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Yaar zinda, sohbat baaqi

Updated June 26, 2011

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-Photo by Ayaz Jokhio
-Photo by Ayaz Jokhio

Musadiq Sanwal recalls the life and ways of a dear poet friend, Hasan Dars

Out of the blue the other day I received the text message: “Hasan Dars passed away”. I thought it was a joke. How could it be? Hasan was still an adolescent! Maybe it is not the right word, but his energy, his wide, poetry-breathing grin, how could it all have suddenly evaporated into thin air? There was something terribly wrong with the message.

It had come from Sharjeel Baloch, our common friend who works for the BBC. I desperately tried to call him but couldn’t get through. I pondered calling Hasan, but changed my mind. I didn’t like the idea that the minstrel who beckoned us to an elusive light of poetry may have quietly slipped out in the dark. I dismissed my fears, reinforced by friends who always knew one thing about Hasan: he was always in a hurry. We could never match his speed; be it poetry or his love affairs — the haste of a man trying to defeat time.

Hasan was a restless wanderer, a bard who could’ve easily passed for a film hero. We often joked about it and he would complain that despite his looks, we never tried to bring him stardom and hence the world did not discover him.

Laughingly, we’d point out how outrageous it was to imagine him performing silly fight sequences that Shaan or Rambo, or back in the days, Sultan Rahi and Mustafa Qureshi managed. And on such occasions, he would promptly get up, and like a kid, oblige us with his acrobatics.

Hasan would conveniently forget to mention the fact that none of us had ever managed to produce a film despite all our daydreaming. We were losers.

But it was not about covering up for us, or being polite. It was not becoming a hero that Hasan was interested in. All he had ever wanted was to be a poet and be near those women — those pretty, unreal women.

Everything Hasan did was for the love of poetry and life. Despite his manly looks, he had a passionate woman within him. In many ways, that is what set him apart from his contemporaries.

Hasan was easy going, always laughing and endlessly speaking to the people, trees and animals around him. He could talk to a horse, a cat or a fish when redundant discussions and meaningless arguments among his friends bored him. Yet, he was considered the best poet after Shaikh Ayaz in Sindh. With his antics, however, we never truly realised that.

He preserved a boyishness about him, never taking himself too seriously. It was only when we travelled with him in Sindh that we would often be taken by surprise by his popularity. In some of the remotest places, we have seen his fans asking for a poem and an autograph or being grateful for simply shaking hands with him.

Hasan also was not much for political correctness. I remember that in 2002, our journalist friend Owais Tauheed and I were commissioned to produce a documentary about the lives of fishermen. We managed to convince him to write the copy. We shot most of the film in Mubarak Village near Karachi which wasn’t frequented by outsiders in those days. While the objective of the documentary was to raise awareness about the condition of fishermen, sitting by the side of the glorious beach under a blue sky, Hasan recited a poem that wasn’t for the fishermen but for the fish. He had an eye for sensitive detail, but I only a remember part of it and what it said at the end:

On that narrow bank where the fishermen are busy repairing their nets Walks a fisherwoman, gently but happily.

Yesterday she gave birth to a son.

But she has not given birth to a son, She has given birth to a net.

In the course of passing years, we would only bump into each other on social occasions. We were not used to exchanging pleasantries though. We would hug, complain, swear at each other, and joke about our slavery to our day jobs and families; and then promise to ‘meet’.

Hasan had once made a plan to invite all his friends to Keenjhar Lake and spend a night there. He had read about Pablo Neruda’s birthday party in London on a boat on the Thames in a literary magazine. Similarly, Hasan wanted us to meet on a full moon night at Keenjhar. He had planned it in detail. All the friends — Mohammed Hanif, Khalid Ahmed, Sharjeel Baloch, Owais Tauheed, Munir Shah, Hasan Mujtaba and Khatao Mal — were going to be there.

We were going to have a fabulous party. I was to bring a baja or a guitar or an ektara; we were going to sing, have dinner and sing more, and return when we felt like it. But when the trip was organised, I could not go because of a personal engagement. I have lived to regret that. Now, I guess I am going to have to regret it forever.

Such thoughts make the rounds in my head as I switch on the TV and one Sindhi channel after the other confirms the bad news. I think to myself, “So this is it. Hasan has moved on leaving us with our sagging double chins and useless worries of a lost and bitter homeland. Good for him. He was in a hurry, he knew better.”

Then I sit down to pen my thoughts. I am able to overcome my grief and loss when I remember that Hasan never liked clichés.

Had he been sitting with me to grieve his own death, he would have brought a lot of booze and invited as many friends as he could. He would have celebrated life and joked about our failure to bring him stardom.

He may have grieved to find a new way of connecting with his own death; but even if he had been badly hurt physically in that horrible accident at four in the morning, he would have never thought of it as the end. He would have used liquor as a sedative, and thought of it as the beginning of a new journey. No wonder he wrote:

Life is but one of the small pieces of Rilli If you won’t sit on it, I better fold it.

The writer is the editor of Dawn.com