13 April, 2021

Divisions Made Nazms

A masterful minimalist with measured tones, Shahryar fused traditional and modern idioms

Divisions Made Nazms

Shahryar’s recitations at mushairas bore a trademark nonchalance. A languid drawl. No high notes. No shrill excesses. Much like his poetry, that spoke to you like an intimate friend, yet touched the soul. It is this timeless quality of his poetry that Rakshanda Jalil brings out deftly in her book Shahryar: A Life in Poe­try. It unravels the essence of his poe­tic vision, which was “to speak of the world, to the world”.

Born as Kunwar Akhlaq Muhammed Khan, he took Shahryar as a nom de plume in his later years. It was dee­med that Shahryar would join the police force like his father and elder bro­­ther. But the rich cultural life in the Aligarh Muslim University of the 1950s and the active encouragement of fri­e­nds and mentors ensured that Shahryar found his calling as a poet and academic.

Shahryar was a man not bound by isms. Though a self-confessed Marxist, he was not an atheist. He was influenced by the radically opposed sch­ools of tho­ught—the progressivists and the modernists—but he was...

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