KARACHI: An event to celebrate the life and work of eminent poet Iftikhar Arif was held at the Arts Council of Pakistan, Karachi.
The poet had especially flown in from Islamabad for the programme, which was moderated by Nusrat Amin with three distinguished friends of the poet — Ghazi Salahuddin, Khushbakht Shujaat and Mehtab Rashdi — sat alongside him to highlight his accomplishments.
The discussion began with Arif’s birthplace Lucknow.
He said Lucknow is now a changed city. Every city changes, for example, Karachi, when he arrived here for the first time, was a different town [in the 1960s]. Today it’s a different city. It was in Lucknow’s fate to change because some cities paid a price for the Pakistan movement. Similarly, (Urdu) language and the Muslims had to pay a price. For a long time, Urdu was punished in Lucknow as were the Muslims.
“I was born in an important neighbourhood of Lucknow because although there weren’t many Muslims there, in terms of identity it used to be recognised as a Muslim city — the last big centre of the Muslim civilisation. I was born in a small street between Farangi Mahal and Khandan-i-Ijtihad.”
Mr Arif narrated an interesting tale related to cricket from those days. He said when he was in college, the Pakistan cricket team played a Test match in Lucknow, which it won. There were the likes of Fazal Mahmood and Imtiaz Ahmed in the Pakistani squad. He and his friends couldn’t go to the cricket ground to see the match, but after Pakistan’s victory, they celebrated the victory.
From Lucknow the conversation switched to Karachi and the TV quiz show Kasauti that Arif used to be a part of with the late Obaidullah Baig. The poet told his guests that when he came to Karachi from India he was looking for a job. Yawar Mehdi used to work at Radio Pakistan at the time. Arif met with him, and he would take the poet around to various places looking for work. But it had become difficult to get employed. When things didn’t work out, Mehdi said to Arif that he should join Radio Pakistan. He went there and gave audition for a newscaster. It was there that he ran into Baig for the first time. That meeting lasted for six hours. They had immediately hit it off.
The programme on Tuesday was interactive where not only the participants on stage but also sitting in the hall as members of the audience expressed their views on the poet’s life trajectory and creative pursuits.
One of them remarked, “We are living in the era of Ifitkhar Arif.”
In between the conversation, Mr Arif was requested to recite his poetry. The first piece that he read was the extremely popular Baarhvan Khiladi. It was, like always, very well received.
On his career, he articulated that the Almighty has a roadmap for every individual. His roadmap is straight: 21 years in Lucknow, 11 years at PTV, 13 years at Urdu Markaz in London, and 30 years at the Pakistan Academy of Letters, the National Language Authority, the National Book Foundation and the Cultural Institute of Economic Cooperation Organisation in Tehran.
His career is like a straight line where he was supported by the likes of Salim Gilani, Aslam Azhar, Agha Hasan Abidi, Mazhar Siddiqui, Ghulam Mustafa Shah and former president Asif Zardari.
Speaking on the importance of friendship with reference to the guests that had arrived to attend the event, Arif opined that friends make you feel strong. If you start feeling vulnerable in the presence of a friend, then he’s not your friend.
Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2022