Google on Tuesday marked the 101st birthday of Urdu poet, film lyricist and social change advocate Kaifi Azmi with a doodle for its Indian users.
Azmi was born Syed Athar Hussain Rizvi in 1919 in Uttar Pradesh’s Azamgarh district. He composed his first poem when he was 11. In 1943, he published his first collection of poems Jhankar.
“With work ranging from passionate love poems and activist verses to Bollywood songs lyrics and screenplays, Azmi has become one of the most renowned poets of the 20th century in India, and his humanitarian efforts continue to impact people’s lives today,” Google said.
Besides Jhankar, his other poetry books include Aakhir-E-Shab, Sarmaya, Awaara Sajde, Kaifiyat and Nai Gulistan. Along with Sardar Jafri and Sahir Ludhianvi, Azmi formed a troika of post-independent Urdu poets whose poems and lyrics strove for secular ideas.
Azmi died on May 10, 2002. His daughter is the acclaimed actor Shabana Azmi. His wife, the writer, theatre and film actor Shaukat Kaifi died in November.
He won the Padma Shri in 1974 and the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship in 2002. He also won three Filmfare Awards in 1973.
Azmi moved to Mumbai to write for an Urdu newspaper after he was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s 1942 Quit India movement. He was also a member of the Progressive Writers’ Association, which used writings to achieve socio-economic reforms. “He also founded the NGO Mijwan Welfare Society to support various educational initiatives to improve the lives of rural women and families,” Google said in its statement about the doodle.
Azmi was known to be a recluse. He mostly kept away from public appearances despite his immense popularity over his poems and memorable film songs, such as Waqt Ne Kiya (Kaagaz Ke Phool, 1959), Ab Tumhare Hawale (Haqeeqat, 1964) and Yeh Duniya Yeh Mehfil (Heer Ranjha, 1970). The exception to the rule: mushairas, or poetry gatherings.
Here are some of Kaifi Azmi’s poems, in his own voice.