Like any other country, Pakistan too has been producing geniuses in various fields.
But this piece is not about them.
It is about those highly talented Pakistani men and women who experienced the flip side of genius – an awkward and often torturous state of being that some describe as being a kind of madness.
In the second part of this series, we continue our study of those promising Pakistanis whose lives had been touched by that strain of overt brilliance whose cost has sometimes been mental anguish, social isolation and unfulfilled (or only partially realised) talent.
But unlike Rashid, Zaidi was not so secretive about his life outside that of a civil servant.
As Rashid quietly expressed his esoteric and erotic escapades in his poetry, while overtly exhibiting his other life as a straight-laced civil servant; Zaidi on the other hand, kept crossing the line, turning into a high-strung poet with a vivacious sexual appetite in full view of the public.
Zaidi was initially educated in an Islamic madrassa in India before his family moved to Pakistan.
After earning a Masters degree in English Literature from Government College Lahore, Mustafa’s family persuaded him to join the Civil Service, which he did in 1954.
All the while he kept doing what he loved doing the most: Writing Urdu poetry.
Though hailed as a talented poet by critics, and befriending many leading Pakistani poets, such as Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Zaidi somehow could not gain the kind of commercial and critical recognition that he believed his work deserved.
By the 1960s Zaidi the civil servant was doing well but Zaidi the poet was becoming increasingly bitter.
A time finally came when he began to struggle to keep a balance between his life as a bureaucrat and that of a poet.
His drinking became a problem and almost all of his affairs with an assortment of women ended disastrously, further embittering his already shaky mental and emotional disposition.
In the late 1960s his poetry also became highly sarcastic, in which he taunted his contemporary poets for failing to recognise his talent. He also taunted poetry fans for being like sheep that failed to appreciate individuality.
By now Mustafa was married with kids, but he continued to have affairs, until he thought he had finally found a soul mate and the perfect muse in the shape of Shahnaz Saleem, a famous socialite of the time.
It was a torrid affair in which Mustafa asked Shahnaz to marry him but she refused, instead marrying a rich businessman (and whom Zaidi accused of being a smuggler).
This was also the period Zaidi wrote his most intimate and insightful poetry that was published in his 1969 collection, ‘Koh-e-Nida.’
Many of his fans believe that in a number of ways, Zaidi talked about committing suicide in this collection.
The most continuous theme in his poetry (that of being a misfit), is the strongest in ‘Koh-e-Nida.’
But his failed affair with Shahnaz was the one he just could not come to terms with.
Dismissed from his job, alienated from his family and contemporaries, and in a state bordering psychosis, Zaidi decided to perform one final act that (in his mind) would not only embarrass the creative community and society, but also gain his work the recognition that he always felt it deserved.
In 1970 he booked a room in a Karachi hotel and asked Shahnaz to meet him there. Shahnaz reluctantly agreed.
He called room service and asked for two coffees. He quietly slipped sleeping pills in Shahnaz’s cup.
Once she had fallen asleep, he took a heavy dose of poison, collapsed and died.
He was right. It was only after his tragic and dramatically enacted death that Zaidi became the widely hailed poet he always desired to be.
His collections suddenly started to sell big. But, unfortunately, the man behind the now famous poems was not there to experience his own rise.
How could he be? It was a rise he knew could only be achieved by killing himself in a way both the press and poetry fans would ‘appreciate.’
He was just 40.
Hassan Nasir was an exceptionally bright and charismatic young man born in an aristocratic Muslim family in Hyderabad Deccan in India.
He got admitted to UK’s prestigious Cambridge University where he came into contact with various young British and Indian Marxists.
He was soon converted. On his return to India (and against his family’s wishes), he took an active part in an intense armed peasants’ uprising in the Telangana region.
In 1950 he migrated to Pakistan and joined the Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP) in Karachi.
Though just 22 years old, he greatly impressed the party leadership with his in-depth knowledge of Marxism and his activism.
His militant outlook and popularity among students, peasants and industrial workers got him arrested by the Pakistani government in 1954.