Ashok Sawhny, a Poet by Choice!
Written by Fouqia Wajid
When a heart begins to escape from its duties by giving reasons, it sets back in its shell and waits for the dusk. And when the same heart believes in itself, it has the power to go beyond the trifles of life such as age, time and place. And one such zealous heart is of Mr. Ashok Sawhny’s who is pen named as Sahil, it means a Sea Shore.
Once while I was waiting at the lobby of Mr. Ashok Sawhny’s well crafted luxurious home, my mother and I were encountered by several thoughts and a humongous amount of curiosity about this person. Looking at the environment we were in, we had normally expected a huge man in a velvet robe and hookah in his hand to come down after a long wait to meet us for a minute or two. We were mentally prepared for that and also had looked around for a few magazines to while away our time till the author could walk in. But to our bad luck, this never happened and all the castles of our imagination broke down in a second when a lean and tall man walked down to the lobby with a big smile, ready to spend hours discussing about literature and poetry. He came and occupied a little space in his sofa and greeted us. Well, this was unexpected, but we still hoped he would show some attribute of a rich and proud man. Our eyes were wide open to catch him for at least one act of his which could prove us right. After he greeted us and asked us about our stay in Delhi, he simply put out his basic cell phone and began to read his poetry to us. Again, we at least had the right to expect an I phone in his hands.
After we had toured the west, east, world, the universe and had experienced different traditions, people and their behaviors in our discussion, Mr. Ashok was still not enough. He now began to eagerly show his books which were written in English and Urdu languages. We were defeated. We believed we would meet a corporate turned poet but we landed up witnessing a poet and only a poet with all his honesty, pure laughter and eagerness to read out his poems, which are the basic qualities of a great poet and especially an honest person. And this is how I first met Mr. Ashok Sawhny, an eminent author, poet, business man and the simplest person ever.
It is not that he has always been in the feather of luxuries, because he has also gone through the bad times when he had come down to New Delhi with his wife, four daughters and 25 paise in his pocket to create for himself and for the loved ones, a successful career. And that is why may be, he has never left the rope of being down to earth. Mr. Sawhny is a sack of countless experiences. He ought to be one, because he has gone through the past as well as the present times. Being born in the year 1937 in Lahore (now Pakistan) he has experienced the pre-independence era and had to migrate to Delhi post independence. From Lahore to Delhi and old to modern India, the journey has drilled in him the beauty of reflection, expression and reality. He is jovial, intellectual and yes, he is imaginative which sum up to make him a good poet. As it is said that a poet’s work reflects his personality, Mr. Ashok’s poetry too is fun filled, catering to different age groups and their experiences. It is smart, because the poetry is adaptable. Along with the aroma of the poet’s past, the poetry speaks of today’s passion and energy. And it is thoughtful, because it portrays love, beauty and elegance of life.
That day, as the time passed by and the discussion began to prolong itself bringing in many chapters of his life; I found out that his early education was done in Lahore. Later he studied at Modern School and St. Stephens College from where he graduated in Economics in Delhi. After working for Indian Industry House for some time, in 1977 he established his own company called Monarch International in New Delhi, India, which now has several branches around the world. Mr. Sawhny has a firm belief in the power of innovation. One of his poems rightly says,
An observant onlooker you must be
And see where it takes you, destiny
(Till the End of Time)
One might ponder as to how a business man turned into a poet. When he was asked about this, with a deep perception in his eyes he said, “Every human is a born artist. Art is a form of expressing one self. Writing is one of the art forms, which was always in me, I just needed a start and that came in, due to a sentimental phase in life.” Art fascinates him. No wonder why he has an immense interest even in music. His love for art sprouts out to ‘Ghazals’ as well, which is one of the important forms in Urdu poetry. Mr. Ashok began his adventure in Urdu and English six years ago when he was seventy two. His works in both the languages convey a very strong philosophical idea, jeweled with humor and activism. While taking a sip of some brewing coffee in the chilly weather of Bangalore (When he once dropped in from Delhi), he said,
‘Maine kuch na maanga Namaz mai
Dua Karthe haiN tho yaad karthe haiN
Shukriya adaa karthe haiN. ‘
‘I didn’t ask for any material benefit
I pray to remember him, to appreciate him’
These beautiful lines showcase the simplicity and a genuine heart of Mr. Sawhny. Pious yet modern, principled yet broad minded. Mr. Ashok is a unique combination of such qualities. He believes that every human has to go through a set of experiences. Everyone is born to work hard and the reward will be decided by the almighty. He urges young people to have no expectations, keep doing new things and move on; reward is a bonus which will be showered on you if you are destined to it. Giving light to his work he said, “Having read both English and Urdu through school and college, poetry and literature have always fascinated me and I started writing, rather late, in December 2006”. “The Sands of Time” and “As Time Goes By” have been published in London and three other books were launched in 2009. In 2010, two books in Urdu Sada-e-dil and LamhoN ka Safar were also released. Chequerboard, To Have Loved, The Tyranny of Truth, The Mango Grove at Kashipur, The Rabbit’s Tale and Misadventures of a Flying Horse a Pigeon and I are his other books.
Your happiness depends only on you
Whom else will you find for this?
You are the master of your mind;
Where else will you find bliss?
(Embrace Happiness, Till the End of Time)
If you are the owner of a poison-filled mind,
Your own venom will surely a victim within find
This poet has dedicated his book, Till the End of Time, to his children with a strong message, “No greater riches will ever come your way, nor can you aspire to anything greater than to live a life of simple joys and happiness“. Hope is one of the major themes in his poetry,
For just as life is there till death
Hope burns eternal in every breath
Mr. Sawhny’s Urdu poetry has a universe in itself. One such urdu couplet goes this way,
Zulmath-e-shab ko ujaalo mae badalne ke liye
Meri aankhoN ne bahaaya ek dariya raath bhar
The irony of darkness to be changed into light
Flew through my eyes, a river all night
Capturing a personality like Ashok Sawhny in words is definitely not possible because his earnest desire to pose love against hatred, to spread fragrance of humanity, cooperation between one another, his acceptance of the truth with the emergence of hope in every poem, in every line – for a better world and the worlds to come is unexplainable. But yes, a chat over a coffee with this ever smiling ‘young’ man can say it all.