Till recently I knew Harivansh Rai Bachhan as superstar Amitabh Bachchan’s father. I had heard that he was a poet and his poetry “Madhushala” had many fans; yet I had remained oblivious of the madhu (Nectar) of his Madhushala.
I had casually picked up the CD of Madhushala along with other old music albums during my last visit to India. When I started to listen, I was mesmerized by Jaidev’s heart-wrenching music, Manna Dey’s melodious rendition and above all by the poetry. The poetry spoke to me and I had to find out more. Thanks to numerous fans that had shared their comprehension of the nuances of this epic poetry on internet, my uninitiated self was introduced to the subtleties of this exotic, vintage wine.
I have heard several gazals and songs romanticizing liquor and intoxication yet Madhushala felt fresh and novel. The blend of romanticism with rebellion, philosophy with sensuality and undertones of humor gives it a unique allure. I can imagine how the crowds must have gone crazy listening to Bachchan ji recite it in the 30s. It was the golden era of Hindi literature and poetry when stalwarts such as Jaishankar Prasad, Suryakant Tripathi Nirala, Sumitra Nandan Pant, Mahadevi Verma and Premchand were at the crest of creativity. Madhushala remains one of the most enduring creative pieces of that time as can be seen from the various blogs and from the discussion on quora (http://www.quora.com/Which-is-the-best-line-phrase-para-of-Madhushala-by-Harivansh-Rai-Bachchan).
Harivansh Rai Bachchan was just 28 years old when he published Madhushala. He had joined the nationalist movement and then given it up to return to academia. He had translated the famed Rubbaiyat of Omar Khayyam to Hindi. He had been married for about a decade and was deeply […]