’26 January’ by Sahir Ludhianvi is an Urdu ghazal meditating upon the day on which India became a Republic. The day is celebrated as the Republic Day in India each year. Sahir Ludhianvi is the takhallus or pen name of the famous Indian poet Abdul Hayee. He wrote many poems in the Hindi and Urdu languages. Ludhianvi was associated with the literary movement eventuated by the Progressive Writers’ Association. However, in ‘Chhabees Janwary’ or ’26 January’, Sahir Ludhianvi talks about the commitments that the nationalistic leaders made before independence and how it was reflected in the Indian context.
Summary of 26 January
’26 January’ by Sahir Ludhianvi is all about the questions that appeared in the hearts of the Indians after independence. The poet was troubled to see what was happening around the country. Poverty, disease, homelessness, and a lot more issues made people’s lives miserable. Those who had fought with the leaders were either suffering or deceived. The promises were not kept. Leaders made several commitments for the country’s development and improving the lives of the poor. After independence, they forgot that they had ever made a promise to the people. The people who brought them freedom was suffering from the passivity of the leaders. That’s why, the poet ironically said to the leaders, “…you are no less sinner/ O leaders of the nation you are guilty too.”
You can read the full poem 26 January here.
Structure of 26 January
’26 January’ by Sahir Ludhianvi is an Urdu poem that was translated into English. In the translated version there isn’t any specific rhyme scheme. It’s in free verse. However, the Urdu version contains an innovative rhyme scheme. It’s not conventional. The poet ends alternative lines with the Urdu word “hue” for creating a resonating sound in the poem. Like ghazals, the poet meditates on the condition of his country on the eve of 26th January. It gives the poem a quality of an ode. The last two lines of the Urdu version form a closed couplet.
In the original poem, Sahir Ludhianvi makes use of both the iambic meter and trochaic meter for creating a falling and rising rhythm in each line. Some lines begin with a trochaic foot and the rest of the feet are in iambic meter. However, there are some variations like spondees and anapests in the poem. The metrical composition and the sounds create a mood of despair in the overall text.
Literary Devices in 26 January
’26 January’ by Sahir Ludhianvi contains some important literary devices in the translated version. The poet uses several poetic devices to make his thoughts more appealing and forceful to the readers. Likewise, the poem begins with an apostrophe. The poem poses several rhetorical questions or interrogations to those on authority. The poet also uses some significant metaphors like “street of the gallows”, “Cherisher of democracy”, “friend of humanity”, and “wisher of peace”. The first one refers to the streets on which people gathered to protest. Eventually, the happenings on the road lead many of them to the gallows.
The last three phrases metaphorically refer to the nationalistic leaders. It is not that those phrases only contain metaphors. The poet infuses irony into those titles. Apart from that, there is a metonymy in “silk and satin”. However, in the last few lines, the poet uses “malady of religion”, “precious prescriptions”, “field of flames”, “slaughterhouse”, and “wilderness of gloom” as metaphors. There is also alliteration in “precious prescriptions”.
Analysis of 26 January
Come, and let us ponder over this question
What happened to those promises of silk and satin
’26 January’ by Sahir Ludhianvi welcomes his fellow countrymen to ponder over a few questions that have originated in the poet’s heart. The poet talks about the dreams that the leaders had shown them before independence. After independence, the country’s wealth increased gradually and also increased the number of poor men. Long before, the political leaders talked about improving the lives of them who were going to fight with them in the struggle for independence. After getting the power to rule, they forgot about those common people and only pondered about themselves.
Men who had bled for the country walked to the gallows with a smile and sacrificed their family, were symbolically “naked” of their basic needs. The leaders were not there to even console their family members. The poet ironically asks, “What happened to those promises of silk and satin”. Those were never fulfilled. Even the condition of the country was deteriorating day by day. The poet feels puzzled with such thoughts regarding his country and her people.
Cherisher of democracy, friend of humanity, wisher of peace
O leaders of the nation you are guilty too
In the last few lines, Sahir Ludhianvi throws light on the religious tensions that started after independence. Here, the poet poses questions to his countrymen. They referred to themselves as the “Cherisher of democracy”, “friends of humanity”, and “wisher of peace”. After independence, they came out on the streets and killed each other for the sake of religion. The clash between religions made “every city a slaughterhouse”. Thereafter the poet asks the political leaders, “What happened to those rare and precious prescriptions”. The leaders talked about the principles of “oneness of life”, peace and secularism. But in the poet’s time, India was suffering through ruthless sectarianism.
Amidst this problematic situation in his country, the poet was hopeless about the future of the country. The gloom of men’s wilderness had shrouded his motherland. At last, the poet holds the political leaders responsible for this situation of the country. They were guilty of indirectly killing their own countrymen. There is no fear in the poet’s heart while saying such things about those in possession of power. He knows he is saying the truth.
Historical Context of 26 January
’26 January’ by Sahir Ludhianvi is a poem written in the context of disillusionment after independence. The leaders created an illusion of a “welfare state” and showed a colorful picture of the developing nation. When the time came, the leaders forgot about the promises they have made to the people. For this reason, the post-independence phase of India captures an overall disillusionment of the country. The lives of the poor remained the same and religious sectarianism was at the peak. Some died of poverty and some were killed in the name of the Almighty. Sahir Ludhianvi captures this situation in his poem.
’26 January’ by Sahir Ludhianvi paints the picture of post-independence India. Likewise, the following poems also capture India’s milieu at different times.
- To India – My Native Land by Henry Louis Vivian Derozio – In this poem, Henry Louis Vivian Derozio presents the deplorable condition of colonial India.
- Mother, I bow to thee! by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay – Here the poet, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay expresses his devotion to his motherland.
- The Gift of India by Sarojini Naidu – Sarojini Naidu describes the situation of India during World War I.
- The Country Without a Post Office By Agha Shahid Ali – In this poem, Agha Shahid Ali presents the context of Kashmir in 1997.
You can read about the Top 10 Poems About Freedom and Confinement here.