Sunday, 2 June 2013

Sahir aur Jaadu - A short story by Gulzar (Translation by me)

This occurred just before Sahir's funeral departed.

The story is about Jaadu and I mentioned Sahir Ludhianvi.

Jaadu and Sahir shared a unique relationship. Jaadu, Javed Akhtar's nickname, was both poetic and rebellious - a trait that ran in his family. He is the son of Jan Nisar Akhtar. Majaz was his maternal uncle. And Kaifi Azmi, his father-in-law.

He never respected his father. There was some anger that was bottled up inside him. He tolerated his father for as long as his mother was alive. After she passed away, there would be repeated brawls between the father and son. Eventually, Jaadu would leave home to land at Sahir's place. Sahir could figure what must have happened by merely looking at Jaadu's face, but he would never bring the topic up. He knew that Jaadu would, at first, flare up; and then give way to tears. Under both circumstances, it would be difficult to control him.

After some time Sahir would say, "Jaadu, come, eat something."

Once on the dining table, Jaadu would vent out everything, and would then spend the rest of the day at Sahir's place, sulking. Sometimes though, Sahir would warn him, "Listen, Akhtar will be arriving... for lunch".

Jaadu would look at Sahir in dismay. If only he could muster up the courage to tell Sahir, "I don't believe my father! Why can't he just leave me alone?" 

Jaadu, though the son of Jan Nisar Akhtar, had the characteristics like those of Majaz, his maternal uncle - very emotional and very short tempered. Sahir cared for him as a son and treated him as a friend. He would often send him to the movies at Eros, "Why don't you go for that new movie? Umm what's its name?", thus avoiding a confrontation between Jaadu and Akhtar.

One day, Jaadu stomped out of Sahir's place yelling, "You have spoiled my father!" Sahir chuckled at that. "Laugh!" Jaadu flared up, "Even my father laughs at me! I don't want to stay here! I don't want you, I don't want him!" He slammed the door and left and remained untraceable for a few days. 

Jaadu was close friends with Kamal Amrohi's production manager. He stayed with him that evening and spent the night at the studio, in the production store, among all the equipment and two Filmfare trophies won by Meena Kumari. In front of a life-size mirror he would  present the trophy and then receive it too, then  he would applaud on behalf of the audience and also take a bow and deliver an acceptance speech. At an interview years later, Jaadu admitted doing this every night before going to bed. He spent days at end at the studio.

He turned up at Sahir's house, seemingly upset. Sahir tried to speak to him affectionately, but Jaadu was still very angry.

"I am here just to take a shower. I just want to use your bathroom and soap, if you don't mind."

"Not at all! Why don't you eat something first."

"I will eat anywhere else, not here."

When he stepped out of the shower, he noticed Sahir sitting in front of the dressing table with a note of hundred rupees placed there, casually brushing his hair. He was actually contemplating how to ask Jaadu to take the money. Sahir adored Jaadu for his self-respect. He gathered the courage to say, "Jaadu, why don't you keep these hundred rupees? You can return the money later."

Back then, a hundred rupees was a huge amount. Change for a hundred rupees could only be obtained at a bank or a petrol pump.

Jaadu took the note as if he did Sahir a favour, "Fine!" he said rudely, "I'll return the money when I get my salary."

Javed worked as an assistant to director Shankar Mukherjee. That's how he met Salim Khan and went on be become a successful writer and lyricist. He took to alcohol and would drink just like Majaz. And then vent out his anger on his father, in Sahir style. But he never repaid those hundred rupees. He went on to earn thousands, then lakhs. But he would always tease Sahir, "Forget the money, you are never going to get those hundred rupees."

Sahir would lovingly respond, "Son, I will definitely have you cough it up."

This affectionate tussle lasted all of Sahir's days. Sahir didn't have many friends, but he sincerely loved all those he called friends. After a few drinks at night, he would abuse all those he hated. In the days when he resided at Krishanchander Apartments, his old friend Om Prakash Ashk was also his flat mate. One evening when I went to visit them, Ashk asked Sahir in Punjabi, "Sahir, why do you start abusing after a few drinks?"

Sahir answered candidly, "Don't you need something tangy with your booze?"

Among Sahir's friends was one Dr. Kapoor, a heart specialist and a heart patient himself. Sahir would often ask, "Kapoor, should I come over to check on you or to get a check up done for myself?"

This is exactly what happened that evening... that fateful evening. In so many years, Sahir had built a bungalow for himself - Parchhaiyaan, whereas Dr. Kapoor stayed in a bungalow at Versova. Jaadu was now a successful writer. That evening, Sahir went to visit Dr. Kapoor. He was told that the doctor wasn't keeping too well. Dr. Seth, another heart specialist was on his way. I guess Ramanand Sagar was also present, or perhaps he arrived later. Sahir asked for a pack of playing cards to lighten Kapoor's mood up a bit. As Sahir was distributing the cards, Kapoor noticed Sahir's face slowly stiffen. Perhaps he was trying to hide his pain. "Sahir?" Dr. Kapoor called him.

At that moment, Sahir collapsed on Dr. Kapoor's bed. Dr. Seth entered. The two doctors tried their best to revive Sahir, but it was too late. Seeing the fear on Dr. Kapoor's face, Ramanand Sagar took him to his place.

Anwar, Sahir's driver reached Dr. Kapoor's residence. He laid Sahir's body on the bed. They tried contacting Yash Chopra - a close friend of Sahir's, but he was in Srinagar. Finally, they informed Jaadu. He took a cab and reached there as soon as he could and in the same cab he got Sahir to Parchhaiyaan. With help from Anwar and the taxi driver they got Sahir to the first floor of Parchaaiyaan, where he used to stay.

All this while Jaadu was silent. They reached Sahir's home at 1:00 AM. Once there, Jaadu burst out in tears. He fell on Sahir's chest and wept - he hadn't wept this way all his life. A myriad of questions went through is head - where to go? whom to call? He sat there by Sahir's side. The neighbours got there. One of them said, "The body will stiffen in some time. Get his hands on his chest and tie them. It would get difficult later." Jaadu did just as he was told, with tears rolling down his eyes.

In the morning, they started making calls, informing everyone. The news spread, people began arriving.

"Get the sheets out for people to sit"

"Remove those chairs from there."

"Open that door."

Jaadu did everything they said.

He went down to receive the undertakers and noticed the taxi driver standing there.

"Oh God, why didn't you tell me? How much is it?"

The man seemed to be well cultured. He immediately folded his hands, "Sir, I didn't stay here for the money. I mean, where would I go in the dead of the night?"

Jaadu removed his wallet. The taxi driver insisted, "No sir, please."

Jaadu almost yelled at him, "Here! Take these hundred rupees. Even in death he had me cough it out." And then cried bitterly.

This occurred just before Sahir's funeral departed.


  1. thanks for translating this story. had never heard of it before. has Gulzar sa'ab fictionalised the entire account or is there any truth to the proceedings described?

    1. Yeh kahaani jhooti hai... kirdaar sachche

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