Lyricist Mujahid Jameel has been penning poems for the Lord of Mathura since he was a child. This week, his bhajan releases online
Mujahid Jameel With music director Vivek Prakash. Pics/Datta Kumbhar
As a child growing up in Kanpur’s Chaman Ganj locality, poet Mujahid Jameel would often be a regular at kirtans organised by the area’s bhajan mandalis. He’d sit in the front row, entranced by the sound of cymbals and bells, as the group sang songs in praise of Lord Krishna. Son of a clothes designer who worked at a mill, a young Jameel never saw himself as an oddity at these events held in temple premises.
“I would tag along with my friends to nearby temples. At no point was I made to feel like I wasn’t supposed to be there,” says Jameel, now 85 years old. It helped to hail from a literary background — his father Nayab Dehlvi was also a poet and his grandfather Habib was a peer (Sufi spiritual guide) — which made straddling both worlds fairly easy. “My family never interfered with my religious leaning. When I look back, I think my small Kanpur neighbourhood was also quite liberal,” he recalls.
Reviving a decade old song
It doesn’t come as a surprise, then, that the octogenarian who now lives in Malad with his family, has written over 250 bhajans, apart from several other Urdu shai’rs. His latest single in Braj BhÄÂshÄÂ, a Hindi dialect from Mathura, titled Radha Rani Rooth Gayi, celebrates the delightful camaraderie between Krishna and Radha. An out-and-out bhajan, it released earlier this week on YouTube and is produced by music director Vivek Prakash and sung by Anoop Jalota and RoliâÂÂPrakash. It’s a piece he had penned 10 years ago on a whim. The book in which he had jotted it down was relegated to the shelf, until a chance encounter with music director Vivek Prakash at an event gave the song a second life. “We got talking about songs, and I mentioned this bhajan that I’d written a decade ago. When Prakash heard it, he felt there was potential in the lyrics,” he says.
It was in 1953 that Jameel moved to Mumbai to become a poet. After much struggle, he landed a job with a leading music production company for which he wrote several songs. Of this, few were devotional. What catapulted him to fame was a Pankaj Udhas song, Chupke Chupke Woh Sakhiyon Se, which released in 1999, featuring a fresh-faced John Abraham and model Rajlaxmi Roy. “All this while I continued writing devotional songs in both Hindi and Urdu dedicated to Lord Krishna,” he says. When we quiz him about his unusual fascination with bhajans, Jameel finds it both amusing and puzzling. “I was born in Uttar Pradesh which is home to some important places where Lord Krishna was born and spent a major part of his life. So, according to me, it’s not strange to find a Muslim man who is inspired by Krishna,” he remarks.
A call for goodness
The love for bhajans also stems from his fixation with theology. He remembers the time in Kanpur when he would visit local libraries and devour religious texts. But for Jameel, his love for Krishna bhajans is more innate. “It comes naturally to me. There’s a certain mystical charm that I see in him,” he adds. Jameel usually has a pen and notebook at hand to jot down lyrics in moments of inspirations.
In all these years, Jameel has travelled to Mathura, Vrindavan, Barsana and Dwarka — places linked to Lord Krishna’s life. He has even trekked to the Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu and driven to Swaminarayan Akshardham at Gandhinagar, Gujarat. “It’s a magnificent temple. I felt so inspired while I sat there, that I ended up writing 108 bhajans,” he says. Jameel says his fixation with Krishna doesn’t make him any less Muslim. In fact, he considers himself a humanist. “I am a proud Muslim but I believe all religions point towards a common universal truth. All I want to tell people through my shayari and bhajans is to be a good human being.”
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