The poet who spared none

Wit and irony, rendered in Deccani flavour, were the hallmarks of this bard who was known
for his humorous and satirical take on government and its various departments

By   |  Published: 4th Aug 2019  12:50 amUpdated: 3rd Aug 2019  8:48 pm

Police ki diary mein
Dande ki shayeri mein
Na full stop, na coma
Sanjeeva Reddy mama

It stands out like a porcupine’s quill – the wit, irony and Deccani flavour. The inherent sarcasm in the verse is like a sword, intended to make one feel the point as also see it.

Ghulam Sarwar Khan. Does the name ring a bell? Not many will nod their head in the affirmative. Instead, drop his pen-name ‘Sarwar Danda’ and the faces light up. Nay, a grin spreads from ear to ear. Yes, decades after he went six feet under, his poetry, dipped in humour and satire, continues to bowl over audiences.

Though the mizahiya poetry with the Deccani tang is alive, the typical satire and wry humour seen in Sarwar Danda’s verses are now difficult to come by. He was a cut above the rest. A keen observer, he took swipes at everything around him. The plight of people, corruption in high places and inefficient administration are all mirrored in his poems. None could escape the ‘Danda’ as he went on lampooning ministers, officials and institutions. Naturally, it raised the hackles of many a big wig.

The Janta Ki Arzi (people’s petition) written by Sarwar Danda soon after the formation of Andhra Pradesh became the talk of the town. The poem addressed to the then Chief Minister, Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy, is a memorandum in verse. Tinged with barbs and sarcasm, it lists out various problems. One of the stanzas pleads for jobs thus:

Bekari, berozgari
Ye aam hai bimari
Rozgar se lagana
Sanjeeva Reddy mama

It really called for conviction of courage to target the Chief Minister. But, Sarwar Danda was bold and outspoken. When he saw injustice and discrimination, he would stop at nothing to bring the matter to light. In a funny way, he underlines the many expectations people had with the new government.

Taleem nai so bacche
Niklenge kan se acche
Taleem phugat dilana
Sanjeeva Reddy mama

Deccani poetry has generally been responsive to all the historical and national events – mirroring life in all its varied forms. Sarwar Danda’s poetry is no different. He wielded the pen on such diverse topics as Bathukamma festival, Quli Qutb Shah, village fair and the mutiny of 1857, to mention a few. In the poem Shahpurwadi Se Pahadi, he takes a swipe at various government departments. Red-tapism in Secretariat, injustice to farmers, mess in Osmania General Hospital and corruption in the civic body are vividly portrayed in the poem.

Sarwar Danda was attracted to poetry right from his student days. But, it was the Deccani dialect that he liked the most. He often borrowed Telugu words to give a new flavour to his verses. His poem Idena ma desham is a classic example of people’’s disenchantment with the government.

Sada mere gavaan po ghurbat ka mausam
Na faqon se fursat, na dum meich hai dum
Yan dhoti bhi gat nai, vaan unku hai resham
Idena ma desham, idena ma desham

He wrote his first poem – Neelam pari dear don’t worry – for his school day function. He received a lot of encouragement when his poems were published by Urdu dailies – Payam and Rahbar-e-Deccan. Thereafter, there was no looking back. After obtaining a diploma in painting from the College of Fine Arts, Sarwar Danda became a registered contractor in the Public Works Department. His interaction with various government departments gave him greater insight into the administrative functioning as also spice for his poems.

As the Deccani humour of Sarwar Danda caught the imagination of Hyderabadis, there was great demand for him in mushairas. Cries of ‘Sarwar Danda wanted’ rent the air even when famous poets like Josh Malihabadi, Firaq Gorakhpur and Makhdoom Mohiuddin were present on the dais. There were occasions when the audience never wanted to hear others when he was around. Not to embarrass others, Sarwar Danda used to leave the stage soon after reciting his poem.

Strangely enough, Sarwar Danda was far from jovial in life. A sensitive person, he spoke few words and never cracked a joke. But, he had all his fun and took pot-shots at the world through his poems. Those who knew him recall how he used to write poems on the spur of the moment when he was deeply touched by something.

As a contractor, he knew pretty well the delaying tactics of officials in sanctioning bills. Once he was in dire need of money as the Ramzan festival was near and, moreover, he had to make payments to the labourers for the work done. But, the Accounts Officer in the PWD wouldn’t sanction the bill. In frustration, Sarwar Danda took out a white paper and scribbled a poem – Shayer Ki Arzi – right there. He enclosed the piece of paper in an envelope and sent it to the Accounts Officer. Moved by the poem, the latter issued a cheque in no time. The poem addressed to ‘PWD ke Raja tum khani meri sunna’ goes like this:

Mai ek ghareeb shayer
Hun apne fun mein maher
Be-bas hun be-sahara
Tum khani meri sunna
Mehngi hai gutta dari
Ras aee, na pajari
Daftar se mazdooron tak
Kis kis ke naqre sehna
Tum khani meri sunna
Kharze main hun mai kuppa
Hathon main aaya chippa
Nadar ghareebon ke
Dataa wo khabar lena

Public petitions apart, Sarwar Danda also wrote romantic poetry. Of course, it has its own charm. Sample this Deccani ghazal:

Wo mujh po main un po mare sarka nai hai
Muhabbat ka ramna chare sarka nai hai
Zamane ki sohabat main dilbar to ban gayin
Umar bhar mera dum bhare sarka nain hai  

Sadly, awards and recognition didn’t come to this great poet – not that he craved for them. His 500-odd poems also lie scattered with friends and admirers. There is no attempt yet to publish them in book form. Though there is no void in the humour scene, it is not the same after Sarwar Danda.

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