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
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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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Films on South Asian Muslims and Islamophobia in the Diaspora

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Written by Randeep Singh

In much of post-9/11 cinema, a Muslim is a person whose identity is defined fundamentally in terms of religion rather than nationality, culture, class or ethnicity. Indeed, South Asian Muslims in post-9/11 American cinema are usually portrayed either as religious radicals or terror suspects in films like The War Within (2005) or as exhibiting a bipolar Muslim disorder in The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2012).

Thankfully, there have been attempts to understand the more nuanced shades of South Asian Muslim diaspora identity. In The Muslims I Know (2008)Mara Ahmed speaks with Pakistani Muslims in upstate New York on questions of cultural identity and being American while also interviewing others on what they think of Muslims.

Films from the U.K. have also tried to portray the experiences of South Asian Muslims humanistically. One such film is Yasmin (2004). The story of a spunky, young British girl from a Pakistani family in West Yorkshire, Yasmin (played by Archie Punjabi) is forced to choose her identity after the Twin Towers come crashing down.

Another film is Bradford Riots (2005), a film about Karim (Sacha Dhawan), a young university student also from northern England. When Bradford burns in riots during the summer of 2001, Karim finds himself on the wrong side of the mob and the law.

The third film, Brick Lane, is the story of Nazneen (Tannishtha Chatterjee), a young woman who moves from Bangladesh to East London. The film looks mostly at her life against the backdrop of her family and the British Bangladeshi community in Tower Hamlets, before and after 9-11.

With respect to identity, Yasmin and Karim are the British-born children of working class immigrants. At most, they are “Muslim” in an ethnic sense only, having little to do with religion. Like many from working class backgrounds, they are tough, proud and street smart. Yasmin wears a hijab when she has to but otherwise lets her hair down. Karim has his white mates at college and dosses around with his boys back in the pool halls of Bradford.

In contrast, Nazneen is a first-generation immigrant who came to England to get married. She spends much of the film picturing the paddy fields back home. What’s most crucial for Yasmin is her Bengali culture, her adjustment to life in England and her raising a family.

There’s a difference in how these characters experience racism and Islamophobia. In fact, Nazneen does seem to experience these at all directly. Yasmin and Karim, on the other hand, are labelled Muslim by a society and system. Karim is sentenced to five years in prison for his role in the Bradford riots, raising the question of whether he received a fair trial at a time of such heightened racial tension and the public call for retribution.

Yasmin meanwhile is detained on suspicion of harbouring a terrorist in her husband. Not having gone to the mosque in five years, she is given a copy of the Quran in prison and told which direction Mecca is in. Having suffered taunts at work, she is subjected to the condescending gaze and tone of a police constable who threatens to charge her for withholding information which she doesn’t have.

In Brick Lane, Nazneen’s lover, Karim experiences racism and Islamophobia more directly. After facing harassment from racist gangs, Karim and starts holding meetings on how the local Bangladeshi community can defend itself after 9/11.

For Yasmin, Karim and Nazneen, being Muslim is only part of their larger identities which are defined in terms of culture or nationality. However, the Bradford riots and 9/11 complicate that question for Karim and Yasmin. Are they different? Nazneen’s identity unfolds differently learning as she is to live in a new world. For Karim and Yasmin though, the Muslim part of their identity is something they’d be at peace with if not for the world around them.

Previews:

The Muslims I Know: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PPBbIzq_0E

Yasmin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mjzg1PC0QjM

Bradford Riots: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lJYBX64PdV8

Brick Lane: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hbd7m00oW6c

‘Tellers of Short Tales’ – Fauzia Rafique with Nasreen Pejvack – Feb 16 New Westminster

tellersofshorttales

RCLAS presents
Tellers of Short Tales
Featured Author Fauzia Rafique
Open Mic.
Host Nasreen Pejvack

Thursday, February 16
18:00–20:00
Anvil Centre
777 Columbia Street
New Westminster

Fauzia Zohra Rafique writes poetry, fiction and nonfiction. She has published two novels: ‘The Adventures of SahebaN: Biography of a Relentless Warrior’ (Libros Libertad, Nov 2016) and ‘Skeena’ (Libros Libertad 2011); an ebook of poems ‘Holier Than Life’ (Purple Poppy Press 2013), a chapbook of English and Punjabi poems ‘Passion Fruit/Tahnget Phal’ (Uddari Books 2011), and an anthology of writings of women of South Asian origin, ‘Aurat Durbar: The Court of Women’ (Toronto 1995). In Pakistan, Fauzia worked as a journalist and screenwriter. She is the coordinator of Surrey Muse, an art and literature presentation group. At Tellers of Short Tales, Fauzia will present short fiction from her published work. More is here:
gandholi.wordpress.com

Royal City Literary Arts Society (RCLAS)
A New Westminster arts organization offers Tellers of Short Tales, a program of monthly readings designed to engage fans of the short story genre with emerging and published short story writers. Also, an open microphone will be available for writers who would like to share their stories. The program is free for fans.

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Organized by
Royal City Literary Arts Society (RCLAS)

Contact Nasreen Pejvack:
nasreenpejvack@rclas.com
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