by: Nirupama Dutt

The Tribune, December 30, 2006

A baby boy born in the obscure village of Khanpur near Hoshiarpur on April 9, 1928, had to migrate to the promised land of Pakistan when he was still 19 and his family settled down in Sahiwal. The trauma of displacement, in the mass migration from and the struggle to start afresh imprinted itself on his sensitive soul. The pain, however, was channelled into poetry and he was to be acknowledged as one of the greatest poets of the classical tradition, equally proficient in Urdu and his mother tongue, Punjabi. Many renowned sang his ghazals singers Mehdi Hasan made his famous verses very popular by lending his voice to them:

*Kaise kaise log hamare jee ko jalane aa jaate hain*

*Apne apne gham ke fasane hamein sunane aa jaate hain*

(All kinds of people come to scorch my heart by telling me their tales of sorrow)

He was Munir Niazi, equally loved for his poignant verses on both sides of the Indo-Pak border, who passed away of a cardiac arrest at Lahore the day after Christmas at the age of 78. With his passing away, we have lost one of the finest poets to the classical tradition who at the same time contributed immensely to modern poetry in both Urdu and Punjabi. Calling up from Lahore, poet and columnist Zahid Masood said: "The people of Lahore were deeply grieved to lose their favourite poet. He was what can be called a complete poet. His verse, of course, will always live with us." Haryana Urdu Akademi Chairman Kashmiri Lal Zakir voiced similar sentiment on this side of the border: " After Faiz, he was the topmost poet of Pakistan who wrote of sorrow but also of hope. He was equally loved for his poetry in India."

It was not easy to emerge as a major poet in times when Faiz Ahmad Faiz was towering over the sub-continent in Pakistan and in India there were poets like Firaq Gorakhpuri, Kaifi Azmi and Sahir Ludhianvi to reckon with but Munir worked the magic with his poetry. Today he is regarded as a trendsetter with his unique diction, style and thought. Niazi penned 14 collections of poetry in Urdu and Punjabi. For his literary achievements Munir Niazi was awarded *Kamal-e-Funn Award* for the year 2002 by Pakistan Academy of Letters and the *President's Award for Pride of Performance* in 1992 and *Sitara-i-Imtiaz* in 1998. His works include *Dushmanoon Key Darmiyan*, *Mah-e-Munir*, *Aghaz-e-Zamastan* *Main Dobara* and *Aik Musalsal.*

Pakistani poet Neelama Naheed Durrani, who met him a day before his death, laments: In spite of his greatness, his poetry fetched him little money. Sadly, he was promised Rs 2000 for his famous *ghazal*, *Us bewafa ka shahr hai aur ham hain dosto*, sung by Nasim Begum for the Pakistani film *Shaheed *, but was paid only Rs 200." Poets, in all times, have never written for money and so it was with Niazi. His verses were dictated by passion and the reality of the society. One got to hear him in person when he came to participate in a mushaira at Ambala in the Eighties and won many a heart by reciting his famous Partition poem in Punjabi:

*Kujh unjh vi raahan aukhian san*

*Kujh gal vich gham da tauk vi si*

*Kujh shahr de log vi zalim san*

*Kujh sanu maran da shauq vi si*

(The path was somewhat difficult and sorrow was resting on the chest/ The people of the city were somewhat cruel and we too had a death wish)

Some three years ago one met him again at the World Punjabi Conference at Lahore. He had aged and was ailing. Married twice, he had no child but many admirers. He spoke passionately about poetry saying: "Poetry comes from the heart and its test is that it must touch other hearts." Well, this was a test that the poetry of Niazi never failed for it appealed alike to the masses and the classes.