The name of Syed Akbar Husain, popularly known as Akbar Allahabadi, seems to echo quite loudly from books written on Urdu literature, Allahabad and the plural culture of our nation. Given a high cadre amongst modern Urdu writers, the poet, at one point of time, became the face of Allahabad in vernacular literature. With his fearless and quite frank expression of human emotions, which people could closely connect to, his mastery on the language and poetry remains undisputed. As a person, Akbar Husain is fondly remembered as a man of wit, humour, spirituality and languages. He loved to mix English in his poetry and managed to give even the most serious themes such as politics, history and love a tinge of humour. Sehar profiles the enigmatic poet, in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.
kuchh allahabad meñ sāmāñ nahīñ bahbūd ke
yaañ dharā kyā hai ba-juz akbar ke aur amrūd ke
With these lines the celebrated shair (couplet) of Allahabad professed his love for the city along with pointing out the limitations in its growth – intellectually and culturally. An Allahabadi living in some part of the world would come back to the city to enjoy the sunset at Sangam in the backdrop of Allahabad Fort or relish the winter sun as the smell of freshly cut guavas fills up one’s nostrils.
While researching for my fourth article, I came across an instance, which instantly motivated me to write about someone who has been a popular identity when we talk about the city’s rich culture and intellectual masteries. An old magazine, Makhzan, honoured a famous poet with the title of Lisan-ul- Asr (the Voice of the Period), this poet was none other than Akbar Husain, whom we fondly remember as Akbar Allahabadi.
Taking a look back into the history of the city, the name of Akbar Husain seems to echo quite loudly from books written on Urdu literature, Allahabad and the plural culture of our nation. Given a high cadre amongst modern Urdu writers, Akbar Husain at one point of time became the face of Allahabad in vernacular literature. With his fearless and quite frank expression of human emotions, which people could closely connect to, his mastery on the language and poetry remains undisputed.
Born in the town of Bara, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, Akbar’s early childhood though caught up in conflicts between the nation and the colonial reign, didn’t give him a reason to stop learning. Coming from a family of religiously inclined parents, his verses reflect his strong belief in the Almighty. The love of religion was an underlying theme in many of his poetic verses, highlighting man’s accountability to the Creator of this world.
ḳhudā se maañg jo kuchh māñgnā hai ai ‘akbar’
yahī vo dar hai ki zillat nahīñ savāl ke ba.ad
His talent, literary excellence and poetry saw the light of the day when Sir Syed Ahmad Khan invited him to Aligarh, to support him in the project undertaken (Aligarh Muslim University) to emancipate the Muslims of the country and bring them back to enlightenment and education. Though Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and Syed Akbar Husain belonged to completely different school of thought this did not negate the work they did to spread education amongst people of the nation. In many of his verses, written at that point of time he regrets the behaviour of newly educated lots blindly aping the Western culture and forgetting their own roots.
The first collection of his poetic verses was published, in the year 1908, under the title of Kullia-i- Akbar. After which a series of his verses were published as Rubaiat (verses). His first publication Kulliat was followed in sequels. But according to many, his early writings published in the first version of Kulliat reflected a young writer, whose verses spoke of power and promise and could easily put to task many well established Urdu writers of that era.
As a person, Syed Akbar Husain is fondly remembered as a man of wit, humour, spirituality and languages. He loved to mix English in his poetry and managed to give even the most serious themes such as politics, history and love a tinge of humour.
akbar dabe nahīñ kisī sultāñ kī fauj se
lekin shahīd ho ga.e biivī kī nauj se
His poetry reflects the transition happening during the period he lived in – welcoming of modern culture and the quickly changing face of cultural values in the Indian society.
He rose to fame as a Ghazal writer only in the year 1866 when his compilations were read out a political contest and applauded by many.
Akbar’s ghazals, nazms, rubaiyats and individual couplets span across three volumes, which can surely be found in the homes of many be it an Allahabadi or non Allahabadi, who have a taste for the vernacular literature.
Photos from the internet.
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