Remembering Rahat Indori – A people’s poet by Mohd Raghib-ul- Haque

Raghib pays a heartfelt tribute to Rahat Indori (1950-2020)

Not many poets become famous enough to become a part of our day to day lives and  even fewer are frequently quoted to mark protests or dissent in times of social upheaval. His poetic age spans almost five decades where he participated in hundreds of mushairas and wrote several lyrics for Hindi cinema. Indori is very often quoted on social media platforms. Interestingly, he also trended for a while on Twitter too. His couplets are used as placards in several protests in India while he was also quoted many a time in Indian Parliaments and speeches in the public gatherings. All these led to his public popularity, making Urdu poetry  familiar to a wider range of audience who have less or no acquaintance to Urdu as a language. 

Rahat Quraishi or more famously known as Rahat Indori was born in 1950 in Indore Madhya Pradesh to Rafatulla Quraishi who was a cloth mill worker. Rahat was the fourth child of his parents. He graduated from Islamia Karimia College and then completed his post-graduation from Barkatullah University in Urdu literature. In 1985 he was awarded his PhD from Bhoj University for his thesis ‘Urdu Mein Mushaira’. Indori has been the beacon of innumerable mushairas. He started attending mushairas while he was still young,  he travelled cross countries  and abroad to participate. He was also invited on Comedy with Kapil twice. Rahat also wrote several famous lyrics for Hindi cinema that was sung by many famous singers including A. R. Rahman, Sonu Nigam, Anu Malik and many more which also contributed to his popularity.

In the last decade his popularity raised tremendously among our young generation. He was being quoted on every possible social media platform, from WhatsApp forwards to Facebook posts he was everywhere. Many public figures quoted his works on Twitter and he was also picturized on Tik-Tok in various forms. One of them which is seen with various backgrounds on social media is

Roz taro’n ko numaish mai’n khalal padta hai/ chaand pagal hai andhery mai’n nikal padta hai

Rahat Indori

(Translation: Every night the stars’ exhibition are disturbed by the moon, it is silly that it shines in the darkness)

Similarly Bulati hai magar jane ka nai/ Wo dunia hai udhar jane ka nai’ (She invites you but don’t dare to go there/ it’s the world, don’t go there.) His popularity kept growing by leaps and bounds, he was invited to many reality shows including Kapil’s Comedy, Sab TV’s Waah Waah, Kya baat Hai! and several others where Urdu poetry had not really been welcomed till Indori made a dent.

Ironically he was quoted more often by the common people and resistant groups to mark dissent against those politicians and parliamentarians in their protests and placards. Among the couplets the feature on placards the most famous is,

Sabhi ka khoon hai shamil yaha ki mitti mai’n/ ksi ke baap ka Hindustan thodi hai

(Translation: This soil included all kind of bloods, India doesn’t belong to one family).

This way Indori played a major role in bringing an increasing audience to mushairas  particularly those who didn’t have formal acquaintance with Urdu language or literature. 

One of the major reasons behind his tremendous acceptance and appreciation among the audience was his enormous, inclusive patriotism – 

Hum apni jaan ke dushman ko apni jaan kahty hai/ mohabbat ki ise mitti ko Hindustan kahty hai

Rahat Indori

(Translation: We call our dear enemy our dear, we call this lovely soil India). 

Yet another is his biting satire on contemporary politics and going-on. For instance in one of his couplets of ghazal he says,

Jo aaj sahib e masnad hai’n kal nahi honge/ Kirae daar hai’n zati makan thodi hai

Rahat Indori

(Translation: Those who are in power today won’t be so tomorrow, they are on rent, they don’t own the house).

In another couplet he remarks,

Mujhe buto’n se ijazat agar kabhi mil jae/ to shahr bhar ke Khudao ko beniqab karu’n

Rahat Indori

(Translation: If idols permit me I will expose the deities of the entire city)

Similarly, his use of simple and fluid language and day to day metaphors such as,

Muntazir hun ki sitaro ki zara aankh lage/ chaand ko chat pe bula lu’n ga ishara kar ke

Rahat Indori

(Translation: I am waiting for the stars to fall asleep, then I will signal the moon to descend on the roof)

would make his audience relate to him more than to any other of his contemporaries. 

His ordinary style and casual presence on the stage was engaging and full of humor – a fine communication between him and his audience that increased his popularity and made him the all the more loved by people all around. I remember attending one of the mushairas where he was reciting in Lucknow where he toasted himself saying “Just listen to my couplets don’t judge them, I know they are good.” Naturally, this was followed by laughter and a huge round of applause. In another mushaira when someone disturbed him, he quipped, “Beta, when someone crosses the path at the time when the poet is reciting he is walking on the chest of art.” 

He left a very patriotic will in one of his couplets,

Mai’n mar jaoo to meri ik alag pehchan likh dena/ Lahu se meri peshani pe Hindustan likh dena

Rahat Indori

(Translation: When I die make me a different identity, with blood write down Hindustan on my forehead).

Losing him is like losing a peoples’ poet, who always, always had his hand on the pulse of the people; a skilled user of the Urdu language. Owing to the assets he has left us, Indori will always be cherished.


Mohd Raghibul Haque was Fulbright FLTA at Michigan State University in 2019-20 for Urdu. He has completed his masters in English literature from the university of Lucknow.

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