Way to go, Jagjit Singh!

Jagjit Singh, the ‘King of Ghazal’ who sang Ghalib so well, moves on at 70.
His wonderful contributions to this world will still remain.
Thank you for all the songs.

Love and respect to Chitra Singh.
http://jagjitchitrasingh.com/

Jagjit Singh, the ghazal maestro, dies
NEW DELHI: Renowned ghazal singer Jagjit Singh, 70, passed away at 8.10 am in Lilavati Hospital on Monday morning.

Jagjit Singh was admitted to the Lilavati Hospital on September 23 after he suffered brain haemorrhage in suburban Bandra where a life-saving surgery was performed on him.

“Jagjit Singh passed away at 8.10 am after having a terrible haemorrhage,” Dr Sudhir Nandgaonkar, hospital spokesperson, told PTI.

He is survived by his wife Chitra Singh.

Jagjit Singh was born in Sri Ganganagar, Rajasthan. He had four sisters and two brothers and he is known as Jeet by his family.

Popularly known as “The Ghazal King”, he gained acclaim together with his wife in the 1970s and 1980s, as the first ever successful duo act (husband-wife) in the history of recorded Indian music.

Recipient of Padma Bhushan award, he has sung in several languages including Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi and Nepali.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/
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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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‘Straying with Ahmad Farāz’ by Amarjit Chandan

I did this interview in Punjabi with the Urdu poet Ahmad Farāz for my book Humsukhan – conversations with fellow writers which never saw the light of the day. Farāz used to be in London in transit to western Europe and North America where so many Pakistani political exiles had sought asylum and were leading reasonably easy life. Those were the optimistic days.

18 October 1985. When I meet Ahmad Farāz in a pub in Piccadilly London, we both talk of the news just in of hanging of a South African poet Benjamin Moloisi at the age of 30.

Switching on the tape recorder I ask Farāz: From where shall we start? He starts with a quote from his poem: Qalam surkhroo hai/ ki jo mai ne likha/ vohi aaj main hooN/ vohi aaj tu hai…My pen is placated/ I am what I have written/ I am still the same/ and you too haven’t changed.

Does that mean a poet is answerable to himself primarily; society and ideology come later. Farāz has also written: Merey qalam ka safar raigaaN na jayeyga…The journey of my pen shall not go in vain. He goes on in chaste Punjabi: ‘The journey which involves commitment and some noble cause is not in vain. You can’t get the reward in your life time. In South Africa Benjamin has been hanged to death. They can’t stop people’s unrest with such atrocities. People’s journey never goes in vain. Tears shed in blood or in ink are never lost for nothing.’

But the commitment with what? With the political movement or with the Party or with the ideology? Farāz being close to the PPP has to say: No man is isolated and no individual is important. His only strength lies in his thinking, which takes concrete shape in the form of the movement. You are in it in the front line or in the back seat. You get the feel of a vast multitude. Otherwise no individual is great for me, how great he may be. A poet is not confined to his own experiences; he recreates others’ experiences as well.

But no politician is honest; they keep on changing their colours. They have to. That’s the name of the game. To this Farāz replies: In spite of his simplicity and sincerity a poet knows where political leaders deviate.

Is it a necessity or sheer opportunism? ‘In fact a poet is always the leader. He is with the vanguard leadership and with the rank and file as well. He plays dual role at the same time. When there is something wrong, he’s followed by his inner voice. So there is no need to feel disheartened. One can be silent to observe, to recoup. But personally I have no guts to lead the movement.’

I did not know that Farāz did not write in his mother tongue Pashto. I don’t want to put him on the spot and instead ask him indirectly: whose language is Urdu in Pakistan? He does not like my ‘strange’ question but goes on: ‘Urhdu’ (he pronounces Urdu as Urhdu and the word likhari –writer– as Likharhi which sounds to me as Khilarhi – player) doesn’t belong to any specific region of Pakistan; it’s the language of some inhabitants of Karachi. What follows is what I really want to know: ‘My father Agha Barq was a Farsi poet. His friends who visited our house wrote in Urhdu and the girl I first met knew some romantic Urhdu couplets. I started writing couplets in Urhdu for her. I had to work in Karachi Radio where all the staff was from Lucknow and Delhi. I didn’t speak Urhdu well enough, but my written Urhdu wasn’t bad though. It can’t work in Pashto. Now it is quite hard to go back.’

Farāz defends the feudal poetic form ghazal thus: It is naïve to think in terms of nazm or ghazal. The bread is bread whether it is triangular or round-shaped. All the progressives have written ghazal. What’s the point being against the form? The fault doesn’t lie with the form but with the poet. Then why Josh Malihabadi didn’t write ghazal? Farāz answers: He was against it from a literary viewpoint. The ghazal is self-contradictory – the clichés are inherent in it e.g. sāqi, qafas, bulbul. That way it is just a formula. Bad poetry is written both in the nazm and ghazal forms. Josh and Noon Meem Rāshid were weak ghazalgos. The progressives gave a new life to ghazal. It had become stale. A genre loses its vitality, if it doesn’t get new blood. In ghazal you have to say all in just two lines. It didn’t suit Josh. He keeps on filling words in his nazms without any imagination. The poem doesn’t rise vertically. Faiz and Rāshid brought great themes in ghazal. It is not limited in itself, the poet makes it so. A good ghazalgo writes good nazms. No epic poem surpass this couplet by Ghalib: kahāN tammanna ka doosra qadam… It was Ghalib who wrote: Safeena chāheeye iss bahr-e-bekrāN ke liyey/ Beqadrey zaraf nahiN hai ye tungnāyey ghazal… [A vessel is needed in this endless ocean// the unbounded ocean cannot be contained within the narrow bounds of the ghazal. Interesting that bahr is used for both ocean and metre] and Punjabi is not that developed yet to reject any poetic form. You write in all the forms. One day a Mir will appear in Punjabi. (Majid Sadiqi’s Punjabi translation of Farāz is titled PartāN – Layers).

The people’s poet comes up with a sexist example: ‘Ride the ghazal like you ride a woman. Take up the reins in your hands. As the Prophet said: Your wives are a tilth (for you to cultivate). Go to your tilth as yee will.’

Then we travel a long way to Southall in west London where he is staying with his brother. The house is deserted though whiskey and later food appears mysteriously.

Now Farāz is a bit high and stands up abruptly to bring a framed colour picture showing him shaking hand with Faiz and a femme fatale is standing by Farāz. The picture makes me sad. I have never seen Faiz so old as he appears in the photo. Farāz says that it is the last photo taken of Faiz. Then he goes into its minute details. He is eager to talk about the woman. To change the subject I ask him whether he has written any sensual poetry. He recites his couplet: vo ik rāt guzar bhee chuki magar abb takk/visāl-e-yār kee lazzat se toot-ta hai badan…That night passed long time back/But my body still aches with the relish of my lover…and declares that he believes in the intensity of life. ‘Poetry is like manhood. Never separate the ethics of poetry from the beauty of life.’ Then he picks up the collected poems of Faiz and reads his Punjabi poem aloud: ajj rāt ikk rāt dee rāt jee ke/ asāN jug hazārāN jee kia e/ajj rāt amrit de jām vāNgu/ inhāN hoThāN ne yār nu pea liaa e. Living to the full just one night/I have lived a thousand years/I sipped the body of my lover with my lips/as if it was the goblet of nectar. He adds: you can’t find such sensuality in the whole of Urdu poetry. Faiz becomes his own māshook lover in his poetry: Subah hoyee to voh pehlu se uThā ākhir-e-shub/ vo jo ik umar se āyā nā gayā ākhir-e-shub. The dawn approached and the one who woke up lying next to me// Had not arrived/nor left me for ages.

I see some sense of estrangement and frustration in visāl –meeting with the lover– in Faiz’s poetry. Farāz doesn’t want to listen to me and starts talking again about that woman in the picture. Now he tells me that she is a Sikh and is an air hostess. I interrupt: Faiz or Farāz? He tells me: I won’t talk about my self. Then Faiz or Jalib?

‘Yes, on the one hand you talk to the people face to face. That way Dāman and Jalib are very close. On the other hand is Faiz – subtle, soft with new Farsi-tinged imagery. He is poets’ poet.’

Most of Urdu progressive poetry seems to be written by the same poet. It’s full of clichéd imagery – zulm, jaddojahad, dār-o-rasan, shaheed, khoon and zakham. Farāz himself is heavily influenced by Faiz and Sahir. Without dropping names I raise the question of evolving new imagery and style. He likes the idea and fully agrees with it. But, he says, ‘there is one problem – we can’t frog-jump. We like to continue the tradition because our readership is still uneducated.’ Is it?

About the sound of language, he says: ‘Urhdu’s beauty lies in its plasticity inherited from Farsi and softness of Hindi. No word is soft or crude. It all depends on its usage. A poet has got very few words in his stock. I was in prison for a while. After the release, I had search for words while talking to others. If you don’t converse, words tend to leave you. Words are birds, who don’t like to perch on dry trees.’ He confides: you can’t write every day. You feel drained after writing a poem. Faiz used to translate Iqbal during his dry periods to ‘keep his weapons in shape’. A ghazal can be written while sitting in a moving tonga, but a poem needs much more meditation!

Farāz has also written nātiā qalām. ‘If Faiz could write on a man like Suhravardy, why can’t I write on the Prophet?’

Then why was the Rasul against the poets? The poet gives comes up with this face saver: Because he said: it is those poets straying in evil, who follow them; sees thou not that they wander distracted in every valley? And that they say what they practise not?

Our conversation comes to an abrupt end which had started with the notion of poet’s commitment. We both are drunk. I switch off the recorder.

Translated from the original in Punjabi by the author. September 2008. The recording can be availed in the Sound Archive British Library

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