Here is a slightly dated but enlightening article on Urdu poets from the golden era of Urdu poetry when the Red Fort (Lal kila) in Delhi witnessed some of the best poetry, during the times of the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar. The article focuses on one of the stars of the era, Hakim Momin Khan Momin. An excerpt is below:
A poet all over, Momin (1800-51) was born in Delhi in a family of Mughal administrators and physicians hailing originally from Kashmir. Urdu literature’s first historian Mohammad Hussain Azad, in his “Ab-e-Hayaat” (Frances W. Pritchett and Shamsur Rahman Faruqi’s translation), says Momin “had an artistic and romantic temperament; he was always in handsome style and well-dressed. He was tall, of darkish complexion, with a head full of long curly locks that he constantly kept combing with his fingers”.
Momin was a man of many parts. A competent physician like his father and grandfather, he was also proficient in mathematics, geomancy, astrology, chess and music. Perhaps the last skill helps to explain the rhythmic cadence he easily achieved in some of his ghazals and how exquisitely they pair with music.
Those fond of listening to master ghazal singers like Begum Akhtar and Ghulam Ali, will remember two of Momin’s best – those haunting lyrics of futile and painful love: ” Vo jo ham mein tum mein qaraar tha tumhen yaad ho ke na yaad ho/Vahi yaani vaada nibaah ka tumhen yaad ho ke na yaad ho” and “Roya karenge aap bhi pahron isi tarah/Atka kahi jo aap ka dil bhi meri tarah”.
In one more ghazal, Momin expresses his pain more colourfully: “Bepardah ghair ke paas use baitha na dekhte/Uth jaate kaash ham bhi jahan se haaya ke saath”.
Azad says Momin’s “thoughts are extremely delicate, and his themes lofty. And the power of his metaphors and similes too lifts his ghazals to a high level. In them he has expressed romantic affairs with an extraordinary delightfulness”.
And, proving his timelessness, he, in the maqta of his most famous ghazal “Vo jo ham mein tum mein…”, makes an anguished admission, not only to the oblivious paramour, but also to us: “Jise aap ginte the aashna, jise aap kehta the bawafa/Main vahi hoon Momin-e-mubtala, tumhen yaad ho ke na yaad ho”.