KARACHI: To speak on the salient features of the Intikhab-i-Kalam series published by Oxford University Press (OUP) as part of its Urdu Virsa programme, renowned scholar M. Reza Kazimi discussed three classical Urdu poets — Ghalib, Zauq and Momin — on Wednesday evening.

Mr Kazimi said he had spent some of his childhood in Calcutta (now Kolkata). He said the Fort William College in Kolkata had done a great deal in nurturing Urdu literature and writers. He said while we had inherited poetry as our legacy (virsa), selection of poetry too served the same purpose. He said the different forms of doing that included writing tazkirahs of poets and publishing their complete works (kulliyaat).

He mentioned that Ghalib selected Mir’s works as had been confirmed by Malik Ram and Shamsurehman Farooqui, although that selection was somewhere in Hyderabad Deccan and hopefully would be discovered. Similarly, he said Atash’s selection was done by Chakbast. The series published by OUP, he said, was intended to address those who were interested in literature by giving them less hefty books. Also, he observed, its target audience was the student community.

After this introduction, he read essays on the three poets, the first of which was Momin Khan Momin.

Mr Kazimi said Momin was thought of as a purely romantic poet who penned heart-warming couplets on love. He said it would be wrong to suggest that; Momin’s poetry was influenced by his religious ideas. The poet, he said, acknowledged the presence of the British on his home soil, but did not accept it. He quoted many verses by Momin including the famous:

Wo jo hum mein tum qarar tha tumhein yaad ho ke na yaad ho

Wohi yaani wada nibah ka, tumhein yaad ho ke na yaad ho

[Do you remember, you and I sought solace in each other’s company?

And do you remember the promise of being together?]

Then Mr Kazimi shed light on Zauq. Touching upon the proverbial value of his poetry he said we remembered so many single lines of his couplets, without knowing the lines that completed them. He gave the example of, among others, the line ‘zaban-i-khalq ko naqqara-i-Khuda samjho’. The two lines of the couplet are:

Baja kahey jisey aalam usey baja samjho

Zaban-i-khalq ko naqqara-i-Khuda samjho

[What the world thinks of as correct, think it so

Consider the public’s opinion as divine order]

He said we tended to analyse Zauq’s poetry through Ghalib’s eyes (Ghalib was not fond of Zauq). He said it wouldn’t be doing justice to his creative prowess. He said Zauq’s poetry had a certain spark (sholagi) which could not be overlooked.

The last poet that Mr Kazimi talked about was Ghalib. As is often the case, the first thing that he pointed out was the recondite or ambiguous aspect of his poetry. He said it was more evident in the beginning of his career. However, quoting Jamil Mazhari, he said it was more to do with the complexity of his ideas rather than his difficult diction. He said Ghalib was a unique phenomenon; his hard-to-get verses were from his difficult phase in life. As time passed by, he said, his diction moved from difficult to relatively simple.

To elucidate his point and prove Ghailb’s greatness, Mr Kazimi mentioned the literary techniques, like that of objective correlative, which he employed in his poetry to great effect. He said his ghazals gradually moved from ambiguity to plainness. The penultimate couplet in the lecture that Mr Kazimi recited was:

Samjhao usey ye waza chhorey

Jo chahey karey per dil na torey

[Tell him, to get rid of this habit

Do whatever, but don’t break someone’s heart]

Published in Dawn, January 5th, 2017