Yesterday Once More

Once Raj Kapoor's favourite lyricist, poet Gopaldas Saxena aka 'Neeraj' relives his melodious past

" Kaaravaan guzar gayaa, gubaar dekhte rahe ," hums Gopaldas Saxena from one of his favourite films Nai Umar Ki Nai Fasal— a song originally sung by Mohammed Rafi. Better known as 'Neeraj', words come easy to the 87-year-old poet, who recites songs and poems he penned more than 50 years back interspersed with dates, names and anecdotes. The poet who has written lyrics for bigwigs like S D Burman and Shankar-Jaikishan, recalls his journey with wonder, humility and wisdom. "I am a product of many struggles, it's not been an easy life, but worth it,'' says Neeraj as he sits back in the room of Haryana Niwas and nurses an injured foot. Neeraj is in the city for Kavya Sandhya organised by the Haryana Academy.

Born in Etawah, Uttar Pradesh in 1925, Neeraj lost his father at the age of six and left studies after Class X to take care of his family. "I did small jobs like working as a typsist until I completed my post graduation. Then I worked for a while with the government, but disliked everything about their system," says Neeraj, who travelled all over India, and later joined as a professor of Hindi Literature in Aligarh until Dev Anand heard Kaarvaan guzarta. . at a mushaira and told him that they will work together— a promise that Anand kept. He invited Neeraj to Mumbai in the early 60s and introduced him to SD Burman, who was working on the movie Prem Pujari at that time. The song became a hit and took him to the zenith of his career. "I consider Burman da the best. He was a pure musician, and worked on compositions for days. I wrote some of my best songs for him,'' says Neeraj, referring to songs like Phoolon ke rang se and Rangeela re.

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