Urdu Poetry and Iqbal

iqbalpic

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).

Indian poet Gulzar pulls out of Karachi Literature Festival

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KARACHI: Leading Indian poet Gulzar, who won an Oscar for writing song lyrics for the smash hit movie “Slumdog Millionaire”, has pulled out of the Karachi Literary festival at the last minute, organisers said Wednesday.

Syed Ahmed Shah, one of the organisers of the Karachi Literature Festival, confirmed Gulzar had pulled out – just two days before the start of the event.

“We can’t say about the reasons and circumstances that led to his return home without attending the festival,” Shah told AFP.

Indian officials denied Pakistani media reports that they had advised the poet to return to India.

Vishal Bhardwaj, an Indian director traveling with Gulzar, said there was “nothing political” about the withdrawal.

The 76-year-old was simply “emotionally overwhelmed and stressed” after visiting his birthplace, in Pakistan, for the first time in 70 years, Bhardwaj insisted.

But a Pakistani film director, who met Gulzar during his visit, told AFP on condition of anonymity that he left the country “because of some security concerns”.

Gulzar was scheduled to read from his poetry as well as take part in discussion groups and Shah said his absence would disappoint millions of admirers in Pakistan.

“Pakistan had welcomed him with great warmth and zeal two days ago as he is hugely popular as well in our country,” Shah said.

“His arrival was a great confidence building measure between the two neighbours and had boosted morale of the people living across the border for a better future relationship.”

From The Daily Dawn, Karachi
http://dawn.com/2013/02/13/gulzar-pulls-out-of-karachi-literature-festival/

uddariblog@gmail.com
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Uddari-Weblog/333586816691660
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Meera Ji’s 100th – ‘Ambiguity itself’ by Sarwat Ali

 Meeraji
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
syedi@sbcglobal.net

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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
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meeraji
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Iftikhar Nasim Ifti – English and Urdu Poems

Ghazal
By Iftikhar Nasim Ifti

Saza he de hai, duaoun main bhe asar de kar
zuban le gaya meri, mujhay nazar de kar

khud apnay dil se mita de hai khawahish-e-parwaaz
ura diya hai magar khud usko apnay par de kar

nikal paray hain sabhi ab panah-gahon se
gozar gae hai seeah shub, ghum-e-sahar de kar

usay main apni safai main kia bhala kehta
wo poochta tha jo mohlat bhe mukhtasar de kar

Ghazal
By Iftikhar Nasim Ifti

Kise k haq main sahi, faisla hoa tu hai
mera nahi, wo kise shaks ka hoa tu hai

Ye he bohat hai k us ne mujhay bhe mas tu kia
ye lams mujh main abhi tak racha hoa tu hai

Usay main khul k kabhi yaad kar tu sakta hon
mujhay khushi hai, wo mujh se juda hoa tu hai

Sakot-e-shub he sahi mera humsafar lekin
meray siwa bhe koe jaagta hoa tu hai

Ghutan k barhti chali ja rahi hai andar ki
tamaam khush hain k mousam khula hoa tu hai

Ye aur baat k main zinda reh gaya hon Naseem
har ek sitam meri jan par rawa hoa tu hai

Poem
By Iftikhar Nasim Ifti

There was no knock at the door
My cats were waiting in the foyer,
Listening to the steps passing by.
Children were knocking at door
of the apartment in front of mine.
“Trick or treat. Trick or treat”
My money jar full of quarters
looked so empty.
What happened? Who played
These dirty tricks on me?
Thirty one year as a law abiding citizen
I am still a foreigner. Foreigner
With a crude face and features of
a terrorist. My color two shade
Darker than an average white man
Is not accepted anymore.
My café ole color, once I was so proud of,
Is a guilt trip for me now.
My ethnicity has become a crime.

Mean streets of Chicago have become meaner.
“Go back to your country. Go back to your country.”
They yell at me.
And I am a citizen of USA
with no country.
Airports, train stations, shopping malls, schools,
Hospitals wherever I go, I am watched and scrutinized.
I yearn for the freedom I came here for.
Right now I am worst than a slave.
I am tired. I am tired. I feel like Rosa Park
and there is no bus for me.
Because I am not only two shade darker
than an average white man
But I am also a Muslim

Mere Baabaa
By Iftikhar Nasim Ifti

Mere Baabaa,
sab kahte haiN
merii shakl
aap se miltii-jultii hai

merii aaNkheN
merii peshaanii
mere hoNT
meraa lahjaa
baateN karne kaa andaaz
uThne-baiThne
chalne-phirne ka andaaz
mere haathoN kii harkat
sab kuch aap hii jaisaa hai

maiNe sunaa hai beTaa
baap kii nasl kaa vaaris hotaa hai

mere zehn meN ek savaal ubhartaa hai
maiN jo bilkul aap par huuN
to phir merii tarjiih-e-jins
aapse kyuuN is darja alag hai?

My Father
By Ifti Naseem

My father,
everyone says
my appearence
resemble yours.

My eyes
my forehead
my lips
my accent
the way I talk
sit around
the way I walk;
movement of my hands,
everything is like yours only.

I have heard that the son
is the heir of his father’s lineage.

A questions comes to my mind.
If I am exactly like you
then why my sexual preference
is so much different from yours?

Courtesy Syed Raza

Poems selected by:
Tabby Shahida
http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/profile.php?id=530977471&sk=notes
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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.

RSVPCo-ordinators:
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
www.faizcentenary.org
http://uk.faizcentenary.org
www.sapfonline.org
Cell: +44 (0)795 854 1672
E-mail: pervezf@yahoo.com

Download PDF
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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.

Contacts
Abbas Malik
abbasm786@yahoo.com
Tel: 07956855569
Mukhtar Dar
m.dar@the-drum.org.uk
Tel: 0121 333 2406

From
Pervez Fateh
Secretary – National Organising Committee
Faiz Centenary Celebrations UK
Cell: +44 (0)795 854 1672
www.faizcentenary.org
http://uk.faizcentenary.org
pervezf@yahoo.com
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To Faiz from Alys, ‘Dear Heart’ a play by Sam Lathem

Faiz (Sam Lathem) and Alys (Helen Phillips)

Dear Heart, a 25-minute play in English based on the life of Faiz and his wife Alys, and set in the period when he was imprisoned in Pakistan during the early 1950s on treason charges, was staged for the first time on 14 May 2011 in Oxford, England.

The event was organised jointly by Anjuman-e-Adab Oxford, Oxford University Pakistan Society and the Faiz Centenary Celebration Committee UK.

The play was a part of an evening of speeches, performances, and poetry readings celebrating the life and work of Faiz. The play, dramatic and thought provoking was received with rapturous applause and a standing ovation. An imprisoned poet of Punjabi origin writing in the Urdu language of feudal literary sensibility, being visited by Alys, the love of his life, and the mother of their two young daughters – this sort of plot would have risked falling into the trap of sentimentality a la Punjabi/Urdu theatre. But the play steers clear of such a trap and carries the message across in a simple, emotive and subtle way.

The play gives prominence to Alys’ story revealing her courage and power in the Faiz narrative. Her character, played with feeling and expressiveness by Helen Phillips, stands out. Faiz, played by Sam Lathem, displays deftly both the helplessness of a prisoner and steadfastness of a committed poet. The two guards are a pivotal and integral part of the play, particularly when they are required not to speak. The older guard is played with powerful energy and stage presence, by Charanjit Singh. The younger guard is played by Ali Aulia, who manages to reveal a touching transformative journey. In no time the raw intensity of the play takes you to a virtuality, beyond time and space.

Even if one is not familiar with the lives of Faiz and Alys, the play communicates the emotional journey of two people caught in a desperate and traumatic situation who are determined to survive against all odds, the source of their survival – a powerful love for each other. Finally, in the play there are echoes of Faiz’s appeal to a universality in revealing that the guards are also prisoners.

Faiz (Sam Lathem) and prison guards Ali Aulia and Charanjit Singh

Writer/Director Sam Lathem says this about the play
I have been inspired to write Dear Heart with one simple thought – love for the whole world cannot be locked away and forgotten about. Alys Faiz a woman in a new world, armed only with love will fight for all human rights.

I wrote the play, earlier this year, setting it in and around the small cell in which Faiz was imprisoned. This gave me a strong backdrop for the play. Alys had not seen Faiz, for three months, this gave her a strong emotional centre from which I could write. Discovering Faiz, had been tortured by two guards, she first sets about her prison reformation, she then sets about Faiz’s reformation reaffirming his sense of self worth. Faced with a mountain to climb, sorting out the political and personal corruption, she does so armed only with love. The play ends with Alys saying to Faiz that he must be patient, and to keep writing. As she exits, we realize, how strong she has been, and how strong she must be to get her husband released.

Alys has been a footnote in Faiz’s life and at times for far too long. I felt, I needed to shine the light on her, to step out of the shadows of Faiz’s beautiful light and for us to realise there would be no him without her.

- Words and images by Amarjit Chandan

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Faiz Centennary Fundraising Dinner: Oxford UK May 14/11

Faiz Centennary Celebrations 2011
Fundraising Dinner
Date & time
Saturday 14 May 2011
7:00 pm
Venue
Asian Cultural Centre
Manzil Way, Oxford OX4 1GH
Programme
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)
Featuring
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..!
Entry
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
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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.

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

Who:
Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan Author, Poet and Former Federal Minister
Iftikhar Arif
NOAMI LEZARD

When: Sunday May 22, 2011
At 6: PM

For further Info:
Ashfaq Hussan: 647-588-3499
Barrister Hamid Bashani: 416-399-7602
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Published in: on May 8, 2011 at 5:35 am  Comments (1)  

Mushaira in New York, April 30/2011

There is going to be a fabulous Mushaira (poetry read) in New York.

Poets like Zohra Nigah, Iftikhar Arif, Fahmeeda Riaz, Peerzada Qasim and i would be there.

Come and enjoy!
Saturday, April 30
8PM sharp
Asia Society
725 Park ave 8th floor
New York NY 10021
Come and relax.

Any more question? Call me.
001 773 407 3330
Ifti Nasim
Editor in Chief, Pakistan News
Host Sargam Radio
WSBC 1240 AM – WCJF 1470 AM
Sunday 9PM- 11PM
LIVE on Internet
www.ayantv.com
www.newspakistan.org
www.sargamradio.us
6033 North Sheridan Road Suite 40-J
Chicago Illinois 60660
773 271 6400 Off
773 271 4024 fax
773 407 3330 cell
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‘Masters Not Friends’ an Urdu Poem by Masood Munawar

ماسٹرز ناٹ فرینڈز
مسعود مُنّور

View in roman script

بن کر فرینڈز بیر کماتے ہیں ماسٹرز

چھت پر مری ڈرون اُڑاتے ہیں ماسٹرز

مونچھوں سمیت بھُون کے تارا مسیح کا بھوت

کیسی چِتا فضا میں جلاتے ہیں ماسٹرز

بُو لہب ، کیپ پہن کے بیٹھا ہے جیپ میں

ریموٹ سے وہ جیپ چلاتے ہیں ماسٹرز

ایتھنز سے چُرا کے جو لائے تھے بیگ میں

سقراط کا وہ زہر پلاتے ہیں ماسٹرز

ڈالر چڑھا رہے ہیں وہ داتا کی قبر پر

درویشیوں کا جال بچھاتے ہیں ماسٹرز

القاعدہ ہے اُن کی ہی ایجادِ بے مثال

اس شعبدے کو روز دکھاتے ہیں ماسٹرز

کل جو مجاہدین تھے اب طالبان ہیں

کایا کلپ کا پہیہ گھماتے ہیں ماسٹرز

اِک بد نصیب مُلک کے بد کار حکمراں

جن کو حرام مال کھلاتے ہیں ماسٹرز

رکھتے ہیں اُن کے دینی عقائد پہ بھی گرفت

اک قوم کا مذاق بناتے ہیں ماسٹرز

یہ آرمی کا چیف ہو یا صدر مُلک کا

ہر ایک کو پریڈ کراتے ہیں ماسٹرز

داڑھی پہن کے چڑھتے ہیں منبر پہ روز و شب

پٹی منافقت کی پڑھاتے ہیں ماسٹرز

آئے گا کس طرح سے گلوبل ولیج میں امن

جب جنگ کا بگل ہی بجاتے ہیں ماسٹرز

اسلام دشمنی سرِ فہرست ہے حضور

کب دوستی کا ہاتھ بڑھاتے ہیں ماسٹرز

جن کو وہ حکمران بناتے ہیں سازشاً

اُن بندروں کو خوب نچاتے ہیں ماسٹرز

ہیں مسجدوں میں اُن کے ایجنٹوں کا کاروبار

بیوپار ہی میں مال لگاتے ہیں ماسٹرز

اِن نابغوں کے پیچھے ہو مسعود کیوں پڑے

کیا تیری گائے بھینس چُراتے ہیں ماسٹرز

Masood Munawar


View in roman script

Masters Not Friends
Masood Munawar

bun ker friend baer kmaatay haiN masters
chhuth per meri drone urratay haiN masters

monchhoN smait bhoon ke Tara Masih ka bhoot
kaisi chita fiza maiN jlaatay haiN masters

boo lehb, cap pehn ke beThha hai jeep maiN
remote se vo jeep chlaatay haiN masters

Athens se chura ker jo layay thay bag maiN
Sucrat ka vo zehr plaatay haiN masters

dollar chrrah rahay haiN vo data ki qabr per
derveshiyoN ka jaal bechhaatay haiN masters

Al-Qaida hai unn ki hee aejaad bemisaal
uss shobday ko roz dkhhaatay haiN masters

kal jo mujahedeen thay ab taliban haiN
kaya kalap ka pehia ghumaatay haiN masters

ik bad naseeb mulk ke badkaar rehnuma
jin ko haraam maal khhilaatay haiN masters

rakhhtay haiN unn ke dinee eqayed pe bhi grift
ik qaum ka mizaaq urraatay haiN masters

ye army ka chief ho ya sadar mulk ka
her aik ko parade kraatay haiN masters

daarhee pehn ke churrhtay haiN mimber pe rozo shab
paTee munafqat ki pRhaatay haiN masters

ayay ga kiss taraH se global village maiN aman
jab jung ka bigl hee bjaatay haiN masters

islaam dushmani sare fehrisst hay huzoor
kab dosti ka haath barrhaatay haiN masters

jin ko vo hukmaraan bnaatay haiN sazeshan
unn bandroN ko khoob nchaatay haiN masters

haiN masjadoN maiN unn ke agentoN ke karobaar
bewpaar hee maiN maal lagaatay haiN masters

inn nabghooN ke peechhay ho masood kiyuN parray
kia teri gai bhens churaatay haiN masters

Masood Munawar

From Ijaz Syed

C.M. Naim on Gopi Chand Narang

There was a time when people wrote a literary piece and then ascribed it to someone whom they held in high esteem out of love, admiration, reverence or some other strong sentiment. Jalaluddin Rumi wrote a magnificent volume of ghazals but did not put his name to it. It has always been known as Diwan-i-Shams-i-Tabriz (The Diwan of Shams of Tabriz). An unknown poet wrote another, smaller diwan of ghazals and ascribed it to Khwaja Mu’inuddin Chishti of Ajmer. Later some other people concocted ‘table-talks’ of some of the Chishti Sufis and circulated them as genuine collections. In Urdu literary history, two examples of something similar immediately come to mind. When Muhammad Husain Azad desired to publish a definitive edition of the ghazals of Shaikh Ibrahim ‘Zauq,’—the first poet laureate of Bahadur Shah ‘Zafar’—he felt no qualms in composing new ghazals and verses to fill in the gaps he felt his beloved master would have filled in himself. Then there is the fascinating case of one of the foremost modern poets in Urdu: when Sana’allah Dar took on the name “Miraji” after a woman named Mira whom he obsessively loved, he might have had in mind the exemplary bond between Rumi and Shams.

Urdu literary culture, however, has known many more cases where someone took the work of another person and claimed it as his own. Particularly among the poets. The practice of ustadi/shagirdi in Urdu poetry encouraged it. Many an ustad or master poet earned his meagre living by giving away his verses to his pupils or shagird, who in turn provided for his needs. Some ustad openly sold verses to anyone who came with money the night of a musha’ira (a gathering of poets). A nawab or king would appoint some good poet as his ustad and then quite as a norm expect him to put together a volume of ghazals in his name.

It also happened in prose. Imam Bakhsh ‘Sahba’i’, a contemporary of Ghalib and teacher at the famous Delhi College, reportedly wrote for a Mughal prince a tazkira or account of the poets of his time. The book, Gulistan-i-Sukhan, carries the name of Qadir Bakhsh ‘Sabir’ as its author, but Ghalib always referred to it as “Sahba’i’s tazkira.” Much later, when the Anjuman-i-Taraqqi-i-Urdu (“Association for the Development of Urdu”) published The Standard English-Urdu Dictionary in 1937, the organization’s Secretary, Maulvi Abdul Haq (a.k.a “Father of Urdu”), put his own name on the cover as its editor, instead of the Anjuman’s. But at least he was honest enough to clearly acknowledge in the Introduction that the work had mainly been done by Dr. Abid Husain of Jami’a Millia. Since then, however, things have been going downhill in Urdu, particularly in its academia. The late Azhar Ali Farooqui of Allahabad earned his living by writing Ph.D. dissertations for others, with the full knowledge of the university’s professors. I personally witnessed how he worked.

In the old literary culture plagiarism of the ordinary kind was also common and not made much of. The stakes were not high then. But now the stakes are quite high in the academic world. Ambitious university teachers no longer can make do by merely taking care of their patron’s grocery shopping and milk cows—I witnessed both at Aligarh. Now they must publish “research” in order to get coveted promotions and titles. Sadly, quite a few take to plagiarism as the shortest route. I became involved in the case of one such ambitious academic at Aligarh back in the early 1980s.

The Department of Urdu, Aligarh Muslim University, had obtained some money from the government for a professorship in Aesthetics, and advertised the job. One of the candidates was a Reader in the department, who was far better known for his fiction than research—he wrote at least one superb novella that will always be admired. In no time that gentleman managed to publish a volume on Urdu Aesthetics. I was most surprised when I came across the book in our library at the University of Chicago. Having known the person since our shared college days, I couldn’t imagine him as the author of the book. A couple of hours of digging around in the library solved the mystery. The talented academic had taken a well-known book on Aesthetics in English by a Bengali scholar and diligently translated most of it into Urdu. Dutifully I prepared a short article, presenting page-and-line references to the original. It was published in Urdu, and received plenty of notice. But nothing actually happened. The gentleman didn’t get the job—no one did, as I remember—but he went on to become a full professor, and soon chaired the department for a while. Needless to say he received—justly, I must add—a ‘Padma Shri’ as a fiction-writer.

Presently the Urdu literary/academic world has been violently shaken by what must be termed “the mother of all plagiarisms”. Instead of the out of fashion field of Aesthetics, it is the currently much more fashionable field of Literary Theory that is at issue, and the person at the ‘heart of darkness’ is no less than Dr. Gopi Chand Narang, Professor Emeritus, Delhi University, who from 2003 to 2007 presided over the Sahitya Akademi and has received two “Padma” awards from the Indian state—the latest being “Padma Bhushan” in 2004. (A full list of his honours and publications may be seen at his website.

At the centre of the scandal is the book Sakhtiyat, Pas-i-Sakhtiyat Aur Mashriqi Shi’riyat (“Structuralism, Post-Structuralism, and Eastern Poetics”), for which Dr Narang received the Sahitya Akademi award in 1995. Though the title suggests that it might be a comparative study, bringing out the commonalities and oppositions between two contemporary Western literary/linguistic theories and their counterparts in Sanskrit and Urdu—a rather curious undertaking—but in reality it only describes and explains the three topics in the book’s title, and the major thinkers who contributed to them.

As far back as 1997, an Indian Urdu critic named Fuzail Ja’fari had explained in some detail how Dr Narang’s book shied away from original thinking and analysis, limiting itself simply to what X wrote and Y said in Western languages (Zahn-i-Jadid, Delhi, #22-3). In fact, he described the book as a “compilation” (talif), adding that it was not an original piece of writing (tasnif). Now a young scholar Imran Shahid Bhinder, a doctoral candidate in the Department of English at the University of Birmingham, U.K., has made a much more serious charge. Bhinder published in 2006 in the annual issue of Nairang-i-Khayal, a Pakistani journal, an essay entitled “Gopi Chand Narang is a Translator, not an Author.”

A year later, a revised and expanded version of the essay appeared in the journal Jadeed Adab (July–December, 2007), which at the time was printed at New Delhi—now allegedly stopped under pressure from certain people—and published from Germany. (It is also available on the web). In 2008 Bhinder published two more articles in Jadeed Adab, the first in its January–June issue, entitled “Plagiarism in Urdu Literature – How Long will it be Defended?” and the second in the July–December issue, entitled “Gopi Chand Narang’s ‘Truth’ and ‘Context’ [as] Thievery.” Both articles found plenty of circulation in both India and Pakistan, and excerpts were reproduced in a couple of Indian journals. Now a Pakistani journal, ‘Akkas, published from Islamabad, has brought out a special issue devoted to Dr Narang’s oeuvre and career, including a more detailed analysis by Bhinder.

In summary, Bhinder has most convincingly established that Dr Narang’s achievement in that award-winning book is not that of an author but only of a translator, and that too of a reprehensible kind. According to Bhinder, Dr Narang did not read the original authors—Ferdinand de Saussure, Claude LeviStrauss, Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida, Jacques Lacan, Michel Foucault, and others. He read only their well-known interpreters, and then transferred the latter’s analyses and interpretations into Urdu, doing so verbatim and without giving the reader any indication of what he was doing. In his third article mentioned above, Bhinder has given extraordinary details of the Dr Narang’s “authorial” enterprise. He has quoted excerpts from the Urdu book and then placed them next to their unacknowledged English original. Further, he has listed with precision the countless pages in Dr Narang’s book that correspond almost word-for-word with the English pages of American and British scholars. For example, pages 79–106, 234–240, 243–267, and 288–329 of Dr Narang’s book, according to Bhinder, are exact translations of pages 27–42, 149–158, 86–103, and 49–70, of Raman Selden’s book, A Reader’s Guide to Contemporary Literary Theory (1985). The other exploited scholars that Bhinder similarly identifies are Terence Hawke, Catherine Belsey, John Sturrock, Jonathan Culler, Christopher Norris, and Robert Scholes. (I must add that Bhinder’s critique has some other dimensions too that are important and relevant for all academics in a general manner.

The evidence Bhinder presents is quite irrefutable. When, for example, I checked the pages he points out in Selden’s book, they indeed turned out to be the unacknowledged source of Dr Narang’s remarks. I also stumbled upon something equally interesting. Dr Narang has a note on Michel Foucault (pp. 193–8) in the second chapter in his “Book Two,” i.e. the second section of his book. The text on pages 194–6, as pointed out by Bhinder, is merely a translation of pages 158–9 in Selden’s book.

I checked the “sources” that Dr Narang’s has helpfully listed for each chapter, and found that he does list Raman’s book as a source for that particular chapter. And gives exact page numbers too: 79–84 and 98–102. The first reference, however, turned out to be where Selden discusses Bertolt Brecht, Theodor Adorno, and Walter Benjamin The second was equally curious: in Selden’s book, page 98 deals with Frederic Jameson, but pages 99–102 contain only a bibliography. Again, the opening paragraph of Dr Narang’s note on Jonathan Culler (pp. 318–9) is, as per Bhinder, entirely Selden’s (p. 62). But in the sources, Selden’s name is listed with page numbers 106–27! In other words, while Dr Narang twice went to the trouble of indicating precise—though unrelated—pages in Selden’s book, he somehow failed to include the pages he had actually abused.

Bhinder’s charges are extremely serious. They are also thoroughly documented. First made three years ago, his accusation has remained unchallenged—unlike in the past when the slightest criticism of Dr Narang promptly produced a spate of articles in his defence and diatribes against the critic. This time he and his admirers are remarkably silent. And for good reason. They understand that any attempt would only bring more notoriety. Sadly, they also know that the academic circles in India in general, and the university departments of Urdu in particular, take no notice of inconvenient details. With them it is always “business as usual.”

After all, soon after Bhinder’s original article came out in 2006, Dr Narang received the degree of ‘D.Litt. Honoris Causa‘ from the Central University at Hyderabad. Then after two more articles, two similar honorary degrees were conferred on him in the past six months, by the Maulana Azad National Urdu University and the Aligarh Muslim University.

Sahitya Akademi has an excellent policy of making its award-winning books available in other major languages of India, including English. Dr Narang’s book received the award some fourteen years ago, but, to my knowledge, it has so far been translated only into Hindi (2000). May I ask the Akademi to do a major favour to Urdu letters? Marathi and Bengali scholars, in my experience, are usually far more knowledgeable about modern and pre-modern literary theories than an average Urdu academic. (I very much include myself among the latter.) The Akademi should have Dr Narang’s award-winning book translated into both Bengali and Marathi so that it can properly be judged by his peers in India. Given the international protocols on copyright, however, an English translation might not be advisable at this time.

C.M. Naim is Professor Emeritus, University of Chicago

Text provided by Ijaz Syed

Poet Zahid Laeeq

zahid-laeeq

Zahid Laeeq, an Urdu poet and the Chief Editor/Publisher of Canada based monthly magazine Shahpara, died in Islamabad on 31 October 2008 due to a heart attack.

He was 56 years old, and lived in Port Coquitlam with his family.

Shahpara was Laeeq’s passion that had begun within a year of his arrival in Canada in 2000. He published this magazine in Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi and English for the last eight years where no such literary-cultural magazine existed in BC Lower Mainland.

Surjeet Kalsey, a Punjabi Poet, fiction writer and dramatist who was working with Zahid on Sahapara, says: ‘Zahid Laeeq was basically a fine and sensitive mystic poet of Urdu and won hearts of his audiences by singing in his golden voice. His poetry, mostly gazals, sound romantic but they are dedicated to a higher spirit. He himself was a carefree, kind and mystic ‘darwesh’ who touched the hearts of many wherever he went and wherever he read his poetry. On his untimely demise, most people who are familiar with his poetry and his mysticism are shedding tears over this sudden separation.’

Zahid Laeeq’s Urdu poetry is published in three books – ‘Ziaey Hira’ and ‘Akas-e-Barmala’ in Shahmukhi, and ‘Aaks-e-Barmala’ in Gurmukhi.

The transliteration from Shahmukhi to Gurmukhi is done by Surjeet Kalsey and Daljeet Kalyanpuri. The book in Gurmukhi was published in Pakistan, and was released last year in Surrey in ‘Jashney Zahid’ where MLA Dave Hayer presented Zahid Laeeq, Surjeet Kalsey and Daljeet Kalyanpuri certificates of congratulation on behalf of the Provincial Government for their contributions to Urdu and Punjabi literature in Canada.

Representatives of International Multilingual Shahpara Publications, Kendri Punjabi Lekhak Sabha (North America), Indo-Canadian Seniors Centre Society, and Canadian Punjabi Cultural Association BC gathered together in Surrey to pay homage to Zahid Laeeq, and decided to dedicate to him the following:
A Special Issue on Zahid Laeeq
Shahpara International Magazine will publish the next issue (Nov-Dec 2008) as Special Zahid Laeeq issue. Zahid’s friends, readers and associate are invited to provide materials, photos and memories for it by November 15th.
Kendri Punjabi Lekhak Sabha (North America) Meeting
The Kendri writers meeting on 8 November 2008 will be dedicated to the memory of Zahid Laeeq.
Indo-Canadian Seniors Centre Society (Surrey) Mushaira
The monthly ‘Mushaira’ Poetry Fest on 30 November 2008, will be dedicated to the memory of Zahid Laeeq.

For more information and for contributing to these events please contact:
Surjeet Kalsey
Editor Multilingual Shahpara International
604-526-2342.
Mohan Gill
Vice-President Kendri Punjabi Lekhak Sabha (North America)
778-908-0914
Nirmal Singh Nannar
General Secretary
Indo-Canadian Seniors Society Surrey
6045903863
Daljeet Kalyanpuri
President Canadian Punjabi Cultural Association, BC
604-583-4658

Pakistani Canadian Poet/Publisher Zahid Laeeq Moves on

Zahid Laeeq, a Surrey poet and publisher has passed on while visiting Pakistan.

Zahid was the publisher and the chief editor of multilingual monthly ‘Shahpara’, a publication that he initiated in 2003.

On the Passing of Ahmed Faraz by Moazzam Sheikh

1 October 2008

It would be accurate to say that Faraz was the most famous and beloved twentieth-century Urdu poet from the subcontinent, after Iqbal (1877-1938) and Faiz (1911-1984). He may even be the most sung or popular among his contemporaries in any South Asian language. This is no small feat, since many of Faraz’s contemporaries have penned verse that is considered equally serious and innovative.

Destiny often plays a role for he who meets fame in his lifetime, or whose genius is unearthed after he has become dust and earth. Let me elaborate: It is difficult to understand the world of Urdu poetry from outside. Urdu poetry, especially in the ghazal format, cannot be separated from its counterpoint: the musical tradition of singing ghazals. In India and Pakistan, there is a breed of singers who primarily sing ghazals. The best of them are referred to as ghazal maestros. These singers work diligently to perfect their craft and dedicate it to ghazal singing, resisting the temptation to become film playback singers or pure classical singers of raags. Great singers treat evocative and subtle ghazals avec grand soin. Conversely, some ghazals have achieved iconic status, and, singers feel honored to have sung a ghazal by Ghalib or Mir and are judged against the major singers who have performed the ghazals before them.

Poets can be deeply indebted to a singer for a particular tune. Often a famous ghazal is sung by many singers and of course many times by the same singer, each time with a different embellishment, a new aspect in a line, a word, or a note. Ahmed Faraz was, perhaps, luckiest in this respect. The great Indian playback singer, Lata Mangeshkar, the nightingale of South Asia, once praised the Pakistani ghazal maestro Mehdi Hasan for his voice, saying Lord Rama’s chariot had passed through his throat. It should be noted that the ghazal Lata alluded to, Mehdi Hasan’s most famous, both in India and Pakistan and beyond, sung in the semi-classical mode, “Ranjish hi sahi dil hi dukhane ke liye aa” (If you’re still angry, then, come even if it is to hurt my heart) was penned by none other than Ahmed Faraz.

But many years before the ghazal in Mehdi Hasan’s voice took India by storm, it had already been a mega hit as a film song in a Pakistani film, Mohabbat, sung by Hasan. Hasan provided the singing voice to Mohammad Ali, the movie’s star. The fact that a ghazal could be taken by a film music director and put into the service of a commercial enterprise speaks volume about the kind of fame, respect and love Ahmed Faraz had come to enjoy.

Faraz is predominantly a poet of ghazals, although he wrote poems as well, many of which became very popular both in India and Pakistan as well as wherever people can speak or understand Urdu or Hindi. As a Pakistani, I grew up hearing his name all around me. Music directors picked his ghazals for their movies, in which he lent his voice to my favorite actors, like Nadeem and Mohammad Ali. Pakistan Television often invited singers, both male and female, to record their renditions of Ahmed Faraz’s famous ghazals. Those recordings were then beamed all over the country. Often the movie and the non-movie versions competed against each other. One of Faraz’s best-loved ghazals “Yeh alam shauq ka dekha na jaaye” (Intolerable is this state of desiring) is one such gem. It has been sung for the screen by Naheed Akhtar, a great playback singer of her time, ghazal maestro Ghulam Ali, and Tahira Syed, who performed it for Pakistan Television. The last of these is the most haunting, in my humble view.

No South Asian writer’s work can be fully appreciated without the lens of colonialism and post-colonialism. With the interference and meddling of the British (acting under the influence of a Victorian and post-Renaissance mentality), into India’s indigenous literatures, the prime mode of expression of Urdu poetry, the ghazal, came under tremendous pressure, as it came to be seen as backward and degenerate. The ghazal was seen as artificial, pretentious, soaked in the vapors of alcohol. Men who wrote and recited ghazals, and the culture that promoted them were deemed incapable of rational, scientific thinking, and any serious, concrete thought. MacCauley’s poisonous words about Indian literature in his infamous minutes (1835) were having a disastrous effect on the perception of the ghazal. It is due to the genius of the Urdu language and her poets and the resilience of her native idiom that the ghazal fought back colonial prejudice and reclaimed its rightful position.

It wasn’t an easy journey.

Faraz became a sensation with the publication of his first collection of ghazals and poems. Each new collection added to his fame and stature as a major poet. Most critics agree that his verse—at least the earlier half—is light and romantic, but still touched a certain nerve. It spoke to an important part of the human heart. I believe there were several reasons for audiences’ positive response. Most other major poets steered the Urdu ghazal in the direction of social consciousness, issues of isolation, man’s confrontation with the material world, dictatorship and the tyranny of modern times. What Faraz offered in contrast was the ghazal’s essence: love, ache, longing, beauty, separation, union, life, death. But with a fresh and highly creative vocabulary!

Unlike two other great male contemporaries of his, Nasir Kazmi and Munir Niazi, Faraz didn’t suffer the scars or trauma of partition directly, and that’s why his early verse is not mainly concerned with those issues. Although his verse is light, it retains a highly skillful control of Urdu diction and meter. It is often read against that of the other three towering poets of his time, Munir, Nasir, and Kishwar Naheed’s highly feminist poetry.

Although Faraz never lost his original charm in verse, a new poet was beginning to emerge from inside him as social conditions and the political realities of Pakistan, and most of the world, began to change in the 60s. The student movement, labor agitation, the formation of the Pakistan People’s Party, the first free elections of 1970 and the political opposition to American-backed military dictatorships, all had a profound influence on his consciousness. Despite this crucial transformation, Faraz remained a poet of love and the heart. He was not a political poet in the sense of Hikmat, Faiz or Neruda. Nor was he a philosophical poet in the tradition of Tagore. What earned Faraz political respect was his resilience against state oppression. If he felt like saying something, he said it. If that went against the status quo, so be it.

As has been quoted in several homages and obituary write-ups, his first confrontation with tyranny came from the democratically elected leader, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. In a public soiree, Faraz recited a poem, not a ghazal, passing a guilty verdict on the Pakistani Army for their crime in killing their own in the then East Pakistan. He called the soldiers “professional killers.” He was arrested and put in jail without a warrant or trial. Other intellectuals, such as Kishwar Naheed and the cream of society, like the melody queen of South Asia, the singer Noor Jehan had to pull all the strings available to them to get him out. A lesser poet would have learned his lesson, his spirits broken, but Faraz proved he was stronger than his enemies. He chose to walk in the footsteps of the sufi poets of the Punjab, and modern rebel poets such as Jalib and Faiz. You could jail him, exile him, throw him out of his job, but you couldn’t bend or silence his verse. When he wanted to say something direct, no fear or metaphor could hide it. His second showdown was with the intellectually zero dictator Zia-ul-Haq. Again Faraz did not bow down. This time, he chose exile in the tradition of Darwish of Palestine and Faiz, who went to Beirut, and Fahmida Riaz of Pakistan who went to India.

It is testament to his greatness that when his poetry changed and absorbed social and political contours, he followed its call, even at the risk of his life. Other articles have pointed out that he was fired from his honorary position and his belongings thrown out, solely due to his critique of the American-backed General Musharaf. It is remarkable that in this day and age, any civilized country’s leadership can stoop so low as to treat one of its most respected poets this way. At least that should have earned Pakistan a gold at the Olympics, in the poet-thrashing category.

You can take a poet out of a language, but you cannot take language out of the poet. I’d argue that Faraz’s greatness lies in the era he wrote in, not because he broke any major ground, or for any experimentation he did with form and registers of language. Unlike Faiz or Firaq who are pre-partition poets, Faraz belongs to the post-partition era. For his poetry to reach all corners of India at a time when it’s eradication was part of state policy hints at the subtle but tremendous appeal of his verse to singers, the young and the uninitiated.

Having lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for over twenty years, I had countless opportunities to see Faraz read. Of those opportunities, I missed all but one. Before I went I was ambivalent about the seriousness of the crowd. But I was glad I went. I also went because a California-based singer was supposed to sing ghazals in the second half of the program. The LA-based Moni Deepa Sharma, of Bengali origin, had fallen in love with Urdu and had gone to Aligarh University to study the language, so she could sing Urdu poetry one day. She has become California’s premier ghazal singer. It was a sight to watch a Bengali being connected to a Pathan’s ghazals through a bridge written in Urdu. There cannot be a greater homage to a language, and admirers of Urdu are indebted to people like Faraz who inspire non-Urdu speakers to fall under its spell.

Information provided by Ijaz Syed