionary

“But I have chosen to fight separately on the fronts of love and non-love. With me there is neither the mixture of ‘come my love the revolution’ nor do I like the gesture of turning the veil into a banner.”

kal chaudhvīñ kī raat thī shab bhar rahā charchā tirā

kuchh ne kahā ye chāñd hai kuchh ne kahā chehrā tirā

bedard sunñī ho to chal kahtā hai kyā achchhī ġhazal

āshiq tirā rusvā tirā shā.ir tirā ‘inshā’ tirā

The writer of the very famous ghazal “kal chaudavin ki raat thi”, Ibn-e-Insha was a Pakistani Urdu Poet, humorist, travelogue writer and newspaper columnist. Insha is considered to be one of the best poets, writers and  humorists of his generation. His works have been appreciated by both  Urdu writers and critics. He also translated a collection of Chinese  poems into Urdu in 1960. Ibn-E-Insha was  awarded the Pride of Performance by the President of Pakistan in 1978.

Sher Muhammad Khan (Urdu: شیر محمد خان‎), better known by his pen name Ibn e Insha (Urdu: ابن انشاء‎)was born in British India on 15th June,1927 in the unremarkable town of Phillaur in Ludhiana,Indian Punjab. He completed his degree from Punjab University after which he migrated to Pakistan and served at various government institutions including Radio Pakistan, the  Ministry of Culture and the National Book Centre of Pakistan. He also served at UN for some time. This enabled him to visit many places, all of which inspired the travelogues he would then pen. He died of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma on January 11, 1978 in London and was buried in Karachi.

farz karo ham ahl-e-vafā hoñ, farz karo dīvāne hoñ

farz karo ye donoñ bāteñ jhūTī hoñ afsāne hoñ

farz karo ye jī kī biptā jī se joḌ sunā.ī ho

farz karo abhī aur ho itnī aadhī ham ne chhupā.ī ho

farz karo tumheñ ḳhush karne ke DhūñDhe ham ne bahāne hoñ

farz karo ye nain tumhāre sach-much ke mai-ḳhāne hoñ

His poetry has a distinctive diction laced with language reminiscent of Amir Khusro in its use of words and construction that is usually heard in the more earthy dialects of the Hindi-Urdu complex of languages, and his forms and poetic style is an influence on generations of young poets. His most famous ghazal Insha Ji Utthoo Ab Kooch Karo (Rise oh Insha Ji, and let us set off ) is an influential classic ghazal. His other famous poetical works include Is Basti Ke Ik Kooche Mein, Chand Nagar and Dil-e-Wehshi.

Yaad Rahega

The Cursed Song

The ghazal, written in the 1970s, “Insha jee utho ab kooch karo”, became very famous, when Amanat Ali Khan sang this ghazal, he passed away few months after that, Even when Amad Aali Khan’s son Asad Amanat Ali sang this ghazal, it proved to be his last ghazal. Ibn-e-Insha himself wrote to a friend the day before his death that ” ye manahoos gazal aur kitanon kee jaan legee “.

‘inshā’-jī uTho ab kuuch karo is shahr meñ jī ko lagānā kyā

vahshī ko sukūñ se kyā matlab jogī kā nagar meñ Thikānā kyā

is dil ke darīda dāman ko dekho to sahī socho to sahī

jis jholī meñ sau chhed hue us jholī kā phailānā kyā

shab biitī chāñd bhī Duub chalā zanjīr paḌī darvāze meñ

kyuuñ der ga.e ghar aa.e ho sajnī se karoge bahānā kyā

phir hijr kī lambī raat miyāñ sanjog kī to yahī ek ghaḌī

jo dil meñ hai lab par aane do sharmānā kyā ghabrānā kyā

us roz jo un ko dekhā hai ab ḳhvāb kā aalam lagtā hai

us roz jo un se baat huī vo baat bhī thī afsānā kyā

us husn ke sachche motī ko ham dekh sakeñ par chhū na sakeñ

jise dekh sakeñ par chhū na sakeñ vo daulat kyā vo ḳhazānā kyā

us ko bhī jalā dukhte hue man ik sho.ala laal bhabūkā ban

yuuñ aañsū ban bah jaanā kyā yuuñ maaTī meñ mil jaanā kyā

jab shahr ke log na rastā deñ kyuuñ ban meñ na jā bisrām kare

dīvānoñ kī sī na baat kare to aur kare dīvānā kyā

The poem is about a melancholic man, who, after spending the night at a  gathering (most probably at a brothel), suddenly decides to get up and  leave — not just the place, but the city itself. He walks back to his house and reaches it in the wee hours of the  morning. He wonders what excuse he will give to his beloved. He’s a  misunderstood man looking for meaning in (what he believes) is a  meaningless existence.

Is it the power of poetry that makes it the song of death or is it just a coincidence?

His poetic output over three decades was marked by two singular qualities: consistency and variety. At a time when the best and brightest of Urdu poets vacillated between shabab and inquilab, romance and revolution – the two poles around which most of Urdu poetry has always gravitated – Ibn-e-Insha spoke up steadfastly for both. That Insha held his own against the formidable presence of the progressives and romantics already firmly established in Lahore – Faiz, Rashid, Faraz, Jalib, Nasir Kazmi, Majeed Amjad, Mustafa Zaidi, Saghir Siddiqui – and kept writing within both the revolutionary and romantic strains, speaks volumes.

Hijr ka Dard

 

He has also translated the works of American short story writers Edgar Allen Poe and O’Henry, titled them as Andha Kunvaan and Lakhon Ka Shaher.

His works include poetry, travelogues and humors. Some of them are-

Poetry

  • Chand Nagar چاند نگر
  • Is Basti Key Ik Koochey Mainاِس بستی کے اِک کوچے میں
  • Dil-e-Wehshi دلِ وحشی
  • Billo Ka Basta بِلو کا بستہ (Rhymes for Children)
  • Qissa Aik Kunvaaray ka( A translation of a lengthy humorous poem by a German poet Wilhelm Bosch)

Travelogue

  • Awara Gard Ki Diary آوارہ گرد کی ڈائری
  • Dunya Gol Hey دنیا گول ہے
  • Ibn Battuta Kay Taqub mein’ (1974)
  • Chaltay Ho To Cheen Ko Chaliye چلتے ھو تو چِین کو چلیے
  • Nagri Nagri Phira Musafar نگری نگری پِھرا مسافر

Humor

  • Urdu Ki Aakhri Kitaab (1971) اردو کی آخری کتاب
  • Khat Insha Jee Kay خط انشّا جی کے Collection of letters
  • Khumar e Gandum خمارِگندم
  • Aap se kya Parda آپ سے کیا پردہ ( published in June 2004)
  • Batain Insha ji ki ( published in June 2005)
  • Dakhl Dar Ma’qulaat( published in June 2019)

YouTube video links of some of his famous pieces :-

(a must listen ghazal kal chaudavin ki raat thi, sung by Ghulam Ali)
farz karo ham ahl-e-vafaa ho.n, farz karo diivaane ho.n)
(is bastii ke ik kuuche me.n ik ‘inshaa’ naam kaa diivaanaa)

Concept and Text: Satyam Srivastava and Isha Srivastava

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