Well-known Urdu poet Khalish Dehlavi shares his lyrical journey

Think of an Urdu poet, and the image of a jhola-bearing, kurta-clad man struggling to make ends meet comes to mind. The man is often a stereotypic paan chewer who comes up with couplets at inopportune times, particularly in popular Hindi cinema.

Such a typical image might just change if you happen to meet Kanwar Krishan Singh Bhayana, better known as the popular Urdu poet Khalish Dehlavi, at his posh Maharani Bagh residence in New Delhi. Khalish is also a civil engineer who has designed the Sahar International Airport in Mumbai, the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here, and the election commissioner's office on the city's Ashoka Road. Poetry is Khalish's passion. Though he thanks his construction business for providing him with the luxuries of life, it is at a poetic soiree that Khalish comes into his own.

On his 75th birthday the other day, Khalish came up with his latest book of verses, “Khalish — An Anthology of Urdu Couplets” at the India International Centre. He says, “The major theme of the poems in the book is international integration. The world is becoming smaller, so the message of love must reach out to all of humanity. The message I wish to convey is that of love and truth for all. The body and the soul of the poems are rich with romanticism, with a touch of revolution in them.”

His family shifted to Delhi from Multan in 1942 and Delhi has been his home ever since. He got his primary education at Iqbal Manzil in Karol Bagh. His father, late Mohan Lal Bhayana — himself an Urdu scholar — advised him to study Urdu literature. After joining Aligarh Muslim University, Khalish mastered not just the language but its literature and poetry too. After obtaining a degree from AMU, he proceeded to Indore to pursue his civil engineering degree. Khalish's first job as an engineer was with the irrigation department and he was posted to Kishangarh. He later joined his family business of construction.

Going down memory lane, Khalish recalls his first meeting with late President Zakir Hussain, who felicitated him. At the ceremony, Khalish recited a couplet, “Jo kaam sukoon teri rooh ko de woh kaam ibadat hota hai, Jo kaam zameer na maane tera woh wajah-e-malamat hota hai”, which the President noted down in his personal diary.

Khalish's latest book is laid out as a series of Urdu couplets (also in Devnagari script) and provides an English translation of each couplet so that readers, particularly in the West, might also get a chance to share and enjoy his thoughts and feelings. The English translation has been done by his close friend Zahir Ahmed and the Hindi translation by the author's wife Krishna Bhayana.

Voracious writer that he is, Khalish is now busy with his next book, “Miracles of Khalish Dehlavi”. It should be out within two years' time, he says.

By the way, Khalish is Krishan Bhayana's second pen name. He started in the world of Urdu literature as Chaman, but on the advice of singer friend Madhu Rani Faizabadi, he switched to Khalish “because it conveyed greater angst.”

Khalish has also written songs for films, and singers like Lata Mangeshkar, Mukesh, Usha Mangeshkar, besides Salim Raza from Pakistan have lent their voice to his songs.

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