Rahat Quraishi was so enamoured of painting that he was able to turn it into a profession. He was also solicitous about Urdu poetry.

“Poetry and painting are like twin-sisters,” he says in his biographical short film A Glimpse of Jashn-e-Rahat, “and I believe we all carry different people inside us.”

Born to Rafatullah Qureshi, a cloth mill worker, in the education hub of Madhya Pradesh, he spent his childhood sleeping under the decaying roof that would reveal the hint of the sky.

Even though the poet and the painter inside him always lived in a “competitive harmony”, the poet eventually took over after making a grand declaration.

“I felt that suddenly, the poet inside me has announced that only I have the right on your mind and body,” Rahat Quraishi further reveals as he talks about his metamorphosis of becoming “Quraishi” to “Indori”.

Rahat Indori breathed last on Tuesday evening. The 70-year-old lyricist and poet tested positive for COVID-19 before he died of a cardiac arrest. Celebrated for his poems like “Kisi Kai Baap Ka Hindustan Thori Hai” which resonated ubiquitously during the anti-CAA protests despite being written 35 years ago and “Bulaati Hai Magar Jaanai Ka Nahi” which went viral on TikTok and also grew into memes, he had masters as well as PhD in Urdu literature.

He authored over seven books out of which Mere Baad and Maujood were widely acclaimed. He also had a formidable career as a Bollywood lyricist. He gave song lyrics in movies like Munnabhai MBBS and Murder. He was also invited on voguish shows like Wah! Wah! Kya Baat Hai! and The Kapil Sharma Show.

In a popular self-narrated anecdote, Rahat Indori recalls an incident when he was called to the police station for saying that the government is a thief. In his defence, he told the questioning police officer that even though he said the government is a thief but he did not mention which country’s government is a thief—and it could be any country like America, India or Pakistan. The police officer deliriously asked him if he also thinks that police officers of the government are imbecile.

Apart from keeping the audience on the edge of their seats in his symposiums where the whirlpool of emotions would pick up speed in no time, it was Rahat Indori’s rebellious spirit that made him even more exemplary. The spirit also made him vocally speak against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC).

As I spoke with several Urdu poets who have attended his symposiums before writing this piece, I observed that they are experiencing cognitive dissonance. They want to mourn his demise, but they also want to celebrate what my poet friend Saud Akhtar said his “live-heartedness”. “Poet’s pain is this world’s pain,” Rahat Indori himself once said. I think his own words are the antidote to their dissonance.

As the world’s pain is the poet’s pain, I think the poet’s pain is also the world’s pain, which is why the heart would ache many times before it accepts that he is no more. I think the heart would eventually find peace because poets indeed die but poems don’t die.

Ahmad Khan is a freelance writer, poet, and an IT consultant.


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