Urdu Poetry: Mir Taqi Mir

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Written by Randeep Purewall

Mir (né Muhammad Taqi Mir) was born in Agra in 1722. His father died when Mir was eleven years old, leaving the boy to seek an education and patronage in Delhi. Mir was educated in Delhi by the poet and scholar Khan-e-Arzu and supported by a nobleman, but left the city upon Nadir Shah’s invasion in 1739

It was years later after returning to Delhi, that Mir became a prominent poet, winning high-ranking patrons and competing with the poets Dard and Sauda in musha’ara (poetic symposiums). Delhi was being repeatedly invaded during this period, however, by Afghans, Jat and Marathas. For Mir, the times marked not only the decline of the city, but the setting of a civilization.

This age is not like that which went before it
The times have changed, the earth and sky have changed

In 1782, Mir left Delhi for Lucknow as had other poets like Sauda before him. He found patronage in Lucknow at the court of Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula where he received a pension and continued to write poetry. He died in 1810.

mir

Mir’s verses express the impermanence of life and the grief at the loss of love, beauty and spring. At the same time, his poems underline the transcendent experience and journey of love through the colours of the garden, the movement of the stars and heart of man.

How long is the life of a rose?
The bud just smiles

Mir’s themes of love and beauty and pain and separation established the conventions of classical Urdu poetry and his style inspired later poets like Ghalib (1797-1869). He also helped establish Urdu as a literary language. Mir reviewed and refined the use of Urdu in the musha’ara of Delhi and naturalized its use of Persian expressions. He wrote, moreover,  in the everyday language of the city, making the language of Delhi, the language of poetry.

Selected Verse
(Trans. Russell, Islam; Sadiq; Ali)

Every leaf and every plant my state do know
The rose knows not what the garden knows

The world is full of illusions
We behold here what we imagine

The streets of Delhi were not mere streets
They were like the album of a painter
Every figure I saw there
Was a model of perfection

The spring has come, the flowers bloom cheek by cheek
Would you and I might stand thus in the garden!

The greatest sinner, Mir
Was he who adopted love as his religion

The moments of happiness
Within this world were few
Now weep for the smiling dawn
Of the garden like the dew

I never saw the stars so bright before
It was her eyes that taught them how to shine

To keep my eyes on you, and you alone
My one and only heart’s desire is this
To open them only if you are there
The height to which I can aspire is this

Mir, quit the company of Shaikh and Brahmin
And mosque and temple too – leave them behind.
Lay one stone on another in the desert
Worship your Love at your own humble shrine

I grant you sir, the preacher is an angel
To be a man, now – that’s more difficult

Go to the mosque; stand knocking at the door
Live all your days with drunkards in their den
Do anything you want to do, my friend,
But do not seek to harm your fellowmen

What days those were!
When I would drink and climb up to the tavern roof
And fall asleep, the white sheet of the moonlight over me

Man was first made of clay
And if the song you sing be good
This world of clay for years to come
Will listen to your voice

Sources:

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

Shamsur Rahman Faruqi, Mir and Ghalib: Comparisons (trans by F.W. Pritchett), 1997.
http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00garden/about/txt_srf_mir_ghalib.html

Khurshidul Islam and Ralph Russell, Three Mughal Poets (Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1991)

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

A Tribute to Poet Gurcharan Rampuri

Gurcharan Rampuri is a Vancouver based Punjabi writer who has published over thirteen collections of poems, won over twenty literary awards from India, Canada, Denmark and USA; and his poetry books have been translated in Urdu, English and Hindi. He was one of the five poets in the ‘Anthology of Modern Punjabi Poetry‘ published in Russian from Moscow in 1957, and his poems were featured in Green Snow, an anthology of Asian poets in Canada. The Circle of Illusion: Poems by Gurcharan Rampuri (2011, translated by Amritjit Singh & Judy Ray), is Rampuri’s latest publication.

Born in Rampur in the Indian Panjab, Rampuri began writing in 1944, and he had published three collections of poems (Kirnan Da Ahlanan 1963, Qaul Qarar 1960, Kamkan Di Khushbo 1953) before coming to Canada in 1964.

Rampuri settled in Vancouver, and in the next two decades played a crucial role in encouraging Punjabi literary groups, programs and events. In 1972, he published Anhee Gali and Kanchni, two books in one volume. His other titles include Qatalgah (1985), Agnaar (1993), Aj Ton Aaranbh Tak (2001) and Dohavali (2004). Two CDs of his poems titled Nadi Naad were released in 2005.

Among his many awards are: Punjabi Sahit Academy, Chandigarh, India in 1982; Life Achievement Award for Outstanding Contribution to Punjabi Language, Literature and Culture from Vancouver’s Punjabi Lekhak Manch in 2007, and Harjit Kaur Sidhu Memorial Achievement Award for Contribution to Punjabi Literature in 2009.

More is here
punjabikalma.com/user/gurcharnrampuri
Contact Rampuri
gurcharan@shaw.ca

Photo by Amarjit Chandan

The history of Punjabi language and literature is incomplete without Gurcharan Rampuri; Uddari is honored to have him on our Punjabi Writers page.

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Urdu Poetry: Sauda

lucknow-mosque

Written by Randeep Purewall

To many of his contemporaries, Mirza Muhammad Rafi Sauda (1713-1781) was the embodiment of the ideal mirza. He served in the army and was a courtier and man of letters. His friendship among the nobility won him patronage as a poet and the audience of the likes of the Emperor Shah Alam (r. 1759-1806).

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

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

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

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

mirza-rafi-sauda

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Fulad Khan, the Police Officer

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

Ridiculing The Times (Tazhik-e-Rozgar)

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

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

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

Sources:

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

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

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

Nigar Ahmad – A Great Punjabi Woman

nigar-ahmad1Nigar Ahmad (1945 – 2017)

Nigar Ahmad, an educationist and a woman’s rights activist, was one of the founding members of Women Action Forum (WAF) established in the 1980s to fight General Ziaul Haq’s Islamicization policies that attacked women’s status in Pakistan. Later, Nigar founded Aurat Foundation and served as its Executive Director for many years.

Her contributions to the enhancement of the status of women include mobilizing women candidates to run for local government during the 1993 and 1997 general elections, organizing networks of citizens’ action committees in 70 districts to provide support to women; organizing national conferences and radio programs to inform peasant women on health and agricultural issues. ‘She was a consultant to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 1991 on the gender impact of a watershed management project in Azad Kashmir. She presented a case study to the Asian Development Bank on a pilot on credit for rural women, and, as a consultant to the United Nations Development Fund For Women, has been involved in a rural credit and gender sensitization training program of UNDP staff. Nigar has also been involved with the National Commission on the Status of Women, and the South Asian Partnership. She was a coauthor for the report on Women’s Development Programs for Pakistan’s Eighth Five-Year Plan.’ (wikipeacewomen.org)

Nigar was awarded the Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah Life Time Achievement Award in 2010 for her work for the empowerment of women. She was one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005, and a nominee from Pakistan of the Global Sisterhood Network.

Nigar was suffering from Parkinson’s disease. She was admitted to a hospital in Lahore for chest pain where she passed away on February 24, 2017. She was the daughter of Mian Riaz Uddin Ahmad, a prominent civil servant in the Punjab.

nigar-ahmad-2

This is what Nigar had to say for George Bush, i wonder what she would have said for Donald Trump.

Fauzia Rafique
gandholi.wordpress.com
frafique@gmail.com

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Dhahan Youth Prize in Creative Writing in BC High Schools – Launching Surrey Feb 28/2017

Dhahan Logo in all scripts

Uddari welcomes the launch of Dhahan Youth Prize, a province-wide creative writing contest where EIGHT British Columbia students of Punjabi will be awarded a CDN$500 prize, four in each of intermediate and advanced language skill levels.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017
10:45 am (SHARP)
LA Matheson Secondary School
9484 122 Street, Surrey

The contest is open to all secondary school students of British Columbia who are studying Punjabi in grade 11 or 12.
The writing submitted must be in both Punjabi and English.
Submissions will be accepted from March 1st to May 31st, 2017.
The awards will be given out at the Dhahan Prize Awards ceremony at the end of October 2017.

Coast Capital Savings is the presenting sponsor for the new Youth Prize, and L.A. Matheson Secondary is a supporting partner with Founder Barj S. Dhahan.

Punjabi is the 2nd most spoken language in British Columbia. This youth initiative will be recognized along with the Dhahan Prize for Punjabi Literature.

For more information about Dhahan Prize visit
dhahanprize.com
facebook.com/DhahanPrize

Contact: Carolyn Treger
Dhahan Prize
604-831-6831
admin@dhahanprize.com
..

Saraiki Poet Rifat Abbas refuses the Pride of Punjab Award for Punjabi Poetry

rifat-abbas

All admiration and support to poet/educator Rifat Abbas for taking this action in favour of his mother language at this year’s International Mother Language Day.

“I’ve no moral ground to accept the award; I refuse it due to three main reasons: being a poet, being a Seraiki nationalist and being a neighbor of small nations struggling against the suppression of Punjab,” said Mr Abbas. Explaining the reasons, he said that being a poet he had not rendered any service for the promotion of Punjabi language but his all services were for the promotion of Seraiki language.
dawn.com/news/1316216/seraiki-poet-turns-down-punjab-award

As a Punjabi writer, i much appreciate his insistence on the three points he has mentioned: that he is a Saraiki language poet who doesn’t like to be packaged as a Punjabi poet; that he is also a Saraiki nationalist demanding independent rights and resources for Saraiki speaking people; and, that the harsh oppression of Balochis and Sindhis being carried out by the Punjabi power-holders can not be ignored.

It is my experience that Pakistan’s Punjabi writers, mainly based in Lahore, hold the few resources available for mother languages in the Punjab, and their bigoted attitude does not allow them to listen to people like Rifat Abbas who for many years are saying that Saraiki is not Punjabi and that it is a distinct language with it’s own culture and geographic location. It’s understandable that Pakistan’s federal and provincial state structures would have a negative view of this position but why is it that Punjabi writers feel offended by it? Perhaps some vested interests and literary hegemonies are preventing us from supporting another writer’s stand for his mother language.

As Punjabis, who are we to judge if a language is a dialect of Punjabi when the representatives and speakers of that language are saying that it’s not? Because not only that Saraiki is not Punjabi but it also does have it’s own culture (a Punjabi, for example, will greet another Punjabi in a different way than a Seraiki will greet another Seraiki) and land. If we don’t acknowledge it, we are putting forward the same colonial concepts and aspirations that make us complicit now on the suppression being carried out by Pakistan’s Punjabi-led state structures against Balochis, Sindhis and Pashtuns- like we were complicit against Bengalis in the 60s and the 70s.

Uddari fully supports Rifat Abbas and other friends in Saraiki wasaib for their ongoing struggle to get recognition and rights for their language and culture.

Fauzia Rafique
gandholi.wordpress.com

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