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Bhitai compared with Shakespeare as ‘both mirrored society’

April 08, 2019

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Dr Sadia Kamal giving her talk at the event on Sunday.—White Star
Dr Sadia Kamal giving her talk at the event on Sunday.—White Star

KARACHI: Language and culture in the context of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai’s poetry became the main focus of the second and final day of ‘Sindh, Sindhu and Shah Latif’, the national conference organised by the Siraj Institute of Sindh Studies (SISS) in collaboration with the Endowment Fund Trust at the Mohatta Palace Museum on Sunday.

Presenting her paper about the ‘Influence of Shah Latif on Khwaja Ghulam Farid’ in the Seraiki language, journalist and scholar Dr Sadia Kamal said Khawaja Farid and Shah Latif should not be bracketed as Sufi poets only. “Their poetry also speaks about resistance.

“Along with the messages of peace and tolerance, Khwaja Farid’s poetry also talks of resistance like Shah Latif’s poetry but both these Sufi poets chose to write in their local languages,” she said.

“Just like the people of Sindh, keep with them the Shah Jo Risalo, there are the people in the Seraiki region who like to keep Khwaja Farid’s diwan,” she added.

“Also it is a fact that Khwaja Farid’s roots were in Sindh. His family had moved from Sindh to the Seraiki region and he used to keep the Shah Jo Risalo with him for inspiration,” she said.

Presenting his paper in Urdu about the use of the Brahvi language in Shah Jo Risalo, Nazir Shah Brohi said that although Shah Latif didn’t write his poetry in Brahvi, there still are a few Brahvi influences in his works. “In Sassui’s story, there emerges this Brahvi shepherd character who starts fancying Sassui and in another of his tales about the poor Brahvi man who keeps cutting his own flesh to feed to his princess,” he said.

And presenting her paper in English, Anita Shah Lakyari spoke about ‘Revolt in the poetry of Shah Latif’. “His muse toughed heights unheard of, far ahead than current times,” she said.

Comparing Shah Latif to William Shakespeare, she said that both mirrored society. “He portrayed how religion and politics can be used to manipulate others. And having been born and brought up in the time of the Kalhora dynasty, Shah Latif also was well aware of manipulations by those in power to fool the masses by using religion as a tool. Therefore his poetry speaks of revolting,” she said.

“He encourages people to create one’s own perspective about things. In one of his poems ‘Ramkali’ he questions the need for the chador on your head or the many rings on the fingers of a jogi to prove one’s piousness,” she said.

Dr Mohammad Ali Shaikh, the vice chancellor of Sindh Madressahtul Islam University chose to speak in Sindhi to present his views. “We have still not been able to decipher the language and culture of the Indus Valley Civilisation,” he said while talking about the ‘Language and culture of the Indus Valley’. “Languages keep changing just like Sindhi too has evolved over the years as has the Sindhi cultures like other cultures but Shah Latif’s words are as relevant as they were yesterday,” he said.

A lecture by Dr Sahar Imdad on the topic titled ‘Sur samoondi of Shah Latif’ had her discussing the trade routes in Sindh and how Shah Latif was able to pen the feelings of traders in his baits and waees. Another session was dedicated to the themes of Shah Jo Risalo followed by another lecture, this time by the poet Imdad Hussaini about the ‘Peculiarities of language of Shah Jo Risalo’. “It is a great document of the Sindhi language and Shah Latif’s poetry is like music with the dialect serving as a beautiful tune to a sweet song,” he observed.

Other speakers who spoke on the day include Amar Pirzado, Ashfaq Memon, Ghafoor Memon, Dr Sher Mehrani, Prem Sagar, Dr Fahmida Hussain, Amna Abro and Nool-ul-Huda Shah.

Published in Dawn, April 8th, 2019