Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) with the Kolkata Police, a passionate Urdu poet, an author and a Jawaharlal Nehru University alumnus, Murlidhar Sharma, in a candid chat, reveals his other interests. Excerpts:
1. How did this fascination for Urdu start?
My inspiration to learn Urdu started at a very young age. I was born and brought up in Hisar in Haryana where Pakistani refugees lived. Some elderly of the area would read Urdu newspapers and would also speak the language. There is a particular sweetness about Urdu that used to attract me. I have been following the language for more than two decades. The curiosity for the language began since my college days. I was not able to read the Urdu script. However, I would collect books of Urdu poets which were translated in Hindi, particularly the Devanagari script. These included Mirza Ghalib, Daagh Dehlvi, Mir Taqi Mir, Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Ahmed Faraz.
I was keen to learn more but there were limitations as very few books were translated into Hindi. I thought I should look at other ways to learn Urdu and at Punjab University, I got associated with a drama group. There I met someone who was born and brought up in Pakistan and who taught Urdu alphabets at the graduation level.
When I came for my Post-Graduate studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), I learnt of many more poets like Sagar Siddiqui, Parveen Shakir and Khalid Irfan. I also met people from the Urdu department. Students would sit and talk about Urdu literature and have a ‘Nashisht’ — a small gathering — and I would just keep listening to them in rapt attention.
I made friends with Zahid-Ul-Haque who is currently a professor at Hyderabad University. He taught me the Urdu script.
2. Did the passion for Urdu remain?
My knowledge of Urdu was limited. After that, I got busy with the IPS. However, there was a big break while I was posted in different places and West Bengal proved to be a blessing for me. As Superintendent of Police in Birbhum district, I met an Urdu professor who for some reason was posted in Gopalpore. My journey into Urdu poetry took a serious turn from there. For almost 3 to 4 months, I went to learn Urdu from this professor on Saturdays and Sundays.
I then got transferred to Kolkata and got introduced to a “maulvi” here through the professor who taught me in Birbhum. The “maulvi” became my guru and for almost two-and-a-half-years, he taught me the Urdu script, including reading and writing.
I was into Urdu poetry for a long time. In Urdu, one can write ghazals and arz too. For ghazals, a meter called Beheris required. Urdu ghazals follow that. I learnt this in Kolkata.
3. How did the knowledge of writing ‘ghazals’ and ‘arz’ change things for you?
For the first time, I started writing proper ghazals in Kolkata in 2014. I honed my skills for four years before I decided to write a book. It was in 2018 that my first book was published. It was not meant to be sold in the market. For me, it was a surprise that I could write so much within four years. I got only 400 copies printed, which I have distributed among friends.
This was my first book and I was more excited to get it published, rather than going to a publisher to get it published. I gave it to some critiques and when I got the reviews, they were pretty encouraging. Appreciation always encourages me. One such positive review came from Wasim Barelwi, an eminent Indian Urdu poet.
4. What next? Any plans to come out with another book?
Yes, I am planning another book and this time, I will find a publisher. The book is on Urdu poetry. I love ghazals too and have started writing “nazm” as well. “Nazm” is a major part of Urdu poetry which is normally written in rhymed verse and also in modern prose-style poems. “Nazm” is written by controlling one’s thoughts and feelings, which are constructively discussed as well as developed.
My poetry is about experiences in life. If you look at the words, they may look like a romantic couplet. But there is a stance like:
“Main junoon ki hadh batana chahta hun, Phunkh se suraj batana chahta hun” (I want to tell you the limit to my madness, that is the kind of madness I have).
5. What do you write on? Where do you get your inspiration from?
Real-life instances are usually behind my thoughts. My sons, Darsh and Reyaan, are autistic. Till Darsh was 3 years old, we used to celebrate his birthday. On his 3rd birthday, he could not blow out the candles. We started teaching him to blow candles for his 4th birthday. It took time but one day he did that before his 4th birthday. From then on, I realised that I could see some joy on Darsh’s face which led me to write the lines recited above.
My entire journey as a poet is like this. They are all inspired by personal experiences.
6. How have things changed for you, now that poetry has become a part of your life?
In terms of change, I have started reading a lot, including Bengali poetry from where I also tend to get a lot of inspiration on the flow of writing. If I go through one poem and someone has said one thing in a certain way, I can see another aspect and that suddenly comes to my mind and I write on that. Now, I read out Urdu poetry to Darsh, Reyaan and also to my wife quite often. Following my passion for Urdu gives me a lot of happiness.