Himayat Ali Shair is a renowned Urdu poet, writer, lyricist, actor,radio drama artist from Pakistan. He is the recipient of Pride of Performance Award given to him in 2002 for his literary services to Urdu literature by then President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf .
Shair was born in Aurangabad, India on July 14, 1926. His mother died when he was three years old. At a very young age, he was exposed to the leading leftist writers of that time. He worked for All India Radio and arrived in Pakistan in 1951 to began his remarkable career with Radio Pakistan at Karachi. His first poetry book was published in 1956 “Aag Main Phool” which received the Presidential Award in 1958. Later, he started his successful career as a lyricist, receiving Nigar Awards for the films Aanchal and Daaman in 1962 and 1963 respectively. In 1966, Shair produced and directed “Lori” (Lullaby) starring Muhammad Ali, Zeba, Santosh Kumar. The movie completed its Golden Jubilee by running for 52 weeks in Karachi.
Shair wrote few of the evergreen songs ever written in the cinema of Pakistan. Some of the songs include Na Chura Sakogay Daaman, Jaag Utha Hai Sara Watan, Khudawanda Yeh Kaisi Aag, Jab Raat Dhali, Har Qadam Per Nit Naye Sanchay Main Dhal Jatay Hain Log, Tujh Ko Maloom Naheen and many others.
His other collection of poetry includes “Mitti Ka Qarz, “Tashnagi Ka Safar”, “Haroon Ki Awaz” which received Allama Dr. Muhammad Iqbal Award and “Harf Harf Roshni”. Besides, he is the only poet in Urdu literary history who has written his autobiography, titled “Aaina Sar Aaina”, in verse comprising as many as 3,500 couplets spread over 400 pages.. In 2007, he published collection of all of his poetry as “Kuliyat-e-Shair”.
Shair also had his work translated into different languages. A poem on World Peace named “Flower in Flames” was translated by Rajinder Singh Verma. Verma also translated another of his books named “Every World Aglow”.
Shair’s research work for Pakistan Television titled Aqeedat ka safar (700 years of Naat poetry) has also been published. Another series shed valuable light on 50 years of Naat poetry in Pakistan. His other TV programmes included Ghazal uss nay chheri (700 years of Urdu poetry), Khushboo ka safar (500 years of regional poets’ Urdu poetry), Mohabbaton kay safeer (500 years of Sindhi poets’ Urdu poetry), Lub aazad (40 years of agitational poetry).
In 1976, he joined Sindh University as an associate Professor of Urdu Literature on insistence of his friend and renowned poet Shaikh Ayaz. He quit film industry as his children were growing older and film industry was not considered a very respectable institute. In his words,
Besides, my wife had been insisting that I switch to some ‘decent’ profession, even if it is a low-paid one, as she feared the grown-up children might follow in my footsteps and enter the film world. Her fears were not unfounded as one day I also observed my son Roshan Khayal, a university student then, sporting well-known actor Mohammad Ali’s hairdo.”.
The other awards for his literary and film efforts included Makhdoom Mohiuddin international award in Delhi in 1989, Life Achievement Award in Washington in 2001, Pride of Performance Award, Naqoosh Award, Allama Iqbal Award, the Long Life Literary Award in New Jersey in 1994, and the Inventor of Salassi (three-line poem) Award in Chicago in 1993.
In 2002, Houston based Radio Station Young Tarang released a CD based on Shair’s poetry which included songs sung by famous Pakistani singers and recitation by himself.
On March 27, 2010, a literary evening was organized in Hyderabad, Sindh by Kamaluddin Memorial Society in honor of Shair. The Vice-Chancellor of Sindh University Dr. Nazir A. Mughal announced to establish “Himayat Ali Shair Chair” in recognition of his services to literature. He also announced five scholarships of Rs 5,000 each per month for research on literary contributions of Himayat Ali Shair for M.Phil/Ph.D degrees. A resolution was adopted on the occasion called for naming a road in the city after Himayat Ali Shair.
Shair married Meraj Naseem in 1949, they were together for 52 years when his wife died in Toronto, Canada of liver cancer. She is buried in the City of Pickering. Shair spends most of his time in Pakistan and Canada where his children live and frequently visits his hometown in India, where his siblings reside. Currently, he is working on his autobiography in prose.