Saghar Siddiqui: An unsung genius of Pakistan – by Tariq Ali

Saghar Siddiqui: An unsung genius of Pakistan - by Tariq Ali |

Ironically one of the unsung poet of his times Saghar Siddiqui was left to seek solace in drugs and left to die as a pauper on the streets of Lahore.

Remembering Saghar Siddiqui on his death anniversary is like sifting through the dusted pages of his literary journey.

Born as Muhammad Akhtar 1928-1974 (pseudonym) Saghar Siddiqui, the gentleman was an Urdu poet, in spite of his unfortunate life as a loner he remained famous and successful till and after his death. He died alone and left nothing but a pet dog as his mourner, who also died on the same spot where Saghar left his body lying dead on the footpath.

Saghar Siddiqui was born in 1928 in Ambala (British India) to a well-to-do middle-class family. There are few historic records which can reveal Saghar’s personal life and trajectory. He occasionally spoke to anyone in this regard and most of what is known of him tends to be from witness accounts. He was the only child of his parents and spent the early years of his life in home town Ambala and Saharanpur.

He was home tutored and received his early education from Habib Hassan a family friend. Young Akhtar was very much impressed by Habib Hassan, and he got his early inclination towards Urdu poetry because of him. Siddiqui started writing poetry as a child. For a brief period he used Nasir Hijazi as his pen name, but later he changed it to Saghar Siddiqui. At the age of 16 years he regularly started attending Mushairas (poerty recitals) in Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Gurdaspur.

In 1947, when he was 19, he migrated to Pakistan during the independence and settled in Lahore. In those days his Ghazals became instant hits. Some personal tragedies in his life (not known so far) had some drastic impact on his life. Sagar continued to write poetry for the film industry and moved on to publish a literary magazine. The magazine was a critical success but its commercial failure left a heavy dent in Sagar’s heart. Disgruntled and disappointed, he shut down the magazine.

In his later life, he fell into depression, financially ruined and addicted to drugs.

Siddiqui chose to stay in cheap hotels, rather than settle into a house given by the government to refugees. He was barely able to keep his body and soul together. He would pay the rent with meager amounts earned by selling his poems to magazines. Sometimes he would have to sell his poetry to other poets for a few rupees. He would use the waste paper spread around to light fires to stay warm during winter nights. Some of these poems were re-sold by these people as their own work.

Within a decade of shifting to Pakistan, he became completely disillusioned as he saw corruption and nepotism being rewarded at the expense of genuine talent. In despair, frustration and sadness, he turned to drugs (morphine), buying it from janitors of hospitals in Lahore. As opportunist friends and strangers continued to exploit him, he fell further into despair and was soon turned out of hotels and had to live on the street as a beggar.

He was often cited along Circular Road of Lahore, and in Anarkali Bazar, Akhbaar Market, Aibak Road, Shah Alami, and around the Data Darbar area. He would often hold mushairas on the footpaths, in candle light. He continued to write poems, though most of them were lost and unpublished.

On the fateful day of 19 July 1974, this poetic genius was found dead on a roadside in Lahore near Alfalah building the mall, at the age of 46. He was buried at the Miani Sahib graveyard. Despite his tragic life, some of his verses are among the best in Urdu poetry.

The sensitive and gifted teenager was excited by the prospect of becoming a citizen of a newly created country and at once got down to writing a national anthem for it. He is dearly missed by his most admirers.

The author works as a Communications Specialist in a multinational engineering consultancy firm and he is an ardent lover of literature. twitter @abrotariq

About the author

Web Desk

This is's news desk account.

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment


Subscribe PakistanTribe’s YouTube Channel