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Published on 01 Jan 2009 | over 9 years ago

The Poet: Saghar Siddiqui ساغر صدیقی (takhallus: Saghar) was born in Ambala انبالہ, Punjab (now in Haryana), India in 1928. He was named Muhammad Akhtar محمد اختر at birth. Perhaps he had an unhappy childhood, as he talked very little about it in his later years, even to his closest friends. It seems that he was the only child of his parents and he spent the early years of his life in Ambala and Saharanpur سہارنپور (UP, India). He received his early education from Habib Hassan حبیب حسن, a friend of the family. Young Akhtar was much impressed by this gentleman, and he got interested in Urdu poetry because of him. Then he moved to Amritsar, Punjab, India, mostly in search of work. There he used to make wooden combs and also started writing Urdu poetry. For some time he used Nasir Hijazi as his pen name, but later he switched to Saghar Siddiqui. At age 16, he would regularly attend mushairas. He sang his poetry in mushairas held in Jalandhar, Ludhiana, and Gurdaspur.

With his slim appearance, wearing pants and do ghora boski دو گھوڑا بوسکی (yellow silky cloth) shirts, with long curly hair, and reciting beautiful ghazals in a melodious voice, he was a huge success at the mushairas. Prior to 1947, he would visit Lahore every Sunday, sometimes to attend mushairas. In a mushaira at Lahore, جگر مراد آبادی Jigar Moradabadi (1890-1960) was so impressed by young Saghar that he kissed him on his forehead. He moved to Lahore in 1947 after the creation of Pakistan. For a while he worked for magazines. He also started his own magazine but after the third issue, he had to close it since people did not pay him for the ads they had placed. He sold the declaration of the magazine for Rs. 5.00. He also started writing the National Anthem for Pakistan and also worked for a while on a project to make a documentary about Kashmir. He had come to Lahore alone, but he had some friends like Zaheer Kashmiri ظہیر کاشمیری (from Amritsar) and Younas Adeeb یونس ادیب (who had met him in a pre-partition mushaira in Lahore). Gradually all his dreams were shattered. He was perhaps too honest and too sensitive for the world. He did not claim any property (as a refugee from India) in Lahore. Other than going to mushairas in other cities, he lived in Lahore. He rented rooms at various locations. In early 1950's, he became addicted to morphine. Some of the poets and publishers exploited him by offering him a few rupees for his ghazals. Those ghazals were then claimed by others or were published without Saghars permission. For his ghazals sung on the radio, he was given the royalty only once, and he used to ask his friends to get the royalty paid to him.

Gradually he completely disconnected himself from the normal world. For over 20 years, he roamed the streets of Lahore as a faqir in his black chaddar with his bare feet, long dirty hair, and unshaved beard. He usually walked on the Circular Road, south of the walled city and on streets like Anarkali Bazar, Akhbaar Market, Aibak Road, Shah Alami, and around the Data Darbar area. He would often hold mushairas on the footpaths, where he used to light his candles on a brick. Even as a faqir, he only asked for what he needed, and returned the rest. Many a times he distributed the hundreds of rupees he got for the songs he had written for movies to people he thought were more deserving than him. He comes across as a shy, patient, and a soft-spoken man who was never in anger and never used any foul word. His last few days were extremely painful as he had started coughing blood. In those days he was dressed in a white kurta (a faqirs kafni کفنی, which he called his cross صلیب), had to use glasses as he could not see properly, and had to walk with the help of a stick. A was found dead on a roadside on 19 July 1974. He was buried at the Miani Sahib graveyard.

Despite his shattered life, some of his verses are among the best ever written in Urdu. It is unbelievable that he kept his inner self so pure and so transcending. May God give his soul peace and happiness in the hereafter, which his body did not get in this world.

Perhaps he says it all in this verse:
یاد رکھنا ہماری تُربت کو
قرض ہے تُم پہ چار پھُولوں کا
yaad rakhna hamari turbat ko: karz hai tum pe chaar phoolon ka

(Tr: remember my grave: you owe me a few flowers)

The Singer: Mehdi Hassan مہدی حسّن

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