‘YaaN koi oho jeha – یاں کوئی اوہو جیہا ‘ by Zubair Ahmad

A Punjabi poem by Zubair Ahmad.

Din khali se
sarrkeiN vug geya
dau tin var murr ke takeya
ik adh vaar khyal peya
yaaN taaN se oho
yaaN koi oho jeha

دِن خالی سی
سڑکیں وگ گیا
دو تن وار مُڑ کے تکیا
اک ادّھ وار خیال پیا
یاں تاں سی اوہو
یاں کوئی اوہو جیہا

زبیر احمد

From Zubair Ahmad’s new collection of poems ‘Sadd’ (Call), Sanjh Publications, Lahore 2012

Contact Zubair


A Short History of Punjabi Literature

Punjabi literature refers to literary works written in the Punjabi language particularly by peoples from the historical Punjab region of India and Pakistan including the Punjabi diaspora. The language is written in several different scripts, of which the Shahmukhi, the Gurmukhī scripts are the most commonly used.

Early Punjabi Literature (11-15th centuries)

Although the earliest Punjabi literature is found in the fragments of writings of the eleventh century yogis Gorakshanath and Charpatnah, the Punjabi literary tradition is popularly seen to commence with Fariduddin Ganjshakar (1173–1266) whose Sufi poetry was compiled after his death in the Adi Granth.

The Janamsakhis, stories on the life and legend of Guru Nanak (1469-1539), are early examples of Punjabi prose literature. Nanak’s own poetry was fused Punjabi, Khari Boli and Braj Bhasha, with vocabulary from Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian as was much of the literature of the later Sikh Gurus.

Mughal and Sikh Periods (16th century to 1857)

Punjabi poetry developed through Shah Hussain (1538–1599) and the Sufi tradition of Sultan Bahu (1628–1691), Shah Sharaf (1640–1724), Ali Haider (1690–1785), and Bulleh Shah (1680–1757). In contrast to Persian poets, who had preferred the ghazal for poetic expression, Punjabi Sufi poets tended to compose in the Kafi.


Punjabi Sufi poetry also influenced the Punjabi Qissa, a genre of romantic tragedy which also derived inspiration from Indic, Persian and Quranic sources. The Qissa of Heer Ranjha by Waris Shah (1706–1798) is among the most popular of Punjabi qisse. Other popular stories include Sohni Mahiwal by Fazal Shah, Mirza Sahiba by Hafiz Barkhudar (1658–1707), Sassi Punnun by Hashim Shah (1735?–1843?), and Qissa Puran Bhagat by Qadaryar (1802–1892).

Heroic ballads known as Vaar enjoy a old oral tradition in Punjabi. Prominent examples of heroic or epic poetry include Guru Gobind Singh‘s in Chandi di Var (1666–1708). The semi-historical Nadir Shah Di Vaar by Najabat describes the invasion of India by Nadir Shah in 1739. The Jangnama, or ‘War Chronicle,’ was introduced into Punjabi literature during the Mughal period; the Punjabi Jangnama of Shah Mohammad (1780–1862) recounts the First Anglo-Sikh War of 1845–46.

 The Colonial Period (1858-1947)

The Victorian novel, Elizabethan drama, free verse and Modernism entered Punjabi literature through the introduction of British education during the Raj. The first Punjabi printing press (using Gurmukhi) was established through a Christian mission at Ludhiana in 1835, and the first Punjabi dictionary was published by Reverend J. Newton in 1854.

The Punjabi novel developed through Nanak Singh (1897–1971) and Vir Singh. Starting off as a pamphleteer and as part of the Singh Sabha Movement, Vir Singh wrote historical romance through such novels as Sundari, Satwant Kaur and Baba Naudh Singh, whereas Nanak Singh helped link the novel to the story telling traditions of Qissa and oral tradition as well as to questions of social reform.

The novels, short stories and poetry of Amrita Pritam (1919–2005) highlighted, among other themes, the experience of women, and the Partition of India. Punjabi poetry during the British Raj moreover began to explore more the experiences of the common man and the poor through the work of Puran Singh (1881–1931). Other poets such as Dhani Ram Chatrik (1876–1957), Diwan Singh (1897–1944) and Ustad Daman (1911–1984), explored and expressed nationalism in their poetry during India’s freedom movement.


Modernism was also introduced into Punjabi poetry by Prof. Mohan Singh (1905–78) and Shareef Kunjahi. The Punjabi diaspora also began to emerge during the Raj and also produced poetry whose theme was revolt against British rule in Ghadar di Gunj (Echoes of Mutiny).

Post-Independence literature (1947- )

West Punjab (Pakistan)

Najm Hossein Syed, Fakhar Zaman and Afzal Ahsan Randhawa are some of the more prominent names in West Punjabi literature produced in Pakistan since 1947. Literary criticism in Punjabi has also emerged through the efforts of West Punjabi scholars and poets, Shafqat Tanvir Mirza (b. 1932), Ahmad Salim, and Najm Hosain Syed (b. 1936). The work of Zaman and Randhawa often treats the rediscovery of Punjabi identity and language in Pakistan since 1947.

Urdu poets of the Punjab have also written Punjabi poetry including Munir Niazi (1928–2006).

East Punjab (India)

Amrita Pritam (1919–2005), Shiv Kumar Batalvi (1936–1973), Surjit Paatar (1944–) and Pash (1950–1988) are some of the more prominent poets and writers of East Punjab (India). Pritam’s Sunehe (Messages) received the Sahitya Akademi in 1982. In it, Pritam explores the impact of social morality on women. Kumar’s epic Luna (a dramatic retelling of the legend of Puran Bhagat) won the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1965.


Socialist themes of revolution meanwhile influenced writers like Pash whose work demonstrates the influence of Pablo Neruda and Octavio Paz. Meanwhile, modern drama developed through Ishwar Nanda’s Ibsen-influenced Suhag in 1913, Gursharan Singh who helped popularize the genre through live theatre in Punjabi villages and Kartar Singh Duggal, and Balwant Gargi.

Diaspora Punjabi literature

Punjabi diaspora literature has developed through writers in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and the United States, as well as writers in Africa such as Ajaib Kamal, born in 1932 in Kenya. Themes explored by diaspora writers include the cross-cultural experience of Punjabi migrants, racial discrimination, exclusion, and assimilation, the experience of women in the diaspora, and spirituality in the modern world. Second generation writers of Punjabi ancestry such as Rupinderpal Singh Dhillon (Roop Dhillon) have explored the relationship between British Punjabis and their immigrant parents as well as experiment with surrealism, science-fiction and crime-fiction.

* First published by me in Wikipedia under “Punjabi literature”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punjabi_literature

‘Dil De Tutti kandh Te’ – On the heart’s broken wall – by Mudasar Punnu


Dil de Tutti kandh te
Virlo virli chaRhdi rahndi
Yadan de vail
Pittal akhaaN paan lishkaray
Chann parchaaweyaaN lahndi
AasaaN de trel
Din pattar
Rattan reet hoyaN
Jekar aaway sajjan peyara
Hoye nawaiN swaal

Photo by Mudasar Punnu


‘Mere Ghar nooN Deemak Lag gaye Ae میرے گھر نوں دیمک لگ گئی اے’ by Kausar Jamal

Eh nikki jehi ik soonDi ae
per akaThh hai lakhh karorraN da
eh tere mere ghar vich ghhuss ke
apnay ghar banandi ae
khaki rang de khaimay la ke
vang fauj de rehndi ae
eh hukm waDee sarkar da mann di
sajjan teri ae, na meri ae

Mere ghar nooN deemak lag gaye ae

Eh lakrri kaghaz khhaandi ae
harfan de deway bujhaandi ae
eh neera kardi jaandi ae
kandhaaN boohay Dhandi ae
chhatt siraN tooN lahndi ae
eh gujjiaN maraN dendi ae
eh dushman barri kameeni ae

Mere ghar nooN deemak lag gaye ae

KeiwaiN ais tooN jan bachaawaN
keiwaiN apna ghar bachaawaN
na mardi ae na jaandi ae
na khhairra mera chhaDdi ae
eh kutti dahdi peendi ae
eh dushman barri kameeni ae

Mere ghar nooN deemak lag gaye ae

Siyaanay mainuN den salahwaaN
‘jiss ghar nooN deemak lag jaaway
oss ghar tooN kadi na jaaway
ais ghar diyaN kandhaaN Dhha de
neeyaaN nooN zehr pela de
tooN pehlay ehdi patt bana
fer ghar ik nawaN bana
ais gal vich der na la
jiss ghar nooN deemak lag jaaway
oss ghar tooN kadi na jaaway’.

Siyaanay mainuN den salahwaaN:
ghar ik nawaaN bana

Mere ghar nooN deemak lag gaye ae

میرے گھر نوں دیمک لگ گئی اے

اے نکّی جئی اک سنڈی اے
پر کٹھ ہے لکھ کروڑاں دا
اے تیرے میرے گھر وچ گھس کے
آپنے گھر بناندی اے
خاکی رنگ دے خیمے لا کے
وانگ فوج دے رہندی اے
اے حکم وڈی سرکار دا من دی
سجّن تیری اے، نہ میری اے

میرے گھر نوں دیمک لگ گئی اے

اے لکّڑی کاغذ کھاندی اے
حرفاں دے دیوے بجھاندی اے
اے نیرا کردی جاندی اے
کندھاں بوۓ ڈھاندی اے
چھت سراں توں لاندی اے
اے گجّیاں ماراں دندی اے
اے دشمن بڑی کمینی اے

میرے گھر نوں دیمک لگ گئی اے

میں کیویں اس توں جان چھڑاواں
کیویں آپنا گھر بچاواں
نہ مردی اے نہ جاندی اے
نہ کھیڑا میرا چھڈّدی اے
اے کنّی ڈاڈی پینڈی اے
اے دشمن بڑی کمینی اے

میرے گھر نوں دیمک لگ گئی اے

:سیانے مینوں دین صلاحواں
جس گھر نوں دیمک لگ جاوے ”
اس گھر توں کدی نہ جاوے
اس گھر دیاں کندھاں ڈھا دے
نیواں نوں زہر پلا دے
توں پہلے ایدھی پٹ بنآ
فیر گھر اک نواں بنا
اس کم وچ دیر نہ لا
جس گھر نوں دیمک لگ جاوے
“اس گھر توں کدی نہ جاوے

:سیانے مینوں دین صلاحواں
گھر اک نواں بنا

میرے گھر نوں دیمک لگ گئی اے

Kausar Jamal is a Pakistani poet and fiction writer working as a language professional in Australia. She has published a collection of her Urdu short storiesJahan-e-Digar’ in 2006 (Poorab Academy, Islamabad) to high acclaim. Her other publications include: travelogue ‘Cheeni MangoloN ke Shehr MeiN’ (Youyi Publications, 1987), ‘Cheen MeiN Urdu’ (National Language Authority, Islamabad 1986), ‘Jadeed Cheeni Zaban’ (NUML, Islamabad 1985), Chinese poetry translated in Urdu ‘Mehektey Haar’ (Pakistan Academy of Letters, Islamabad 1984), a collection of Chinese folk stories translated in Urdu ‘Moor Shahzadi’ (Foreign Languages Press, Beijing 1983).

Momentary, Immediate, and Urgent: Amarjit Chandan

Amarjit Chandan joins our Ventures Tour tomorrow, Fri 2 Nov, at Off The Shelf Festival in Sheffield (details here). We asked him some questions in anticipation of his readings in Sheffield, Wakefield, Hebden Bridge, Halifax and Nottingham over the next few days.

How would you describe your poetry?
I have been asked this question many times and each time I evade it saying: I write about any thing – from God to the tomato. I’ve written a poem about the latter and I rather like it.
I think contemporary poets and literary critics including readers are better in describing a poet’s work.

When did you begin writing poetry?
I inherited poetry from my father who was a poet. My first poem was published in the prestigious Punjabi magazine Preet Lari when I was 20.

How have you developed and improved your poetry since you started? What is your writing process? Do you write alone or with the help of others?
One learns all the time. I write alone. It is revealed to me. It can happen any time, anywhere. I have written walking the streets scribbling on pieces of paper.

What encouraged you to take part in the Arc tour? What do you hope to achieve? What are you most looking forward to?
My publishers encouraged me! I’d like to reach more people who appreciate poetry. I’d talk about how the Punjabi listeners respond to poets reading in public. Unlike the English scene it is always lively. They respond to each word, image or a line they like by saying aloud like: Wow! Great! Marvelous! Mukarar – say it again! Bravo! The English tend to reach out to the poet after the reading, saying simply: that poem or line I really liked. A woman in Lancaster (34th Litfest 20th October) came to me telling how she was touched by my poem ‘To Father’ and could not control her tears.

How much does reading in new contexts change the way you think about your work?
Readers’ and listeners’ response is what really matters. I have read in all sorts of contexts – from large gatherings to intimate circles – amongst my own community and non-Punjabis. I feel rewarded even if there is a single person present who you know is touched by your words or a silent pause in your poem.
Sometimes I’ve a weird feeling while reading, which I have shared with my close friends, a parallel track runs in my thoughts that I shouldn’t be doing this – making public my innermost thoughts like a love poem or poems written about my loved ones. It wasn’t meant to be like this. My friends comfort me that it is sharing – that’s what poetry is all about.
Reading while recording in a semi-dark studio is bizarre and overwhelming – the subjects of your poems appear before your eyes and you talk face-to-face with them.

What do you think is most important in a poetry translation? Is fidelity to the original the most important thing, for example?
The original is crucial. The translation has to be faithful to the original in its own way.

What place do you think poetry has in contemporary culture?
Poetry has certain contemporariness about it by its very nature – it’s momentary, immediate, and urgent. It has the central place where our hearts are. It has always been the case and will ever be.

Are there any British poets you have been inspired by or you particularly admire?
I particularly admire John Berger. He is the master. As a man and a writer he is so inspiring. My writing is very much influenced by his work. Other English poets who are my favourite: Dannie Abse, Adrian Mitchell, Owen Sheers and Jackie Kay.

What are the difficulties facing poets in the Punjab?
Their main difficulty is to get published. There are no funding bodies like Arts Council etc. Most of the poets are into self-publishing or they have to pay the publishers and the readership is also shrinking. The poets in West Punjab Pakistan are in dire straits. It is the most populous province of Pakistan, with more than 55% of the country’s total population. Unlike the Indian Punjab, Punjabi has no status there: it has no official recognition in the Constitution of Pakistan. It is not taught at the primary school level. Even Punjabi members of national assembly are not allowed to make speeches in their own mother tongue.

Amarjit Chandan
22 October 2012

Posted by Arc, 1st November 2012


Protect Mirza-Sahiban’s Mausoleum in Punjab

Photo by Sohail Abid, 2010

This is the burying place of Mirza Sahiban in Danabad. It is facing the worst neglect because of the stigma attached to the two lovers. There is also danger that there graves may be erased by, the now stronger, conservative section of the local community. It must be declared a National Heritage site. The following information is shared by Sohail Abid on Facebook. Uddari

‘The mausoleum of Miraza-Sahiban, in depilated condition, is located in Danabad union council in Jaranwala. Local men do not let their women visit the mausoleum fearing they might follow the footsteps of Sahiban. People were convinced that visits by women to the mausoleum increased their chances of eloping and thus they banned women from visiting the place.

‘Hayat Kharal, from 384 GB Jhandwali village said Akram alias Akri’s daughter eloped with her lover five years ago when she returned from Mirza-Sahibain’s shrine. Sahadat Ali Kharal, a resident, told Daily Times that their forefathers believed that the “dirt cemetery of Mirza-Sahiban” should be demolished because many women would become immoral. Qasoo Kharal, another resident, said the memory of Mirza and Sahiban must be erased.’

‘That’s from a 2006 Daily Times story. When I visited the place in Dec 2010, it was there. Erasing the graves is not a matter as simple in the muslim tradition of the sub-continent. But yes, the people don’t really want to visit the mausoleum. This photo was taken during my visit in 2010.’

Sohail Abid

Related content at Uddari
‘SahebaN’s Name’ by Fauzia Rafique
‘SahebaN’s Name’, Part 2

‘Rafique Dost Laye’ (for Rafique friend) a poem by Zubair Ahmad

Teri kinj kahani kereye arreye
rut purani ker bethay aaN

Pooni pooni ker jo kateya
ohda taan na taneya
‘chaldeyaN vidaa na keeta’
‘kakh baal na baneray dharay’
kinj likhhiye raam kahani
sab sukhn zubani ker bethhay aaN

Ajab shaam nagr vich aayi
booha pichhla oh langhh aayi
jinhay dhhoi Dar di taaki
suman raat akhheiN vich paayi
eh raat akhheiN rakhh lainday
akhh dardaaN pani ker bethay aaN
rut purani ker bethay aaN

* ‘chaldeyaN vidaa na keeta’ Madholal Hussain de kaafi ‘aiNwain gaye vehaaye, koi dam yaad na kaatea’
* ‘kakhh baal na baneray dhareye’ Najm hosain Syed de nazm ‘kakhh baal ke banereyaaN te dhhareye jee’ toon

Fauzia Rafique laye eh nazm Zubair Ahmad ne 2005 ch likhhi. 2007 ch eh Lahore de risaalay ‘Pancham’ ch shahmukhi ch chappi.

تیری کنج کہا نی کرئیے اڑیئے

تیری کنج کہا نی کرئیے اڑیئے
رُت پرانی کر بیٹھے آں

پُونی پُونی کر جو کتیا
اوہدا تان نہ تنیا
ْ”چلدیاں وداع نہ کیتا”
“کُکھ بال نہ بنیرے دھرئے”
کنج لکھیے رام کہانی
سبھ سُخن زبانی کر بیٹھے آں

عجب شام نگر وچ آئی
بوہا پچھلا اوہ لنگھ آئی
جس ڈھوئی ڈر دی تاکی
سُپن رات اکھیں وچ پائی
ایہہ رات اکھیں رکھ لیندے
اکھ درداں پانی کر بیٹھے آں
رُت پرانی کر بیٹھے آں


‘چلدیاں وداع نہ کیتا’٭ مادھو لال حُسین دی کافی ‘انیویں گئی وہاء ِ، کوئی دم یاد نہ کیتا۔’

‘ککھ بال نہ بنرتے دھریے’۔نجم حُسین سیدّ دی نظم’ ککھ بال کے بنیریاں تے دھریے جی’


ਰਫ਼ੀਕ ਦੋਸਤ ਲਈ

ਕਿੰਜ ਤੇਰੀ ਕਹਾਣੀ ਕਰੀਏ ਅੜੀਏ
ਰੁੱਤ ਪੁਰਾਣੀ ਕਰ ਬੈਠੇ ਆਂ

ਪੂਣੀ ਪੂਣੀ ਕਰ ਜੋ ਕਤਿਆ
ਉਹਦਾ ਤਾਨ ਨਾ ਤਣਿਆ
“ਚੱਲਦਿਆਂ ਵਿਦਾ ਨਾ ਕੀਤਾ”
“ਕੱਖ ਬਾਲ ਨਾ ਬਨੇਰੇ ਧਰੇ”
ਕਿੰਜ ਲਿਖੀਏ ਰਾਮ ਕਹਾਣੀ
ਸਭ ਸੁਖ਼ਨ ਜ਼ਬਾਨੀ ਕਰ ਬੇਠੇ ਆਂ
ਰੁੱਤ ਪੁਰਾਣੀ ਕਰ ਬੈਠੇ ਆਂ

ਅਜਬ ਸ਼ਾਮ ਨਗਰ ਵਿੱਚ ਆਈ
ਬੂਹਾ ਪਿਛਲਾ ਜੋ ਲੰਘ ਆਈ
ਉਸ ਢੋਈ ਡਰ ਦੀ ਤਾਕੀ
ਸੁਪਨ ਰਾਤ ਅੱਖੀਂ ਵਿੱਚ ਪਾਈ

ਏਹ ਰਾਤ ਅੱਖੀਂ ਰੱਖ ਲੈਂਦੇ
ਅੱਖ ਦਰਦਾਂ ਪਾਣੀ ਕਰ ਬੈਠੇ ਆਂ
ਰੁੱਤ ਪੁਰਾਣੀ ਕਰ ਬੈਠੇ ਆਂ


* ਏਹ ਸਤਰ ਸ਼ਾਹ ਹੁਸੈਨ ਦੀ ਕਾਫ਼ੀ ਤੋ ਏ
* ਏਹ ਸਤਰ ਨਜਮ ਹੁਸੈਨ ਸਯੱਦ ਦੀ ਨਜ਼ਮ “ਕੱਖ ਬਾਲ ਕੇ ਬਨੇਰਿਆਂ ’ਤੇ ਧਰੀਏ ਜੀ” ਤੋਂ ਏ।

Zubair Ahmad is a Lahore based author, poet, editor and cultural activist.
Visit his Facebook Page
Contact Zubair at

SadhraaN ‘سدھراں’ a Punjabi Poem by Masood Munawer

Ishq da booha band suninda, aa ral ke khharrkayeye
Dhol vagaayeye

Matt Bullah sanooN lohla jaanay, paireen ghhunghhroo paayeye
Yaar manaayeye

Sunj bha-ee sab dhoo-aiN ujrray, sajri dhookh dukhaayeye
Dhoorr dhumaayeye

Ra Masood, na peer na sadhu, kis theeN sadqay jaayeye
RushdaaN paayeye



عشق دا بوہا بند سُنی دا ، آ رل کے کھڑکائیے
ڈھول وگائیے

مت بُلھا سانوں لولہا جانے ، پیریں گھُنگرو پائیے
یار منائیے

سُنج بھئی سب دھوئیں اُجڑے ، سجری دھوخ دھُخائیے
دھُوڑ دھُمائیے

را مسعود ، نہ پیر نہ سادھو ، کس تھیں صدقے جاَئیے
رُشداں پائیے


First published in Shahmukhi by Masood munawar at his Facebook page. View it here:

Satrangi Sangat – Classic & Modern Panjabi Poetry Readings – London UK – July 6/12

The exciting (re)launch of Panjabi Sangat, a reading and sharing group of Classic and Modern Panjabi Literature
Satrangi Sangat – The London Panjabi Literature Group
Launch and welcoming event
6-9pm on Friday 6th July
In the teaching room of Jas Musicals
14 Chiltern Street London W1U 7PY
(5mins from Baker St and 10 mins from Bond St Underground)

In this first session we’re are planning to explore texts by:
Baba Faridji, classic poetry of the originator of the written Panjabi Sufi cannon
Surjit Pattar, contemporary poet, recipient of Padamshree Award, the finest contemporary Panjabi Poet in India today
Fauzia Rafique, modern verse by radical Canadian based Poet, novelist and blogger (Uddari Weblog)
Shiv Kumar Batalvi, iconic Panjabi poet of the 20thC, work presented by Raja Junjua

Developing the traditional format
The London Sangat will explore and share Modern Panjabi Writing- indeed from a now global community and, equally, create innovative opportunities for people to improve their heard and spoken Panajbi. Eventually, we’d also like to encourage co-facilitation from you, to create a truly collective forum.

We envisage the initial session to be an exploratory one- many new members are attending and we’d like to share and discuss with you the form that this Sangat hopes to take.

The London Sangat will of course, include the traditional process of reading, singing (as appropriate(!)) and discussing text collectively, but we also intend to avail modern technology i.e. the Internet- to explore the increasing range of both Classic: Sufi, Guru, Bhagat Bani – and Modern Panjabi literature that is now becoming available in diverse written, and spoken form to us.

We’ll be serving refreshments and snacks: give you a chance to meet each other, and then spend some time leading you through a Sangat, and also telling you more about it’s sister event- the SATRANGI DARBAR.

The Satrangi Sangat used to take place annually in Southall, and was generally presided over by Professer Saeed Firanni of Rawalpindi University, West Panjab.
Some of you have editions of his groundbreaking series: Panjabi Sufi Wisdom, which presents classic texts of the Sufi Masters of Panjabi in accessible, multi-lingual texts with translation.

I’m now delighted to inform you that our long term intention- to establish the Sangat in Central London and so create a London wide accessibility- has now been realised as Jas Musicals have kindly let us use their London premises(nr Baker St) for monthly gatherings.

We hope that you’ll agree that as an important, collective (Sanjhi) venture, your contribution, and feedback is essential to us and to the Sangat’s continued success -so I really hope to see you there!

We’d be delighted for you to join us at this very special gathering.

Parminder Chadha
Raja Junjua

Email: pammykamli@gmail.com

‘Hamraz Ahsan’s Third Eye’ by Arif Waqar

Hamraz Ahsan is a well known figure in the Asian circles of England: an experienced Urdu journalist and columnist, a trusted researcher for documentary film producers, and an authentic Punjabi poet who is equally respected in the Muslim and Sikh communities of the UK.

His first Punjabi collection ‘Tibyan uttay Chhawaan’ (Shades on Dunes) got good response from general readers as well as skeptical critics. He wrote several short poems on various aspects of the life of Pakistani immigrants in Great Britain and these poems were collected in a book called ‘Paar Samundraan Wallay’ (Trapped on the Other side of the Ocean). His most recent work is a collection of Punjabi quatrains: ‘Meki Kujh na Aakh’ (Don’t Scold Me)

These short poems draw on the Sufi tradition of Punjabi poetry and they are composed in the traditional four-line format. Before we proceed further let’s have a look at some of these quatrains… in English translation, of course:

Don’t scold me
The worthlessness immersed in my soul
I took the leash of the beast within
And collared myself instead

Don’t scold me
I left both mammon and mother
To take a peek at the firmament
I returned disenchanted, Adam’s brood once more

Don’t scold me
I have wept in my dreams
Churning the vat of my heart
Hot tears my only curd

Don’t scold me
I have worn out my soul
For each act I was given a different costume
Made by the designer, I simply put it on

Don’t scold me
In the dust before me glint particles of sand
In my sky only darkness reins
Stars are trodden underfoot

Don’t scold me
My mantra neither Rab nor Rama
I seek benediction without supplication
Clutching neither Koran nor Gita

Don’t scold me
I have forged eternal bonds with fire
Red embers caress my palms
I, the baker, whose hand is married to the burning clay oven

Don’t scold me
I met my groom in my dotage
My ear rings hang loose from my ears
My nose cannot bear the knobbing ornament’s weight
Translated by the poet

These quatrains are preceded by a detailed, and rather philosophical preface, titled ‘Khraabkaar di teeji akkh’… The Third Eye of the Subverter… masterfully written by Professor Amin Mughal, who firmly believes in the Subversion Theory of Herbert Marcuse, and without referring to him directly, Professor Mughal says, “Authentic poetry, indeed all authentic art, is subversive. Hamraz Ahsan is subversive, and his subversion is directed against his (inner) self. Let’s not forget that ‘self’ is constituted by man’s relations with the universe, of which he himself is a part. Hamraz seeks to break his self, that is, his relations with the rest of the universe and his self, in order to identify all those relations that stand in the way of his self becoming, or moving continuously towards becoming, an authentic self!’

To describe the subversive nature of an authentic artist, Prof. Mughal uses the term ‘kharaabkaar’. This Persian word denotes a destroyer or a saboteur, but traditionally this expression has been reserved for qalanders, or the wandering dervishes. Some of the quatrains in this book have direct references to qalanders.

Hamraz negates class and cast, and the lust that is caused by them. But a distinctive feature of Hamraz’s poetry is his negation of gender distinction. This aspect may easily be overlooked because it forms the base of Punjabi poetry and is therefore not obtrusive and hence not visible. The obliteration of the category of gender turns the poet and the sufi into the woman, and not merely a woman but, following Dostoevsky, they become the prostitute the dust of whose feet they kiss with reverence.

To become a fallen woman is not enough; to think and feel like her is the ultimate test of the negation of gender, and Hamraz tries to do precisely the same.

A major role in the formation of inauthentic relations is played by the way that man employs to see the universe. The way is empirical, rooted in rationalism, and ultimately the senses. The metaphor for the senses in Hamraz’s poetry is ‘the two eyes’ The third eye is needed to authenticate one’s self. The failure of the third eye to open causes the elusiveness of what is missing. The poet starts from negation and reconstitute his self and ultimately affirms life and the universe, but on his own terms. It is no accident then, that Hamraz’s patron saint is Madho Lal Hussain and the 101 quatrains dedicated to his murshid have grown on soil of the Punjabi folk tradition.

‘I did not follow any particular genre of Punjabi poetry’ says Hamraz, ‘the four-line structure came naturally to me, but the words of the first line (me ki kujh na aakh) were uttered by a woman in Pothohar. I heard them years ago and somehow they stuck to my mind’.

One unique feature of this poetry book is its dual script: it’s printed both in Persian and Gurmukhi scripts. It’s worth mentioning that the Lingua Franca of the pre-partition Punjab was divided into two separate languages, in 1947, on the basis of Gurmukhi and Shahmukhi (Persian) scripts. Speakers of the same language, ironically, are unable to read each other’s ideas in the written form, and thus the Punjabi literature is mutually unintelligible across the borders in Indian and Pakistani Punjab.

During my recent visit to London, I had a chance to see the poet in person and discuss the situation with him. ‘How do you compare the situation in Southhall, Nottingham, Birmingham, Leeds or other diaspora centres in the UK?’ I asked Hamraz, ‘Do you think there are better chances, in this more educated and liberal atmosphere, of breaking the script barrier?’

‘I don’t accept the premise that Punjabi communities are more educated and liberal in the UK than in the Punjab’ comes the answer from the poet, ‘I migrated to this country as an adult, but all my children were born and brought up here in Britain, and the willful lack of integration between diverse groups meant that while Hindu, Sikh and Muslim children may have been friends at school, intermarriage between these religions means ostracism for both parties, or even worse, rather than creating a need to understand and communicate across the divide. Certainly anecdotally most of the young Punjabis I know – Sikh, Hindu or Muslim – do not read either script, even if they’re fluent orally. The similarities of language mean a close bond of friendship but friendship is not the same as a desire to read extant literature of either group because this would require a level of educating oneself that is barely there for the English language, let alone for either scripts of the Punjabi’.

If that’s the case, why did he take the trouble to publish his poetry in both scripts? ‘Just because most of my friends and readers in East Punjab, Europe and North America, cannot read Persian script’.

The status of Punjabi language in the Pakistani Punjab is quite enigmatic: there are hundreds of Sindhi medium and Pushto medium schools in Pakistan but not a single Punjabi medium school in the whole country. ‘What’s your take on educating Punjabi kids in their mother tongue?’
Hamraz looked at me rather helplessly, as if I had put him a very unexpected question. ‘well, I’m a Punjabi poet, but not an activist; this question should be asked of those who have been working for the cause of Punjabi’.

Alright then, let’s come to a less political question:
Shahmukhi (Persian) script is not hundred percent phonetic and Gurmukhi is associated with the Sikh religion; in this situation, can Roman script be a way-out? If not, what else can be done to enable the Punjabis across the borders to read each other’s literature?
‘I think that would be an inelegant solution’ comes the answer from the Punjabi poet, ‘to me, the best approach is straightforward translation. While it is easy to become dazzled by the thought that it is the same language in two distinct scripts and want logically to bring about one that crosses borders, it isn’t resolved by learning a third set of phonetic symbols. Before long each group would be bemoaning the endangerment of their own scripts as youth are always game for learning the easiest way out, in this case Roman script. In a lesser form, good publishers edit books for American English and idioms when presenting a UK or Australian text in the States. Publishers should just accept the need to pay translators to do the same for texts crossing borders within the Punjab’.

From Saqib Maqsood (http://puncham.com/) at Pancham Sulaikh SaNg

Book Launch: ‘Naal Sajjan de Rahiye’ by Afzal Saahir – Surrey March 4 and 6/2012

‘Naal Sajjan de Rehye’
Punjabi Poetry by Afzal Saahir
Shahmukhi edition: Sanjh Pulications, Lahore PK 2011
Gurumukhi edition: Uddari Books, Surrey CA 2012

Poet and Radio Host Afzal Saahir has published his first collection of Punjabi poetry titled ‘Naal Sajjan de Rehiye’ in both Shahmukhi and Gurumukhi scripts, and is launching it this week.

The first launch is organized by Aarsi Punjabi
On Sunday March 4, 2012
12:30 – 4:30 PM
At Grand Taj Banquet Hall
8388 128 Street, Surrey
(604) 599-4342

The Second launch is organized by Uddari Books, Surrey Muse and Committee of Progressive Pakistanis
On Tuesday March 6, 2012
6 – 9 PM
At Newton Exchange branch of Surrey Public Library (SPL)
13795 70 Avenue

‘Afzal Saahir de andar Sultan Bahu apni chambay de bootti laa geya ae’. Amrita Pritam

Download PDF Poster

In the Memory of Pash – Greenford UK – Sept 10/11

The UK Committee of
Pash Memorial International Trust presents
In the memory of Punjabi Poet Paash
On Saturday, 10 September 2011
At Greenford Park Residents Hall
18 Queen’s Ave (Off Windmill Lane)
Greenford, Middlesex UB6 9BX

Free Parking on Windmill Lane

4.00 pm – Refreshments
4.30 pm – a Discussion Paper by Avtar Uppal
A brief look at Women’s situation in Indian Society
6.30 pm – Break – Refreshments
7.00 pm – 8.30 pm – Poetic Symposium

Poets and Writers from the UK and abroad are expected to participate.

Food will be served after the poetic symposium

For further information, contact PMIT (UK) Committee Members
Avtar Uppal, Bharat Bhushan, Darshan Bulandavi, Harjit Atwal, K C Mohan, Santokh Singh Santokh & Sukhdev Sidhu

It is an absolute honour to invite you to the Function.

Your participation is sought and is much appreciated to ensure success of the event. We cordially extend our invitation to you and all progressive/secular people to take part in this event.

We look forward to seeing you all on 10th September 2011.

Sukhdev Sidhu
On Behalf of
PMIT (UK) Committee Members

Driving directions to venue

Paash Blog.

Roop Dhillon’s ‘Bharind’ – Book Review by Rajinder Bhachu

Poems and Short Stories
By Roop Dhillon
Lahore Publishers
Ludhiana 2011
ISBN: 978-81-7647-283-8


Roop Dhillon is not a writer. He is an artist. The words one reads, the sentences structured are surreal, rebellious, and against the laws of grammar. Yet they work very well. He is a writer’s writer. The imagination from his pen creates vivid cinematic poetry and imagery, be it describing the stark social realities for Punjabis, or bizarre and shocking alien terrains. This is quite a feat for two reasons. The first is Roop Dhillon is English born and raised and self taught in Punjabi, the second is his first Punjabi book written ten years ago, although an interesting story, was very very poor in terms of correct Punjabi grammar and syntax. Not that any of his current writings hold him back on experimenting. There is a clear difference between the previous novel, where one can say Roop lacked the Punjabi language, and now, where it is in the western raised Punjabi’s idiom, but no longer irritating to read. I have been privileged to see the work he is currently working on, and can say if Neela Noor is Roop’s Grimus, then the next piece may well be his Midnight’s children. That however will remain to be seen. His latest book, Bharind, is a collection of 15 short stories and 22 patriotic poems. Each story is followed by poems before going onto the next story.

Ten years of struggling, learning to read and write Punjabi at home, in an area where there are few Punjabi or Asian people, and no Punjabi language teachers, has not resulted in a vain journey. It has produced an unusually titled book, influenced partly by Punjabi authors such as Amrita Preetum, Ajaib Kamal and Shivcharan Jaggi Kussa, but more so from reading English novels ( including I suspect a host of foreign European translations into English) and writers such as Kafka, Graham Greene and Milan Kundera. I suspect that Roop is a huge Hollywood fan, as all his stories have plots not dissimilar to American films, especially futuristic and fantasy ones. The skill in Bharind is bringing all this together in a Punjabi relevant milieu and producing possibly a new genre of writing in the language. Roop is a pioneer who blends traditional Punjabi techniques and idioms with western influenced ideas and methods of writing. The result is prose that can compete with international languages.

The subjects covered in the short stories cover many contempory social issues facing Punjabis, from farmers who hang themselves, drug addicts to the much denied incest issue. The stories and poems are also unashamedly proud of Punjabi as a language, criticizing those who choose English, Urdu and Hindi over a much maligned tongue. There is also the questioning of identity, by the western born Punjabi. Am I eastern or western? The final story, Speed, compares vividly with minimal effort and description the changing landscape of Punjab and aspirations of the new generation, contrasted with regrets of the old. Let us examine each story in brief.

The first story is Laal Lehar, which is very direct and to the point. It is about the sexual abuse of a girl by her chacha. The story is written in the first person and quickly winds the heart of the reader. It uses a mix of Punjabi colloquialism and short sharp sentence structure seen in modern English literature. The techniques are similar to John Banville’s and sometimes have to be read twice. Roop mixes the regional accents of Malwi, Doabi and Majdi Punjai with Lanhdi and English. There is some use of Hindi and Urdu as well, but an acceptable level. This occurs thorough out the prose, but I think is acceptable as no living languages survives if it does not change to reflect the usage of its speakers or absorbs new words from outside sources. There is a shocking ending literally, which will throw those off that are only use to reading village based literature or like Indian TV dramas.

The second story is Daaj denh daa nateja. As the title suggests this tale deals with the realities of a dowry and the consequences from the view again of the woman. It is familiar and comfortable, which is I suspect why Roop wrote it. The third story is a complete departure from anything that has ever been written in Punjabi. Although again it is an issue based story, Kaldaar introduces a new word into the Punjabi lexicon, Kaldaar which we soon realise refers not only to robots, but machinery with an intelligence that is down trodden and used by man for toil. Influenced strongly by Asimov, this is a story about caste, prejudice and slavery. The Robots as described could easily be the Bhayyias, a disdainful word to describe Biharis, seen as invading Punjab, or they could be the Dalit class, rising against the system. This is quite timely considering what has been happening with the Chammar community in real life in the Jalandar area. But again, the twist is not the retelling of a story already told by a western writer, but a shocking reveal about what could happen to the majority population of India; the poor, as food resources decline. Again, I will leave the reader to find out for themselves.

The next story is Vikaas, an amazing sweep of the imagination that mixes social concerns of the Punjab, with eco-global concerns of the rest of the world. I think the title is meant to be ironic, as the tale shows a world at its end, sending out many spacecraft to look for another habitable planet. The description of the journey and the new world is sublime and beautiful. Traditional Punjabi sentence structure is twisted until it is as alien as the world, but produces beautiful imagery. Vikaas shows how a Pancheyt on another world judges man. Man’s mind is used to project history of Homo Sapiens like a film, showing the true dark nature of the beast. His attitude towards woman, race and war. The ending is truly sad.

As if to provide relief from these fantastical stories, Laash sticks to the real world and an apparent suicide in modern Ludhiana. It is a distraction from the more amazing stories but familiar in its content. It’s like Roop was afraid to lose the typical Punjabi reader, and felt he needed to return back to themes often explored in Punjabi novels. It was a relief for me then, when Dunga Paani, took me back into the crazy and fantastic mind of Mr Dhillon. The title says it all. But this is different from both previous pieces of Science Fiction. It is psychological, dealing with how a woman copes with the death of her drowned child, this time in a futuristic Ludhiana. Like the previous story, it has elements of a detective story. The main character is called Heer after Waris Shah’s heroine. Despite he fear of water since the event she is sent deep into the sea to investigate the death of a Scientist called Kaido, who is part of a team searching for a replacement for oil. The ecological themes mix with Heer’s own feelings. The real twist is that all the characters are named after famous couples and their associates from Qissas. Mirza and Sahiban appear as well as others who have their traditional roles reversed. This Heer’s son in this story is named after the father from the Qissa. The story is good enough and tense enough to be made into a film and is my personal favourite. As before there is an unexpected filmi twist.

Shohdi Istari is perhaps the shortist story, more a mini kahani. Again it deals with the treatment of women, in a very poetic and beautiful way. To say more will be to say too much. It is followed by a similar type of story, Viaah da nateja. Both are set in the real familiar world. The next story, Piaar Da Naa Manjoor Saroop, completes the trilogy about female treatment. However this time it is set in Harrappa in the far past, where Roop re-imagines an open minded society on the verge of its fall into the repressed Indus Valley of today. This story is actually online and has so far had over 4,000 hits, possibly making it his most popular short story. The reason? It is taboo. It is the story of two women in love, a condition deemed unnatural. It is not sexually explicit or exploitative but is erotic.

We race off like Michael J Fox in a time travelling car in the next tale, Chori Da Nateja, which deals with out a thief is punished after his gang rob a post office, followed by Canadian Gangster which is wholly set in reality. The latter depicts the effects of drugs, guns and car accidents on the children of the Punjabi community as they helplessly watch the ‘Brown on Brown’ crime. The next story, Dil Diaah Peerhan, is more traditional, as it deals with a woman’s thoughts on her life and relationship with her children and husband. This might possibly be the weakest tale, and I suspect autobiographical in some way. I understand this was the first story Roop wrote after Neela Noor, so I am not surprised. It is followed by another story set in the real world, Rang. This is an experimental piece about a thief. Roop attempts to use language to paint a picture in our minds by colouring the scenery. The main character may in one scene be dressed in red, in a red room where everything else is red. This should give you an idea of the kind of story it is. I shall leave it to you to judge whether the experiment works or not. Colourful, it certainly is.

Mulakat is the next tale, set in a dhaba, it is an interview of a man’s memories of 1947, and the events in a particular village where Hindus and Muslims lived in relative peace and harmony, except that two criminal families exist. Each is hell bent on destroying the other. One happens to be led by a Muslim, the other a Hindu. The tense environment is strained further when an unnamed Nihang walks into the town and offers his services to the Muslim gang, after being racially abused by the Hindu one. The amoral choices he makes hide his true intentions from both gangs.

The penultimate story is Bharind. This is Kafkaesque and disturbing. Wonderful, yet frightening images are constructed in the mind, as the reader is left to decide whether Heera, the protagonist is a victim of some alien bite, transforming into a hornet, or whether he is on a bad drip due to years of abusing drugs. It is not quite like Metamorphosis as it is not so much Heera turning as the whole world around him. His drug dealer, his mother sister and brother – in – law. The story indirectly deals with drug abuse, and shows how it can warp the mind and finally destroy a human being. Heera is from a tragic family, the father having hung himself when he could not pay debts. But instead of working hard to pay them off, he spends all he has on drugs. The result is his sister has to take up the slack and throws him out, despite her mother’s protestations. Heera wonders the streets, ruthlessly even robbing the poor, constantly hearing a buzzing in his mind. He is today’s Punjabi youth, sadly.

The final story, Speed is a masterpiece in skilful writing. Where Bharind relies on detailed imagery, and use of powerful but descriptive words almost filming the tale in ones head, as one sees the horrors that Heera does, Speed is simple short and effective. Where a lot happens in Bharind ( Potentially another film plot), with many gloriously described scenes, helping to create character, all that happens in the last story is two individuals travel in a car from the village to the city. Yet in that time we see both their thoughts as they look out of the car window at Punjab speeding past, with all its changes as it progresses from Pind to Shair. In a few paragraphs we see the lamentations of the old passenger seeing his world wisp away, and the youngster looking forward to the modern world, as mile after mile the scene outside becomes more and more urban. In this idea Roop catches the changes in Punjab poetically.

In addition to the 15 stories there are over a score of poems, lamenting over the under use of Punjabi to the treatment of women. I think it inappropriate to go through each one of these. Needless to say there are some beautiful gems amongst the poems, and one or two that may even become classics.

It would not surprise me if in a matter of months Bharind became a study text. It is truly that good, and quite possibly the best collection of short stories in ten years, sprinkled with many good poems for size. It is at once an issue based book, lamenting the state of Punjabyat, and dealing with gender, caste and abuse; whilst on the other hand offering up a new genre in Punjabi Literature which fits in better with the Harry Potter reading new generation in India, with its I-pods, aliens and drug induced hallucinations. This is quite possibly a beginning of a new kind of Punjabi Genre that may kick start life again in to a language which needs it. The release is timely as their seems to be a revival for all things Punjabi at the moment.

Twenty years ago Alaap and Heera made Punjabi music sexy, resulting in a new kind of sound imported into India from the UK. Now quite possibly the same might happen with Literature. I thoroughly recommend serious readers of Punjabi have a copy of Bharind on their bookshelves. I predict with time, Roop Dhillon may become a significant and recognised writer.


Book is available from
Lahore Book Shop

Book publishers, distributors & exporters
2, Lajpat Rai Market
Near Society Cinema,
Ludhiana – 141008,
Punjab, India.
Phone: +91-161-2740738

Reviewer’s opinions are her own.

Book Launch ‘Passion Fruit-Tahnget Phal’ by Fauzia Rafique

Launching Fauzia Rafique’s
Chapbook of English and Punjabi poetry
‘Passion Fruit-Tahnget Phal’
Readings From her novel
Cover Art
Kanwal Dhaliwal
Event Hosted by
Valerie B. Taylor

Sunday, June 26
1 to 3 PM
Renaissance Books
#43-6th Street
New Westminster
(Columbia Skytrain Station)

‘Passion Fruit – Tahnget Phal’ combines some of Fauzia’s original English and Punjabi poems. Punjabi presented in both Gurumukhi and Shahmukhi scripts.

Published by Uddari Books (Surrey, British Columbia) with support from Author Manolis of Libros Libertad.

A Tribute to Ahmad Salim – Islamabad – June 23/11

A Celebration of Fifty Years of Writing
Thursday, June 23rd, 2011
SDPI Seminar Hall
38 Embassy Road, G-6/3, Islamabad

Nafeesa Shah
MNA & Chairperson, National Commission for Human Development (NCHD)
Tariq Rahman
Professor/Director, National Institute of Pakistan Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University
Zafarullah Khan
Executive Director, Centre for Civic Education (CEC)
Abid Q. Suleri
Executive Director, Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI)

Ahmad Saleem, Senior Advisor at SDPI, is a teacher, language instructor, archivist, writer, poet, researcher, translator, and editor with the Government of Pakistan, media, international organizations and research institutions.

He has received Presidential Pride of Performance Award in 2010 for his excellent contributions in the field of literature. He has also won many other awards including the Writer’s Guild Award, Masood Khaddarposh Award, Satguru Ram Singh Azadi Award (UK), Punjabi Adabi Sangat Award (UK) and best script for PTV documentary (Cholistan) in 1978.

Ahmad Salim was born on 26 January 1945 in village Miana Gondal in district Mandi Bahauddin of Punjab. This year will mark the 50th year of his untiring services with pen as his first publication was written way back in 1961 during his secondary school education. Since then he has contributed over 200 publications including 95 books, 25 research publications (4 on curriculum/ education), 10 international publications and many articles in reputed newspapers.

From 1996 to June 2007, Ahmad Salim worked as Director of Urdu Publications for SDPI and he continues working with the Institute as Senior Advisor. He has also been associated with the South Asian Research and Resource Centre (SARRC).


Faisal Nadeem Gorchani & Sadia Sharif
Sustainable Development Policy Institute Email: sadia@sdpi.org
Email: gorchani@sdpi.org

More on Ahmad Salim