A certain confusion in Urdu poetry

It may not fall to everyone’s lot but there is one aspect of Urdu literature that can provide unnerving to a beginner or even a novice. This will not be encountered in the works of a particular author, or an anthologyof ghazals or nazms and other lyrics but in collections, jahan mukhtalif shairon ke asha’ar, unwan ya radif ke hisaab se maujood hote hain. Misaal ke taur pe aap le Syed Bahauddin Ahmed Kaleem ki Gulistan-e-Hazaar Rang. Yeh ek umda kitaab hain jo jaane-maane shairon ke asha’aron ko alag-alag unwaan mein pesh kiya hain. Lekin, aap jab ise dekhenge, to aap ko lage ka kuch shairon par Kaleem sahab ziadah mehrbaan huye hain, ya kuch shair itne qaabil the ke har mumkin unwan par kuch taiyyar kiya tha.

Aise hargiz nahi hain. Jo log ismaye giraami par pahunche ge to woh payenge ke ek shair ki takhallus kitna aapko ghalat-fahmi ki raah par le jaate hain… Aap shad abhi bhi nahi samjhe.

What I was talking about is that you might find the takhallus (nom de plume) of a particular poet be mentioned quite frequently, indicating a rare talent for writing on every concievable topic, or a special fondness towards the poet by the work’s complier. Well it is neither of these two probable reasons. The real reason is several shairs – across various eras or sometimes in the same period – deciding to use a similar takhallus. Let me cite some examples… Though in most cases a qualifier is added afterwards, lack of space prevents its usage most of the cases.

Aarzu (longing, desire) can refer to:

1. Siraj-ud-din Ali Khan Maaruf Khan Aarzu
2. Syed Anwar Hussain Aarzu Lakhnavi
3. Hafeez Fazle-e-Haq Aarzu Azimabadi

Or take Azad (free). Forget Maulana Abul Kalam Azad , who stuck to prose all his life, or Chandrashekhar Azad, who did hum a revolutionary song or two at times, but was no poet, unlike his colleague Pandit Ram Prasad Bismil. In Urdu letters, this sobriquet can refer to:

1. Maulana Mohammad Hussain Azad Dehlvi
2. Professor Jagan Nath Azad
3. Mir Jafar Ali Azad Azeemabadi
4. Altaaf Ahmed Azad Ansari 

Something like Asar is shared by:

1. Nawab Syed Imdaad Imam Asar
2. Jafar Ali Khan Asar Lakhnavi
3. Jai Narain Varma Asar Lakhnavi
4. Khwaja Abdal Sami Sehbai Asar
5. Mohammad Yaseen Asar Muzaffarpuri

The popular word Ehsan – used so liberally by all, understood by a few and performed by not even a handful. However, users include:

1. Ehsan ul Haq Ahsan Daanish
2. Ahsan Ali Ahsan Shahjahanpuri
3. Hafeez Abdul Rehman Ahsan
4. Mirza Ahsan Ali Ahsan
5. Syed Ali Ahsan Marharovi
6. Syed Mir Mahdi Hasan Ahsan
7. Mohammad Ahsanullah Khan Ahsan
8. Ahsan Ali Khan Ahsan

And Akhtar (star) can refer to:

1. Daaod Khan Akhtar Shirani
2. Syed Abdul Majid Akhtar
3. Ali Akhtar Akhtar Aligarhi
4. Pandit Hari Chand Akhtar
5. Dr Syed Akhtar Ahmed Akhtar
6. Prof. Akhtar Quadri Akhtar
7. Jan Nissar Akhtar

and lastly, but not the least

8. Nawab Wajid Ali Shah Akhtar

Since this collection was compiled by 1957, it did not bear the name of one more Akhtar. I will include it on my own. This is Jan Nissar sahab’s son… a shair himself, though writing film lyrics most of the time. But, still

9. Javed Akhtar

Aur Khwatin-o-Hazraat, yeh to sirf Alif tha


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