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DAWN - Features; 25 December, 2004

December 25, 2004


In memory of literary figures

By Lahore

It may sound unfair but it seems the local office of the Pakistan Academy of Letters was cramped for time that it decided to arrange a function in the joint memory of four well-known literary figures - Josh Malihabadi, Shaikh Ayaz, Mir Gul Khan Naseer and Parveen Shakir.

Josh Malihabadi is undoubtedly one of the leading poets of the last century, especially of the post-Iqbal era. Known as a storehouse of words, he excelled in lavish and repetitive use of poetic idioms.

Because of his poems against oppression and in support of the aggrieved and downtrodden, he came to be known as a poet of revolution. He gave up writing ghazal and concentrated on nazm as he felt it was the only means to propound ideas in a single chain of thought.

Totally against the exploitive character of religion, he expressed profound appreciation for the stand taken at Karbala. Although nobody could challenge his versatility or his command over words and diction, yet he was maligned on ideological grounds.

At times he did write verses in an agnostic vein but never denied the existence of God. All in all, Josh Malihabadi was a revolutionist, a humanist, a romantic and also a transcendentalist.

It was Dr Ziaul Hasan at the PAL function who spoke on Josh. Although he mostly dilated upon his progressive views, he also mentioned that he was also influenced by Allama Iqbal. Unfortunately, he did not elaborate.

Prof Aashiq Raheel was given the duty of speaking on Shaikh Ayaz that evening. It was rightly pointed out that Shaikh Ayaz was recognized as the next most important poet of Sindhi after Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai.

It may sound strange, however, that the first poetic collection of Shaikh Ayaz was in Urdu. Published in 1952, it was given the title, Bu-i-Gul Nala-i-Dil. His first collection in Sindhi verse came eight years later.

The contribution of Shaikh Ayaz to Sindhi literature is stupendous. He has left behind about 50 works of poetry and prose. Totally opposed to religious obscurantism and the exploitation of the poor, "he was a thoroughbred radical humanist, a socialist in the Fabian tradition and a materialist in the tradition of the great antagonists of imperialism and colonianism."

He did have his roots in Sindh, and was proud of it, but was a source of inspiration for the oppressed of the world. Apart from other languages, his poems have been translated into Punjabi by Ahmad Salim and in Urdu by Fehmida Riaz.

Mir Gul Khan Naseer was a renowned political figure and a poet. Speaking about him that evening, Samundar Khan Mansuri said he was not only a true thinker, but also a great political leader of Balochistan.

His poetry did not depict love or romance but provoked the new generation to be aware of its rights and work for the deprived classes. Educated both in his home province and at Lahore, he initially started writing poetry in Urdu.

However, he later came to be recognized as not only the leading poet of Balochi but also of Persian and Brahvi. However, it is not widely known that Mir Gul Khan Naseer happened to be the first education minister of Balochistan, and it was he who was responsible for the establishment of the Bolan Medical College.

Speaking about Parveen Shakir, Prof Shafiq Ahmad Khan found it necessary to mention Kishwar Naheed and Fehmida Riaz as two big names in Urdu poetry written by women. At the same time he forgot Ada Jafri and Zohra Nigah who write more like women.

Her first collection, Khushboo, published in 1977, is a beautiful and spontaneous expression of youthful feminine aspirations. She may not have written about the rights of women, but she did exercise the right of speaking out her mind.

In fact, her poetry started with topics of teenage romance and her boldness in talking about a man as her beloved baffled everyone. However, these thoughts kept undergoing an evolution so noticeable in her collections Sadbarg, Khud Kalami and Kaf-i-Aina published posthumously.

Parveen Shakir did rise to spectacular heights of recognition and popularity but unfortunately, she died at an early age. Her end was tragic but she did leave her mark on Urdu poetry.

The well-attended function arranged by the Pakistan Academy of Letters was presided over by Ahmad Aqeel Ruby. I really don't know how he found time to extract himself from his commitments with the film-world. As the late professor Sajjad Baqar Rizvi said about him, he is more filmi than ilmi.'-ASHFAQUE NAQVI