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The Indian Muslim storyteller

Published : Dec 5, 2017, 12:36 am IST
Updated : Dec 5, 2017, 12:38 am IST

Hussain Haidry is an upcoming lyricist, whose evocative and thoughtful poem has won the hearts of one and all.

Hussain Haidry
 Hussain Haidry

Mujhmein Geeta ka saar bhi hai, ek Urdu ka akhbaar bhi hai
Mera ek mahina Ramzan bhi hai, maine kiya toh Ganga snaan bhi hai
Main kaisa Musalman hoon bhai?

These are a few lines from Hussain Haidry’s poem Main Hindustani Musalman Hoon, which he first performed at Kommune — a space for artists, on February 10. Since then, the poetry has gone viral.

“I got the idea of writing a poem on my own Muslim identity during my time in Kolkata while traveling to Bhutan for a solo trip in 2015. I wrote that poem in a small diary and lost it after returning to Kolkata. However, the first couple of lines stuck with me for over a year, until I was in Mumbai — and I wrote a completely different poem with the same initial lines to be performed at open mics or poetry events held in Mumbai,” shares Hussain, a Gujarati-speaking Bohra Muslim from Madhya Pradesh.

When asked whether he was talking about nationalism in the poem, the Bollywood lyricist and screenwriter says, “I never really wanted to convey a message. It was just a poem that talked about how I thought of myself as a Muslim — a person born under Islam but living in a country as diverse as India. It was meant to be just a piece that I would perform and get feedback and responses for. I am very grateful to Kommune for putting it up on their channel and to all the people who have liked it and even critiqued it. What touched me the most was that a lot of people across the country related to it and called those words their own.”

However, one wonders whether Main Hindustani Musalman Hoon, which mentions several subjects such as the Bhagwad Gita, bathing in the Ganges and smoking and drinking could anger orthodox Muslims? “I read a few critiques of the poem, some even from a sociological/ historical/religious angle. I found that some were legitimate arguments that made me read up and learn things, while some I didn’t agree to,” says the soft-spoken poet, who likes to read Sahir Ludhianvi and  Amitav Ghosh.

Interestingly, this Indore-born chartered accountant and Indian IIM-Indore graduate left his job in Kolkata and moved to Mumbai to become a full-time lyricist and screenwriter. “Gazal Dhaliwal and Varun Grover, who have been my friends since my open mic days in Mumbai back in 2010, helped me a lot. When I came back to Mumbai in 2016, I felt that I had lost my knack in writing poetry and that I needed at least a year to prepare academically to be able to write lyrics. They were, however, very confident that I could do it right away. But the pessimist in me kept thinking they’re just saying it the way usually friends do so that my hopes are not crushed. I just wanted them to guide me through the struggling phase and help me understand if I was on the right path, but instead they both helped me connect with Tanuja Chandra and Anurag Kashyap for their upcoming films,” he recalls.

Obviously, that was a huge step forward for Hussain! “It was largely because of their faith in me. The first two songs I ended up writing were for Qarib Qarib Singlle and then I worked for six songs in Mukkabaaz,” says the 31-year-old.

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