Recipient for year 2007
In the year 1930, when he was hardly fifteen, Prabhu ‘Wafa’ read his ghazal in a Mushaira in his native town Larkana (Sindh). In the gathering were present some very well known poets like Nawazali Niyaz, Mehmood Khadim, and Ali Mohammed Kadri. Prabhu ‘Wafa’ astounded everyone with his beautiful ghazals. Since then ‘Wafa’ has never looked back and today he has come to be recognized as a poet par excellence. He is loved and respected by the Sindhi community.
His geets have been sung by almost all the popular and great masters of Sindhi songs. Be it a gathering of scholars, or a religious meet in a mandir, his lyrics always occupy a position of honor and get spontaneous approbation from all sections of the public. His brother Ratan and sister Kamla were accomplished singers and they used to sing ‘Wafa’s melodious geets wherever they sang. His sister Sheela still sings his songs. It is thus that his poets became popular and are sung and broadcast from almost all stations of All India Radio. He is known not only as a lyrical poet, but as a thinker too. Some of his books are prescribed as text books by several universities at Undergraduate, Graduate, and Post-Graduate levels. Some of his simpler poems are included in school text books also.
Prabhu 'Wafa' was born on 19th September 1915 in Larkana, Sindh (now in Pakistan). In pre-partition days, Larkana was popularly known as a nest of singing birds because many prominent Sindhi poets were living in this town. Great poets like Kishinchand Bewas, Nawazali Niyaz, Hyderbux Jatoyi and Rashtra Kavi Hundraj Dukhayal belonged to this town. Prabhu ‘Wafa’ was born in an affluent family. His father (Diwan) Jotumal Gyanchand Chhugani was an important lawyer who was fond of poetry and music. Prabhu’s father and his ancestors (like many other Hindu families) were followers of the great Sufi and Vedantic Saint and well-known poet Rohal Fakir, who’s dargah was at Kandri Sharif in Sukkur district, Rohiri Taluka of Sindh. They used to visit Dargah at least twice a year where the fragrance of Sufism and Vedanta enriched the soul of the visitors. It was here that Prabhu came under the influence of Sufism. The pure spiritual atmosphere awakened knowledge in him and gave him a deep understanding into the vicissitudes faced by mankind. He’s neither Hindu nor Muslim. He loves every human being from all corners of the world, at the same time he is Patriot and loves his country. His patriotic songs are broadcast on the days of National importance by All India Radio. The poet in him is an optimist and believes in raising gardens evens in dry deserts. He believes that India will be the richest and greatest country in the world despite it’s present weaknesses and short-comings.
Prabhu learnt the first lessons of prosody under the able guidance of the master poet Nawazali Niyaz. It goes to the credit of the teacher as well as the student that all intricate lessons were completed in just three days. Prabhu picked up all the nuances of poetry and came out as a mature poet. Today ‘Wafa’ is considered as an Ustad and younger poets get exact guidance from him. Prabhu studied at Government High School, Larkana, and later in D.J. Sindh College in Karachi. In 1938, he became a Graduate of University of Bombay. ‘Wafa’ married Suddha Chhugani in 1942, and today at the age of 92 he is leading a happy family life.
As a person, 'Wafa' is loving, kind, and forgiving. By nature, he is reserved and does not like to talk about his own poetry, but encourages novices and speaks to them with an open heart about his contemporaries and colleagues. Wherever necessary, he extols and applauds good compositions by other poets. Imbued with Sufi thoughts, he is a citizen on the world, with special love for Sindh and India. He does not consider anyone alien. His life is a placid river without any whirlpools or storms in it. He is neither a politician, nor a businessman. He is a poet and a humanist of a high order. He has lust for life and considers this world to be a place to live in. He goes on drinking that cup of life and is satiated. He will continue to cry "One more, still one more"; at the same time he does not fear death, which is a sure destiny of all beings. He has a simple religion, and does not believe in rituals. In one of his haikus, he says “Do good Karma. See yourself in others, and do unto others which you would like them to do for you”. He is an agnostic and is not very sure about rebirth or transmigration of the soul. He believes in good thoughts and good deeds.
‘Wafa’ has composed poems in all forms, like ghazal, geet, baet, vaaee, rubaaee, and haiku etc. He has given to Sindhi, the beautiful gift of a new form which he named Panjkada. It is a small poem of five lines. Some poets agree with him when he claims that a panjkada has a sweetness of ghazal, and the depth of rubaaee or doha or sortha. His book of panjkadas, ‘Surkh Gulab Ain Suraha Khwab’ won him the Sahitya Academy Award in 1981. He is a recipient of many other prizes including Gaurav Puraskar from Government of Maharashtra. Some of his poems have been translated into Russian, and different Indian languages.
Hari Daryani ‘Dilgir’, a major Sindhi poet has written that he cherishes the beautiful language, music, and the flight of imagination in ‘Wafa’s poetry. He has applauded his poem ‘The Cuckoo’ which according to him is in now way inferior to compositions of poets like Shelly and Wordsworth on the same topic. Other contemporary writers have also paid rich tributes to him. His love songs are made up of word pictures and can be set to muse.