Firaq which means separation in Urdu was donned as a pen by Raghupati Sahay. Popularly known as Firaq Gorakhpuri was born on 28 august 1896 in the Gorakhpur district of eastern Uttar Pradesh. He is an ace renowned Urdu poet, writer, and critic of his time and a foremost advocate of Gorakhpur. Firaq is considered an urban legend and was extremely proud and critical of himself. It is said that he had over six thousand books in his library and could recite Keats, Shelley, Stalin, Rumi, Ghalib, and Gandhi in the same breath.
He was born to a Hindu aristocratic family. He belonged to a well to do, educated family. His love for Urdu poetry found its roots from his father who alongside practicing law also used to write Urdu poetry. Firaq was a very learned and intellectual person. He had completed a master’s degree in Urdu, Persian and English literature. He had started writing from a very young age and developed his unique style of writing. Fariq was only 18 when he was forced to marry Kishori Devi against his wish. The marriage didn’t have a happy story and soon both parted ways and lived separately for the rest of their lives
He got selected for the Provincial Civil Service (P.C.S) and the Indian Civil Service as it was known in the British era, but during Gandhi’s noncooperation movement he resigned from his pasta and followed his footsteps. Firaq was also jailed for 18 months for the same reason. He taught English Literature at the Allahabad University where he would spend the majority of his lifetime. During this time, he wrote many poetries including the Gul-e-Naghma which proved it to be his magnum opus. This was also awarded first the Jnanpith Award which is the most prestigious award of literacy in India. The Government of India also awarded him the Padma Bhushan in recognition of his literary work.
Firaq also served as a Research Professor at the University Grants Commission and was the producer of Emeritus in All India Radio. He was bend towards secularism and made great efforts to oppose the then government trying to brand Urdu as the language of Muslims. For these efforts of his, in promoting literature and communal harmony he was also nominated as a member of Rajya Sabha by the First Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. He was also instrumental in the allocation of funds for the promotion of the language. In 1960 he was honored with Sahitya Akademi Award in Urdu.
Gorakhpuri was well versed in all traditional forms of ghazal, nazm, and rubaai. He wrote more than a dozen volumes of Urdu Poetry, a half dozen of Urdu prose, several volumes on themes in Hindi and four volumes of English prose on literary and cultural subjects. He was highly influenced by the English literature especially poetry. Firaq drew his inspiration from Urdu poets such as Mir and Momin. He also included Hindi and Sanskrit literature styles in his writing which made his style a unique one. He would often compare the beauty of a person to the beauty of nature to express the right form of feelings in his poetry which he said was inspired by Wordsworth. His writings included collections such as Rooh-o-Qaaynaat, Gul-e-Ra’naa, and Nagma-numaa. Firaq was also famous for his liberal use of sensuality and frank description of a women’s body but his writing never turned vulgar or uncomfortable. According to him unifying the bodies of a man and a woman is important for their love and life to flourish and to be taken to the internal depths of emotion. He believed coming together of two bodies and spirits in love brings eternal divine happiness to the lovers.
Gorakhpuri had contemporaries like Muhammad Iqbal, Yagana Chanegzi, Jigar Moradabadi, and Josh Mahilhabadi, yet he was so brilliant in his craft and understanding of the nuisances that he was able to leave a mark on its readers. Ali Sardar Hafri appreciated Firaq stating that he was a poet of sensuous beauty and adept in depicting the psychological states of a lover, he has an authentic, individual voice, and a delightful way of using the language which is made understandable to the general public. There is a short documentary made on him by the Film Division of India which is made available on YouTube. You can check it out to feel the poetic brilliance yourself.
Here is an example of his work which continues to enhance his literary power in the current world.
“Zulmat ke Seeney mein humdum, Main Roz charagha Karta hoon”
In the heart of darkness, my dear I always spread light
He died in 1982 in Delhi owing to a prolonged illness. His life has been no less ordinary than the beautifully written dramatic poetries of his. His art of putting down pain in words provided him a platform to overcome the shadows of his past. Today his words and work had been immortalized by time and would stay with us for centuries to come and for them to read again to experience the literature marvelous of Firaq Gorskhpuri urf Raghupati Sahay. It would be unfair to end the story of an urban legendary poet without his piece of work;
Kisi ka yun to hua kaun
Umar bhar Phir Bhi
Yeh husan ishq toh dokha hai
Sab Magar Phir Bhi
Teri nigaah se bachne mein
Umar guzri hai
Uttar Gaya rage-Jana
Ye neshtar Phir Bhi.