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DAWN - Features; October 11, 2001

October 11, 2001

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Quest for integration: LITERARY ROUND-UP

By Mushir Anwar


YASMIN Hameed dabbles in poetry apparently for the fun of it. A successful woman, owner of an expensive private school that must be yielding bucket loads of tax-free blue grands every first of the month, more than enough to satiate into peaceful slumber each restive molecule of creativity, she would have scant need for poetry, the balsam of aching hearts. But having unburdened four volumes already of her verse, including the latest, Fana Bhi Ek Sarab, released at a private gathering in Islamabad some days back by friends, it appears her’s is no ordinary wound that time could heal. Her heart, in the words of Mus’hafi, needs a great deal of darning.

Riches are not Yasmin Hameed’s only accomplishment. With a first ranking post-graduate degree in Home Economics and an excellent all round academic record, she has been a debater, a radio and television anchor person, an editor and teacher, in short the kind of talented female child parents pray for and sensible men dread.

An ordinary person would be content with an assured living, so would some be sustained by a record of success even as many thrive on just good looks. Yet, having all these Yasmin still feels lost. Is it name that she seeks in poetry which fortune denies her or is it the vertebral worm that gnaws all travellers of the twilight zone at the root. In her puzzling intro to the collection of verse under discussion, Yasmin looks like pointing to some such dab on the fabric of her thought she has been trying to launder though to no avail.

She admits she sees relief in the bliss of ignorance but the torment of knowing has its own solace. One has to wake up at the journey’s end. And just as a thinking person cannot for the sake of bliss be ignorant, the pursuer of truth must be ready to embrace the cross or else be accursed with the unbearable load of falsehood.

Conscience makes the trio of sorrow complete for Yasmin. No other woe benights her days but these three strands that braid into a kind of existence that riches, success and name cannot unravel.

Yasmin Hameed’s verse is a quest for integration. She grabs many threads but cannot tie them up. There are good sparkling lines all over but they hang loose. Her titles alone make a seductive list of themes but rarely is she able to turn them into a cogent frame. The unity of thought and image disintegrates in her perception. This dispersion of unity is not characteristic of her Nazm alone where it may not be so visibly evident as in the soldered couplets of her Ghazal. I reckon this dissolution comes from the wide and varied exposure she has had to external influences of the bigger world she has known that inner urges cannot coalesce. The savage alone is in one piece. The rest of us who live in the midst of modern life lead a shattered existence with its fragmentation of desire and ecstasy. Try as she might to make a point through simplicity of diction or short chatty lines, the ingredients seldom gel into shapes she has in mind. Her difficulty springs from profusion. She has so many things to say, explore a hundred perceptions and take note of a myriad observations. Ilmo bus kareen o yar, was Bulleh Shah’s excellent remedy.

Lafz bhurbhuray kyon hain

Sans ki rawani mein

Rait bhar gaee hay kyon

Kitni khushk mitti hay

Kitna sard paththar hay

Phool kitnay taza hain

Kya ajeeb manzar hay

The book is tastefully produced and is pure Yasmin, singularly unaided by the crutches of comment. Its black jacket is an outfit of self-respect.

* * * * * * * * *

IRTEQA: The 29th issue of the quarterly Irteqa has just been out. Dr Mohammad Ali Siddiqui discusses literature in the context of contemporary movements in the West and their relevance in our social milieu particularly with reference to the raging debate on linguistic forms.

As usual a section is devoted to the life and poetic work of Mohsin Zaidi. The story of the campaign against Angaray, a critical study of an early period novel entitled Nishtar, two pieces of excellent short fiction by Prem Vadh and Mirza Hamid Baig and a very fine selection of verse make this representative publication of progressive thought a must read though, unfortunately, its availability in our parts is scarce.