When iconic Bollywood lyricist Hasrat Jaipuri’s daughter Kishwar visited Mumbai a decade after her marriage across the border in Rahim Yar Khan, he knew it would be their last meeting. But he couldn’t know the hardships she would face
By Siraj Khan
9 February 2023: When legendary songwriter Hasrat Jaipuri’s only daughter Kishwar in Mumbai accepted a marriage proposal from across the border in Pakistan, she never thought that she would end up in dire financial straits in her adopted city, Rahim Yar Khan in the Punjab province of Pakistan.
It was 1986. She had recently graduated in Home Sciences from the prestigious SNDT Women’s University in then-Bombay. Earlier she attended the elite Maneckji Cooper Education Trust school in Juhu. At both institutions, many of her classmates had famous parents; some went on to become celebrities themselves.
Kishwar’s handsome, well-spoken suitor was a nephew of Hasrat Jaipuri’s younger sister Bilqis’ husband Sardar Malik. Malik’s entire family was in Pakistan but his passion for music took him to Bombay. He married Hasrat Jaipuri’s sister just six months after Hasrat married her namesake in 1953. “One Bilqis came into the house and another left,” people said.
Kishwar Jaipuri was a pampered middle child. At age 23, wide-eyed and romantic, she left cosmopolitan Mumbai where she had rubbed shoulders with the most famous Bollywood stars for the historic, largely Saraiki-speaking city of Rahim Yar Khan, Pakistan. That was 36 years ago.
Her father Hasrat Jaipuri together with songwriter Shailendra had assumed legendary status through their association with Raj Kapoor. Their additional partnership with composers Shankar-Jaikishan made them the most outstanding music team of the Golden era from the 1950s to 1970s.
Hasrat was a natural poet, but after moving to Mumbai from his birthplace Jaipur in 1940, he worked as bus conductor for almost eight years before he got a break. His daughter in Pakistan is now looking for hers.
The all-time classic Jiya beqarar hai chhayee bahar hai for RK Films’ Barsaat, 1949, was Hasrat Jaipuri’s very first song composed by Shankar-Jaikishan. He wrote seven out of the film’s eleven songs, and went on to write songs for almost 75 percent of Shankar-Jaikishan’s 190 released films.
The ‘King of Romance”, as he is known, won numerous awards for over a thousand songs, many considered among Hindi cinema’s most endearing and enduring classics from the 1950s through the 1970s.
Before moving to Pakistan, Kishwar often accompanied her father to recordings after school hours. After marriage, with relations between the two countries deteriorating, she found herself progressively isolated from her family and the world.
Initially, her status as an Indian national prevented her from pursuing a profession. By the time she obtained Pakistani citizenship two years later, her movements were restricted.
In all these years, she only travelled to Mumbai half a dozen times, visits paid for by her parents. The first time was in 1989, then 1994, and then in 1999, when her father was critically ill. He revived on seeing Kishwar and her children by his bedside – “came back to life” as she says.
He wept profusely when she left as her three-month visit visa expired. “He knew we would never meet again,” she says. He wrote a poem for her and recited it as she left for the airport that evening:
Tukdey mere jiggar ke mere dil aur jaaneman
Pardes se tu aayi hui pyaar ki pawan
Duniya mein jo bhi aaya hai jaana zaroor
Shaayad ke mera tera ho ye aakhri milan
(Piece of my heart, my life, my sweetheart
From afar you come bringing the fragrance of love
Whoever comes into this world must one day depart
Perhaps this is to be our last meeting)
Hasrat Jaipuri passed away just two months later, on 17 September 1999.
After her father’s passing, Kishwar returned to India only in 2004 and the last time, 2007. She was unable to visit even when her mother Bilqis passed away in 2009.
In contrast to the comforts of her parental home, she has led a life of financial hardship after marriage. Matters worsened after the Covid-19 pandemic when her husband’s small business, a shop selling surgical instruments, went into losses. That is when she felt the urgency of reaching out through her father’s old connections.
Remembering that Hasrat Jaipuri wrote 22 original songs that OP Nayyar composed, she reached out to Naveen Anand, a director of Ibaadat Foundation, which focuses on Indian poetry and music. Anand reached out to me, as I manage the OP Nayyar Memorial Trust and the official OP Nayyar website.
That introduction was the start of many conversations that helped piece together Kishwar Jaipuri’s story and the adversities she has faced over the past three-and-a-half decades, including alienation from her family. All the information has been verified through other sources.
She has navigated these years “sabr aur shukr” — patience and gratitude — despite being at times unable to even afford domestic help for household chores.
Being out of the professional field, her confidence has taken a hit and she feels rusty, she says. However, her English-language speaking and writing skills are coming back with practice, and she is exploring the idea of writing and tutoring, or teaching at any nearby girls’ school.
To an amazing poet who left behind a legacy of heart-touching songs for almost every human sentiment, and to his daughter who made Pakistan her home, but lost her dreams and identity and is now struggling to feed her family, I dedicate these lines from the iconic song by Simon & Garfunkel in the 1960s when Hasrat Jaipuri too was at the peak of his songwriting career:
And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never shared
And no one dared, disturb the sound of silence
Siraj Khan is a Karachi-born, Boston-based connoisseur of Southasian film music, and a global finance and audit specialist by profession. He is the Managing Trustee of the OP Nayyar Memorial Trust and manages the official OP Nayyar website from Karachi. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lead collage: Neha Sharma
This is a Sapan News Network syndicated feature available to use with due credit.
Note on Southasia as one word: Following the lead of Himal Southasian, Sapan News Network uses ‘Southasia’ as one word, “seeking to restore some of the historical unity of our common living space, without wishing any violence on the existing nation states”. Writing Sapan like this rather than all caps makes it a word that means ‘dream’.
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I hope Kishwar Ji finds her dreams and use the legacy of her father as her strength.
Respected Kishwar Ji , your writing inspires me. You write how i feel, even if i can”t express it.I like to hear your ideas and i am glad you are my sister.. I can”t stop writing before i say long live Hasrat Jaipuri Sahab.