DAWN - Features; January 22, 2008

Published January 22, 2008

Not-so-current affairs

By Rauf Parekh

During a literary gathering at the Karachi’s Arts Council, Dilawar Figar read out a piece of his prose before reciting his humorous verse. It was a bit unusual but the audience was amused as he was a witty person and had been making people laugh for a long time. During his piece, laughter bubbled up quite a few times as he narrated his imaginary travel into the skies: how he left for the heavens and was refused entry into paradise by the guard angels because he had arrived before the scheduled time. The angels asked him to go back to the earth and come back after five years. The audience laughed it off. I was there and still remember the date: January 31, 1993.

On January 25, 1998, almost exactly five years after the reading of his lively piece, Dilawar Figar left for his heavenly abode. This time around, no one denied him entry and no one laughed.

Those who have to create humour out of compulsion for a newspaper column or for Mushairas have to base their humour on a theme that is current and easily understood. Being funny is easy when the audience readily recognises the target and shares some kind of problem, power outages or wheat flour shortages, for instance. But the tragic fate of humour based on current affairs is that it becomes dud after a while. When the problem targeted in humour dies, so does the humour. But there are a few poet-humorists in the Urdu language whose humour lives on even after the problems and issues vanish. Following in the footsteps of Akber Allahabadi, poets such as Syed Muhammad Jafri and Zameer Jafri just did that. In our times, Dilawar Figar is the humorist whose humour feels as fresh as if written only yesterday.

Why? For two reasons: firstly, Figar belonged to a generation of poets and times that valued the technicalities of poetry, that is, prosody, diction, cadence, rhetoric and the figurative use of the language. He perfected his art in an environment that did not spare anyone who lacked these qualities. This sharpened his saw and with a natural gift for poetry and humour, he outshone many of his contemporaries. Secondly, his topics were current and his targets well-known: everyday problems of city life shared by all and sundry. Common misery is a thread that binds everyone together.

By combining these two traits and inserting in between some elements of permanent value, Figar created humorous verse that does not wilt with the change of weather. There is yet another aspect that has given his poetry universal appeal and permanence: the problems he talked about are persistent and still lingering. It has become a tragicomedy. Our hardships and tragedies have been there all through these years, and the same problems have become such a part of current affairs that they are not current anymore. Or, perhaps, current affairs are somehow not so current in this part of the world. As Dilawar Figar said in one of the couplets that have become proverbial: Halaat-e-haazra ko kai saal ho gae.

Dilawar Figar was born as Dilawar Hussain in Badayun, UP, on July 8, 1929. Zafar Yab Hussain Jam Nawai, Badayun’s well-known poet, lived in his neighbourhood and his sons, Aftab Zafar and Mehtab Zafar, were Figar’s close friends. Through his friends, Figar reached Jam Sahib and became his disciple in poetry. When Jam Sahib migrated to Pakistan, Figar sought guidance from Maulana Jami Badayuni, another famous poet and scholar of the town.

His father’s illness forced Dilawar Figar to seek a job at 19. He got a job at a post office but quit and pulled along by giving private tuitions. By nature, Figar was a sunny and witty person but life was difficult, his father had died and he had to support his mother and siblings. The first collection of his poetry Haadse is melancholic at times and reminiscent of those difficult days.

After graduating Figar began teaching at a college, obtained two masters’ degrees – in Economics and Urdu – and things started looking up. He got a better job at another college. During Badayun’s municipal elections, Dilawar Figar wrote an enormously long and humorous poem. Published in a booklet form, it became quite popular. He then took writing humour seriously and some of his poems such as ‘Radio Interview’, ‘Master Sahib’ and ‘Shaer-e-Azam’ earned him name and fame.

After independence, many of Figar’s relatives migrated to Pakistan but he had stayed back. Ultimately, in 1968, he too came to Pakistan. In the preface to his book Ungliyaan Figar Apni, he has described the circumstances that forced him to flee Badayun though by that time he had come to be known as a popular poet of the mushaeras throughout India due only to his hilarious poetry.

In Pakistan Figar remained jobless for some time. After a brief stint at Karachi’s Abdullah Haroon College, where Faiz Ahmed Faiz was the principal, Figar landed a job in now defunct Karachi Development Authority. But in 1972, he resigned from the post after some misunderstanding with the higher-ups.

In a mushaera telecast by PTV during the 1970s general elections, Dilawar Figar recited his poem ‘Main Apna Vote Kis Ko Doon?’ in his peculiar style. It was a smashing success and Dilawar Figar became a household name overnight. Other poems of his such as ‘KDA Se Shikwa’, ‘Karachi Ki Bus’, Karachi Ke Qabristan’, ‘Gadhe ka Qatl’ and ‘Ishq Ka Parcha’ enhanced his popularity and during the last years of his life, his participation in a mushaera was a sign of its success.

His other books include Sitam Zareefyan, Shamat-e-Aamal, Aadab Arz, and Matla Arz Hai. A selection of his poetry titled Az Sar-e-Nau was published from India in 1979. His collected humorous works have been published from Karachi a few years ago.

Khoob Tar Kahan is Figar’s translation into Urdu of Jimmy Carter’s biography. He rendered into Urdu 100 of the best poems in English and the anthology was titled Khushboo Ka Safar.

— drraufparekh@yahoo.com

Police image and encounters of grim kind

By Munawer Azeem

MENTION “police” to our ordinary, simple folks and the word would conjure up the image of a “bully” and a “brute” in their minds. There are reasons that policemen are held in such terror instead of their universal definition — “protector of citizens’ life and property”.

Our police owes this bad image to its colonial past but more to its errant ways which have worsened — thanks to its misuse by our rulers since independence.

It is not that the force is bereft of honest and God-fearing policemen and officers. But they are too small in numbers to wash away the bad image.

It is now common for police to detain citizens without charge, implicate innocent people in false cases, take criminals off the hook or even help them escape.

But the police look most inhuman — in fact criminal — when someone is killed by it in fake encounters.

One such incident happened last month in Islamabad which prides itself on having a disciplined and soft — as against brutish — police force.

On December 13, the city police announced that a proclaimed offender had been killed in an encounter in Pind Sangrial village near Sector D-12.

According to the Golra police, Mohammad Nazuk of the village was wanted in five cases and had been absconding. Caught off- guard by a three-man police raiding party, he tried to flee but was cornered.

In an ensuing encounter Nazuk’s two accomplices escaped but he received two bullets and was taken into custody. He was taken to Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) where doctors pronounced him dead on arrival, said the Golra police.

However Nazuk’s brother complained to higher police officers that his brother was murdered in cold blood at the behest of his enemies for some payment.

A judicial inquiry was ordered. The Saddar Assistant Commissioner, Malik Afsar, conducted the inquiry and came to the conclusion after recording statements of nine persons named by the two sides and of others he came across during his visits to the alleged crime scenes.

His inquiry established that on the day of occurrence, the police party reached D-12 Sector in a car in the morning and commandeered a truck to take them to Pind Sangrial. There they found Nazuk his job — crushing stones. On seeing police he tried to run away but was caught by his pursuers who bundled him into a private car and drove off in an easterly direction.

People a few kilometres away from Pind Sangrial deposed to the inquiry officer that they heard gunshots around 9am.

Police log book showed that the car the police was bringing Nazuk had broken down as the police party had called for a replacement which was sent. It brought the injured Nazuk to Pims around 11:45am with the broken down car in tow.

The inquiry report submitted to the relevant police and city administration officials said Nazuk was shot from a distance of four feet. On that basis a case of murder was registered against the three-member raiding party of the Golra police — ASI Mohammad Iqbal and constables Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Jahangir.

But not only no legal proceedings have followed against the three accused, they continue to perform their duties in police uniform.

Tragic but nothing surprising.

A police station officer implicated in a similar ‘fake encounter’ case of early 2005, is performing his onerous police duties to this day. The case refers to the killing in an encounter of two alleged murderers of Raja Akram, caretaker of Bari Imam shrine, who, their relatives claimed, had been in the custody of police for two weeks when Raja Akram was murdered.

© DAWN Group of Newspapers, 2008



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