‘CV’ a poem by Farooq Sulehria


My trade union membership
party card number
the (scorching) summer spent behind bars
ostracizations (endured) in kabul and damascas
the stinking stony cell of royal fort

late evening
a few kisses stolen on the campus bridge

for a small job opportunity
all the merits of a long life
I must hide in my CV

Art work by Jesús Curiá

Translated from Urdu by Fauzia Rafique

Read Urdu original at Jeddojehad

Farooq Sulehria is an author, journalist and an educationist living and working in Lahore, Pakistan.


Urdu Poetry: Sauda


Written by Randeep Purewall

Mirza Muhammad Rafi Sauda (1713-1781) was the embodiment of the ideal nobleman (mirza). He was a courtier, soldier, and a man of letters. His friendship among nobles brought him patronage as a poet and the audience of emperors like Shah Alam (r. 1759-1806).

The eighteenth century was a time of political disorder and confusion in Delhi. The Mughal Empire had begun to disintegrate after the death of Aurangzeb in 1707. In 1719, the Emperor Farrukhsiyar was blinded and imprisoned by his own generals. The city was sacked by Nadir Shah in 1739 and later suffered invasions by the Afghans, Jats and Marathas:

How can anyone close his eyes in sleep these days?
For fear of thieves even mischief keeps awake during the night.

The devastation of Delhi prompted an exodus from the city. In 1754, Sauda left Delhi and went in search of patrons in the Kingdom of Awadh. He took service in the courts of prominent nawabs  in Farrukhabad and Faizabad before settling in Lucknow in 1774 at the court of Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula.

Under Asaf-ud-Daula, Lucknow experienced an age of cultural splendor. Poetry, music and calligraphy flourished while mosques, gardens and gateways were built. Sauda was named Poet Laureate by Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula and remained in Lucknow until his death in 1781.


Sauda is the greatest non-ghazal of the eighteenth century and one of the three pillars of Urdu poetry. He helped refine the language through mushairras in Delhi. He made Urdu the language of panegyric (qasida), narrative (masnavi), satirical (hajv) and elegaic verse (marsiya). He also composed one of the first shahar-e-ashob in Urdu upon leaving Delhi for Farrukhabad:

How can I describe the desolation of Delhi?
There is no house from where the jackal’s cry cannot be heard
The mosques at evening are unlit and deserted
And only in one house in a hundred will you see a light burning

Sauda’s poetry is bold, vigorous and earthy. It reflects the spirit of a man of this world who, while prone to exaggeration, was also funny and playful in his verse. His satires reveal much about the society and culture of 18th century India with its corrupt officials, decadent nawabs, greedy merchants and cunning maulvis.

On the gluttony of Mir Zahik, a Delhi poet and rival of Sauda:

He only has to hear a saucepan rattle
And like a soldier digging in for battle
He’ll take up his position by the door
Nothing can shift him then: that god of war,
Rustam himself, might rise up from the tomb
And try his strength against him. He’d stand firm
He’d fight to the last breath and never yield
Until his corpse was carried from the field.

I am not the fairest flower in the garden
Nor am I thorn in any man’s path
I am neither famous for virtue
Nor notorious for vice
I seek nobody’s favours
And want nobody to seek mine
People may think well or ill of me as they please
I act as my nature prompts me
(Trans. R. Russell)

On Fulad Khan, the Police Officer

O my friends, where are those days
When the hand of a person stealing a lemon was cut off!
What peace and tranquility reign then
And how happily the people lived!
The police officer was above corruption
And not a single thief was to be found
But alas! corruption creeps everywhere now
And the city is full of thieves, loafers and cut-purses …
(Trans. M. Sadiq)

Ridiculing The Times (Tazhik-e-Rozgar)

Should one give up all and take
to Sufism, his fate is then to become
a laughing stock for the poets –
They compare his turban’s end
To a donkey’s tail, the turban itself
To a dome.

If in ecstatic dance at songs divine
He shouldn’t keep time, they whisper
“How silly, to be out of step!”
And if he moves to time, they say,
“What the hell! Is this a nautch-girl’s dance?”

Forsaking the world and trusting in God
If you sit at home, the wife believes
You to be an idle, feckless wastrel
Your son’s sure in his heart that you
Are in his dotage. Your daughter thinks
“The old man’s mad for sure”.
(Trans. S.R. Farqui; R. Singh)


Ahmed Ali, The Golden Tradition: An Anthology of Urdu Poetry (Columbia University Press, New York, 1973).

Shamsur Rahman Faruqi, The Satires of Sauda (1706-1781), University of Heidelberg, September 2010.

Muhammad Sadiq, A History of Urdu Literature (Oxford University Press, London: 1964)

Confucius in Urdu

Teachings of Confucius

Written and Compiled by Randeep Singh

Confucius (551-479 BCE) is one of most influential teachers and thinkers in history. His sayings are simple, profound and timeless. Here are a few selections translated into Urdu by Yasir Javid from Mukalamaat-e-Confucius  (English translation by D.C. Lau, A. Charles Muller).

Kya ye bais-e-khushi nahin ki tum ne jo kuch sikha hai us ko zer tahqeeq o amal laaya jae?
Kya ye bhi baais-e-massurat nahin ki door door se dost tumhein milne aaenn?
Agar log mujhe na pahchaanen to mujhe takleef nahin hoti, kya main ek bartar insaan nahin hoon? (1:1)

學而時習之、不亦說乎。 有朋自遠方來、不亦樂乎。人不知而不慍、不亦君子乎。

Isn’t it a joy to study and practice what one has learned?
Isn’t it also a joy to have friends come from afar?
If people do not recognize me, and it does not bother me, am I not a sage?

Main har roz teen hawaalon se apna tajz yeh karta hoon:
Kya main doosron kee khidmat mein belos raha hoon?
Kya main doston ke saath ta’aqaat mein na qaabil bharosa raha hoon?
Kya mera amal mere qaul ke mutaabiq nahin tha? (1:4)


Everyday, I examine myself on three points:
In what I have undertaken for others, have I failed to do my best?
In my dealings with my friends, have I failed to be sincere?
Have I passed on to others anything that I have not tried out myself?

Woh kehne se pehle amal kar ke dekhaata hai aur baad mein amal kee baat karta hain (2:13)


The noble person acts before speaking and then speaks according to his action

Bartar insaan sab ko saath le kar chalne vaala aur ghair jaanib daar hota hai
Kamtar insaan ghair jaanib daar sab ko saath le kar jaane vaale nahin hota (2:14)


The noble person is all-embracing and not partial. The petty person is partial and not all-embracing.

Ghor o fikr ke beghair mataala’a bekaar hain
Aur mataala’a ke beghair ghor o fikar khatarnaak (2:15)


Learning without thinking is useless. Thinking without learning is dangerous.


Shakespeare in Hindi Cinema


Written by Randeep Singh

In the high and palmy state of Bombay, the Bard and Hindi screen did meet … It was the Parsi theatre which brought Shakespeare to Hindi cinema. The Parsi theatre flourished between 1870 and 1940, adapting Shakespeare’s plays into Urdu, the literary lingua franca of northern India. Those plays were in turn screened and adapted to Hindi cinema.

One of the earliest such films was Dil Farosh (1927), a silent film based on the Parsi theatre adaptation of The Merchant of VeniceThe Taming of the Shrew, Antony and Cleopatra and Measure for Measure were adapted respectively in Hathili Dulhan (1932), Kafir-e-Ishq (1936) and Pak Daman(1940). Hamlet meanwhile reigned among tragedies, adapted first into the silent film Khoon-e-Nahak (1928) and later into the “talkies,” Sohrab Modi’s Khoon Ka Khoon (1935) and Kishore Sahu’s Hamlet (1954).

In adapting Shakespeare to India, the dramatists of Parsi theatre recreated his pathos, wit and intrigue in Urdu. With the exception of the drama and opera Inder Sabha (c. 1853), Urdu literature lacked a tradition of drama in the Sanskrit or Elizabethean sense; and yet, the verses of Ghalib and the marsiya of Anis and Dabeer demonstrated that Urdu was capable of dramatic resonance. The Parsi playwrights exploited that potential by making an elaborately rhetorical Urdu the vessel through which Shakespeare was carried to Indian audiences.

Take the following excerpt from Safed Khoon, Agha Hashar Kashmiri’s adaptation of King Lear. The dialogue relates to the first scene between Khakan (Lear) and Zara (Cordelia) where Khakan addresses Zara:

Khakhan: Haan, ab teri gulfishani ka intizaar hai
(Now we await a shower of flower from thy  lips)

Zara: Abba jaan, mai kya arz karoon
Ita’ut mujh se kahti hai ki tu chup rah nahin sakti
Magar mera yeh kahna hai ki mai kuchh kah nahin sakti

(Respected Father, what shall I say –
Obedience tells me that I cannot remain silent
But I have only this to say that I can say nothing)[1]

In the following dialogue, each character speaks half a line to the other, a rising tension building in rhyme:

Khakan: Chhor de yeh zid………Zara: abhi chhooti nahin
(Leave this stubbornness)……….(No, never)

Khakan: Be-adab hai tu…………Zara: Magar jhoothi nahin
(Disrespectful art thou)………(But not a liar)

Khakan: Nuqsaan uthhayegi…………..Zara: era bari ta’ala hai
(You will suffer great loss)…………….(The Creator is supreme)

Khakan: Mai kuchh na doonga tujhko……Zara: Khuda dene wala hai
(I will give thee nothing)……………………  (it is for God to give)[2]

This intensely dramatic Urdu style was well suited not only for adaptations of Shakespeare plays in Parsi theatre but for Hindi cinema as well.

Gulzar’s adaptation of The Comedy of Errors in Angoor (1981) aside, adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays in Hindi cinema petered out after 1960. The influence of Shakespeare though has been felt in the theme, story and dialogue of Hindi cinema whether through the The Taming of The Shrew in Junglee (1966) and Naukar Biwi Ka (1983) or Romeo and Juliet in Mehboob Khan’s Aan (1952) and Mansoor Khan’s Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988).

In more recent years, the bard has travelled to the Bombay underworld, the dusty towns of Uttar Pradesh and Kashmir’s valleys of snow. Shakespeare will continue to evolve and inspire in Hindi cinema as in this monologue from Haider:

Dil kī agar sunooñ to hai
Dimāgh kī to hai nahin 
Jaan looñ ki jaan duñ 
Main rahooñ ki main nahiñ[3]


“Shakespeare in Hindi Cinema,” Rajiv Verma in India’s Shakespeare: Translation, Interpretation and Performance (ed. Poonam Trivedi and Dennis Bartholomeusz), 269-290.

[1] R. Verma, “Shakespeare in Hindi Cinema,” 273.

[2] R. Verma, “Shakespeare in Hindi Cinema,” 274.

[3] The barely sane Haider speaks revolver in hand:
“If I listen to my heart – it’s there
It’s not of my mind 
To kill or to die
To be or not to be

Art and Obscenity: The Case of Manto


Written by Randeep Singh

The Urdu short-story writer Manto was charged with obscenity six times for his short-stories, three times in India before 1947 (‘Dhuan,’ ‘Bu,’ and ‘Kali Shalwar’) and three times in Pakistan after 1947 (‘Khol Do,’ ‘Thanda Gosht,’ and ‘Upar Neeche Darmiyaan’). He was fined only in one case. The charges of obscenity haunted him nevertheless until his death: “I am not a pornographer but a story writer,” he would defend himself.

Under section 292 of the Indian Penal Code and the Pakistan Penal Code in Pakistan’s early years, a book or writing would be considered obscene if “it is lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest or if its effect … if taken as a whole, such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it.”

The book or writing would not be found obscene however if it was “justified as being for the public good on the ground that such book, … writing… is in the interest of … literature, art … or other objects of general concern.”

Manto wrote about his experiences at the trial and appeal hearing of “Thanda Gosht” between 1949 and 1952. A witness at trial for Manto, Syed Abid Ali Abid, the Principal of Dayal Singh College, testified: “from Wali to Ghalib, everyone at some time, has written what is generally labeled as obscene. Literature can never be obscene. And, what Manto writes is literature.”

One witness, Dr. Saeedullah, gave Manto the title of “musavvar-e-hayaat,” the painter of life. Soofi Tabassum, a professor of Government College, deposed that “immoral writing is where the sole object of the writer is to undermine morality” and that “Thanda Gosht” did not affect public morality.

In Manto’s testimony, “Thanda Gosht” was a story “telling human beings that they are not separated from humanity even with they become animal like.” Like Flaubert’s Madame Bovary which had also been charged with obscenity, “Thanda Gosht” was a serious story filled with melancholy. As for the potentially corrupting influence of his stories on the public, Manto remarked, “my stories are for healthy people, normal beings, not for minds who dig  up carnal meanings in innocent and pure things.”

The case of Manto is relevant to the question of what is art and what is obscenity. The following questions are worth considering:

  1. What is the artists’ intention in writing the story (to arouse sexual excitement etc.)?
  2. Is the sexual element of the story the primary or dominant value of the story or is it subordinated to the writer’s aesthetic goals?
  3. How does the reader experience the story? Does it appeal more to his or her aesthetic judgement or mostly to his or her senses and carnality?
  4. Does the aesthetic experience of reading the story do away with the reader’s “practical, operational” ways of viewing its characters and situations as if they were real people or situations?

If the story’s primary or overriding goal is to sexually arouse the reader, then the work can be considered obscene. If the story’s primary or overriding goal though is to use sexual or erotic scenes for some larger artistic purpose related to theme, setting etc., the story can be considered literature. A story moreover may have sexual situations or scenes which by themselves may be considered obscene but which have some meaning in the story’s overall context.

In “Thanda Gosht,” Manto tells the story of Isher Singh, a Sikh, who tried to rape an already dead Muslim girl, a heap of “cold flesh.” In “Khol Do,” a brutalized, unconscious  girl on the verge of death, Sakeena, opens her shalwaar qameez after the doctor examining her utters the words “khol do” (‘open’) to a nurse to open a window. The suggestion of raping a corpse or a girl opening her shalwaar on hearing the words “open (it)” by themselves may have been obscene; in their proper context, they illustrate the extent to which women were brutalized in the Punjab in 1947.

Manto was not only holding up a mirror to the dirt, hypocrisy and puritanism in Indian and Pakistani society; he was showing a way out of it. Ismat Chughtai wrote in her memoir “Kaghazi Hai Pairahan” that Manto’s “flinging it (dirt) about makes it visible and one’s attention can be called to the need of cleaning it.”  His stories unsettle us because they take us to the darker corners of our psyche, to desires repressed and to the ugliness that results. South Asia still struggles with the brutalization of women, sexual repression, sexual abuse, a growing AIDS menace and with discussing sex or sexuality openly.

Manto is still holding up the mirror to ourselves.

Further reading:

Ayesha Jalal, The Pity of Partition: Manto’s Life, Times and Work across the India-Pakistan Divide (Princeton University Press, 2013).

Aziz Akhmad, “Manto Ka Muqaddama: Obscenity Trial”:  http://pakistaniat.com/2009/09/29/saadat-manto-trial/

Urdu Poetry and Iqbal


Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938) once said that he did not consider himself a poet. It is no use to compare him to Ghalib, Rumi or Tagore. There is little flight of imagination or profound silences in Iqbal’s poems. And yet, he influenced Urdu poetry.

First, Iqbal moved Urdu poetry from the classical poets’ inner world of anguish to the world of action. More than any other modern Urdu poet, Iqbal made Urdu poetry a tool for critique, a vehicle of social change, a quest for meaning and an affirmation of the human spirit. While many point to Faiz’ transformation of moth and flame into modern metaphors of revolution, it was Iqbal who first oriented Urdu poetical metaphors towards the moral and social revitalization of man and society.

Second, the musicality of Iqbal’s verse enriched the melody of Urdu. Faiz notes Iqbal’s use of unconventional metre (as in ‘Masjid-e-Qurtaba’), his use of unfamiliar (yet simple) words, his unprecedented use of proper names such as Delhi, Hejaz and Misr and his deliberate patterning of vowel and consonantal sounds, produced entire lines and quatrains that are a spectrum of sound and melody.

So, in “Ek Shaam” (‘One Evening’), Iqbal marries the picture of the hushed atmosphere over the valley to the sibilant consonants of verse (‘vaadee ke nava farosh khaamosh/kahsaar kee sabz posh khaamosh’), lulling the reader into silence. He rouses us from slumber through dramatic assonance (‘Ae Khuda Shikwah-e-Arbab-e-Wafa Bhi Sun Le/Khugar-e-Hamd Se Thora Sa Gila Bhi Sun Le’ in the poem ‘Shikwa’) and strings together sounds at the end of words (Rang ho ya Khisht-o-sang/Chang ho ya harf-o-saut) as if beating an Indian dafli drum.

Third, the range of themes and influence in Iqbal’s poetry is considerable, opening up horizons for Urdu. Through Iqbal, Urdu poetry pulses with the spirit of Keats, Nietzche, Bergson, Goethe to Rumi, Ghalib, Naziri and Bedil. His range of forms include ghazals, nazms, qita, rubiyat and mussadas verse forms; his range of subject matter, childrens’ poems, the nation, cinema, self-realization and imperialism; and his reader travels from the banks of the Ravi to the shores of Sicily to the Himalayas. Iqbal’s poetry is as much a epic history of twentieth century Asia as it is a philosophy of life.

He may not have considered himself a poet. Yet in making poetry the medium through which to express his message, Iqbal transformed the content, range and direction of Urdu poetry, suggesting an almost boundless range of place, theme and subject.

Written by Randeep Singh

Further Reading:

V.G. Kiernan (trans.), Poems from Iqbal: Renderings in English Verse with Comparative Urdu Text (Oxford University Press, Pakistan: 2013).

Sheema Majeed (ed.), Culture and Identity: Selected English Writings of Faiz (Oxford University Press, Karachi: 2005).

Barbara Metcalf, “Iqbal’s Imagined Geographies: The East, the West, the Nation, and Islam” in Kathryn Hansen and David Lelyveld, A Wilderness of Possibilities: Urdu Studies in Transnational Perspective (eds.) (Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2005).

Iqbal Singh, The Ardent Pilgrim: An Introduction to the Life and Work of Mohammad Iqbal . (Oxford University, New Delhi: 1997).

Hindi and Urdu: Sa’adat Hasan Manto


This is Muhammad Umar Memon’s translation of an article by Sa’adat Hasan Manto.

The translation first appeared in The Annual of Urdu Studies.The Hindi-Urdu dispute has been raging for some time now. Maulvi Abdul Haq Sahib, Dr Tara Singh and Mahatma Gandhi know what there is to know about this dispute. For me, though, it has so far remained incomprehensible. Try as hard as I might, I just haven’t been able to understand. Why are Hindus wasting their time supporting Hindi, and why are Muslims so beside themselves over their preservation of Urdu? A language is not made, it makes itself. And no amount of human effort can ever kill a language. When I tried to write something about this current hot issue, I ended up with the following long conversation:Munshi Narain Parshad:  Iqbal Sahib, are you going to drink this soda water?

Mirza Muhammad Iqbal: Yes, I am.

Munshi: Why dont you drink lemon?

Iqbal: No particular reason. I just like soda water. At our house, everyone likes to drink it.

Munshi: In other words, you hate lemon.

Iqbal: Oh, not at all. Why would I hate it, Munshi Narain Parshad? Since everyone at home drinks soda water, I’ve sort of grown accustomed to it. That’s all. But if you ask me, actually lemon tastes better than plain soda.

Munshi: That is precisely why I was surprised hat you would prefer something salty over something sweet. and lemon isn’t just sweet, it has a nice flavour. What do you think?

Iqbal: You are absolutely right, but…

Munshi: But what?

Iqbal: Nothing. I was just going to say that I’ll take soda.

Munshi: Same nonsense again. I’m not forcing you to drink poison, am I? Brother, what’s the difference between the two? Both bottles are made in the same factory after all. The same machine has poured water into them. If you take the sweetness and flavour out of the lemon, what’s left?

Iqbal: Just soda… a kind of salty water…

Munshi: Then, what’s the harm in drinking the lemon?

Iqbal: No harm at all.

Munshi: Then drink!

Iqbal: And what will you drink?

Munshi: I’ll send for another bottle.

Iqbal: Why would you send for another bottle? What’s the harm in drinking plain soda?

Munshi: N… n… no harm.

Iqbal: So then, here, drink the soda water.

Munshi: And what will you drink?

Iqbal: I’ll get another bottle.

Munshi: Why would you send for another bottle? What’s the harm in drinking lemon?

Iqbal: N… n… no harm. And what’s the harm in drinking soda?

Munshi: None at all.

Iqbal: The fact is, soda is rather good.

Munshi: But I think that lemon… is rather good.

Iqbal: Perhaps, if you say so. Although I’ve heard all along from my elders that soda is rather good.

Munshi: Now what’s a person to make of this: I’ve heard all along from my elders that lemon is rather good.

Iqbal: But what’s your own opinion?

Munshi: And what’s yours?

Iqbal: My opinion… hum… my opinion. My opinion is just this… but why don’t you tell me your opinion?

Munshi: My opinion… hum… my opinion is just this… but why should I tell it first?

Iqbal: I don’t think we’ll get anywhere this way. Look, just put a lid on your glass. I’ll do the same. Then we’ll discuss the matter leisurely.

Munshi: No, we can’t do that. I’ve already popped the caps off the bottles. We’ll just have to drink. Come on, make up your mind, before all the fizz is gone. These drinks are worthless without the fizz.

Iqbal: I agree. And at least you do agree that there’s no real difference between lemon and soda.

Munshi: When did I ever say that? There’s plenty of difference. They’re as different as night and day. Lemon is sweet, flavourful, tart-three things more than soda. Soda only has fizz, and that’s so strong it just barges into the nose. By comparison, lemon is very tasty. One bottle and you feel fresh for hours. Generally, soda water is for sick people. Besides, you’ve just admitted yourself that lemon tends to be tastier than soda.

Iqbal: Well, that I did. But I never said that lemon is better than soda. Tasty doesn’t mean that a thing is also beneficial. Take achaar, it’s very tasty, but you already know about its harmful effects. he presence of sweetness and tartness doesn’t prove that something is good. If you cnsulted a doctor he would tell you the harm lemon does to the stomach. But soda, that’s something else. The thing is, it helps digestion.

Munshi: Look, we can settle the matter by mixing the two.

Iqbal: I have no objection to that.

Munshi: Well, then, fill this glass halfway with soda.

Iqbal: Why don’t you fill half the glass with your lemon? I’ll pour my soda after that.

Munshi: Makes no sense. Why don’t you pour your soda first?

Iqbal: Because I want to drink soda-lemon mixed.

Munshi: And I want lemon-soda mixed.

By Shivam Vij. Reproduced from Minds@UW and posted December 5, 2011 in “Kafila” at http://kafila.org/2011/12/05/hindi-and-urdu-saadat-hasan-manto/

Meera Ji’s 100th – ‘Ambiguity itself’ by Sarwat Ali

May 25, 1912 – November 4, 1949

On his hundredth birthday that falls on May 25, 2012, Meera Ji’s experimental poetic expression can be evaluated more objectively

Meera Ji died young, not fully appreciated for a poetic expression that was very experimental and hounded for his unconventional lifestyle.

Given the current situation where the ideological divide between the right and left is no longer the decisive criteria in assessing a work of literature, some newer critical canon is waiting to be established. Since the erstwhile divide imposed with rigidity posited literature as front for an ideological battle, it was not always assessed on the basis that was its very own.

Meera Ji’s life was difficult because he decided to swim against the current of the mainstream Progressive Writers Association. His was a distinct voice, very individual, extremely subjective and sensitive to the smaller issues and feelings which otherwise get swarmed by overwhelming questions.

He wrote nazms (poems)and was obviously inspired by much that was happening in the West in literature and other disciplines like psychology. Initially the nazm was a revolt against the highly stylised dominant form of the ghazal (rhyming verse). It was considered to be less well-wrought, less dependent on associated references and loaded metaphors. It was closer to being a statement and this objectivity was a much cherished aim in the 19th century but, by the time nazm came within the creative grasp of Meera Ji, it became the poetic manifestation of an inner voice.

Meera Ji’s inner voice was of suppressed instincts that did not find an outlet in poetry directly but only in the well-wrought framework of an inherited tradition. The instincts were given a form that was artistically closer to the chaos and anarchy of the instinctual aspects of a human being and its expression too had to be reflective of the turmoil that makes up the essential self of man.

Before Meera Ji, Noon Meem Rashed had written the nazm inspired by the late Romantics and the Imagists. Rashed really worked on his poems, and at times the hardwork showed. But where Rashed’s effort was contrived, Meera Ji wrote with an effortless ease. This is not to say that he did not work on his poems and wrote in a fit of inspiration, only that his effort did not become obvious and his craft was more honed than some of his contemporaries.

Meera Ji’s work was seen by some as directly flowing out of sexual energy and was libidinal, as if what he wrote was actually an expression of the lack of an outlet for sexual expression as well. But this was only a selective reading of his works. He was less concerned with repression and its lack of outlet and more with the mysteries of the sex drive, the basic instincts that filled human life with the force and the energy to think beyond the precision of the event. It was fully comprehended without wrapping it in an elaborate system of thought. Meera Ji had the spontaneity of a super craftsman.

In his earlier phase, Meera Ji wrote nazms that were formalistic and structured. In the later phase, under the influence of the geet (song), he wrote poetry that was extremely lyrical but did not follow any formalistic design. The geet does not, as a genre, follow a formal structure and is quite accommodating in its pattern and rhyme scheme; the only criteria being that it should retain its lyrical quality. This criterion was fulfilled with great promise by Meera Ji. His geets were extremely lyrical and did not follow the form of a nazm. He was in the process of discovering an inner structure for the unity of the poem as compared to a more formal one. The association of meaning, the references and the allusions, all knitted his nazm to give it a sharpened edge that possibly could not have been achieved if the dictates of a formal structure had been lurking in the background during the act of creation.

As the inner structure was not apparent, Meera Ji was criticised for being ambiguous. The subject that Meera Ji found to be potent was ambiguity itself and the initial reaction of the reader to be lost in the maze of an experience, though overwhelming, was shrouded in mystery and questioned by many. The subject itself was not cut and dried and laid down in any order. This ambiguity was the consequence of the magical environment that Meera Ji was able to weave in his poems, the atmosphere that he created, full of indirections with no direct linkages.

Meera Ji was a very well-read man and extremely educated about the poetic forms of the past and the age that he was living in. The greatest proof of that are his extensive prose writings on various poets and literary movements. As a critic, Meera Ji was a critical observer looking very closely at the writings and poems, developing arguments backed by historical references and contemporary instances. His critical pieces had no ambiguity, no magical maze — instead, only clarity of thought and a forcefulness of reasoning.

His understating of contemporary poetry and the reasons that gave birth to such a poetic expression was quite astonishing. The poetry closer to his own was ruthlessly scrutinised and he found these either truly inspirational, or at least the words resonating his own poetic experience.

Meera Ji was not alone in that ambiguous mysterious, haunting world; it was the sensibility of an age that he was only sharing. The European poets of the late nineteenth and twentieth century had moved away from the formal structures to explore an area of experience that could not be grasped by rationality and scientific explanation. New doubts had arisen and questions were being raised also by poets, some directly and some not so directly. As in those poets, in Meera Ji too, childhood played a critical part. For authenticity, he could relate to that primal experience and then to its sublimation, mythology, which gave an artistic cover to the hopes, aspirations and foibles of human existence.

The personality of Meera Ji too was put under the microscopic lens and many moral issues were raised regarding his conduct in society. But he was essentially a poet in rebellion against the mainstream culture of his times. For him truth lay beyond social norms and manners, even if it involved sacrificing mundane living. His love for poetic truth was just as sincere as his love for Meera Sen. He lost in love but succeeded in immortalising the supremacy of love through his poems.

From http://jang.com.pk/thenews/may2012-weekly/nos-20-05-2012/lit.htm#1

Recommended by Ijaz Syed


A poem by Meera Ji

Piyaare lamhe aayen ge aur majboori miT jaye gi
Hum dono mil jayen ge aur sab doori miT jaye gi

Har dam Behne wali aankhon ki mala bhi TooTay gi
Teri meri hasti iss bairi bandhan se chooTay gi

Lekin yeh sab baatein hain apne jee ke behlaanay ki
Dukh ki raat main dheere dheere dil ka dard miTaanay ki

Rotay rotay hanstay hanstay ruktay ruktay gaanay ki
Sukh ka sapna sookha hai aur sookha hi reh jaye ga

Sooni saij pe prem kahani premi yoon keh jaye ga
Hote hote sara jeewan aankhon se beh jaye ga

Text from: http://www.urdupoetry123.com/urdu-nazam/meera-jee/poetry_shayari_sad_romantic_poem_02.htm

More on Meera Ji

Celebrating 100 years of Saadat Hassan Manto (May 1912-2012) – Lahore May 14-17/12

By Kanwal Dhaliwal from Uddari Art

Celebrating 100 years of Saadat Hassan Manto (May 1912-2012)
In collaboration with the
Lahore Arts Council
Presents a
Tribute to Manto
On 14th, 15th , 16th & 17th May 2012 at 7pm
VENUE: Hall #2, Alhamra the Mall, Lahore.

You are coordially invited to the following events
14th and 15th May
Siyah Hashiye
Toba Tek Singh
Khol Do
Adapted by: Shahid Nadeem
Directed by: Madeeha Gauhar
Dramatised Readings
Akhri Salute
By Naeem Tahir

16th and 17th May
Naya Qanoon
Adapted by: Shahid Nadeem
Directed by: Naseem Abbas
Dramatised Readings
Sawerey Jo Kal Ankh Mairee Khuli
Pardey ki Baatain
Dekh Kabira Roya
Uncle Sam Ke Khatoot
By Naveed Shahzad, Naseem Abbas, Furqan Majeed

More Information:
Ajoka: 042-36686634, 36682443, 36677047 Alhamra: 99200917-8

Children under 12 are strictly not allowed
Mobile phones must be switched off before entering the hall
Doors shall be closed upon commencement of the performance
Consumption of eatables & drinks in the hall is not allowed

Website: www.ajoka.org.pk
Email: ajokatheatre@gmail.com
Facebook: AjokaTheatrePakistan

Tribute to revolutionary poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Bradford UK, June 15/11

We cordially invite you to attend a centenary event to pay tribute to one of the greatest international poets of the twentieth century, Faiz Ahmed Faiz. He was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize and was a nominee for the Nobel Prize. Although imprisoned for his political views in the 1950s, Faiz continued to fight against oppression and exploitation. Even in death, Faiz’s extraordinary ability to bring together nations, often entangled in bitter disagreements, persists. His continuing importance, to the 21st century, as a major literary voice whose words continue to have the power to move peoples’ hearts and minds the world over cannot be overstated.

We are delighted to announce that
Abid Hassan Minto, a veteran politician, life-long campaigner, progressive writer and thinker, human rights activist and the president of Workers Party Pakistan will be the main speaker in Bradford.

4.30 p.m.
Wednesday, 15 June 2011
Council Chambers, City Hall
Centenary Square, Bradford BD1 1HY

Other contributors include
Raza Ali Abadi, Mohammad Ajeeb, Ghazanfer Khaliq, Kevin Donnelley, Dr Geetha Upadhyaya and Sarwan Singh

Cultural Programme will be presented by
Mehmooda Hadi, Amal Podder, Karl & Gloria Dallas.

Mohsin Zulifqar, 07540 829564
Lala M. Younas, 07878 996658
Ajit Singh, 07720 400242
Sarwan Singh, 07989 062965
Khalid Saeed Qureshi, 07869433475
Prof Nazir Tabassum, 07828 174854
Pervez Fateh, 07958 541672
Dr Geetha Upadhyaya, 01274 303340
Cllr Mohammad Shafiq, 07904120986

Jointly organised by
Kala Sangam
Bradford & Leeds Faiz Centenary National Organising Committee (UK)

Best regards
Pervez Fateh
Secretary, Fational Centenary National Organising Committee UK
Cell: +44 (0)795 854 1672
E-mail: pervezf@yahoo.com

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Faiz Celebrations in Birmingham – three events in June‏

As part of revolutionary poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz centenary celebrations, National Organising Committee UK for Faiz Centenary celebrations in conjunction with various socio-political, cultural and literary organisations particularly The Drums and Fanoos is holding three big events in Birmingham in June 2011.

Event 1
Documentary on Faiz Ahmed Faiz
Thursday, June 9

7.00pm. at The Drum
144 Potters Lane, Aston
Birmingham, B6 4UU
This moving and revealing documentary on the life and times of the Pakistani national poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz, narrated by the writer and political activist Tariq Ali, has become a cult classic. Using archival and original footage including interviews with his family members, intellectuals and activists, and Faiz’s poetry itself, the film tells the story of how the writer, trade unionist and political activist used his creative endeavours to defend human rights and further the universal causes of social justice and liberty, and of his imprisonment and eventual exile.

Event 2
Symposium on Faiz Ahmed Faiz
Sunday, June 12

3.00pm. at The Drum
144 Potters Lane, Aston
Birmingham, B6 4UU
This special symposium brings together prominent academics, poets and political activists to mark and celebrate the life and poetry of Faiz Ahmed Faiz.
Confirmed speakers
Abid Hassan Minto – President Workers Party Pakistan
Robert Griffiths – General Secretary Communist Party of Brittan
Dyal Singh Bhagri – President Indian Workers Association UK
Raza Ali Abadi – Prominent broadcaster, writer, poet and Faiz’s fellow
Expected speakers
I.A. Rehman – Former president Human Rights Commission of Pakistan
Tariq Ali – Prominent Intelectual, Writer, Activist, and others

Event 3
International Mushaira in memory of Faiz
Saturday, June 18

2.00pm. at The Birmingham Library Theatre
Paradise Place
Birmingham B3 3HQ
As part of the Faiz centenary celebrations, this Mushaira promises to be one of the largest and prominent gatherings of renowned Urdu and Punjabi poets in the United Kingdom. Birmingham poets will be joined by leading poets from all over the UK and abroad to pay homage and honor the memory of Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Taking inspiration from Faiz’s work, they will recite their poems and make reference to the impact and influence of Faiz on their poetry. Invited poets include Saaki Farooqi, Iftikhar Arif, Bashir Kazmi, Sadaf Mirza, Yasmeen Habib, Raiz Majeed, Zahid Fakhari, Iqbal Naveed, Sabir Raza and many others.

A must for all writers, poets, activists and connoisseurs of Urdu/ Punjabi poetry.

Abbas Malik
Tel: 07956855569
Mukhtar Dar
Tel: 0121 333 2406

Pervez Fateh
Secretary – National Organising Committee
Faiz Centenary Celebrations UK
Cell: +44 (0)795 854 1672

Faiz Centennary Fundraising Dinner: Oxford UK May 14/11

Faiz Centennary Celebrations 2011
Fundraising Dinner
Date & time
Saturday 14 May 2011
7:00 pm
Asian Cultural Centre
Manzil Way, Oxford OX4 1GH
Food with documentary from 7:00 to 8:00 pm
Asian homemade food (with vegetarian + non-vegetarian options) will be served.
(8:00 to 9:30 pm)
Sam Lathem (Shakespearian / Classical Actor, writer & director)
Helen Phillips (Young Classical Actress)
Munib Anwar (Faiz contemporary & political activist)
Saqlain Imam (BBC Urdu Service, ex-editor The News, Jang group)
Amarjit Chandan (Punjabi poet and writer)
… and our very own Oxford talent..!
Standard: £10/- per person (Students: £8/-)
Children free
Funds will be raised for Faiz Mela London
Organised by
1. Anjuman-e-Adab Oxford
Mrs Nuzhat Abbas
Gen Secretary Anjuman-e-Adab & Oxford Coordinator FCCCUK
07962 426065
Altaf Khan
Prog Coordinator Councillor
07931 345554
2. Oxford University Pakistan Society – OUPakSoc
Mr Ayyaz Mallick
07853 137930
3. Faiz Centenary Celebration Committee UK
Mr Tanveer Zaman
07957 546139

Entry by booking only.
Booking closes 12 May 2011

Download Word File

Faiz Peace Festival Toronto 2011 on May 22

Faiz Peace Festival Toronto 2011

What: Faiz 1911- 2011 Centenary Celebration in Canada
Around six hundred people will join to celebrate with poets, writers, intellectual, human rights and political activists from greater Toronto area to celebrate.

Port Credit Secondary School Auditorium
70 Mineola Road, Mississauga
Ontario, Canada

Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan Author, Poet and Former Federal Minister
Iftikhar Arif

When: Sunday May 22, 2011
At 6: PM

For further Info:
Ashfaq Hussan: 647-588-3499
Barrister Hamid Bashani: 416-399-7602

‘Faiz Ahmad Faiz as a World Poet’ by Javed Majeed

Presentation at Poet in the City, King’s Place, London Jan 17 2011

First I would like to thank Anita Mir and Graham Henderson for organising this event and for inviting me to talk at it. Thank you also to all of you for coming. I am going to talk about the distinctive nature of Faiz’s poetry and why he is a world poet.

Faiz’s poetry needs to be interpreted against the background of the political upheavals of the twentieth century. His life spanned the two world wars, the rise of fascism in Europe, the growth of religious nationalism in the Indian subcontinent, decolonisation and the partition of India, and the uncertainties of postcolonial nationhood, most vividly brought home by the break up of Pakistan and the creation of Bangladesh in 1971.

His poetry raises three important questions. First, how do you recover hope from political disillusionment? How do you create spaces of hope out of the degraded conditions we find ourselves in?

Secondly, how do you write politically committed poetry that is not mere propaganda or excessively moralising? What Faiz does is to express the difficulties of making political commitments, the range of emotions it involves, and the inner struggles of the individual who is politically committed. He does not simplify political commitment; instead he shows how complex it is.

Thirdly, how does a poet work with the tradition he or she has inherited in order to produce original and new poetry? Faiz is steeped in the classical traditions of the Urdu ghazal or love lyric, its symbols, images, and characters. These characters include the lover (ashiq), the beloved (mashuq), the rival (raqib), the friend who gives the lover useless advice (nasih), the cup-bearer at the wine party (saqi), and the strict religious moraliser (sheikh). Faiz draws on these symbolic figures and the history of their subtle descriptions in Urdu poetry to produce political verse. He also draws on the imagined places of the Urdu ghazal, such as the wine tavern or meh khana, the street of the beloved, the gathering (mehfil), the mosque, the temple, and the garden. In his poetry, without sacrificing the history of their meanings, these places become spaces of political oppression and hope.

Furthermore, Faiz generally writes in the classical metres of Urdu poetry. Using the couplet, he combines tightness of form with expansiveness of meaning. This aspect of Urdu poetry is hard to capture in English, not least because English is a stress-timed language while Urdu is a syllable-timed language. Urdu is scanned by quantity not stress and hence translations of Urdu poetry into English often look prosaic.

I am going to talk about three poems Faiz wrote while in prison on his experience of imprisonment. I have chosen the prison poems because in many ways prisons and camps of various kinds (such as the concentration camp, the POW camp, and the refugee camp) were the defining spaces of the twentieth century.

The poems are ‘Zindan ki aik shám’ (A Prison Evening), ‘Zindan ki Aik Subha’ (A Prison Morning), and ‘Qaid-e Tanhai’ (Solitary Confinement). In these poems Faiz explores issues of freedom and constraint, the creation of hope in the midst of despair, and the use of the language of the Urdu ghazal or love lyric and Sufi poetry to create a sense of political commitment.

The first thing to note about these poems is that his writing of poetry in prison is itself a defiance of his imprisonment; Faiz is able to use prison cell creatively. So if we look at ‘Zindan ki aik sham’ (A Prison Evening) we can note three things. The poet finds inner freedom in prison by observing and describing carefully the coming of evening and the changing nature of light in his prison cell, which he expresses in a series of images such as:

Shana-e bam par damakta hai
Mehrban chandni ka dast-e jamil

On the crest of the roof is glittering
The beautiful hand of the gracious moonlight

Defiantly, the poet describes the sweetness of the moment of nightfall in prison, sweet because of the calming effect of the moonlight, and because he has survived another day in prison. This leads him to consider how limited the power of tyranny might be, since these tyrants cannot extinguish the moon from which he draws comfort. At the same time, the moon is often a symbol of the beloved’s beauty in Urdu poetry, and mehtab or moonlight describes the glow of the beloved’s shining face. In Urdu poetry generally, the separation of the lover from the beloved is described in a variety of ways, and much attention is paid to evoking the pain of separation and the fluctuating moods of the lover. In this poem, Faiz uses the language of separation from the beloved to describe the changing colours of the sky. These wavering colours are like “the waves of pain for separation from the loved one” coming into his heart:

Nur mein ghul gai hai ‘arsh ka nil
Sabz goshon men nilgun sa’e
Lahlahate hain jis tarah dil men
Mauj-e dard-e firaq-e-yar a’e.

The blue of the sky has dissolved into the light
Dark blue shadows in green corners
Waver as if waves of the pain of separation
from the beloved had stolen into my heart

Thus while previous poets lament their separation from the beloved, for Faiz the observation of changing light in his prison cell and the pain of separation from the beloved creates the energy of hope while in prison. Paradoxically, the anguish of separation becomes a condition of hope and makes possible the energy of political commitment and the poem that expresses it.

In his other poem ‘Zindan ki aik subh’, ‘A Morning in Prison’, again the poet draws a vivid picture of the changing light in his prison cell as dawn breaks, and mixes it with the language of lost lovers. He imagines his companions being united in their “grief of country, their sorrow at their separation from the face of the beloved” (des ka dard, firaq-e rukh-e mehbub ka gham).

But more importantly, the poet also imagines that the guards themselves might be oppressed by prison, as they too are poor and hungry. Remarkably, then, the imprisoned poet sympathises with the oppressed condition not only of his comrades, but the guards themselves, whom he describes as “yellow, tyrannized by hunger” (zard, faqon ke sata’e hu’e).

In his poem ‘Qaid-e tanhai’ (‘Solitary Confinement’) Faiz mixes a picture of the changing light in his prison cell with what he calls the “anguish of hope”, but here he very skilfully combines a key concept from mystical poetry with the language of the Urdu love lyric. Thus he imagines the beloved walking past the prison and he writes:

Ko’i naghma, ko’i khushbu, ko’i kafir surat
‘Adam abad-e juda’i mein musafir surat
Be khabar guzri, pareshani-e umid liye

Some melody, a scent, a transgressively enchanting face
In separation’s abode of non-existence a travelling face
Passed heedlessly by bringing the anxiety of hope

For Muslim Sufi poets, the abode of non-existence refers to our unreal existence separated from God, who for them is the only real existent being in the Universe. For Faiz, this abode is likened to his solitary confinement in his prison cell, where one quickly loses any sense of concrete reality. In this way he secularises this image from Sufi poetry. But what revives him is his imagined glimpse of the beloved, for Sufis this would be God, for Urdu poets the woman or man one is in love with. Faiz works with the history of these meanings, to create a figure of the beloved as the scent, the melody, and the countenance of freedom. All these create what he calls the “anxiety of hope”.

In this poem Faiz also uses the imagery of wine and the saqi or wine pourer, to describe his sense of solidarity with his comrades:

Des pardes ke yaran-e qadahkhwar ke nam
Husn-e afaq, jamal-e lab-o-rukhsar ke nam

In the name of my cup-drinking friends here and abroad
In the name of the beauty of the horizons, the loveliness of cheek and lip.

Urdu poets often celebrated the wine drinking assembly, where the poet and his rivals were imagined to sit around the beloved, their glasses filled by the wine pourer as they recited their poetry in praise of her or him. In Sufi poetry, the saqi becomes the spiritual leader, the wine the truths the disciple imbibes, and different levels and kinds of drunkenness represented different stages of closeness to God. Faiz inherits these two senses of the assembly and drunkenness. The wine drinking and poetry-reciting assembly becomes an image of solidarity in a world wide political movement whose bonds are created by drinking, as it were, from the same glass of politics.

There is a lot more that one could say about Faiz’s poetry, such as the measured pace of his couplets that strike a note of sorrowful reflection, and his use of the grammatical properties of Urdu and Persian to create compounds of meaning and shades of subtlety that evoke the complex energies of political commitment.

Let me end, though, by thinking about Faiz’s pen name or takhallus. The pen name Faiz means ‘bounty’, ‘liberality’, ‘generosity’ – but it also has the connotations of grace and graciousness. Faiz’s poetry is indeed graceful and elegant, but it is also generous in three ways.

First, it is generous in its empathy for the suffering of others, including the guards in his prison, and in other poems, for the politically subjugated, the economically exploited and the sexually oppressed, and this empathy becomes the basis for solidarity across cultures and nationalities in a kind of radical humanism grounded in an acute awareness of human suffering. Secondly, in many of his poems Faiz expresses his inner turmoil and confusion, and his doubts and anxieties openly. He doesn’t try to hide or disguise these, and he gives of himself generously in his poetry. Thirdly, his poetry is generous in that he takes a risk with it by working within the traditions of classical Urdu poetry and its polished culture to create new meanings for an Indian and Pakistani socialist poetry. In this sense, I think you will agree that the pen name Faiz suits his poetry admirably. •

Professor Javed Majeed read English Language and Literature at Magdalen College, University of Oxford from 1981 to 1984. He was awarded First Class Honours. After completing his doctorate at Magdalen, he held Research Fellowships at Churchill College, University of Cambridge and the Centre of South Asian Studies, also at Cambridge. His publications include Ungoverned Imaginings: James Mill’s The History of British India and Orientalism (Clarendon Press, 1992), Hali’s Musaddas. The Ebb and Flow of Islam (OUP, 1997, with Christopher Shackle), Autobiography, Travel, and Postnational Identity: Gandhi, Nehru and Iqbal (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) and Muhammad Iqbal: Islam, Aesthetics, and Postcolonialism (2008). Professor Majeed currently teaches at the School of English and Drama, Queen Mary, University of London.

Halqa-e-Arbab-e-Zauq Conference on Faiz, Woodbridge, Feb 5/11

Halqa-e-Arbab-e-Zauq Shomali Amrika
(Literary Friends Network of North America)
61st meeting
To celebrate the 100th Birthday of Pakistani Revolutionary poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz
– Time: 1:00 PM
– Day & Date: Saturday, 5 February 2011
– Location: Dr. A.J. Ferlazzo Building (Cafeteria)
– 15941 Donald Curtis Drive, Woodbridge, VA 22191 USA

Subjects of Discussions
Pakistani Urdu poet, journalist, editor, author of books and human rights defender
– Videos of Faiz’s Revolutionary Poem ‘We Will Witness’
– Pakistani Singer Iqbal Bano
– Pakistani Singer Masooma Anwar
– TV Video Biography of Faiz Ahmed Faiz
Pakistani journalist, translator and author of books

Pakistani journalist, editor, ex-VOA Urdu radio broadcaster and author of books
Pakistani journalist, professor and ex-VOA Asia Director
Pakistani/Indian poet, professor and author of books
4. Other eminent persons

Pakistani-American singer and music composer Omar Waqar will sing his English poem about Faiz Ahmed Faiz
Other Pakistani singers will recite the poetry of Faiz

Admission to this public event is FREE

For more information
Pakistani journalist, VOA Urdu radio broadcaster and teacher/educator.
Program Coordinator
Halqa-e-Arbab-e-Zauq Shomali Amrika (HAZSA)
E-Mail: abidaripley@gmail.com
Telephone: 703-799-6666