In an article, I wrote on the role of art and literature I mentioned that there are broadly two theories of art and literature (1) Art for art’s sake ( which says that art and literature should only aim at creating a work of beauty or for entertainment ), and (2) Art for the social purpose ( which says it should help social change).
In the historical transition period through which India is passing only the second theory is acceptable. Hence artists and writers should join the ranks of those fighting for the transformation of our society, they should highlight the terrible distress of the people, and inspire them to heroic deeds for the abolition of this distress, as was done by the stories and novels of the great Bengali writer Sharad Chandra Chattopadhyaya, or the works of the great Russian writer Maxim Gorki like ‘Mother’, ‘Song of the Stormy Petrel’ etc.
Ghalib writes :
” Imaan mujhe roke hai, jo khainche hai mujhe kufr
Kaaba mere peechay hai kaleesa mere aage “
” Faith is stopping me, atheism is pulling me forward
Kaaba ( the Muslim holy shrine in Mecca ) is behind me, the church is in front “
Here the words ‘Kaaba’ or ‘kaleesa’ ( i.e. church ) are not to be understood literally. Here ‘Kaaba’ represents backwardness, and ‘Kaleesa’ represents modernism. So Ghalib is saying we should abandon backwardness and modernize, as was advocated by the great Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal.
The great Urdu poet Mir writes :
” Mir ke deen-o-mazhab ko poochte kya ho unne to
Kashka kheencha dair mein baitha kab ka tark Islam kiya “
” What do you ask about Mir’s religion ? He has applied the ’tilak’ ( the mark applied on the forehead by Hindus ), sat in a Hindu temple, and abandoned Islam long ago “
Now here the poet is not really saying he has got converted to Hinduism. He is saying he has given up rituals and rigid customs and beliefs, which was what the Hindi poet Kabir also preached, e.g.
” Kaankar paathar jor ke masjid laee chunay
Ta chadh mulla baang de, kya behra hua khuday “.
Faiz’ poetry is of course well known. Much of it preaches revolution directly e.g. ‘Hum Dekhenge.’
But some of it does so indirectly by hints and allusions e.g. ‘Gulon mein rang bhare baad-e-naubahaar chale.”
In my opinion the following sher ( couplet ) of the Urdu poet Firaq Gorakhpuri ( which I quoted in a judgment in the Supreme Court, Arumugam Servai vs State of Tamilnadu ) best expresses the features of the transitional era :
” Har zarre par ek kaifiyat-e-neemshabi hai
Ai saaqi-e-dauraan yeh gunaahon ki ghadi hai “
I have explained its meaning :