‘Josh was 20th century’s most rational voice in Urdu literature’

Published December 6, 2023
Dr Jaffer Ahmed speaks at the programme on Tuesday.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
Dr Jaffer Ahmed speaks at the programme on Tuesday.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: A well-attended event was held to celebrate Josh Malihabadi’s 129th birth anniversary and to inaugurate Aiwan-i-Josh, an institute dedicated to research on the poet, on Tuesday evening.

Informing the audience on the aims and objectives of the institute, Iqbal Haider, who lives in Canada, said he wanted a cultural space that doesn’t have any ‘strings’ attached. The institute will be a public forum and its target is to protect literature. “And the building is a tribute to Josh sahib.”

Prof Sahar Ansari said it’s good that a building dedicated to Josh sahib has been constructed in Karachi because he spent a good amount of his time in the city. “I first met Josh sahib when I was working at the Urdu Dictionary Board. The second time I met him was when the magazine Afkaar’s Josh number was being published. There, I got closer to him. And when I met him for the last time, he was suffering from dementia and couldn’t recognise me.”

Aiwan-i-Josh inaugurated

Poet Iftikhar Arif lauded Mr Haider’s contribution by saying that people take capital out of Pakistan and this man has brought it into the country to build an institute. He said while it will be worthwhile if the Sindh government assists the institute, its autonomous status should be kept intact.

He also commended Hilal Naqvi for his remarkable research work on Josh. “Hilal has done what Altaf Husain Hali did for his ustad Mirza Ghalib. Josh sahib was a difficult man. There was no other poet in the post-Iqbal period with such a great wealth of words.”

Dr Alia Imam first presented her book on Josh sahib to Mr Haider and then appreciated the fact that in unfavourable circumstance an event like that was being held. She congratulated Mr Haider for building Aiwan-i-Josh.

Caretaker Information Minister Ahmed Shah, like other speakers, had high praise for Hilal Naqvi for coming up with valuable research work on Josh sahib and likened it to Abdul Rehman Bijnori’s thesis on Ghalib. He credited him for ‘reintroducing’ Josh.

Most of all, he acknowledged Mr Haider’s effort claiming it will be remembered for a long time. He said he’d talk to the caretaker chief minister about it and try and have a ‘regular grant’ for the institute.

Former federal minister Javed Jabbar said he was introduced to Josh sahib by Anwar Maqsood when he was a student at the University of Karachi. He was inspired by the poet’s spirituality. “By building this institute, Mr Haider has built a bridge between Karachi and Calgary.”

M Reza Kazmi said Josh sahib’s book Yaadon Ki Baraat is the kind of social history that no one has written.

Prof Dr Jaffer Ahmed said institutes are built with great difficulty but razed to the ground easily. In that context, one should celebrate the construction of the building. On the late Josh sahib he said, “He was the 20th century’s most rational voice in Urdu literature.”

Firasat Rizvi said there are very few examples in the region where buildings are made for research on a poet.

Wajid Jawad said it’s nice that Aiwan-i-Josh is built closer to the Anjuman Taraqqi-i-Urdu and assured that the latter will support the former.

Hilal Naqvi said the event should have been held in honour of Iqbal Haider.

Dr Aqeel Abbas Jafri said Josh sahib began writing poetry at the age of nine. He started off as a writer of ghazals but later switched to nazms.

Shaista Rizvi read a few pieces from Josh’s poetry, while Mahboob Zafar conducted the programme.

Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2023

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