From the verge of depression: Indian expat in UAE shares his journey of becoming a ‘celeb’ poet

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Haider Amaan Haider is thankful to the UAE as the country provided him with a lot of opportunities Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: An Urdu poet from India living in the UAE feels more should be done to promote the love for poetry, especially in mother tongues and local languages of diverse populations.

Amaan Haider Zaidi, who uses the pen name Haider Amaan Haider, has done live shows across the world and is a judge on poetry reality shows on India’s national TV channel.

Though poetry has influenced people across the world over centuries, currently there is a need to make better use of social media to promote poetry among the young generations, says Haider.

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Haider feels there is a need to make better use of social media to promote poetry among the young generations Image Credit: Supplied

Haider told Gulf News he realised the power of poetry in changing lives when he found refuge in poems when he was on the verge of depression following a personal tragedy seven years ago. “I had very depressive thoughts those days,” he recollected.

To help himself get distracted from such thoughts, some of his friends took him to a mushaira (an evening social gathering at which Urdu poetry is read, typically taking the form of a contest).

Source of inspiration

After listening to some of the poems recited by renowned Urdu poet Manzar Bhopali, Haider said he fell in love with Urdu poetry once again after his school and college days. “I love Manzarji’s way of reciting and his poetry as well. Then I started following his poems and slowly I became close to him. With that my interest in poetry became deeper and I started writing poems.”

He said he took guidance from senior poets to correct or polish his initial poems. Once his talent started getting noticed, he got opportunities to recite poems in many stages in the UAE and abroad. “I am from a small village named Walipura in Uttar Pradesh and brought up in Rishikesh in Uttarakhand,” said Haider.

A post graduate in Economics, he has been living in the UAE since 2008. Over the past seven years that changed him into a poet, he has recited poems in mushairas and mehfils in the US, UK, Europe, Australia, India, Sri Lanka and across the Middle East. He has also received wide media coverage in India.

Being selected as one of the celebrity judges of the first Urdu-Hindi poetry talent hunt on India’s national TV channel Doordarshan was a major milestone in his literary life. “Getting selected on the judging panel along with Hindi poet Ashok Chakradhar and Bollywood lyricist Sameer Anjaan was a big achievement for me. I just couldn’t believe when the producer of the show Gajendra Singh invited me to be a part of the show on TV with such famous figures,” said Haider.

Several events this month

The grand finale episodes of the pre-recorded show titled Sau Karod Ka Kavi will be telecast from June 21.

Just as his first TV show is winding up, Haider has been offered another chance to be on the judging panel of a Bhojpuri singing reality show. He has been invited once again to be part of the second season of Sau Karod Ka Kavi, the shooting for which would begin once the COVID-19 situation in India becomes better.

This month, Haider took part in a 132-hour record-setting virtual poetry event which aims to be the largest online mushaira and kavi sammelan (gathering of poets).

UAE home of opportunities

“There are many Indian poets. But not everyone gets a good platform. Being in the UAE, I have been lucky to get a lot of opportunities,” said Haider.

Living in the UAE has also given him the opportunity to be friends with several Urdu poetry lovers from other countries, especially Afghanistan, including top diplomats and cricketers from the country. He is also a regular participant of cultural events hosted by Indian missions in the UAE.

Haider is a big fan of poems written by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai as well as Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai. “I read the translated versions of their poems. They are beautiful and meaningful. It is my big wish to meet both Their Highnesses,” he said.

Most of his poems are related to patriotism and his love for India. “My heart beats for both India and the UAE. This country has given us a lot. I have tried my best to help people here during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Haider, who is currently working on his first poetry book.

A poetic mission

A selection of around 100 poems would be featured in the book to be titled Apni Amaan Main Rakhna (Keep me safe under you). “My mission as a poet is to send good messages to the society. Through my poems, I try have to convey the messages of peace, love, unity and happiness.

“I want to tell the new generation that winning and losing are part of life and they should keep trying when they face any setbacks in life. It is sad to see many youngsters ending their lives for silly reasons. Reading is very important for the young generation. They can read poems and other creative works even online. That will help them expand their horizons and keep a positive mindset,” Haider said.