PAKISTAN KAY SAAT MUSAWWIR by Shafi Aqeel; pp 276; Price Rs 800 (hb); Publishers Academy Baazyaaft, Kitab Market, No 17, Street No. 3, Urdu Bazaar, Karachi. E-mail a.bazyaft@yahoo.com.

Shafi Aqeel is a very senior journalist from Lahore who worked with the late Chiragh Hasan Hasrat, Majeed Lahori, Abdul Majeed Salik and the Punjabi scholar, poet, writer and activist Dr Faqir Muhammad. Shafi Aqeel was born in suburbs of where villages were usually known as Thheh, which he claims close to Sadar Bazaar. Residential schemes have almost eaten up most of the Thhehs including the Thheh Zaildaran on which now stands a vast area of Gulberg III. Here lived the father of painter and short story writer Raheel Akbar Javed, who later migrated to America and settled there. Once he came to Lahore and held an exhibition of his paintings in his Gulberg house inaugurated by the late Faiz Ahmad Faiz, then the party proceeded to the late Sufi Tabassum’s house in Samanabad to have a dinner of siri payas.

Shafi Aqeel also belongs to a Thheh and as a journalist came across almost all notable painters of his time. He was associated with daily Jang, Karachi where he contributed reports on exhibitions off and on. Being a very friendly soul, he used to develop very close relationships with painters, writers and intellectuals. He also remained close to poets like Hafeez Jullundhri and incidentally he wrote longer pieces on Salik, Hasrat and Hafeez published in monthly Takhleeq of Azhar Javed. A book on Majeed Lahori and five books on Painters, Doa Musawwir, Chaar Jadded Musawwir, Tasveer aur Musawwir, Musawwari aur Musawwir and now this fifth in the series, Pakistan Kay Saat Musawwir including Haneef Ramay, Ghulam Rasool and Ahmad Saeed Nagi from the Punjab. Others are Sadequain, Iqbal Mehdi, Abrar Tirmizi and Gul Muhammad Khatri, a local Sindhi of Karachi. Shafi had very cordial personal relations with almost every painter about whom he wrote in this book in which some representative paintings have also been reproduced in colours. In Lahore Shafi worked with famous monthly Adab-i-Lateef, owned by Haneef Ramay’s elder cousin Chaudhry Barkat Ali for a very short time and then he left for Karachi where he spent whole of his life and contributed to journalism as well as literature, especially Punjabi. Out of his 44 authored, compiled and translated books, 10 are about Punjab and Punjabi. These include his three collections of Punjabi poetry: Sochan di Zanjeer, Zehr Piyala and Meri Punjabi Shairi. Rest of his Punjabi work is in Urdu. With his deep association with Punjabi he never misses Punjab’s assets and contribution to the fields of art.

After Punjabi, his praiseworthy work is on paintings and painters and incidentally no such work has been done in Urdu in Pakistan, not even by Anjuman-i-Taraqq-i-Urdu, Karachi. He collected Punjabi folk stories which always attracted him and for that he also translated folk stories of Chinese, Japanese, German and Iranians. He translated various types of Japanese stories: myths, tales and traditions.Equipped with that talent one could well-imagine how Shafi has explained artistic aspects of the work of seven artists coming from different directions with different cultural backgrounds, education and training certainly not an easy job. Narration of his personal relations with his heroes is interesting like fiction. For instance everybody who knows Sadequain would like to know why his entry was banned in Mukat Public Library in Amroha during the Second World War. Book has been beautifully produced.

DARDAAN DIAN PATTIAN by Riaz Iram; pp 112; Price Rs 150 (pb); Publishers, Jhoke Publishers, Daulat Gate, Multan.

Publisher Zahoor Dhareeja has introduced this senior poet who used to seek guidance from Khanewal-based Urdu-speaking Dr. Bedil Haidari who according to Dhareeja guided Iram to write poetry in his mother-tongue Seraiki and Iram readily accepted this line. The reason behind was according to Iram the insulting behaviour of the settlers of Ganji Bar from across Sutlej and Bias who used to call the local population Jangli…jungle men or uncivilised. With the pastoral life, the people living in Bar areas were usually called Jangli even before the arrival of settlers and refugees in 1947 and that had been mentioned in many district gazetteers. Anyhow that hurt Iram who complains that settlers and refugees should have been thankful to locals whose land was given to them but behaved like thankless people. There, Iram started writing in local dialect given the name of Seraiki.

Iram has already four collections of his poetry, Hanjuan di Chhall, Iram dey Dohrray tey Geet, Hayati dey Pandh, Noor di Barish and now the book under review which opens with the following lines;

(Our total asset is the land of seven rivers. It is dearer to us than our own life. See and be happy you are resident of this land) Dhareeja says that Urdu has played havoc with local languages including the departed Bengali. Sindhi are more patriot than those who are not being taught in their mother tongue. That lacks patriotism. Now some lines from geet, which is the dominant genre in the book:

(Bismillah! My friend you have come. All pains have disappeared and all disagreements, complains and disputes have come to an end). — STM

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