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Veteran poet Khalid Alig passes away

August 16, 2007


KARACHI, Aug 15: Veteran poet and journalist Khalid Alig died of lung cancer in the early hours of Wednesday. He was 82.

He was buried in the Landhi graveyard after Zohr prayers. He is survived by his wife.

Known as Khalid Bhai among his admirers, Alig was born in Qaimganj (Farrukhabad), UP, India, in 1925. He began composing poetry while he was a young student.

He began to take his literary pursuits more seriously when at the Aligarh University, where he was studying, he made an acquaintance with well-known poets, especially Asrar-ul-Haq Majaz. Like other progressive poets, he composed soulful poems during the famous famine of Bengal.

Journalism was Alig’s another lifelong passion. He became a correspondent for the daily ‘Tanveer’, brought out from Lucknow by Chaudhry Khaleeq-uz-Zaman. He also remained associated with ‘Hamdam’, one of the most prominent newspapers of Lucknow.

In 1947, he migrated to Pakistan and, after staying initially in Okara and Lahore, he went to Sukkur. A civil engineer by profession, Alig joined the PWD and remained associated with it for about 11 years.

In 1960, Alig came to Karachi. Here, he worked for a number of newspapers, including Fakhr Matri’s ‘Hurriyat’, ‘Sindh Post’, ‘Imroze’ and ‘Mashriq’. In 1973, he joined ‘Musawaat’ in Karachi.

Alig was a committed leftist. Though he never officially joined the progressive movement, he remained associated with it and various labour unions. He was imprisoned for taking part in such activities.

A gentleman to his fingertips, Alig was known in certain circles as a dervish, an ascetic who looked down upon the rat race and never compromised on his principles.

At a recent reception, the organisers announced a sum for him in recognition of his services and literary contribution. Touched to the quick, he said he had never accepted monetary help from anyone throughout his life and he did not wish to do so even though he needed it. Till his death, he lived in his small Landhi house built in the 1960s.

Immensely popular at home, Alig’s poetry also struck a cord abroad. During the Algerian independence movement against French colonialism, his poem ‘Aljazair’ (Algiers) became so popular that it was translated into Arabic and its English version was published by the Time magazine. His only collection of poetry, titled ‘Ghazaal-i-Dasht-i-Sagan’, was published at the turn of the century.