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Millennium Post

Living it prosaic to create poetry

He made donuts first to survive in US. Then he turned software engineer… of first generation and wrote assembler programs in late seventies. He also earned the license to fly. In between all these he also managed to complete his MBA in international business finance. And, before doing all this in US, this man had acquired two Masters degrees in Urdu and English literature in Pakistan.

This man, whom we all know by the name of Farhat Shahzad, did all this to continue his affairs with poetry. ‘You should not be doing poetry to earn your livelihood. You should do poetry for your passion. In present times expecting poetry to earn you bread with butter is a little too much.

Whatever I did or still am doing, other than poetry, is simply to follow my passion.’ This is the reply I received, when I asked him recently about the connection between his passion and the various professions he has experimented with throughout his life.

The world of music was introduced to him in 1985 with an album Kehna Usey. The cover of the LP had a lovely sketch of Mehdi Hassan, who had sung all nine ghazals in the album, penned by Farhat Shazad. The composition of this album was very modern and the poetry was fabulous. The album carried a photo of the poet at the back. In this mug shot there was a handsome face that looked more like the conventional ‘hero’, than a poet. He had earned highest respect in the world of music and poetry by his very first outing. After the great success of this album, all the big names in Pakistan wanted to set tune to and sing his ghazals, including Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.

Farhat Shahzad has been the dearest poet to the doyen of Ghazal singing Ustad Mehdi Hassan. He did three exclusive albums set on the poetry and ghazals of  Shahzad sahab. His association with Mehdi Hassan started in 1979 at a radio station in Los Angeles where he was reciting his famous ghazal Tanha Tanha Mat Socha Kar. The Ghazal Maestro Mehdi Hassan happened to be there waiting in the lounge for his performance. He developed such a great empathy with the poetry and recitation of Farhat Shahzad that their association continued for about three decades till Mehdi Hassan stopped singing.

Apart from Mehdi Hassan, all legends of contemporary ghazal singing, such as Jagjit Singh and  Ghulam Ali, loved to lend their voices to the poetry of Farhat Shahzad. Lata Mangeshkar also sang his ghazal in her album Saadgi. Shahzad is also credited for an unparallel ensemble by creating a duet of Mehdi Hassan and Lata Mangeshkar Tera milna bahot achha lage hai.. which was released in 2010 in the album Sarhaden by HMV. Although this duet was recorded on different tracks at two different places in different times, nevertheless this ensemble registered its place as one of the milestones in history.

Farhat is not only an accomplished poet, but has done a lot for the music fraternity in the Indian subcontinent. He has been one of the greatest ambassadors of ghazal, who created space for this genre all over the world. When Mehdi Hassan was going through a rough patch, he created a foundation to support him through an institutional mechanism. He took the who’s who of the Indian subcontinent on board not only to raise funds, but also to create moral support in the fraternity.

Farhat Shahzad keeps busy when he travels to India. He is one of the most sought after names in Mushaira worldwide. He has recently come back from Patna, and his tickets are booked for Hyderabad, Lucknow and Mumbai to participate in different mushairas, apart from accepting felicitations at Kaithal and programs in New Delhi.

Farhat Shahzad’s family migrated to Pakistan during the partition in 1947. His grandfather became a victim of the communal riots. His father migrated from Kaithal to Pakistan with surviving members of the family and settled in Dera Ghazi Khan of Punjab province in Pakistan. Shahzad sahab was born in Dera Ghazi Khan. Despite of his family’s appalling memories of the partition, Farhat sahab takes pride in his Indian roots, because he does not believe in political boundaries. Recently he addressed an international conference in New Delhi where people from more than twenty countries were participating. He said he believed we all lived in different neighborhoods and not in different countries, because countries compete more among themselves. But his thought of neighborhood hardly goes well with the diplomacy in India and Pakistan. He has been living in the US for more than three decades now and possesses a US passport. But, after 26/11 his travel to India has become difficult, since people born in Pakistan fall in a special category and need ‘proper’ verification before they are granted visa. Farhat Shahzad is very keen on producing audio and video programmes tracing the history of ghazals and its rendition. In this project he is also planning to introduce some new voices. For this, he needs to travel and travel without any hassle. Let good sense prevail in the diplomacy worldwide, so that art forms and artistes are not subjected to the political boundaries.

Akhilesh Jha is a government servant. The views are his own
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