An evening of lilting Urdu poetry

18 Sep 2015


Anwar Shaoor.—White Star
Anwar Shaoor.—White Star

KARACHI: Admirers of Urdu poetry received a rare treat as the distinguished poet Anwar Shaoor read one ghazal after another from a book, Kulliyaat, containing his complete works at Karachi Gymkhana on Thursday.

The evening was organised by the Anjuman Taraqqi-i-Urdu to launch the book and celebrate the poet.

Before Shaoor was asked to respond to a few queries about his creative journey and to recite his ghazals, Dr Fatema Hassan, who anchored the programme, said the launch could not be arranged at the Anjuman’s office due to shortage of space. She thanked Gymkhana’s office-bearers for lending their support to the event.

Dr Hassan requested Shaoor to inform the audience on how he developed as a poet and which individuals were his influences as he went along to establish his name in Urdu poetry. Shaoor said when he was very young, the person who taught him how to read the Holy Quran was a poet of renown, respected by the likes of Behzad Luckhnavi and Tabish Dehlvi. He was the one who in his early days taught him about the art of writing poetry. This was how he had already learned quite a few things by the time he (Shaoor) turned 13. Subsequently, the poet said, he consulted two more poets Tabish Dehlvi and Sirajuddin Zafar for guidance (Islah). He spoke affectionately about the eminent research scholar Mushfiq Khwaja with whom he spent a considerable time. At that point in time, he said, the researcher was associated with the Anjuman; he showed Shaoor some rare unpublished pieces of poetry collected by the Baba-i-Urdu Maulvi Abdul Haq, which too helped him hone his skills as a poet.

At that juncture, Dr Hassan reminded the poet of his association with Raees Imrovhi. Shaoor said he did visit Imrohvi regularly but he didn’t pay much attention to his poetry (lift nahin karaee). Dr Hassan again interjected and asked a question about why he left reading his ghazals in tarrannum (chanting). He replied that it was Mushfiq Khwaja who instilled in him revulsion to mushairas (poetry symposia) which he termed only good for entertainment. This led him to remark that poetry could only be created through a combination of observation, learning and practice.

Once Shaoor was done with his reply, Dr Hassan invited him to read a ghazal that he composed in his salad days. He obliged. One of the couplets of the ghazal was:

Wo rang rang ke chheente pade ke uss ke baad
Kabhi na phir naey kapde pahan ke nikla main

(I was smeared with colours galore
So I stopped wearing new clothes)

Then the poet presented a few of his favourite ghazals, which he claimed he had marked when he was coming to the event. The following are two couplets from the ghazals:

Dost kehta hun tumhein, shaer nahin kehta Shaoor
Dosti apni jagha hai, shaeri apni jagha
(I call you friend, not a poet Shaoor
Friendship is one thing, poetry quite another)
Qalam ya muqalam se kia bataon
Jo surat jo sarapa chahyey hai
(The pen nor the paintbrush can tell
The kind of face and features I desire)

After that the floor was opened for members of the audience to say whatever they felt like saying about the poet. Sarwar Jawaid, himself a versifier, was the first one to reach the podium. He said he had been a listener and reader of Shaoor’s poetry when he (Jawaid) was in class X. In 1963, when he was in college, he heard Shaoor in a mushaira and was impressed with the verse:

Kucch dinon apne ghar raha hun main

Aur phir dar badar raha hun main

(It was only for some days that I found home

Then I strayed for the rest of my life)

Jawaid said Shaoor wrote using simple diction (sahl-i-mumtana) that some people felt was an easy exercise. He argued it was not the case because such an art required the creative person to be eloquent while employing simple words; and Shaoor did that very well.

Poetess Ambrin Haseeb Ambar said that at the time Shaoor was gaining popularity, another poet, Jaun Elia, who wrote using similar diction, had already become a big name. And it was no mean feat for Shaoor to acquire fame when Elia reigned supreme.

Poet Imdad Husaini too lauded Shaoor’s ability and told the audience that it was not advisable to confide in Shaoor as he wasn’t good at keeping secrets.

Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2015

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