Sachindev Burman Sad Songs Sahir Ludhiyanvi

Where women are deified (& sadly vilified, too)

So we had the notional celebration of a Women’s Day yesterday.

In India, the idea of Women having one day on the calendar earmarked for celebrating womanhood has been redundant. The position women held in Indian Society was totally different. No efforts to objectification of women  were acceptable. Adishakti is the feminine form of energy and in the Hindu theology, the origin of the entire universe, all beings (Divine forms as well)  included. This is what ancient sages told us about treating women.

Why did the Western world zero in on 8th March has a very interesting history.

In the early 1900s, across Europe, women demanded the right to vote and to hold public office, and protested against sex discrimination in the workplace. They were truly oppressed and sought freedom.

IWD initially had no set date, though it was generally celebrated as a day in late February or early March, around the end of the winter and onset of spring. Americans continued to observe “National Women’s Day” on the last Sunday in February, while Russia observed International Women’s Day for the first time in 1913, on the last Saturday in February (albeit based on the Julian calendar, as in the Gregorian calendar, the date was March 8).

In 1914, International Women’s Day was held on March 8 for the first time in Germany, possibly because that date happened to be a Sunday.

As elsewhere, Germany’s observance was dedicated to women’s right to vote, which German women did not win until 1918. Thus initially the IWD was focussed on this single objective

On March 8, 1917, in Petrograd -now St Petersburg- (February 23, 1917, on the Julian calendar), women textile workers began a demonstration that eventually spread throughout the city, demanding “Bread and Peace”—an end to World War I, to food shortages, and to czarism. This opportunity was cleverly grabbed and capitalized by the Bolsheviks. This marked the beginning of the February Revolution, which alongside the October Revolution, made up the second Russian Revolution.

Revolutionary leader Leon Trotsky wrote, “23 February (8th March by the Gregorian Date) was International Woman’s Day and meetings and actions were foreseen.

But we did not imagine that this ‘Women’s Day’ would inaugurate the revolution. Revolutionary actions were foreseen but without a date. But in the morning, despite the orders to the contrary, textile workers left their work in several factories and sent delegates to ask for the support of the strike… which led to mass strike… all went out into the streets.”

Seven days later, Tsar Nicholas II abdicated, and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote.

The Women’s protests in St Petersburg thus catalysed a revolution that changed the fate of a nation and with it, the course of world history.

While the Americans try their best to obfuscate the roots of March 8 in the observance of Women’s Day, the fact remains that this one event cemented the importance of the day.

For India, the exalted position women enjoyed in society changed for the worse with the centuries of invasions from the West and Northwest and the loot and rape as well as enslavement of the womenfolk captured during war. Sadly we have not been able to turn the clock back on this to its original state. It is sad that the mool nivasi (Adivasi) people respect women and celebrate womanhood a lot more that we (so called civilized people) do.

As a result a song from one of Guru Dutt’s finest movies, Pyaasa, carries a poignant dark message. Sachin Dev Burman, Sahir Ludhianvi and Mohammad Rafi combine to create an eternal classic which still conveys suffering and raw pain, six decades after being the movie was made.

The song was originally recorded by Burmanda in Manna Dey’s voice but Guru Dutt had it redone in Rafisaab’s voice, which is what we remember the song by. Amazingly the TOLERANT government of the day didn’t take kindly to any form of criticism and as a result despite the movie being a major grosser, and uniformly praised by critics as well, it never won any awards. This was also the government that jailed Majrooh for 2 years without any justifiable reason, banned a number of periodicals, jailed journalists and banned multiple songs critical of its conduct. Irony was killed by Chacha in the 50s, by the autocratic dictator who pretended to be democratically elected.

ये कूचे, ये नीलामघर दिलकशी के
ये लुटते हुए कारवाँ ज़िन्दगी के
कहाँ हैं, कहाँ है, मुहाफ़िज़ ख़ुदी के
जिन्हें नाज़ है हिन्द पर वो कहाँ हैं

ये पुरपेच गलियाँ, ये बदनाम बाज़ार
ये ग़ुमनाम राही, ये सिक्कों की झन्कार
ये इस्मत के सौदे, ये सौदों पे तकरार
जिन्हें नाज़ है हिन्द पर वो कहाँ हैं

ये सदियों से बेख्वाब, सहमी सी गलियाँ
ये मसली हुई अधखिली ज़र्द कलियाँ
ये बिकती हुई खोखली रंग-रलियाँ
जिन्हें नाज़ है हिन्द पर वो कहाँ हैं

वो उजले दरीचों में पायल की छन-छन
थकी-हारी साँसों पे तबले की धन-धन
ये बेरूह कमरों में खाँसी की ठन-ठन
जिन्हें नाज़ है हिन्द पर वो कहाँ हैं

ये फूलों के गजरे, ये पीकों के छींटे
ये बेबाक नज़रें, ये गुस्ताख फ़िकरे
ये ढलके बदन और ये बीमार चेहरे
जिन्हें नाज़ है हिन्द पर वो कहाँ हैं

यहाँ पीर भी आ चुके हैं, जवाँ भी
तनोमंद बेटे भी, अब्बा, मियाँ भी
ये बीवी भी है और बहन भी है, माँ भी
जिन्हें नाज़ है हिन्द पर वो कहाँ हैं

मदद चाहती है ये हौवा की बेटी
यशोदा की हमजिंस, राधा की बेटी
पयम्बर की उम्मत, ज़ुलयखां की बेटी
जिन्हें नाज़ है हिन्द पर वो कहाँ हैं

ज़रा मुल्क के रहबरों को बुलाओ
ये कुचे, ये गलियाँ, ये मंजर दिखाओ
जिन्हें नाज़ है हिन्द पर उनको लाओ
जिन्हें नाज़ है हिन्द पर वो कहाँ हैं

In terms of the ability to convey stark reality, I can’t imagine a powerful pen being wielded more effectively than Sahir Ludhiyanvi does in this verse.

Sadly the indignity heaped on half of humanity by the other half that is stuck at the Neanderthal phase seems to be unending.

Here’s wishing for the near-impossible: that we will actually evolve to respect and celebrate womanhood in the manner it ought to be.

Stay happy and healthy, folks. Stay positive and enjoy the weekend.


By abchandorkar

Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Pune, India

4 replies on “Where women are deified (& sadly vilified, too)”

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