Ustaad Daman - An Icon of Punjabi Folklore Poetry
It is true that a poet can imagine beyond the limits and the depths of other human beings thoughts. It not only touches the deepest chords of the human heart but sometimes makes it cry with joy or pain. When a voice comes from the core of the heart of a poet, it definitely communicates what prevails in our society. There are many poets in the world whose thoughts have been influenced by the worst situations they must have gone through and they make those situations immortal.
A few months back, I got a chance to go through a few poems of one such poet of Punjab, who had also passed through the dreadful horror of partition of Punjab. The name of this poet is Ustaad Daman, who was born on September 1911 but his real name was Chirag Din. The young Chirag Din was living with his father Mir Bakhsh who was a tailor by profession, in the old city of Lahore, near Lahori Gate. With an average height, fair complexion, solid body, Ustaad Daman looked like a wrestler at first sight. He wore Dhoti/Tehmat and turban and always kept a towel on his shoulder. In the beginning, he disliked his parental work of tailoring and wanted a clerical job in Govt office. On failing to get a Govt job, he accepted the family occupation and started to sit in his father's shop.
In the beginning, Daman wrote poetry on traditional subjects like matters relating to love and romance but as the independence movement gained ground in pre-partition days, Indian political themes also entered his poetry. Ustad Daman, in fact, belonged to that group of traditional Punjabi poets who would read poetry extempore while their pupils would keep the record. That is why they were called Ustaads (mentors).
Punjabi is a language of the masses, spoken by over 70% area of undivided Punjab before 1947, It was abscord for the so-called elite sections of Punjabi society, who adopted and used Qaumi Zuban Urdu and declared Punjabi language as the language of rustics/ uncivilized (Ganwars). When this elite category of the people discouraged Daman from writing in Punjabi, Daman felt hurt and wrote a befitting rebuttal in chaste Punjabi verse:
ਮੈਨੂੰ ਕਈਆਂ ਨੇ ਆਖਿਆ ਕਈ ਵਾਰੀ,
ਤੂੰ ਲੈਣਾ ਪੰਜਾਬੀ ਦਾ ਨਾਂ ਛੱਡ ਦੇ ।
ਗੋਦੀ ਜਿਸਦੀ 'ਚ ਪਲਕੇ ਜਵਾਨ ਹੋਇਓਂ,
ਉਹ ਮਾਂ ਛੱਡ ਦੇ ਤੇ ਗਰਾਂ ਛੱਡ ਦੇ ।
ਜੇ ਪੰਜਾਬੀ, ਪੰਜਾਬੀ ਈ ਕੂਕਣਾ ਈਂ,
ਜਿਥੇ ਖਲਾ ਖਲੋਤਾ ਉਹ ਥਾਂ ਛੱਡ ਦੇ ।
ਮੈਨੂੰ ਇੰਝ ਲੱਗਦਾ, ਲੋਕੀਂ ਆਖਦੇ ਨੇ,
ਤੂੰ ਪੁੱਤਰਾ ਆਪਣੀ ਮਾਂ ਛੱਡ ਦੇ ।
Several persons asked me several times,
I should abandon talking about Punjabi.
My mother and my native place where
I hac been brought up,
I should abandon my mother and native place.
If you are still obsessed with Punjabi,
I all its colloquial ways,
Then I should leave your native place
It appears as if people are asking me
I should disown my own mother, indeed.
He was a great protagonist of Punjabi language. He employed the Punjabi words in his poems as if a gold smith strings gems in a necklace. He was fully dedicated to Punjabi. His following creation speaks volumes for his love of Punjabi:
ਮੈਂ ਪੰਜਾਬੀ ਪੰਜਾਬ ਦਾ ਰਹਿਣ ਵਾਲਾ, ਸਦਾ ਖੈਰ ਪੰਜਾਬੀ ਦੀ ਮੰਗਦਾ ਹਾਂ ।
ਮੋਤੀ ਕਿਸੇ ਸੁਹਾਗਣ ਦੀ ਨੱਥ ਦਾ ਹਾਂ, ਟੁਕੜਾ ਕਿਸੇ ਪੰਜਾਬਣ ਦੀ ਵੰਗ ਦਾ ਹਾਂ।
I am a Punjabi, living in Punjab, and a well-wisher of Punjabi,
I am a gem in Punjabi bride's nose-ring or a piece in her bracelet;
It is a fact, that at present, Punjabi (in Shahmukhi and Gurmukhi script) is spoken and written by over 20 million people in both the Punjabs. But it is a misfortunate of Punjabi language and culture that her own sons are betraying their own mother tongue and they are bifurcating Punjab again and again. The newly created East Punjab is becoming Hindi dominated and Punjabi is being treated like a step-child in her own parental home. The Punjabi language which once ruled the whole undivided Punjab has been expelled from the large part of Punjab. But even today the people born in Pakistani Punjab and who migrated to Indian Punjab and vice-versa during the partition, yearn for each other's literature.
The partition of Punjab also greatly shocked Chirag Din. He lost his friends and pupils, (many of them being Hindus and Sikhs) during the partition. He also lost his wife and daughter during this time, which gave him the biggest jolt. It is said that the situation of Lahore city was hostile so that he had to hire labourers to carry his wife's coffin to the graveyard. This painful incident he rarely shared with anyone. Ustaad Daman is the best known Punjabi poet of the post-partition Punjabi oral tradition and was a most celebrated Punjabi stage poet at the time.
Ustaad Daman was a God gifted poet. He started composing punjabi verses since his childhood. He got his first chance to become famous in the National Congress Party's meeting held at Lahore. The eminent leaders of the Congress Party like Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru were present in this gathering. When Ustaad Daman sang his anti-imperialist song, it not only touched the audience's hearts but also influenced the leaders like Jawahar Lal Nehru. He won a prize of Rs 100/- on this occasion and Nehru ordered the Lahore organizers that this young boy would recite the revolutionary, anti-imperialist poems at the nationalist political gatherings of the Indian National Congress to be organized in Lahore. (Modern Poetry of Pakistan, edited by Iftikhar Arif, Waqas Khwaja, p. 282). Since than, Ustaad Daman never looked back. Daman often attended the poetry reading functions. He adopted Damdam as his nom de plume or Takhalas, following in the footsteps of his guru Ustad Hamdam, but changed it to Daman after some time.
After partition, Daman decided to stay in Lahore in the newly created country - Pakistan. He remained a fierce opponent of dictatorship whether civilian or military, corruption and hypocracy throughout his life. His work has been published as Daman De Moti after his death by devoted followers and admirers. The poems he wrote are still widely quoted in Punjab as well as in the other parts of Pakistan. (Modern Poetry of Pakistan, edited by Iftikhar Arif, Waqas Khwaja, p. 282). Ustaad ji was living in a small and dark room on Chet Ram Road, Lahore, which was latter known as Hujra. He lived the rest of his life there as a hermit and received all his friends, many of them being celebrities, in that room. In the summers, he usually sat outside his room and his friends and listeners sat around him and discussion about adab (aesthetics) and politics took place there. They talked about Adab and politics.
During our college days, we have been reading Amrita Pritam as best Punjabi poetess. Her sort stirring poem "Aaj akhan warisshah nu" is considered her masterpiece. Ustaad Daman also wrote even a greater soulful poem than Amrita Pritam's on the travails of Punjab's Partition. He wrote:
ਕਿਸੇ ਤੀਲੀ ਐਸੀ ਲਾਈ ਏ, ਚਾ ਥਾਂ ਥਾਂ ਅੱਗ ਮਚਾਈ ਏ।
ਪਈ ਸੜਦੀ ਕੁੱਲ ਲੁਕਾਈ ਏ, ਤੇ ਪੈਂਦੀ ਹਾਲ ਦੁਹਾਈ ਏ।
ਤੂੰ ਹੀ, ਨਾਰੋਂ ਗੁਲਜਾਰ ਕਰੇਂ, ਹੁਣ ਆਪੇ ਠੰਢੀ ਪਾ ਰੱਬਾ।
ਇਸ ਦੁਨੀਆ ਰੁੜ੍ਹਦੀ ਜਾਂਦੀ ਦਾ, ਕਿਤੇ ਬੇੜਾ ਬੰਨੇ ਲਾ ਰੱਬਾ।
ਇਕ ਵਹੁਟੀ ਹਾਲੇ ਛੁੰਨੀ ਸੀ, ਉਹਦੇ ਸਿਰ 'ਤੇ ਕੇਸਰੀ ਚੁੰਨੀ ਸੀ।
ਉਹਦੇ ਕੋਈ ਮੁਰਾਦ ਨਾ ਪੁੰਨੀ ਸੀ, ਉਹ ਚੀਕਾਂ ਮਾਰ ਕੇ ਰੁੰਨੀ ਸੀ।
ਉਹਦੇ ਮਹਿੰਦੀ ਰੰਗੇ ਹੱਥਾਂ 'ਚ'ਂ, ਲੰਬਾਂ ਦੀ ਪੈਂਦੀ ਭਾ ਰੱਬਾ ।
ਇਸ ਦੁਨੀਆ ਰੁੜ੍ਹਦੀ ਜਾਂਦੀ ਦਾ, ਕਿਤੇ ਬੇੜਾ ਬੰਨੇ ਲਾ ਰੱਬਾ ।
How inflammable spark someone has ignited
Flash fires have spread all around.
How badly scorched the whole humanity has been,
How desperate cries have rent the skies.
Oh! God who alone is capable of rejuvinating,
For God sake, bring peace to the scorched earth.
In the strife-torn and degenerating humanity,
For God sake, put a stop to loot and plunder.
A bride recently married was she,
With a saffron veil was she covered,
Hardly had her any nuptial desires assuaged,
In desperate Shrieks and sobs did she cry.
Her henna-coloured, decorated tender hands,
Were splattered with blood and charred.
Oh God put a stop to this blood and mayhena
For God Sake stop this raging hatred and madness.
Earlier, Ustaad Daman had written many soulful and hit songs for the films also. He had composed highly painful song before the partition for a golden jubilee Punjabi movie Mangti.
ਇਥੋਂ ਉਡ ਜਾ ਭੋਲਿਆ ਪੰਛੀਆ ਤੇ ਤੂੰ ਆਪਣੀ ਜਾਨ ਬਚਾ ?
ਇੱਥੇ ਹੱਸਦੇ ਫੁੱਲ ਗੁਲਾਬ ਦੇ ਵੈਰੀ ਸੁੱਕਣੇ ਦਿੰਦੇ ਪਾ?
ਇੱਥੇ ਡੁੱਬ ਡੁੱਬ ਮੋਈਆਂ ਸੋਹਣੀਆਂ ਇੱਥੇ ਲਹੂ ਭਰੇ ਦਰਿਆ ?
Escape from this horrible world, my soul
Save your life and limb from this inferno.
Where all the budding, blossoming tender faces,
The vengeful people do crush and decimate.
Many a charming bride have voluntarily drowned.
In the blood-soaked rivers that flow here,
With every home having an executioners Noose,
Save yourself from being caught in the trap.
It was a memorable occasion when Ustaad Daman came to Delhi after contry's partition to participate in an Indo-Pak mushaira. Pandit Nehru who had become the Prime Minister of India by then, was also present on the stage. When Daman started reciting his Kalaam on the country's partition in his soulful voice, Pt Jawaharlal Nehru could not hold back his tears. He sang:
ਲਾਲੀ ਅੱਖੀਆਂ ਦੀ ਪਈ ਦੱਸਦੀ ਏ, ਰੋਏ ਤੁਸੀਂ ਵੀ ਓ, ਰੋਏ ਅਸੀਂ ਵੀ ਹਾਂ?
ਭਾਵੇਂ ਮੂੰਹਂੋ ਨਾ ਕਹੀਏ ਪਰ ਵਿਚੋਂ ਵਿਚੀ, ਖੋਏ ਤੁਸੀਂ ਵੀ ਓਂ ਖੋਏ ਅਸੀਂ ਵੀ ਆਂ
ਇਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਆਜ਼ਾਦੀਆਂ ਹੱਥੋਂ ਬਰਬਾਦ ਯਾਰੋ, ਹੋਏ ਤੁਸੀਂ ਵੀ ਹੋ, ਹੋਏ ਅਸੀਂ ਵੀ ਹਾਂ ?
ਕੁਝ ਉਮੀਦ ਏ ਜ਼ਿੰਦਗੀ ਮਿਲ ਜਾਏਗੀ, ਮੋਏ ਤੁਸੀਂ ਵੀ ਓਂ ਮੋਏ ਅਸੀਂ ਵੀ ਹਾਂ
ਜਿaੁਂਦੀ ਜਾਨ ਹੀ ਮੌਤ ਦੇ ਮੂੰਹ ਅੰਦਰ, ਢੋਏ ਤੁਸੀਂ ਵੀ ਹੋ ਢੋਏ ਅਸੀਂ ਵੀ ਆਂ ?
ਜਾਗਣ ਵਾਲਿਆਂ ਨੇ ਰੱਜ ਕੇ ਲੁੱਟਿਆ ਏ, ਸੋਏ ਤੁਸੀ ਵੀ ਹੋ, ਸੋਏ ਅਸੀਂ ਵੀ ਹਾਂ ?
ਲਾਲੀ ਅੱਖੀਆਂ ਦੀ ਪਈ ਦੱਸਦੀ ਏ, ਰੋਏ ਤੁਸੀਂ ਵੀ ਓ, ਰੋਏ ਅਸੀਂ ਵੀ ਹਾਂ?
The redness in your eyes tells a tale.
That you too have cried, and so have we
We may not verbalize but deep in our hearts we know,
That you have also disintegrated, so have we been;
With this cursed independence, my dear friends
You too have suffered, so have we been;
Despite a fond hope to survive
You too have been annihilated, so have we been;
In cruel jaws of death while still alive/ breathing
You too have been pushed into as we have we been;
Exploited by our socalled enlightened leaders;
You too have been, so we have been;
Exploited by our socalled enlightened leaders;
You too have been and so we have been;
Redness in your eyes reveals a tearful tale,
You too have cried, so have we/ so did we.
As a result of his love for Punjabi and his motherland and patriotic fevour Ustad Daman was offered twice to relocate to India but he did not accept the offer. As he remarked to Ali Sardar Jafri (a prolific and versatile Urdu writer from India), he feared that in Pakistan, he would be killed by the rabidly communal Mullahs while in India he would be roasted alive by the bigoted Brahmins. Daman chose to settle in Pakistan after independence where he continued to face bravely the travails of everyday life. He kept no record of his poems until his death in 1984. Ustaad Daman belonged to that distinct class of versifiers who are so-called "poets of the Stage" but he was a great spontaneous literary giant as well.
Ustaad Daman was also imprisoned for his bitterly satirical poem written against Ayub Khan' military dictatorship, where he recited:
ਸਾਡੇ ਮੁਲਕ ਵਿੱਚ ਮੌਜਾਂ ਹੀ ਮੌਜਾਂ ਜਿੱਧਰ ਦੇਖੋ ਫੌਜਾਂ ਹੀ ਫੌਜਾਂ
How happy is my country indeed
With military boots stamping all around!
He retained his reputation of being an anti-establishment man even after the end of the regime of military dictatorship and onset of democratic governance under Z.A. Bhutto. He wrote against rising prices and oppression of the downtrodden.
ਮੇਰੇ ਖਿਆਲ ਅੰੰਦਰ ਸ਼ਾਇਰ ਉਹ ਹੁੰਦਾ
ਖੰਡ, ਖੰਡ ਨੂੰ, ਜਹਿਰ ਨੂੰ ਜਹਿਰ ਆਖੇ
ਜੋ ਕੁਝ ਹੁੰਦਾ ਏ, ਹੋਵੇ ਨਾ ਡਰੇ ਹਰਗਿਜ਼
ਰਹਿਮ, ਰਹਿਮ ਨੂੰ ਕਹਿਰ ਨੂੰ ਕਹਿਰ ਆਖੇ
ਭਾਵੇਂ ਬਸਤੀ ਦੀ ਬਸਤੀ ਬਰਬਾਦ ਹੋਵੇ
ਜੰਗਲ, ਜੰਗਲ ਨੂੰ, ਜ਼ਹਿਰ ਨੂੰ ਜ਼ਹਿਰ ਆਖੇ
ਦਾਮਨ ਦੁਖਾਂ ਦੇ ਜ਼ਹਿਰ 'ਚ ਜਾਏ ਡੁੱਬਦਾ
ਨਦੀ, ਨਦੀ ਨੂੰ, ਨਹਿਰ ਨੂੰ ਨਹਿਰ ਆਖੇ
He indeed is a real poet I think,
Who calls a spade of spade,
Who is never scared whatever the consequence,
When he denounces tyranny and applauds compassion
Even if the whole paramyd collaspses
He dares to condemn anarchy and appaud civility
Let Daman go to hell
But let him keep telling the truth.
Again he wrote a mocking satire against ZA Bhutto's directionless and opportunistic politicking and diplomacy after Bhutto's Shimla trip/ agreement. He wrote;
ਇਹ ਕੀਹ ਕਰੀ ਜਾਨਾਂ ਏਂ, ਇਹ ਕੀਹ ਕਰੀ ਜਾਨਾਂ ਏਂ ।
ਕਦੇ ਸ਼ਿਮਲੇ ਜਾਨਾਂ ਏਂ, ਕਦੇ ਮਰੀ ਜਾਨਾਂ ਏਂ ।
ਲਾਹੀ ਖੇਸ ਜਾਨਾਂ ਏਂ, ਖਿੱਚੀ ਦਰੀ ਜਾਨਾਂ ਏਂ ।ਇਹ ਕੀਹ ਕਰੀ ਜਾਨਾਂ……
ਕਦੀ ਚੀਨ ਜਾਨਾਂ ਏਂ, ਕਦੀ ਰੂਸ ਜਾਨਾਂ ਏਂ ।
ਬਣ ਕੇ ਤੂੰ ਅਮਰੀਕੀ ਜਾਸੂਸ ਜਾਨਾਂ ਏਂ ।
ਉਡਾਈ ਕੌਮ ਦਾ ਤੂੰ ਫਲੂਸ ਜਾਨਾਂ ਏਂ ।ਇਹ ਕੀਹ ਕਰੀ ਜਾਨਾਂ……
ਲਾਹੀ ਕੋਟ ਜਾਨਾਂ ਏਂ, ਟੁੰਗੀ ਬਾਹਵਾਂ ਜਾਨਾਂ ਏਂ ।
ਬੜ੍ਹਕਾਂ ਮਾਰਦਾ ਏਂ ਨਾਲੇ ਡਰੀਂ ਜਾਨਾਂ ਏਂ ।ਇਹ ਕੀਹ ਕਰੀ ਜਾਨਾਂ……
What pranks are you playing upon people of Pakistan
Sometime rushing to Simla, some time to Murree (for summits)
Are you not humiliating yourself playing these pranks.
Are you not compromising the dignity of your people.
Sometime rushing to China, sometime to Russia.
Sometime disguising yourself as undercover for America.
What clonnish postures you keep on displaying,
Sometime boasting aloud, sometime whining timidly.
A renowned Pakistani Poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz was one of the best friends of Ustaad Daman. In November, 1984, when Daman got ill, his friend Faiz visited him and requested him to shift to more comfortable and better place instead of his hujra, but Daman refused. However, he had to be shifted to the Hospital for treatment, where Habib Jalib was a fellow patient. Here Daman received the news of Faiz Ahmed Faiz's death on 20th November 1984. It was another jolt to Daman. He expressed his desire to go to attend Faiz's funeral. Despite his illness and being hospitalized, he insisted on being carried to Faiz's bedside and stood there unwilling to leave his side.' A few days later, on December 3, 1984 Ustaad Daman also passed away.
To conclude, Ustaad Daman despite being a popular stage poet in Punjabi, has become not only an integral part of Punjab and Punjabi's legendary folklore by virtue of his rustic prosody but a great literary figure on the strength of his being a spokesman of the popular thoughts and emotions of people of Punjab during the post partition era. His poetic verse has the unique distinction of reducing the gap between the popular poetic lingo and enduring literary verse. This tradition is being carried on by the smiliarly popular straight forward Punjab poetry by Baba Najmi and some others even today in Pakistan. The enduring spirit of Punjab, Punjabic and Punjabiat survives in the poetry of these Punjabi poets. May his tribe increase.
ਇਹ ਦੁਨੀਆ ਮਿਸਲ ਸਰਾਂ ਦੀ ਏ,
ਏਥੇ ਮੁਸਾਫ਼ਿਰਾਂ ਬੈਠ, ਖਲੋ ਜਾਣਾ ।
ਵਾਰੋ ਵਾਰੀ ਏ ਸਾਰਿਆਂ ਕੂਚ ਕਰਨਾ,
ਆਈ ਵਾਰ ਨਾ ਕਿਸੇ ਅਟਕੋ ਜਾਣਾ ।
ਮੇਰੇ ਵੇਂਹਦਿਆਂ ਵੇਂਹਦਿਆਂ ਕਈ ਹੋ ਗਏ,
ਤੇ ਮੈਂ ਕਈਆਂ ਦੇ ਵੇਂਹਦਿਆਂ ਹੋ ਜਾਣਾ ।
'ਦਾਮਨ' ਸ਼ਾਲ ਦੁਸ਼ਾਲੇ, ਲੀਰਾਂ ਵਾਲਿਆਂ ਵੀ,
ਸਭਨਾ ਖ਼ਾਕ ਦੇ ਵਿਚ ਸਮੋ ਜਾਣਾ ।
This world is one night stay inn,
Where travelers arrive, rest and leave
Everyone departs turn by turn,
Non can overstay when his turn comes.
Many a men have departed during my life time
I too would depart while others live.
Every one would become dust unto dust
Howsoever rich or poor he may be.
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2019, All