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DAWN - Features; March 12, 2003

March 12, 2003


Mir Anis and Karbala

MUHARRAM and Mir Anis have become synonymous in our part of the world. In fact, Mir Anis is a great teacher for the young generation if it wants to feed itself on the gems of Urdu poetry. Undoubtedly, Urdu derives much of its strength from the Marsias of Mir Anis.

Mir Anis has drawn upon the vocabulary of Arabic, Persian, Urdu/Hindi/Awadhi in such a good measure that he symbolizes the full spectrum of the cultural mosaic that Urdu has come to be. No Urdu poet from Ghalib onwards has lagged behind in showering his eulogies on Mir Anis.

The art of Marsia in the hands of Anis has brought to itself the attributes of painting, music and photography. He convinces us that a great artist is at work, making us watch with a sense of wonder all that he has in his repertoire. The moment the bewitched readers or listeners of Mir Anis’s Marsias surrender themselves to the magic they feel as if they have been transferred to the scene of action aboard the time machine.

Perhaps there is no other poet in the world who has looked after the aesthetic and spiritual satisfaction of his fans so completely as Mir Anis does. It is simply miraculous!

This year the sub-continent has seen the culmination of a huge focus on Anis by way of seminars and symposia on the bicentenary of the poet. The spillover of the celebrations is still on. The month of Muharram is serving as the most appropriate atmosphere to add to emotional intensity which Mir Anis’s poetry inculcates in us more and more.

Quite a few important works on Mir Anis appeared last year. The most commendable of them all was monthly Risai Adab’s monumental Mir Anis Number. Comprising 1,200 pages it shows that Hadi Askari’s Muhammadi Education and Publication deserves the unique credit in Anisean studies. Edited by Dr Hilal Naqvi this publication is the best effort so far made anywhere. Mir Anis deserves the honour for he is easily the fourth most important poet of Urdu from the standpoint of Urdu’s linguistic development — Nazeer, Mir Taqi Mir, Ghalib and Wajid Ali Shah. I strongly believe that only Josh Malihabadi could be added to this list. I have left out Ghalib and Iqbal from this list on purpose. They are great poets of our literature but when it comes to discussing our important poets in the context of language, then this yardstick calls for a separate roll of honour. T. S. Eliot did it in the case of Milton when he said that regardless of the fact that Milton’s influence on English language was only next to the Bible, he could not be regarded as a good influence on English language in spite of being a great poet.

Allama Iqbal and, before him, Ghalib were definitely greater poets than Mir Anis, but none of them satisfied us on so many counts as Mir Anis did. Unless we appreciate the fact that a good poet may not be a great poet and vice versa. Mir Anis bicentenary celebrations have also been enriched by Nayyar Masud’s important book Mir Anis (Swaneh) and Syed Zamir Akhtar Naqvi’s book Mir Anis Ki Shaeri Mein Rangon ka Istaimal besides Dr Taqi Abidi’s work Tajzia-i-Yaadgar Marsia.

The picture that is emerging of Mir Anis could be summed up in the following words: Mir Anis is a great Marsia poet but he is no less important as an Urdu poet. Hence his appreciation should not remain confined to a particular sect. Dr Hilal has very rightly dwelt on this point. I believe that a poet like Mir Anis should not be confined to a particular sect. It would be the height of a different kind of tragedy if Baudelaire was confined to being a Roman Catholic, Shakespeare with Protestantism and Milton with the Puritan sect. When we delimit a poet we are only delimiting our appreciation of his poetry. By acquiring greatness in his own right, he immediately joins the galaxy of the immortal souls which belongs to the entire humanity. Shakespeare does not belong to England or to the English-Speaking world alone, but to all of us.

Ghalib’s homage to Mir Anis is worth our attention. Ghalib had tried his hand at Marsia writing but miserably failed. Therefore, his homage to Mir Anis becomes pertinent: “The Marsia-poets like Mir Anis and Mirza Dabir will never be born again in Hindustan.” The great mentor of the Lucknow School of Literature, Imam Bakhsh Nasikh, had said: “If we want to learn Urdu in the true sense of the word then we will have to learn it from Mir Anis and his family.” Hali went to the extent of saying that Mir Anis was the best of all Urdu poets. This compliment comes from the author of Yaadgar-i-Ghalib. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad is on record having said that Ghalib and Mir Anis have turned Urdu into a great language of the world. Ram Babu Saxena hails Mir Anis as the Shakespeare of India and then he goes still further and puts Mir Anis on a par with Homer, Virgil and Balmiki.

What made Mir Anis so important as to be equated with the best names of world literature. May be because of his art of breathing life into words and making them signify the signified splendidly. It has become almost impossible to think of Marsia without Mir Anis. He has taken Marsia to the zenith. All that he has achieved for Urdu poetry is difficult to imitate, let alone excel him.

Mir Anis, not many of us realize, was an active advocate of sectarian and communal amity and that’s the reason, perhaps, that his Marsias always touched us. Scores of poets of other faiths have joined Mir Anis in his elegiac homage to the Martyrs of Karbala. Jawaharlal Nehru had once said that Mir Anis was his essential reading on the day of Ashura only to let him shed more of his insularity. What a tribute.

There is no need for a coach at the highest level

If the building process is continuous, there is no need to re-build. Whenever I used to read about preparing the Pakistan team for the World Cup, I would write that the World Cup should not be seen as a cut-off point and there would be cricket after the World Cup.

That we should not put all our eggs in one basket. There is certainly no need to panic and start throwing all the furniture out. At the same time, there is a need to find out why such a talented team underperformed, why there was such a rash of ‘lean patches’.

We won’t get very far if we look for scapegoats. Cricket is a team game and it is the team that stands together or falls apart, together. Cricket does not accept the division of a team into senior and junior players.

Nor does an arbitrary age-factor come into it. Look at Aravinda de Silva or Andy Flower or Javagal Srinath, for proof that he who is old in years may be young in hours, it is the spirit that must be willing.

Last year, Pakistan went to Australia to play in an indoor tournament. Pakistan beat Australia and we kept dining out on that success and it became a term of reference even when it had become abundantly clear that it was that one swallow that did not herald the summer.

We were called a ‘mercurial’ and an ‘unpredictable’ team and we accepted this, as if, it was a badge of honour. Cricket at the highest level demands consistency. An egg has to be good, it cannot be partly good.

Consistency requires discipline and discipline cannot be imposed. A player does not have to be told or reminded that he has to stay focused. If it has to be drummed into him, then that player is in the wrong profession.

Every team has a coach. Richard Pybus laments that there were players in the team who refused to learn. Learn what? Learning how to bowl line and length? Shot selection?

A child is toilet-trained. Once trained, he doesn’t have to be trained over and over again. I happen to believe that at the highest level, there is no need for a coach. An Under-15 team may need a coach.

At an international level, a player should be able to work out on his own what he is doing wrong. He doesn’t need a tutor. Self-improvement comes with self-discipline. Sachin Tendulkar needed a coach when he was a schoolboy.

Imran Khan and Javed Miandad took Wasim Akram under their wing, but once launched, he was on his own. There seems to be no need for Pybus making statements. He does not come into the equation.

Television coverage has been so good that we don’t want to be told what went wrong. We already know. Those who met me or telephoned me during our matches did not get a pep-talk but a brutal assessment that the team’s management was not allowing for local conditions, that it had brought a script with it and was not prepared to change it, that the body-language suggested that the players were not enjoying their cricket and, therefore, the team was either over-awed or not awed enough. It seemed a distracted team.

Of course, there should be changes but only if we are rebuilding and if we accept that the process is a painful one. Unfortunately, such is the poor quality of domestic cricket, it is an unreliable nursery.

Pakistan needs to concentrate on Under-19 and ‘A’ team tours, send the young players out to play under different conditions so that a bank of players is created and there should be an ‘understudy’ system, for every player in the national team, there should be one waiting in the wings. This should be an in-built mechanism.

The decision whether a player should retire is something that a player needs to decide himself. He needs to heed his inner voice. But a player’s reputation should not warrant automatic selection. We too need to change the method of appointing a captain.

Every player should be good enough to be in the playing eleven. A captain should be good enough to make it on his abilities, no bonus should be awarded if he is a good captain. A captain should earn his keep as a player.

The word ‘accountability’ has lost its credibility. But we should be able to carry out a study of what went wrong and pinpoint the mistakes. The team was accompanied by a large number of officials. What was their contribution?

We must get the World Cup out of our system but not before ensuring that the same mistakes are not made all over again. Perhaps, we need to change the mindset and introduce a performance-related system. Earn your keep!