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Ustad Daman — casually remembered

November 16, 2010

USTAD DAMAN…Shakhsiyat aur Fun by Dr Amjad Ali Bhatti; pp 176; Price Rs180 (pb); Publishers, Pakistan Academy of Letters, H-8/1 Patras Road, Islamabad. THIS small book on Ustad Daman is in the series of “Adab Kay Ma'mmar”. There were four noted writers, Mian Muhammad Zaheer Akhtar, the late Kanwal Mushtaq, Farzand Ali and Tanveer Zahoor, who have compiled books on Daman. Tanveer Zahoor is the last in this category written and published after Daman's death while the former two were published in the lifetime of the Ustad. A fiction sort of biography was written in Punjabi by Farzand Ali who was a devotee of the great poet.

Some material was provided in his collection of poetry, Daman dey Moti. Amjad Ali Bhatti was assigned to prepare this book.

The first condition according to which any writer should be assigned must be complied and that he must have an independent deep look in this subject otherwise like Amjad Ali Bhatti he will quote some imitator historian that Punjab was a sort of wasteland, undeveloped, backward and mostly barren. This is the picture in the light of which Bhatti discusses the sociology of Punjab.

On the other hand even during the regime of Aurangzeb Punjab was next to Delhi province for providing the revenue to the Mughal government. These are the facts available in almost every book of history. These facts have been given by historian of that period Sujan Rai Batalvi in his book Khulasatul Tareekh written while Aurangzeb was alive. The question is that if Punjab was such a barren area how it could contribute that much amount (around 792 million Dam). The image of Punjab has mostly been distorted by Punjabis themselves.

The book spreads over 176 pages which include only 121 pages on the subject while the rest include four articles in English and three in Punjabi. All of them have been reproduced without acknowledging the original publishers. Even in the contents they have been titled Zameema one, two etc….! At least Academy cannot afford such a discourtesy.

It comes to the approach of the poet towards the general conditions in which he was living. His career starts much before partition as a disciple or shagird of Ustad Hamdam and many other poets of that age for instance Ferozuddin Sharaf, Mohan Singh Mahir, Maula Bukhsh Kushta, Akbar Lahori, Karam Amritsari, Dr Faqir and Sufi Tabassum were the proper contemporaries to be compared with.

The comparison with the poets of much junior generation is irrelevant. It looks just to increase the pages of the book. But one should not expect that much honesty and hard work from those who claim that they have translated that book from English but actually it was from Punjabi version which was much earlier published by the Majlis Shah Husain, Lahore. Such easy gong ‘scholars’ cannot do justice with Daman or any other major writer of the past.

The only good thing is that the Academy has started the series and one hopes that the justice will be done with Punjabi and its writers and it will not allow any compiler to miss the work done in Punjabi by an Urdu stalwart as was done in the case of Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi. Another aspect should be taken seriously and that is index for such books.

CHAHAR SOO editor Gulzar Javed and Beena Javed; pp 120; Price…not mentioned; published from 537, West Ridge 3, Rawalpindi.

Perhaps it is the only literary journal of the subcontinent which is being regularly published for last many years and being offered free of cost and in Urdu its price as written on the print line is “Dil-i-muztarib nigah-i-shafeeqana”.

Every issue is partly devoted to evaluate the contribution of a prominent writer of Urdu or Punjabi who incidentally so far ignored by major literary journals. Therefore, everyone is named as ‘Qirtas-i-Ezaz’, and the current Qirtas is for Ratan Singh, an octogenarian Urdu-Punjabi short story writer and poet.

Originally from the Narowal district who migrated to the East Punjab in 1947 independence at the age of 20 years. His village which he still claims as ‘mera watan’ is Daud village where his grandfather Mistri Nihal Singh has raised many houses as a mason and carpenter. Nihal Singh was a respected figure, therefore, in 1947 Muslim lumbardar Murad Ali himself bid farewell to all the non-Muslims of the village to the other bank of the river Ravi.

Ratan Singh still says “my Ka'aba is still Daud”. Ratan Singh started his career as railway clerk in 1946 and retired in 1985 as station director of All-India Radio, Srinagar. Apart from six collections of Urdu short stories he has translated Guru Granth Sahib, poetry of Baba Farid Shakarganj, Nanak Singh’s Punjabi novel Sufaid Khoon and Ratan’s own biography Darbadari (original in Punjabi) into Urdu. A doctorate thesis on his short story is being done at Jabalpur University.

Prominent Urdu critics and writers, including Ismat Chughtai, Dr Muhammad Hasan, Qamar Raees, Sharib Radaulvi and Muhammad Ali Siddiqui, are all praise for Ratan’s craft and originality. Ratan Singh is also a poet. He was inspired by great Punjabi poets like Peelu, Damodar, Waris Shah and Qadir Yar. He still remembers the lullaby sung by nomad Gugliani (vendor of mud toys) which runs like

This Gugliani was very much there in forties and she used to sing Toon mera larra mein teri larri (You are my bridegroom and I am your bride). — STM