किसका रस्ता देखे ऐ दिल ऐ सौदाई?

किसका रस्ता देखे ऐ दिल ऐ सौदाई?

Asks Amar, a prisoner, in Yash Chopra’s Joshila (1973). He puts a series of questions to himself in this song. This is the song of loneliness written by Sahir Ludhianvi. Sahir is attributed to several great songs like
तू हिंदू बनेगा ना मुसलमान बनेगा, चलो इक बार फिर से अजनबी बन जाए हम दोनों, तुम अगर साथ देने का वादा करो, मै पल दो पल का शायर हूँ, कभी कभी, मेरे दिल में आज क्या है, मैं ज़िंदगी का साथ निभाता चला गया, and many more.

This song is a hidden gem from Sahir. The film was a flop and nothing worth mentioning. But this song is one of my favorites as it takes me into a world of loneliness. But loneliness without grief, without pain. Into the world of truth, uncomfortable, it may be. The power of this song is such that, it is this song only, that conveys the audience that this prisoner is the extraordinary hero of this ordinary story.

Amar, our protagonist, is lonely in the prison, but he is not in a solitary confinement, he is in contact with other prisoners. The Jailor regards him as a good, but an unlucky man. He is not alone, yet he is lonely.

The loss of significant associations in one’s life typically initiates a grief response; in this situation, one might feel lonely, even while in the company of others. This must be the case with Amar. He is lonely just because he feels lonely. This loneliness, not accompanied by solitude, is aptly described by Emile Durkheim as, specifically the inability or unwillingness to live for others, i.e. for friendships or altruistic ideas. He gave it a term egoistic suicide.

Amar is not in anger, in pain or in despair, while singing these lines. He is simply lonely. But Loneliness cannot just be a single isolated emotion. Despair comes just with it and goes as long as there is loneliness. At different stages in its trajectory, it is accompanied with one or more emotions which come and go. We feel anger. Anger, just about anything and everything. But what if we don’t have anyone to manifest this anger? We express our feelings in front of those people who care about us. In prison, though he is not alone, no one cares whether he is angry or sad or happy or anything else. This anger is accompanied by an unpleasant state of inner turmoil, anxiety. The feeling of helplessness becomes intolerable at a certain point. But in this song, he is not expressing any of these. An important observation from his backstory is that he is not scared and he never was. He is an upright, honest man wrongly convicted to life imprisonment for murder. He accepted the situation as it came and never complained about his luck or about god being unfair, as most of us do. In a scene after this song, listening to his story, Hema Malini cries. He shows great character by saying

तुम क्यों रोती हो? मैं नहीं रोया। ज़िंदगी है। (imagine Dev Anand, with all his mannerisms, saying this)

Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby, says, “The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.” This is the exact situation with Amar.

But why this man is at peace?

Sahir Ludhianvi is not an ordinary songwriter. He must have written this song being fully able to understand this prisoner’s psychology. He must have contemplated what could, an extraordinary man, have done in those circumstances that made him the hero of that story.
This reminds me of a book that I read a few years back, a very famous one, The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. In the beginning, he explains what happened to him that made him what he is now. He was a man depressed to the extent of contemplating suicide. But for two years, every day, he sat on a bench, in a park, for hours and hours and just watched his emotions coming and going. He just observed those emotions, whatever they may be, without doing anything. When we are able to cultivate the ability to simply see a thought or emotion as it arises, and then watch it fade away peacefully, we suddenly become very powerful. The urge to avoid, control or suppress unpleasant feelings in no way reduces the problem.
Our hero, if he is going to be a hero, must have followed this path of meditation. Sahir, realizing this, has beautifully explained to the viewers through this song why this man is our hero. He doesn’t stop there, and knowing that this path of meditation must lead to self-awareness he writes the lines
कोई भी साया नहीं राहों में
कोई भी आएगा न बाहों में
तेरे लिए, मेरे लिए कोई नहीं रोनेवाला
झूठा भी नाता नहीं चाहों में
तू ही क्यों डूबा रहे आहों में
कोई किसी संग मारे ऐसा नहीं होनेवाला
कोई नहीं जो यूं ही जहां में बांटे पीर पराई॥
किसका रस्ता देखे ऐ दिल ऐ सौदाई……
Watch this song and you will know why this one is a favorite.