‘We Too Shall See, You Too Will Have to See This Clamour’: A Tribute To Sahir Ludhianvi
‘We Too Shall See, You Too Will Have to See This Clamour’ is the Poem that forced Sahir Ludhianvi to leave Lahore forever.
Sahir Ludhianvi, who passed away 40 years ago today, was born in 1921 at Ludhiana, Punjab. His real name was Abdul Hai Fazl Mohammad and ‘Sahir’ was his pseudonym. His father Chaudhary Fazl Mohammad was a wealthy land-owner of Sikhewal and belonged to the Gujjar community. When he was hardly six months old, his mother separated from his father on account of temperamental differences and took him along. Under the guidance of Maulana Faiz Haryanvi, he cultivated interest in the study of Urdu and Persian and soon obtained mastery over these languages. Since his childhood, he started composing poetry. While going through one of Iqbal’s couplets, he found the word ‘Sahir’ which meant enchanter or magician. He took it as his pen-name.
As a student, Sahir was deeply concerned with socio-economic and political problems of the country and actively participated in the students’ movement and addressed many public rallies and meetings. Sahir left Ludhiana for Lahore in 1943 and took admission in the Dayal Singh College where he was elected as the President of the Students’ Federation. After leaving the college mid-way, he joined the editorial staff of a few leading Urdu magazines including Adab-e-Latif, Shahkaar and Savera. After independence, he settled in India and devoted himself to composing film songs. His debut as film lyricist was in the films of Azadi Ki Rah Par and Baazi. The latter gave him immense popularity and opened a new avenue for his talent. In recognition of his contributions, he was honoured with Padma Bhushan and received many other awards. He died in Mumbai on 25th October, 1980.
In 1949, while at Lahore, Sahir Ludhianvi wrote a revolutionary poem, Avaaz-e-Adam (The Voice of Man), with ‘Hum Bhi Dekhenge’ as the defining line of the poem. It ended on the optimistic and one can say provocative assertion that the red flag of communism will fly high. Pakistan had already decided to become a frontline state in the Western policy of containing Soviet Communism. It was trying to convince the Americans to co-opt it into the containment of the Soviet Union policy claiming it could serve Western interests in not only South Asia but also in the Middle East.
After the publication of his poem, Sahir faced many difficulties and migrated to India. So, ‘Hum Bhi Dekhenge’ of Sahir meant the exit of Sahir from Pakistan which he sensed would be under the heels of the West and authoritarian culture supporter by the latter.
The aforementioned poem of Faiz Ahmed Faiz borrows the defining line ‘Hum Bhi Dekhenge’ of Sahir but in a different context. It is unclear if Faiz acknowledged the line he had borrowed .
Recently, Faiz’s poem was used in the student protests in India late last year, ironically in some cases by right-wing students who used the Islamic jargon to give a clarion call for the triumph of Islam or Allah. Faiz’s usage of Islamic imagery was given a spin which Faiz surely did not mean but with Sahir there was never any ambiguity in his choice of words.
Sahir read this poem at a gathering in Lahore in 1949 and few days later moved to India, never to come back.
A few years later, Faiz was arrested and remained in jail for many years on the charges of aiding a conspiracy to overthrow the government. Everyone knew it was part of the crackdown on left leaning intellectuals.
And so in 1979 when Faiz wanted to write against Zia’s oppression, he remodeled the above poem. As Zia was introducing medieval Islamic ideas, Faiz countered this by adding religious symbolism to his poem to show that:
1. He is not an atheist.
2. The religion he follows is the anti-thesis of what Zia calls Islam.
This seminal, little-known poem is now being offered here in its original English translation, fittingly also on the day that marks the 103rd anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in the hope that it will stimulate renewed interest in Sahir’s memory and legacy, in time for his birth centenary next year in 2021.
AAVAAZ-E-ADAM (recited in Lahore in 1949)
‘Dabegi kab talak aavaaz-e-Aadam hum bhi dekhenge
rukenge kab talak jazbaat-e-barham hum bhi dekhenge
chalo yoonhi sahi ye jaur-e-paiham hum bhi dekhenge
dar-e-zindaan se dekhen ya urooj-e-daar se dekhen
tumhen rusva sar-e-bazaar-e-aalam hum bhi dekhenge
zara dam lo maal-e-shaukat-e-jam hum bhi dekhenge
ye zoam-e-quvvat-e-faulaad-o-aahan dekh lo tum bhi
ba-faiz-e-jazba-e-imaan-e-mohkam hum bhi dekhenge
jabeen-e-kaj-kulaahi ḳhaak par ḳham hum bhi dekhenge
mukaafaat-e-amal tareeḳh-e-insaan ki rivaayat hai
karoge kab talak naavak faraaham hum bhi dekhenge
kahaan tak hai tumhaare zulm mein dam hum bhi dekhenge
ye hangaam-e-vidaa-e-shab hai ai zulmat ke farzando
sahar ke dosh par gulnaar parcham hum bhi dekhenge
tumhen bhi dekhna hoga ye aalam hum bhi dekhenge’
(We too shall see till when one can suppress the voice of Adam
We too shall see till when can be stopped the angry emotion(s)
We too shall see, sure, just like this, the constant oppression.
Whether we view from the door of the dungeon or the elevation of the scaffold
We too shall see you dishonoured in the marketplace of the world
Just take a moment’s breath, we too shall see the consequences of the grandeur of Jamshed.
You too behold this vanity of power
We too shall see this by the kindness of the firm belief’s fervour
We too shall see a bend upon the dusty face that wears the jaunty headgear.
Retribution is a tradition of human history
Till when will you amass the arrows, we too shall see
We too shall see how far will you persist with your tyranny.
O sons of darkness this is the time for departure
We too shall see the morning shoulder the flag of red colour
We too shall see, you too shall have to see this clamour.)
The writer, is a Pakistani social scientist, book critic, and an award-winning translator based in Lahore. His most recent work is a contribution to the edited volume ‘Jallianwala Bagh: Literary Responses in Prose & Poetry’ (Niyogi Books, 2019).He is currently the President of the Progressive Writers Association in Lahore. He can be reached at: [email protected]