KARACHI: A discussion among poets Zehra Nigah, Ahmed Javed, Hijaz Naqvi and journalist Ghazi Salahuddin on the legends of Urdu poetry — Mir Taqi Mir, Allama Iqbal and Faiz Ahmed Faiz — had undivided attention of literature buffs at the Mohatta Palace Museum on Saturday evening.

Ms Nigah initiated the conversation by saying that a treasure trove of poetry that the three greats have created doesn’t get depleted, and in fact has increased over a period of time. She asked the question as to why, compared to Ghalib, Mir didn’t get the recognition that he merited.

Mr Salahuddin claimed that no other poetic wealth in the world can match the wealth of Urdu poetry. He, however, raised the point that while the wealth is there, it needs to be checked how many people benefit from it. Lauding the quality of Urdu poetry he pointed out that when one reads out an Urdu verse even to those who aren’t familiar with the Urdu language, it amazes them.

Talking about the Mir-Ghalib distinction, Mr Javed said: “Our problem is that we spend our whole lives having only a few crystal clear concepts. Ghalib and Mir have the position of leaders (rahnuma) who tell us what we have done with our lives. Mir’s age is the beginning of man’s defeat. He tries to save man. In Ghalib’s time, man was already defeated. History had begun to remove the dust of time to show its real face. Ghalib, instead of saving man, began the process of making man meaningful in a new perspective, something that is not seen in the works of any other poet.”

Ms Nigah said these poets saw and experience many a difficult scene. “You will always see a great poet sitting on the debris of time. When man was confused and couldn’t see anything, Mir appeared. We saw Ghalib during the turbulent period of 1857. Iqbal’s time, too, was extraordinary, marked by changes of many kinds. So we see a great poet emerge when things clash with each other.”

At that point she mentioned Mir’s father’s wish for his son for falling in love which, while enriching poetry, hurt Mir’s self.

Mr Javed replied that the self is hurt when time makes it old or obsolete. “Love is the total experience of our reality.”

Switching the discussion to Faiz, Mr Salahuddin said in Faiz’s poetry one can trace the complete history of Pakistan, every aspect is of which is highlighted in his nazms.

Ms Nigah, quoting a scholar, said about Iqbal that very seldom does it happen that the very first poem of the very first collection of a poet predicts his bright future. This is true for Iqbal whose poem Himala in the book Baang-i-Dara tells us about his emergence as a noted poet.

Mr Salahuddin at that juncture told the audience about the novel The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga in which the protagonist utters a verse by Iqbal whose meaning is ‘once you know what’s beautiful in life, you’ll never be a slave’: Ghulami kya hai, zoq-i-husn-o-zaibai se mehrumi.

Ms Nigah claimed that Iqbal was the most dardmand (sympathising individual) poet.

Mr Javed said Iqbal’s idea of man was grand. “His sense of otherness was bigger than Ghalib and Mir’s. This means: ‘my personality relies on my sense of otherness’. Iqbal’s addressee was very big.”

Mr Naqvi agreed with Mr Javed’s explanation of ‘otherness’ comparing it to Ghalib’s take on the same subject.

Mr Salahuddin asked the fellow panellists about Iqbal’s great nazms. Mr Naqvi said they are Himala and Masjid-i-Qurtaba. Mr Javed said they are Zoq-o-Shoq and Masjid-i-Qurtaba. “If you picked Urdu’s 10 great nazms, all of them would be Iqbal’s,” he opined.

Ms Nigah turned her attention to Faiz. She said Faiz was a soft person, something which is reflected in his poetry. “The most noteworthy attribute of his verses was that he never lost sight of classical poetry.”

Ustad Nafees Ahmed performed on the occasion as well. Before the start of the programme, he sang Mir’s ghazal Dekh to dil ke jaan se uth’ta hai.

The discussion was part of the distinguished lecture series commemorating 25 years of the museum.

Published in Dawn, February 4th, 2024

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