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Mehr Lal Soni Zia Fatehabadi
--: Biography of Mehr Lal Soni Zia Fatehabadi :--


Zia Fatehabadi (1913-1986), born Mehr Lal Soni, was a renowned Urdu ghazal and nazm writer. He was a disciple (shaagird) of Syed Aashiq Hussain Siddiqui Seemab Akbarabadi (1882-1951) who was a disciple of Nawab Mirza Khan Daagh Dehlawi. He took on the takhallus (nom de plume) of Zia meaning "Light" on the suggestion of his teacher, Ghulaam Qadir Farkh Amritsari.

Mehr Lal Soni Zia Fatehabadi[1] was born on 9 February 1913 at Kapurthala, Punjab, as the eldest son of Munshi Ram Soni, a Civil Engineer by profession, whose family hailed from Fatehabad which is a small town located near Taran Taran, Punjab. Even when he was a college student his was a respected name in the Urdu world .

After the publication of his first book," Tullu ", which had invited some disheartening criticism, he had thought of giving up writing but he was dissuaded by his friends and elders alike.

Zia Fatehabadi's education began in Khalsa Middle School, Peshawar (1920 to 1922), however, he completed his schooling from Maharaja High School, Jaipur, Rajasthan (1923 to 1929), whereafter he obtained his B.A.(Hons) degree in Persian in 1933 and M.A.(English) degree in 1935 as a student of Forman Christian College, Lahore. He was an above average student. As the then editor of the Urdu section of the college house magazine Zia Fatehabadi was instrumental in having got published in the year 1932 the first ever Urdu short story, Sadhu, written by Krishan Chander who was at that time more interested in English writings of his own and edited the English section

It is also in evidence that Zia Fatehabadi infatuated by a Bengali girl named Meera who was also then studying in the same college, addressed almost all his love-poetry to her. Her name figures unreservedly in several of his writings. In an interview he had once disclosed that she was that very Meera who had actually inspired Meeraji (1912-1949) to write superb poems and adopt her name as his takhallus Krishan Chander, Meeraji and Zia Fatehabadi were good friends.

The poet in Zia Fatehabadi surfaced in the year 1925 with the help of Moulvi Asghar Ali Haya Jaipuri who used to teach him Urdu at home and also imparted the knowledge of Urdu poetry composition. By the year 1929 itself Zia Fatehabadi had become a familiar name in the Urdu literary circles of those times. He became Seemab Akbarabadi's disciple in the year 1930 and remained true to his ustaad till his own death all the time working for spreading Seemab's methods and instructions. He never gave a thought to his own name or fame and sought no favours, honours or public or state recognition. He did not believe in these exercises He believed that the real worth of a poet's creativity is to be eventually gauged by those who looked into his works in their eagerness to know him better. " Tullu ", meaning Dawn, was Zia Fatehabadi's first collection of Urdu poems which collection was published from Meerut by Saghar Nizami(1905-1983) in the year 1933 when Zia Fatehabadi was as yet pursuing his college studies. Zia Fatehabadi wrote from the heart. He effectively dressed his feelings, emotions, thoughts and his experiences with simple, delicate, sweet - sounding, lyrical, meaningful, easily understood words and phrases, which quality set him apart from the rest and gave him a distinct identityTherefore, his writings simultaneously touch one's heart and mind making one feel all that he had himself felt. He was equally at ease in the use of various kinds of prose and poetical formats. However, he did not succumb to the practice of uninhibited expression of ideas in open forms as was being done by some of his noted contemporaries who had introduced symbolism in Urdu Poetry.While remaining true to the classical style Zia Fatehabadi did not ignore the changing trends as is reflected in his rubiaats, qatehs, geets, ghazals, nazms and sonnets. These compositions exhibit his extraordinary mastery of and command over Urdu language.

Though he did not identify himself with any particular group Zia Fatehabadi appears to have belonged equally to all groups that were and his works are a noteworthy contributions. However,he did not believe in the theory that poetry is spontaneous for poetry is an amalgam of words and thoughts and thoughts are seldom spontaneous.

Zia Fatehabadi died on 19 August 1986 after a prolonged and painful bout with illness. But then, he had once said 
" Kyaa gham agar qraar-o-sukun kii kamii rahii " 
" Khush hoon ke kaamyaab merii zindagi rahii "

I grieve not for the lack of unrest or for the lack of peace (in my life).

I am (gratefully) happy to have led (a contented and) a successful life.

In a way this one couplet (verse), taken from his book "Gard-e-Raah" (Urdu) published in 1963, very briefly sums up what was Zia Fatehabadi in person and in his life. He had himself led a life filled with hope and contentment and he certainly wanted others to do so likewise. These sentiments won for him many admirers. Amongst those who appreciated as well as influenced his poetry were Firaq Gorakhpuri (1896 - 1982) and Josh Malihabadi (1898 - 1982)

Beginning with the first publication " Tullu " in the year 1933 and till date in all eighteen works of Zia Fatehabadi have come to light. These works include ten collections of his poetry, one of his short-stories, two of his essays, one of his presidenial addresses, three of letters and one biography. Much of his work scattered in various magazines and papers remains unpublished. He certainly was a romantic who spoke about his own love as well as about the limitless eternal universal love spread everywhere but his poems, which are heartfelt and filled with purpose, are set in the ordinary - man's language. Easily understood they compel one to shed the afflicting stupor, pessimism and despondency They compel a person to look deeply inwards more than outwards, overcome individual inner conflicts and fears, thus gain strength and the confidence needed to bravely face the vagaries of the outer world. His poems invariably provide the much needed and difficult to find solace and simultaneously infuse confidence. This, they do with a soothing touch.


. A biography of Zia Fatehabadi titled - " Budha Darakhat " (Urdu) (1979), meaning, The Old Tree, was penned by Dr.Zarina Sani M.A.Ph.D. (1937-1982) of Nagpur. 
. Previously a very comprehensive critical appraisal and interpretation of Zia's literary works was ably conducted in the year 1977 and published by the renowned Urdu scholar, critic and author of " Zikr-e-Ghalib " , Malik Ram (1906-1993), which appraisal titled - " Zia Fatehabadi Shakhs Aur Shair " (Zia Fatehabadi - the person and the poet), proved to be one more valuable addition to the field of Urdu literary criticism. 
. In 1989, under the guidance of Dr.Adam Sheikh M.A.Ph.D.,the then Chairman of the Board of Studies in Urdu, and Dr.Farid Sheikh M.A.Ph.D. of Anjuman-e-Islamiyaa, Mumbai, Dr.Shabbir Iqbal M.A.Ph.D. of Dhulia, Maharashtra, obtained his Ph.D. degree from Bombay University based on his thesis in Urdu - " Anjahaani Mehr Lal Soni Zia Fatehabadi - Hayaat Aur Kaarnaame " (Late Mehr Lal Soni Zia Fatehabadi - Life and Works).

Other interests

Zia Fatehabadi was a man of many tastes and abilities. He was not a professional poet. For over thirty-five years he had served Reserve Bank of India with great distinction. He was a keen observer of economic trends, development and change. Zia Fatehabadi was also very good at Mathematics, proficient in Persian, English and Sanskrit language and grammar. He was a keen student of Hindu astrolgy i.e. Jyotisa and was deeply interested in the study of the Upanishads and the Rig Veda[23][24]. He subscribed to the Advaita School promoted by Adi Sankara. Zia Fatehabadi imparted this part of his knowledge and exclusive experience to his eldest son, Ravinder Kumar Soni, as is reflected in the latter's two books titled In Search Of True Happiness and The Illumination Of Knowledge.

List of books by Zia Fatehabadi :-

Urdu Poetry:

1. " Tullu " (Dawn) - published by Saghar Nizami, Adabi Markaz, Meerut in 1933.Foreword by Saghar Nizami. 
2. " Noor-e-Mashriq " (The light of the East) - published by Jyoti Prasad Gupta, Jyoti Printing Works, Esplanade, Delhi in 1937.Introductions by Josh Malihabadi,Editor, Kaleem, Delhi, Hakim Azad Ansari and Manzar Siddiqui, Editor, Kanwal, Agra. 
3. " Zia Ke Sau Sher " (A hundred verses of Zia) - published by Gajender Lal Soni, Mohan Building, near Lloyd's Bank, Delhi in 1938. 
4. " Nai Subah " (The New Morn) published by Adaaraa Seemab,Daryaganj, Delhi in 1952. Forewords by Munnawar Lucknavi and Prof. Mubbasir Ali Siddiqui M.A. 
5. " Gard -e- Raah " (The Road - dust) - published by Maktaba Shola aur Shabnam, Daryaganj, Delhi in 1963.Foreword by Abar Ahasani and introduction by Khushtar Girami,Editor, Biswin Sadi, Delhi. 
6. " Husn -e- Ghazal " (The beauty of Ghazal) - published by Miraj Mittal, Ambala in 1964. 
7. " Dhoop Aur Chandni " (The Sunlight and the Moonlight) - published by Radha Krishan Sehgal, Bazm-e-Seemab, J 5/21,Rajouri Garden, New Delhi in 1977. 
8. " Rang-o- Noor " (The Colour and the Light) - published by R.K.Sehgal, Bazm - e-Seemab, J 5/21, Rajouri Garden, New Delhi in 1981 (prize awarded by U.P.Urdu Academy). 
9. " Soch ka Safar " (The Journey of Thought) -published by R.K.Sehgal, Bazm-e-Seemab, J 5/21, Rajouri Garden, New Delhi in 1982. 
10. " Naram garam hawain " (The soft warm air) - published posthumously by R.K.Sehgal, Bazm-e-Seemab, J 5/21, Rajouri Garden, New Delhi in 1987 with the aid of Delhi Urdu Academy.

Urdu Prose:

1. " Zaaviyaha-e-nigaah " (The view - point) - published by R.K.Sehgal, Bazm-e-Seemab, J 5/21, Rajouri Garden, New Delhi in 1983.Foreword by Jagdish Bhatnagar Hayat - (essays) (prize awarded by U.P.Urdu Academy) 
2. " Suraj doob gayaa " (The sun has set)(short-stories) - published by R.K.Sehgal, Bazm-e-Seemab, J 5/21, Rajouri Garden, New Delhi in 1981. 
3. " Masnad-e-sadaarat se " (From the Podium)(presidential addresses) - published by R.K.Sehgal, Bazm-e-Seemab, J 5/21, Rajouri Garden, New Delhi in 1985. 
4. " Seemab baanaam Zia " (Seemab to Zia)(letters of Seemab to Zia) - published by R.K.Sehgal, Bazm-e-Seemab, J 5/21, Rajouri Garden, New Delhi in 1981.Foreword by Rashid Hasan Khan. 
5. " Zikr-e-Seemab " (About Seemab)(Biography of Seemab) - published by R.K.Sehgal, Bazm-e-Seemab, J 5/21, Rajouri Garden, New Delhi in 1984. 
6. " Sher aur Shair " (The Verse and the Poet)(essays) - published by R.K.Sehgal, Bazm-e-Seemab, J 5/21, Rajouri Garden, New Delhi in 1974. 
7. " Muzaameen-e-Zia " (The Essays of Zia) 
8. " Zia Fatehabadi ke Khatoot " (Letters of Zia).

List of books in Urdu on the life and works of Zia Fatehabadi :-

  1. " Budha Darakhat " (The Old Tree) - Biography of Zia Fatehabadi written by Dr. Zarina Sani M.A.Ph.D.of Nagpur and published by R.K.Sehgal, Bazm - e - Seemab, J 5/21, Rajouri Garden, New Delhi in 1979. " Zia Fatehabadi - Shakhs aur Shair " (Zia Fatehabadi - The Person and the Poet) - Critical appraisal of Zia Fatehabadi's life and works conducted by Malik Ram and published by Ilmi Majlis, 1429, Chhata Nawab Sahib, Farashkhana, Delhi Editorial write up on Zia Fatehabadi's life and works in the Feb.1985 issue of " Aaj Kal " Vol.43 no.7 published by the Govt. of India,Publication Division Urdu,Patiala House, New Delhi. 
    2. " Zia Fatehabadi Number " Oct.1986 issue of " Hamaari Zabaan " Vol.45 no.37 published by Anjuman - e - Taraqi Urdu Hind (Delhi),Rouse Avenue, New Delhi, it contains articles and views of noted Urdu writers on the life and works of Zia Fatehabadi. 
    3. " Zia - e - Urdu " - Special issue of Nov.1985 by Saphia Siddiqui on behalf of Adara - e - Adab, London (U.K.) it contains articles and views of noted Urdu writers of U.K. 
    4. Editorial write up in the Oct.1986. issue of the " Monthly Biswin Sadi ", published by Biswin Sadi Publication (P) Ltd., Daryaganj, Delhi. 
    5. " Anjahaani Mehr Lal Soni Zia Fatehabadi - Hayaat aur Karnaame " 1989 Doctoral Dissertation on the life and works of Zia Fatehabadi presented by Dr. Shabbir Iqbal M.A.Ph.D.of Bombay University.
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