From a poet’s lens

April 16, 2018

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I am in mourning for the poems I could not write for the dreams I could not carve for the women I could not love I am in mourning´

These lines reflect the agony of a creative person who is like a tough breed of the shrubs that growing up by splitting the metal roads and terrains.

A seasoned poet and skilled photographer, Sharjeel Anzar, is among the generation of artists and activists who lived a rich life full of romance.

Son of a civil servant, he was raised in an environment where book reading was an essential part of life. Along with reading listening to music was another hobby he had.

“We are a generation of radio listeners grown up with Lahore Radio, Lahore 2, All India Radio and Radio Saloon. Listening to film music was the part of our daily life. The taste for music got refined with the passage of time in the company of serious music listeners known for their classical music collections,” Sharjeel says.

He spent his childhood in Gujranwala, a politically charged and culturally rich city those days.

“We were lucky to have big names of literature and the left around like Ayub Musalli, Chaudhry Manzoor, Chaudhry Rafique, Sibtul Hasan Zaigham, Arshad Mir, Aslam Sirajuddin and legendary Urdu poet Akhtar Hussain Jafri. The literature and politics of the left were being followed with a passion when we were growing up,” he vividly recalls.

Sharjeel started photography at a tender age but it was overshadowed by the passion to compose poetry. Poetry got appreciated and regularly published in reputed literary journal ‘Funoon’ from 1975 to 1988. He intentionally stopped writing after joining the public service in 1996.

“I believe that a conformist cannot be a poet. By sitting on the other side of the table, one loses the richness of the experiences one can have only out of direct human interaction. My decision not to write was overpowered by the spontaneously sprouting poetry several times.”

During a visit to Indian Punjab in 2004, he ventured into photography which became a lifetime romance.

“I borrowed a camera from a friend and was exposed to 35mm film roll first time in Chandigarh which amused my Indian hosts. Impressed by the compositions they encouraged me to carry on. I got excited and became unstoppable,” he said in a light vein.

Sharjeel travelled to the rural Punjab and Sindh to capture the lifestyle of people living simple life, far away from the metropolises.

“The technology is invading indigenous cultures but we still have few pockets left in rural Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan from the main cities where the people are living with their old values and traditional lifestyle,” he narrated.

Working for more than a decade, he never displayed his works except for a single solo show in Lahore last month.

Gifted with a sharp eye and good sense of humour, Sharjeel Anzar takes pictures with precision and works hard to arrange the compositions. In most of his works, the concepts to make photographs originate from his poetic sensibilities. Playing with radiant sharp colours is one of the significant features of his works.

Sharjeel’s passion to document the rural sports, ethnic way of living and rapidly vanishing cultures helped him to take pictures which look like fairytales gradually fading away from our memories.

Published in Dawn, April 16th, 2018