Early life of Mehr Lal Soni Zia Fatehabadi
Zia Fatehabadi was born on 9 February 1913 at Kapurthala in the Indian state of Punjab. He was the eldest son of Munshi Ram Soni, a Civil Engineer by profession, whose family, which belonged to the Hindu Kapila Gotra Kshatriya clan, had at some time during the reign of the Mughal ruler, Shahjahan, migrated from Rajasthan to Punjab and settled at Fatehabad in Punjab near Tarn Taran. The earliest mention of his direct ancestor found in the readily available genealogical records of various Indian families kept preserved by the Pandas, a Brahmin sect, of Haridwar is that of Tansukh Rai Soni who was the son of Badri Das Soni and the grandson of Badal Das Soni, hailing from Fatehabad, Punjab, and who had visited Haridwar in 1716 A.D.
Even when Zia Fatehabadi was a college student his was a respected name in the Urdu world. After the publication of his first book - Tullu, which had received some disheartening criticism, he had thought of giving up writing but he was dissuaded from doing so by friends and elders. Zia Fatehabadi had started composing Urdu shayeri and ghazals at a tender age when he was still attending school in Jaipur.
Education of Mehr Lal Soni Zia Fatehabadi
His education began at Khalsa Middle School, Peshawar in the year 1920 and continued till 1922. However, he completed his schooling from Maharaja High School, Jaipur in Rajasthan, after which he obtained his Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree in Persian in 1933 and Master of Arts in English in the year 1935 as a student of Forman Christian College, Lahore. He was consistently an above average student.
As the then editor of the Urdu section of the college house magazine, Zia Fatehabadi was instrumental in getting the first-ever Urdu short story "Sadhu" by Krishan Chander published in 1932. At that time, Krishan Chander was interested primarily in his English writings and edited the English section.
It is also in evidence that Zia Fatehabadi was infatuated with a Bengali girl named Meera, who was also studying in the same college at the time, and 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 Sen who had actually inspired Meeraji to write superb poems and adopt her name as his takhallus. Krishan Chander, Meeraji and Zia Fatehabadi were good friends.
It was during his college days that Zia Fatehabadi came into contact with Shabbir Hussain Josh Malihabadi and Samdayaar Khan Saghar Nizami. He developed a very close lifelong relationship with them, which both influenced as also helped shape his literary life.
In 1936, Zia Fatehabadi joined the Reserve Bank of India, from which he retired in 1971 as Deputy Chief Officer, a senior position in the bank. In 1942, he married Raj Kumari (1919-2003), daughter of Murli Ram Berera of Lahore. Before joining the Reserve Bank of India, while seeking suitable employment, Zia Fatehabadi was interviewed for an editor's post with All India Radio, which went to Majaz. However, Majaz and Zia Fatehabadi remained close friends.
Literary career of Mehr Lal Soni Zia Fatehabadi
Zia Fatehabadi began to write poetry in 1925 under the supervision of his mother, Shankari Devi, with the help of Maulvi Asghar Ali Haya Jaipuri, who used to teach him Urdu at home and who also imparted his own knowledge of Urdu poetry composition to him. By 1929, Zia Fatehabadi had become a familiar name in Urdu literary circles. In 1930, he became Seemab Akbarabadi's disciple and remained true to his ustad until his own death, working to spread Seemab's methods and instructions at all times. He never ever gave a moment's thought to his own name or fame and sought neither favours or honours nor public or state recognition. He categorically rejected such exercises. He believed that the real worth of a poet's creativity can, ultimately, be gauged impartially only by those who look deeper into his works, in their desire or eagerness to get to know the poet better.
In 1933, at the age of 20 and while still a college student, Zia Fatehabadi succeeded in having his very first collection of Urdu poems, Tullu (Dawn), published in Meerut by Saghar Nizami. He wrote from the heart and, efficaciously, dressed his feelings, emotions, thoughts and experiences with simple, delicate, sweet-sounding, lyrical, meaningful, easily understood words and phrases - the key features in his poetry. His inimitable style set him apart from his peers and gave him a distinct identity.
His writings were meant to touch one's heart and mind simultaneously and make one feel all that he himself had felt. He was totally at ease in the use of a variety of prose and poetical formats. However, he did not succumb to the practice of uninhibited expression of ideas in open forms, which had been adopted by some of his noted contemporaries, who had introduced symbolism in Urdu Poetry
Works of Mehr Lal Soni Zia Fatehabadi
Zia Fatehabadi embarked on his literary career with Tullu first published in 1933. In all, he produced nineteen works, consisting of eleven collections of poetry, one of short-stories, two of essays, one of presidential addresses, three collections of letters and one biography. Three of these books - Noor e Mashriq, Gard e Raah and Meri Tasveer - also contain Urdu sonnets that he had composed. Much of his work, including Naats, scattered in various magazines and papers remains unpublished