Lucknow, January 16 Rehman Ali Rehman, a rickshaw puller in Uttar Pradesh's Basti district, doesn't mind if he has to wait long for a customer. He uses the time to scribble on pieces of paper---poems for his forthcoming book.
Rehman, a native of Badeban village in Basti district, has already penned four books that have a total collection of around 400 poems on topics like national integration, communal harmony, water woes and corruption.
"I don't mind when I don't get a 'savari' (customer) for my rickshaw as I utilise the time in writing poems," Rehman, 55, told IANS on a mobile phone arranged by a local in Basti, some 300 km from here.
"Writing poems is an integral part of my life. I feel it is a driving force that gives me strength to face hardships of life," he said.
Rehman, a school dropout, always wanted to become a writer. "My father was a small farmer. When I was about to pass Class 10 my father had nothing left to spend on our family. The small farm we had was also sold for my studies," he recalled.
"After my father's death, I left my studies and took up menial jobs. I had no resources and time to pursue my ambition."
Rehman then went to Kanpur and worked at a cinema hall. "I got to watch Hindi movies at the cinema hall. I used to listen to songs carefully and noted some words from them. Thereafter, I tried to write songs on my own."
With his songs, Rehman became popular among the cinema hall staff. "They (cinema hall officials) often listened to my songs. They motivated me to take up a writer's job. I just felt on top of the world when they appreciated me for my songs," he said.
"Earlier, I used to write songs on love relationships, but later I started writing poems on national integration, communal harmony and other topics."
He later moved back to his native village where he got married and started working as a rickshaw-puller but continued to write songs and poems. Rehman got his first book published with assistance from a customer, who happened to be a writer.
"A 'savari' once noticed me writing on a piece of paper. He asked me about it after which he came to know about my aspirations. He invited me to recite poems at a function at the district Kanpur jail on Republic Day," he added.
Unaware of what life had in store for him, Rehman participated in the function and discovered that the man who invited him was Ram Krishna Lal 'Jagmag', a humour poet (satirist). "He is my first guru, who in a way gave me a break to showcase my skills. During the function, I came in contact with several writers who suggested to me to get my poems published in a book," said Rehman.
At another function, he met some teachers of Gorakhpur and members of Kanpur-based Manas Sangam, an organisation involved in the promotion of Hindi literature, and with their help he got his first book "Kuch Kavitayen" published in 2005.
Rehman authored three more books "Rehman Ram Ka Payara ho", "Mat vyarth Karo Pani Ko" and "Kaise Samjhe Hua Vihaan".
Manas Sangam convener Badri Narain Tiwari told IANS, "Rahman is just amazing in every sense. His sustained efforts at writing poems despite the unfavourable conditions really need to be acknowledged." "He is a living example for those who think that a mission cannot be achieved with limited resources," Tiwari said.
Rehman lives in a small rented room in Basti and has no complaints with the almighty. "I just thank Him for helping me achieve what I had always dreamt of."
"Though poor living conditions didn't allow me to take proper care of my six children, I feel they too would be able to survive hardships of life," said Rehman, adding that he is working on a couple of books. While Rehman has got his three daughters married, his three sons work as labourers. (Courtesy: IANS)
---Asit Srivastava can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org