AS 2012 marks Miraji’s centenary, it was only apt that the conference dedicated a session to him. It was ironical though, that while the papers read out highlighted the neglect suffered by the poet, the organisation, or its lack, of the discussion, illustrated that neglect. In short, the discussion started late and ended abruptly as the entire programme was running a couple of hours behind schedule.
The session started with Wusatullah Khan who compared Miraji, the teenager, with his counterpart today. It was an interesting paper and earned Wusatullah a lot of applause from the audience but he should be wary of the pitfalls of overly stylised prose.
Nasir Abbas Nayyer, a young critic, talked of Miraji’s “creative translations”, and stressed the point that his work is still waiting for a critic to explore its meanings. His remark, that Manto was “cruel in calling Miraji a sexual pervert,” was something that evoked a detailed comment from Fehmida Riaz, who read her paper after Shahida Hasan had spoken about the genre of geet practised by the poet.
Riaz did well to quote from Manto’s sketch of Miraji in which he wrote: “I called it [Miraji’s appearance et al] a fraud. He accepted it… We both knew it was not a fraud.” This set the record straight as far as the point raised by Nayyer was concerned.
Riaz then moved on to call Miraji a “Hindustani poet; not a Pakistani poet,” arguing, and rightly so, that his poetry was the result of a society that found nothing wrong in drawing from both Hindu and Muslim cultures.
Her last point was a bit confusing though. While she pointed out that critics and opponents have been unkind to Miraji by focussing on his rather odd personality to the point that it overshadowed his poetry, and that this was done intentionally, she herself proceeded to discuss Miraji’s personality traits and quoted his verses along with her interpretations which came across as what she had been accusing Miraji’s opponents of doing.
By the time Riaz was done speaking, the chief organiser, Ahmed Shah, had started expressing nervousness about the delay. Finally Masood Ashar, a respected name in literary and journalistic circles, who was supposed to read a paper on Miraji in the context of the modern poem, throttled his speech to some random comments and left it to Shamim Hanafi to talk about the Faiz-Rashid-Miraji triangle of Urdu poetry.
Hanafi said that while Faiz and Rashid had their influential backers and promoters, Miraji, the commoner, remained lost in himself, and consequently stands lost to history — almost lost, that is.Kishwar Naheed was also forced to be brief in her comments and restricted herself to the observation that nobody mentioned Mira Sen, the young woman for whose love Mohammad Sanaullah Dar became Miraji.
- Humair Ishtiaq