By Tushar Bhatt
He had been a rebel,but did not look to be one even an inch.In his younger days,he had heaped ridicule on anybody and every-body connected with the literary establishment.But his mellifluent talking,carried on in a low key voice, did not betray an iota of the fire that remained buried,and yet smouldering in the depths of his heart.
Poet and playwright Adil Mansuri, even in his 60s,remained as enigmatic as ever.It did not matter if he had been living for many years as an NRI (Non-resident Indian).
On a brief visit to Ahmedabad ,which he adored for all its dust,its dirt and discomforts,Adil never came across as a man who went away to the El Dorado of all Gujaratis,the United States of America.
He had ,in spirit,always been here,and Gujarat and Gujarati lit-erature had always dwelled his mind.It is as if,he was on a leave of absence; he had never gone away, cannot go away,and will not go away even on the day of salvation.
Time,meanwhile,had been whitewashing his beard,his hair,making him even more look like a Gujarati Ghalib.He himself was not unaware of the comparison;years ago he wrote some lines about it:
Apna Ghar bhi Milata Jhulta hai Ghalib ke ghar se,
Do ghanta barasat jo barse, chhe ghanta chhat barse.
As he walked in,there was nothing NRI-ish about Adil.Clad in sherwani,zabbha and a jacket,he appeared exactly the way he dressed when he was working in an advertising firm in Ahmeda-bad.He smiled easily,chatted amiably and spoke effortlessly about life abroad.
Said Adil:"I went to the U.S.A. a little late. I was already 48 when I left India.The prime thought behind the move was to ensure a bet-ter life for my children, especially my three daughters. I did not want them to have a life of domestic drudgery,without exercising any personal choice in their lifestyle,something that I had no oppor-tunity to get when I was young."
It was a difficult choice because for a quarter century Adil had taken deep roots in Ahmedabad and Gujarat,and suddenly he was transplanting his life in an alien environment. "In the beginning it was very tough.My writing came to an almost full stop. Nobody knew me there and I did not know anyone. I had to do odd jobs in the initial stages before I landed a good job at an insurance firm.You see, in a way, I was not equipped for the demands of the life there. I had in Ahmedabad my friends, my poetry,mushairas,the familiar situation all around,the bitter-sweetness of a culturally sat-isfying life which was otherwise not very satisfying for my children's future. So, I took an adventurous decision to go to the U.S.A. I am satisfied that things have panned out all right. My two daughters are happily married and settled there.My literary output has also been increasing.”
After a blockage of some time, Adil began to write in magazines brought out by Gujaratis in America and Europe. He wrote ghazals and plays about his American experience."In the course of time, my literary output really went up. I must have written some 60 po-ems in 60 days once.” A collection of his work abroad was in the pipeline,expected to be published in two or three months,called New York Name Ek Gaam(A village called New York). He said dur-ing a visit when we met
Adil warmly spoke of a tiny organisation of Gujarati-speaking people with a literary bent of mind,named 60 Din (Sixty Days). We are about 25 couples, who meet once every two months to ex-change notes, read new writings by members together,to enjoy and make merry."
The only change visible in him was the addition of countless thank yous to his courteous mannerism. He will thank you for tele-phoning him, for inviting him, for offering him a chair,a cup of tea,a handshake,anything.
It was so much of politeness,of exaggerated formality,that after a while one began to wonder if it should be Adil who should thanking us. Or should it we who should thank him for remembering home, for returning ever so briefly,for continuing to pen poetry in Gujarati even as he battled with the key-board of a computer at an Ameri-can firm in New York.
In his long literary journey Adil had written a lot of ghazals,but can now that those creations left unpublished would be brought out as a tribute to his memory. Five publications to his credit—earlier --Wank,Pagrav and Satat,all collections of poetry,and two collections of plays, had stamped Gujarati literary register with his name force-fully.
Born on May 18, 1936,in Ahmedabad Adil came from a family of traders of Ahmedabad.Dr Chinu Modi,another rebel in Gujarati lit-erature,who prodded Adil to write in Gujarati,remembered that the poet,then writing mainly in Urdu, had first come in his contact nearly half-a-century ago."I think he was working in a cloth shop at that time,but later shifted to advertising."
Adil was a self-made man; he had mastered computers later, but at one point of time,his friends recalled,he used to describe his edu-cational background as something more than an M.A. -- M.A.B.F.,an arbitrary abbreviation of Matric Appeared But Failed. That was not strrictly true,but Adil just did not care about append-ages to establish his own credentials as a man of letters,or even as a human being.
Said Dr Modi:"Adil read a lot,not just in Gujarati or Urdu,but also in English.He wrote spontaneously and exceedingly well,a man capable of expressing his feelings in the most appropriate words and a man who was able to feel intensely." In fact, he seemed to have written only when he felt intensely about something.
Add to that intensity,an endless,never-to-be-satiated curiosity about everything around him,most of all people.This led him to a very successful career as an advertising copy writing in Guja-rati.Many remember Adil as a copy writer at a national advertising agency located in Ahmedabad some three decades ago.For years,the custom at such agencies had been to translate into Guja-rati advertising copy created originally in English or Hindi.Adil changed the rules.Remembered a friend:"His original copy in Guja-rati used to be so good that often copy writers in English would be asked to take a look at it and translate it into English,if possible."
But,it was as a poet that the rebelliousness of Adil,along with Dr Modi and Manhar Modi,earned him a reputation-- some would say a dubious reputation.The trio was all for experimentation,a lot of which they did in company of Labhsankar Thaker,another noted poet.They scoffed at the literati of the day,campaigned against them,and started an organisation,and a magazine,called "Re Math”,whose address deliberately,with the intent of causing out-rage,carried the mention it was situated opposite a public uri-nal.What did it mean,nobody knows for sure.Even the English spelling of the now-defunct set-up is unsual.According to Dr Chinu Modi, Re was spelt in English as Zreyagh.It did a lot of good to the development of literature in Gujarati;to begin with,by declaring that the only rule worth following was that there was no rule worth fol-lowing.They would heap ridicule on the leading literary figures of the day,resort to pranks and gimmicks,and made themselves and their work taken notice of.
Though the mists of time have covered many things,Adil re-membered vividly those days,which again revealed the complexity of his personality. In literature,he had been known as a rebel,a man who did a lot of experiments of form in penning his output, a sort of iconoclast.But that appeared to be only one facet of his personality as was underlined by his career in copy writing; in advertising one needs to abide by what the client wants and still add flashes of imagination and colour of concept to make it all attractive to look at and read.Adil did that effortlessly,his literary image of a rebel not-withstanding.And what was more, he did not seem to consider his days in advertising as a by-product of the necessity to make a liv-ing.As he talked fondly about "those days", Adil spoke of warmly colleagues such as Sharad Suchde, who died later.
Dr.Modi said that Adil had always been a complex personality; a rebel in letters,a traditionalist in person.There was no frenzy in his dissent;there was fire."He was like an ocean,outwardly so calm and yet running so deep.He was like a dormant volcano.He wore a shy smile,spok in a sweet manner,was meticulously dressed,and was polite to the limit of making others feel uneasy."
Adil once described himself succinctly in one of his ghazals thus:" dharm,dhandho,janm ne jati:Ghazal"(By relig-ion,profession,birth and community,he is of ghazal).About his po-etry,said Dr.Modi, one could easily do a doctoral thesis."If you do not submit the thesis for a Ph.D. any university would bestow an honorary D.Lit.on you for the work.Such is the sweep,depth and appeal of his poetry." His language could be deceptively sim-ple,and still full of depth, a depth that can be perceived by readers easily.He had done ghazals in the traditional style, and then had-broken the mould and ventured out in different directions."Before going against the traditions, Adil mastered the naunces of the tradi-tions,tried his hand, and when found them inadequate to be his proper vehicle,struck out in newer areas",Dr.Modi said.
About ghazal,he sang:
Jyare pranayni jagman sharuat thai hashe,
Tyare pratham ghazalni rajuat thai hashe.
When love first made its appearance in the world,the first ghazal was presented.
And,then, he could switch easily to modern ways:
Ena patanne billina kudakaman joine,
Maro vikas thay chhe sherina shwanman.
Seeing his downfall in the cat's jump,my own growth takes the form of the street dog.
Or, he could cry out thus:
Makanoman loko purai gaya chhe,
ke manasne manasno dar hoy jane.
People have shut themselves up in houses, as if man was afraid of man.
The same Adil could be sentimental about his city,Ahmedabad.He himself had rated his piece on the city as the one liked the best.Why? "I find that it creates echoes in the heart of the readers and listeners exactly in the same way as it did in mine when it was first created", said Adil.
Wherever,away from home, it has been rendered,it has been known to bring tears to innumerable eyes.Reflecting the yearning of a man going away from his home town, Adil said in the piece:
Nadini retman ramatun nagar male na male,
fari aa drashya smrutipat upar male na male.
Bhari lo shwasman eni sugandhno dariyo,
pachhi aa matini bhini asar male na male.
Parichitone dharaine joi leva do,
aa hasta chehra,aa mithi najar male na male.
Bhari lo aankhman rastao,baario,bhinto,
pachhi aa shaher,aa galio,aa ghar male na male.
Radi lo aaj sambadhone vintalai ahin,
pachhi koi ne koini kabar male na male.
Valava aavya chhe e chehara farashe aankhoman,
bhale safarman koi hamsafar male na male.
Vatanni dhulthi mathun bhari laun Adil,
Arey aa dhul pachhi umrabhar male na male.
[ Maybe this city,playing in the sands,will not be seen again by these eyes,
Fill the nostrils with the ocean of its smells,maybe it will not be available to smell again.
Drink in the sights of the acquaintances to the content of the heart,maybe these smiling face will not be seen again.
Fill the eyes with the images of these roads,these win-dows,these walls,maybe this city, these bylanes,this house may not be available again.
Cry,embracing the kins of the place,maybe some one or other's even grave will not be seen again.
Faces saying goodbye will live for ever in the eyes as perma-ment companions, maybe in the life's journey hereafter not even one companion will be there.
Adil, put the dust of the city on the head,maybe this dust will not grace the hair in this lifetime again.]
Although successful in America too,Adil yearned to be back home again. "I had gone for the good of my children.I will come back once that objective is accomplished." Already,he had decided that he should come to Ahmedabad more often.If in the past ten years he came twice only,he now planned to come for four months every two years."Those will be the months when I will spend time nursing my roots, deriving sustenance for myself,enhancing my joy of living.My roots are here."
The experience in every brief sojourn had been invigorating for Adil. He would go to a gathering of poets and recite some of his latest. The crowd would be so happy with what he had to say that the programme which began at 10.30 p m may end around 3.30 a m."People just would not leave",recalled Dr Modi.Adil found that there now was better appreciation of arts and culture,and men and women of letters in Gujarat than was there earlier. He found Guja-rat more prosperous,but also more crowded,and with apalling pub-lic health conditions.But,more important than everything else,he found that Ahmedabad and Gujarat responded to him,and he re-sponded to them magnificently.No one is more welcome anywhere in the world than in his own home,and even if one has been a prodigal son.
This son was not a prodigal in with bagful of grievance.He was so intense sentimental that he would treat stay elsewhere as tem-porary. Adil’s birthday slipped by unnoticed in his beloved city on May 18.Not many remembered this literary badshah who wanted as his crown nothing but the dust of Ahmedabad. No city can hope for a better tribute. But then, Adil was Adil was Adil.
On the day of kyamat, the city will owe him much and he will owe nothing. Yet, charactistically he will offer to pay up on behalf of his beloved Ahmedabad.