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DAWN - Features; June 19, 2008

June 19, 2008


Critic guides writer to the right path —Jameel Jalibi

By Naseer Ahmad

ALTHOUGH renowned critic and writer Dr Jameel Jalibi’s literary achievements are wide-ranging, his magnum opus on the history of Urdu literature will take another decade or so to complete.

He has written more than 40 books concerning criticism, research and culture, including Pakistani Culture, Tanqeed aur Tajarba, Nai Tanqeed; Adab, Culture aur Masa-il, Mir Taqi Mir, Maasir-i-Adab, Qaumi Zaban, Yak-Jehti — Nifaz aur Masa-il, Diwan-i-Hasan Shauqi and Farhang-i-Istalahaat, some of which have run into their multiple editions. But Tareekh-i-Urdu Adab, or a history of Urdu literature, which he planned and began writing in 1967, has been published in three volumes yet, each comprising about 1,000 pages. A fourth one he hopes will be published this year. Going by the quantum of work involved in this series, it will take him eight to 10 years more to accomplish the task. He hopes he will be given an opportunity by providence to finish it.

It was in the same series in which Dr Jalibi had stirred a controversy of sorts when he wrote that Punjabi and Urdu had the same roots. “Yes, Urdu is a developed form of Punjabi,” he said in an interview with this writer at his North Nazimabad residence on Saturday.

Being published by the Lahore-based Majlis Taraqqi-i-Adab, the series begins in the 15th century with the masnavi Kadam Rao aur Pidam Rao. The first volume covers the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, the second the 18th, the third up to 1850, the fourth to the end of the 19th century and the fifth will cover the 20th century.

Jalibi sahib says he is very much concerned about future generations and tries to do something for them. “They will think ‘What have our elders left for us?’ And this book will be my answer to their question.”

At least two institutionalized attempts had been made before him to write the history of Urdu literature. First it was tried at Aligarh and then in Lahore. Both were collective efforts involving several researchers to work on separate chapters. But both institutions failed to achieve their stated objectives. Jalibi is doing it alone without support from any quarter. “I studied and saw where they had faltered and learned lessons from the mistakes of my predecessors. I owe a lot to them.”

Another of his books which got immense popularity is Arastu say Eliot tuk (From Aristotle to T.S. Eliot) contains translation of literary masterpieces of classical western writers. Published both in India and Pakistan, the book has run into its sixth edition. Asked what distinguished one critic or researcher from another, he said: “The quality of work one does. Several writers may be writing on the same topic, but what they achieve in the process matters…. And this is evaluated by critics. ”

In response to question whether criticism is meant just to find faults as most people understand it, he said ‘No’. “Criticism means to study a piece of writing in depth and come up with meanings which may not be apparent to a common reader. It means to discover what it has and what it doesn’t have. One may also consider the writing’s relevance to society, to history and whether it carries a cause forward or backward. “A critic may guide a writer to the right path, to the creation of great literature. Criticism has a very wide scope. If I come cross a critic pointing to flaws in my writings, I appreciate it. Many people have criticized my writings.”

Numerous articles by critics over the decades have eulogized his work. Two literary magazines have brought out their special numbers on him and three books, including the Pakistan Academy of Letters’ Dr Jameel Jalibi: shakhsiat aur fun, have been written to highlight his literary achievements. “I am the only writer who has read each and every word of Urdu literature,” says Jalibi sahib. “I use research for my own opinion-building, to correct and authenticate my views.”

On the issue of royalty on his books, he says the cheques he occasionally receives from his publishers are not enough even to afford him daal-roti. “But I write for my own satisfaction. Those who write for royalty cannot maintain quality. About 25 of my books have been published in India and there is no question that I would ask for their royalty. What I demand of my publishers is that they publish the book in a reasonably good form.”

Born as Mohammad Jameel Khan on July 30, 1929 into a Yousufzai family of Aligarh, Jameel Jalibi got his early education in his hometown and passed his high school examination from Saharanpur. He did his intermediate and graduation from a Meerut college. He migrated to Pakistan in 1947 and earned his LLB, MA, PhD and DLitt degrees here. Having passed the CSS examination, he had joined the Income Tax department. After retirement from government service, he served Karachi University as vice-chancellor from 1983 to ‘87, when he joined the Muqtadara Qaumi Zaban (the National Language Authority) as its chairman. In recognition of his services, he was given the Sitara-i-Imtiaz award. Although Jalibi sahib is close to 80, he enjoys a good health thanks to the disciplined life he has lived. “A 35- to 40-minute walk has been my daily routine for the last 40/50 years,” says Jalibi.

He is thankful to his wife for having taken charge of the household responsibilities and allowed him to devote his time to reading and writing. “I work from six to eight hours daily. I enjoy my work as other people do their hobbies.”

His four children, two daughters and two sons, one of them settled in the United States, do not particularly enjoy Urdu literature but they share the habit of reading. “Even my wife reads a lot. She usually looks for writings on religion and health.p

“I have had a very satisfying life – got respect, reputation and creative satisfaction. I have never had a night of restlessness. If given a chance, I’d like to live it all over again.”

Poverty fails to dent artist’s will

By Rashid Khattak

HUKMAT KHAN does not have an art gallery or studio but he can paint and sculpt anything he wants with unbelievable prowess. He is a natural artist and has made numerous paintings, sculptures, monograms and pictorial maps of high artistic value but art lovers are unaware about his skills because he is extremely poor and lacks access to the higher echelons of the society and patrons of art.

“Once I made some paintings fort a former chief secretary. Now he claims that he has bought them from a gallery in Paris, as I did not put my name on them,” says the 60-year-old artist.

Wearing a traditional cap and a modest smile, the illiterate farmer does not look like an artist. But when he works on his painting it seems that the brush in his hand is moving by itself creating wonderful pieces of art. Born in Bahadar Kellay, the village of famous Pashto poet Rehman Baba, near Peshawar, Hukmat started painting without any guidance from a teacher. “No one taught me about art and painting. My practice is my only teacher,” he says and adds that he is proud of his association with Rehman Baba.

Majority of the people living in his village, according to him, are illiterate peasants and know nothing about paintings, sculptures and calligraphy. “People are prejudiced here. There are drug addicts and robbers in my village but people despise me even more than them, because they consider my art un-Islamic,” he complains. He misses his mother as she was the only person in the entire village to appreciate his art and encourage him. “My first painting was a scene of my village depicting a house and fields. My mother saw it and sensed my artistic qualities,” he adds.

Hukmat claims that his paintings are displayed in Jinnah College Peshawar, Elizabeth School, Kurram Agency Jirga Hall, Sadda Assistant Political Agent House, Kurram Agency Political Agent office, Islamia College Peshawar and Khyber House Peshawar.

Pointing to a huge paining of Islamia College showing a few camels passing near the building, he says that the original water-colour painting was a creation of Mrs Tipping, the wife of a pre-partition principal of the college, in a small size. “I reproduced the painting in 6x12 ft size and also corrected some of the mistakes in the original piece,” he says.

Besides calligraphy and paintings, Hukmat has also sculpted statues of General Bakht Khan, Razia Sultana, Chand Bibi and Benazir Bhutto. He has a story to tell about every sculpture. “Lahore Arts Council made a statue of General Bakht Khan riding his horse about 15 yeas ago at a cost of Rs500,000. The sculpture was installed at a square in Peshawar. One day while passing near it I noticed that there were some mistakes in the piece. I replicated the same and corrected the errors. It was my first experience of sculpting,” he narrates. About the mistake in the original statue, he says that the man is not in equation with the horse. “Besides the horse expresses fear instead of valour,” he remarks.

Being an illiterate person he is not familiar with the new and old trends in painting and calligraphy or holding of art exhibitions. “Someone told me that artists keep many books on art and work of other painters in their homes to seek guidance. But I can neither read books nor afford to buy paintings,” he says and adds apologetically that he can’t even arrange photographs of his paintings because he has no money to give to a photographer.

Travelling on his bicycle in the width and breadth of Peshawar district, Hukmat visits places to look for scene and faces worth painting. “His keen observation and realism always fascinate me,” says Dr Javed Badshah, chairman of Urdu department Islamia College Peshawar.

However, he regrets that Hukmat has been exploited by people very tactfully as they remove even his name from his paintings. “I visited many art galleries in Europe when I was serving as education counsellor in Pakistan embassy in London. I believe that he would have been toast of the town if born in the West,” Dr Javed Badshah remarks.

Dr Badshah wants to arrange an exhibition of Humkat’s paintings at his house in Pabbi but sees the growing Talibanisation as a threat to such activities. “His qualities will be properly utilised if provided financial support. The level of his competency can be judged from the statement of Ms Tayyeba, chairperson of Fine Arts department, who says that she considers him a teacher and admits to have sought guidance from him,” he says.

About the growing militancy in the society and future of such artists, Professor Obaidur Rehman says that they should confine themselves to painting landscapes and Quranic verses to avoid any possible danger.

“I see nothing wrong with my art as I also paint Quranic verses and pictorial maps beside portraits and full figures. Once on the request of revenue department I reduced a 100-metre large map of Peshawar suburban areas to two feet. But the department did not hire me for mapping again as I refused to put the name of revenue officer on the map,” Hukmat says with a little displeasure.

But still he vows to fight poverty and unfavourable circumstances without keeping in mind the fact that he often cannot afford to buy colours and other material necessary for his work.

Yarn market hangs by thread of parchis

Traders of the Faisalabad Yarn Market use parchis or chits for transactions to evade taxes, a survey conducted by Dawn reveals.

All traders use chits for business transactions and every day trading worth billions is being done at the market.

Faisalabad is known as the textile capital of Pakistan. Hundreds of shops, small and big markets branded as yarn market were set up here in the early fifties. The market stretches from Montgomery Bazaar to Kharkhana Bazaar and most of the country bigwigs have association with it through different means.

Yarn and grey cloths are two commodities being traded under the parchi system. Such chits have no governmental registration numbers and traders and exporters have got published these chits on their own.

There are two kinds of chits under circulation in the market-- katchi chits (informal) and pakki (authenticated). Similarly, payments are also made keeping in view terms and conditions settled by mutual understanding.

These chits are also the source of cheating people and scores of traders have suffered million of rupees losses. If one misplaces the chit, the amount written on it also gone.

Parchis or chits are being used for retailing and procurement for yarn and fabric, Tanvir Malik, a broker said.

"You can easily collect or deposit yarn and gray fabrics through chits. The system is based on so-called trust,” he said.

He said one could not survive in the market by challenging the system. Influential traders use this system to exploit small merchants, he said.

Mr Malik said dominant traders would cancel your deal even after the passage of considerable time and issuance of a parchi, if they observed a downturn in the market.

Thousand of power looms, spinning mills, silk power and shut-less looms, dying factories, printing, processing and finishing mills, hosiery and knitwear units functioning in different districts are attached with this market directly or indirectly. More than one million labourers are linked with the market.

Another trader Riaz Shahid said countless people had to leave the yarn market as the illegal system caused them losses.

He said people intended to get rid of the exploiting system being practiced by influential textile tycoons, but to no avail. Most of the dealers say you could not save your skins of different taxes once register with the government. In the entire trade deals, it is observed the government is oblivious about transaction of billion of rupees that has been causing financial losses to the exchequer.

Rains deny June its hot splendour

June is the month to celebrate summer in its pristine glory; its prime, unadulterated purity. The sun blazes overhead, complete master of the skies. There is no wind or cloud to dampen its intensity. The wayward draught of air is crisp; you can feel its sharp edge cutting through your skin, as if to tenderise the tougher portions of your being.

The June sun is a churlish intruder, a male chauvinist from the countryside hell bent on having its way to the hilt. Insensitive to any feeling and devoid of tact, delicacy or any regard for civil etiquette, it arrives unannounced and before you can as much as raise a questioning eyebrow, you are overwhelmed by its unmitigated brilliance. If its fiery path right after rising from behind the Supreme Court obelisk to descending in red contrition on the Faisal Mosque is deterred in any way by the shadow of a bird’s wing, I would say it is not a genuine June sun.

And so it is not, like all other things under it. June’s third week is the time when the sun is positioned to be at its hottest; when the day achieves its longest duration. No, not this time. The sky is overcast. There have been uncharacteristic morning showers now for the third day going. The sight of clouds blocking the blaze across the firmament pleases the poor man’s heart. June rain is a capricious beloved’s unsolicited smile. It is an act of unfathomable mercy; a forgiveness that feels like a purification. The hazy mists of dust and vapour that shroud the Margallas are suddenly lifted. The dark silhouette of the jagged skyline now shapes into a reclining nude bathing in the open. Cool, jaunty winds spring up from nowhere. Earthy aromas of fulfilment perfume the tasselled breeze. The unexpected has happened. The fan has stopped turning under the roof for an hour but the sound of rain falling and the flock of birds vanishing in the foliage is all the heart needs to cheer up.

In one old Urdu school book, probably Aftab-e- Adab, there was a story about the three seasons quarrelling over who was the better among the trio. Finally it is decided to seek a fourth opinion — an old lady’s who they did not know was in a grouchy mood at the moment. One by one she disqualifies them all as positively insufferable. In their turn the seasons unleash their worst on her and leave her groaning and cursing after them. They go then to another old lady who must have been Dale Carnegie’s own great aunt. One by one she recounts the blessings and beauties of each season and one after the other Jara, Garmi and Barsaat depart with broad grins after rewarding her generously.

Garmi, garmi ke kya kehnai (summer, ah summer! What could be better!) she starts off listing all those small pleasures the old now remember nostalgically. Even in urban settlements people lived close to each other. Poverty was great but the life styles were not starkly different. Rich and poor slept under the stars in their courtyards and on the roofs of their houses. June made no class distinctions. Its gawky insolence had no soft corners. But progress kind to the few has been unkind to many. One sees summer’s embarrassed face outside air-conditioned halls and as cool bodies glide in chilled limousines. The June sun has been humbled by puny bipeds in their insulated capsules of comfort. When the power shut downs come to its aid, the generators get turned on, their growl and roar driving Apollo away to the endless world of the meek where alone it is now permitted to strut about.

Yet riches are not without their privations. In the years gone by that the young of Islamabad know nothing about, children in Rawalpindi would come out in raucous bands singing meenh barsaday zora zore at the slightest sign of coming rain. Hearing their chorus mohalla women would rush to the window to soak the naked urchins with tumblers of cold water as part of the ritual to persuade the Rain god. It worked quite often as things do in which people believe. Bathing in the rain was not an uncouth act then. Peeping Toms and oglers of all kinds would climb upstairs to get an eyeful of the neighbour’s missus drenching herself on the roof.

Rooftops in Islamabad are the most uninteresting of high places. Crows and mynahs alone go there to use the sunny washrooms. Nor do parents of this planned city allow children a rainy dip. Unveiled exposure, free mixing and Asian Study Group have turned erstwhile oglers into harmless nature watchers. There is more attainable in the liquid yellow gold of a blossom laden amaltas that June’s flaming sun has lined up along chosen avenues than the passing vision of inscrutable shapes in diaphanous cotton lawns. Rains mercifully have been considerate. A longer spell would have dulled the amaltas refulgence. It seems the tree draws its molten gold from the heart of the sun itself, and unlike men, is content with a summer’s glory.