Hasrat Jaipuri's real name was Iqbal Husain. Till 1939, he lived in hometown Jaipur where he studied English till 'medium level' and then acquired his 'taalim' in Urdu and Persian from his learned grandfather, Fida Husain. He began writing verse as late as the age of 20, and around that time, he fell in love with a neighborhood girl called Radha. “Love knows no mazhab or dharam,” he told me. “It is not at all necessary that a Muslim boy must fall in love only with a Muslim girl. My love was silent, but I wrote a poem for her, `Yeh mera prem patra padh kar, ke tum naaraaz na hona.’” And that 'letter' may never have been delivered to Radha, but Raj Kapoor was to later deliver it to the world as the perennial mantra for lovers of all generations in his Sangam (1964).

In Mumbai, Hasrat Jaipuri took the secure job of a bus conductor and satiated his creative urges by participating in mushairas. The late Prithviraj Kapoor heard his verse and recommended him to his son Raj Kapoor who was planning a musical love story with two new composers, Shanker - Jaikishan. 'We met at the canteen of the Royal Opera House where Prithvirajji used to stage his plays, and Rajji signed me for Barsaat. My first recorded song was 'Jiya beqaraar hai' tuned by Shanker. The second was 'Chhod gaye baalam', my first song with Jaikishan, and my first duet.”

This association continued till 1971. “After Jai's death and the failures of Mera Naam Joker and Kal Aaj Aur Kal, Rajsaab changed his music team. I was happy that he left us to go to the only other great team in our films - Laxmikant Pyarelal and Anand Bakshi. But he wanted to call me back for Prem Rog. That did not work out because someone recommended Amir Qazalbash to Rajsaab. But I was back with 'Sun sahiba sun' which Rajsaab told me to write to one of his own tunes which he had used as the English song 'I love you' in Sangam. He then called me for three songs for Henna, but after Rajsaab's death, the music director conspired to scrap them and replace them with his own lyrics.” This was the only time I found Hasrat Jaipuri bitter: “They were my last link with Raj Kapoor and RK,” he said, his voice brimming with a queer mix of anger, grief and resignation.

The eternal realist, Hasrat Jaipuri told me how lucky he was to have married a woman who advised him to invest his earnings in property. “Today, the rents that come in from my tenants keep me comfortable so that I am not forced to work for my rozi-roti and my family. I accept assignments that are offered and don't have to run after films, music directors and music companies for work. I am very proud of my children - two sons and a daughter - but the art of poetry is God-gifted and cannot be learnt, and they have not been gifted with it.”

He won innumerable awards, honours and mementos. Among them were two Filmfare trophies (for `Baharon phool barsao’ from Suraj and `Zindagi ek safar hai suhana’ from Andaz) and two awards - the Doctorate from the World University Round-Table and the Josh Mahilabadi award from the Urdu Conference for his literary work as a poet. Also the Dr Ambedkar award for a film song, `Jhanak jhanak tori baaje payaliya’ from Mere Huzoor, which was written with a blend of Hindi and Brij Bhasha. Apropos that, the poet once said, 'Hindi and Urdu are like two great and inseparable sisters. Even my books on poetry are in Hindi as well as Urdu.' His latest published compilation was 'Abshaar-E-Ghazal.'

About 350 films and 2000 recorded songs old, Hasrat Jaipuri's last releases were Saazish with Jatin-Lalit and Sher Khan (with Bappi Lahiri) last year, and at the time of his death he was working on a few small films and a book of shaayari. “I never discriminated between small and big films and composers. I have the biggest list of music directors among any lyricist - from SJ and Sajjad down to Anand-Milind, Nadeem-Shravan and Jatin-Lalit,” says the man who was master of romance even amidst his versatility. And without being arrogant about it, Hasrat Jaipuri did realize his own worth. 'Humne who naqsh chhod hai that mywork will always be remembered even after I have gone,”he told me once with the honest precision of a scientist stating a proven fact. And even if you consider only the crème-de-la-crème of his work, like 'Zindagi ek safar hai suhana' (Andaz), 'Teri pyari pyari soorat ko' (Sasural), 'Pankh hote to ud aati re' (Sehra), 'Tere khayalon meinhum' (Geet Gaya Pattharon Ne), ' Tu kahan yeh bataa' (Tere Ghar KeSaamne), 'Muhabbat aisi dhadkan hai' (Anarkali), 'Tu mere saamne hai,teri zulfein hai khuli' (Suhagan), 'Nain se nain' (Jhanak Jhanak Paayal Baaje), 'Ehsan tera hoga mujh par' (Junglee), 'Teri zulfon se' (Jab PyarKisise Hota Hai) and 'Tum mujhe yoon bhula na paaoge' (Pagla Kahin Ka) and add a whole range of songs like 'Sayonara sayonara' (Love In Tokyo),' Aao twist karen' (Bhoot Bungla).' Ajhoon na aaye baalma' (Sanjh AurSavera) and 'Duniya bananewale' (from his friend and closest associate Shailendra's production Teesri Kasam), one cannot but accept that the maestro was right. As he wrote once, 'Tum mujhe yoon bhula na paaoge/ Jab kabhi bhi sunogegeet mere/ Sang sang tum bhi gungunaaoge/ Haan, tum mujhe yoon bhula na paaoge.'

Excerpts from an article in Mid-day Mumbai by Rajiv Vijayakar