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KARACHI: It was disappointing to see some fine, fine couplets falling on deaf ears at the 21st Aalmi Mushaira (poetry symposium) organised by the Saakinan-i-Shehr-i-Quaid at China Ground, Kashmir Complex on Thursday night.

It has been more than two decades since the Mushaira was first held, but it seems that not beginning the event until after midnight, having hosts (nazim) who like to speak into the microphone more than the guest poets, and not controlling the non-serious sections of the crowd are traditions that have taken root. At least two Indian poets clearly felt uncomfortable with the crowd’s lack of attention to their recitation and directed a barb or two at those who were busy having a good time as if they were at a music concert.

The Mushaira got off to a bad start when eight or nine mezban shaer (host poets) were invited before the known versifiers to present their poetry. They consumed nearly two hours and barely manage to impress serious poetry lovers. Why is it necessary to have a five-hour long Mushaira when you have no more than a dozen quality poets on your list? Among the initial poets Qaiser Wajdi read out a few insightful couplets, one of which was:

Shaeri ka shoq tha sir mein merey/ Aaj phir faqa raha ghar mein merey (I was passionate about poetry/But it left me starved)

The others who presented their verses before him were Salman Siddiqi, Mahmoodul Hasan, Nuzhat Abbasi, Allauddin Khanzada, Khalida Uzma, Kami Shah and Prof Khayal Afaqi.

The quality of the symposium suddenly changed with the arrival of Ahmed Salman Farooqi.

The poet, who is from the US, recited ghazals brimming with pain for the contemporary sociopolitical situation in Pakistan and with appealing metrical variations.

Laash ke nannhe haath mein basta aur ik khatti goli thi/ Khoon mein doobi ik takhti per ghain ghubara likha tha (The dead child had a candy and schoolbag in his hands/ Ghain for Ghubara was still written on the blood-stained slate)

Sub ne mana marney wala dahshat gard aur qatil tha/ Maan ne phir bhi qabr pe us ki raaj dulara likha tha (Everyone reckoned the dead was a terrorist, murderer/ Still his mother wrote ‘apple of my eye’ on his headstone)

Though it was perhaps inappropriate for a humourous poet to be invited after Salman Farooqi, Syed Salman Gilani from Lahore delighted the audience with his funny quatrains.

Jawaid Saba read out a ghazal with reference to Indo-Pakistan relation whose first two lines were:

Sukh chaen buhat hai hum ko yahan, hamein apni gali mein rehne de/ Ja apni gali mein khel mian, hamein apni gali mein rehne de (We feel safe and sound in our backyard, let it be/ You play on your own soil, let it be)

Saba was followed by Mohsin Azam Malihabadi and Jalal Azimabadi (the latter is from Bangladesh). And then came the first Indian poet, Iqbal Ashar. He seems to be a sensitive individual who began his stint at the microphone by talking to the audience, telling them that he had heard Pakistan had established literary credentials (taraqqi yafta adab ki misaal hai). Once Ashar started reading his ghazals in delightful tarannum, he was able to impress the audience considerably such as when he recited the following couplets:

Usey bachaey koi kaisey toot janey se/ Wo dil jo baaz na aey fareb khaney se (The heart that easily gets fooled/ Will always be broken) Piyas darya ki nigahon se chhupa rakhi hai/ Aik badal se bari aas laga rakhi hai (I have hidden my thirst from the river/ I have pinned my hopes on a cloud)

Quetta’s poet Mohsin Changezi was next. The young man has tremendous talent and the ability to spring poetic surprises through his kalaam:

Main aisey shehr mein bunyad-i-khwab kia rakhun/  Ye loag ishq bhi kertey hain mashwara ker ke (How can I lay the foundation for a dream/ Here, people in love seek counselling)

Ye jo ik ashk larazta hai meri palkon per/ Saat daryaon ka unwan bhi ho sakta hai (The teardrop that quivers in my eyes/ May have something to do with the seven seas)

Saleem Anwar’s stay on the stage was marred by the antics of the unruly crowd. Prof Sahar Ansari, understanding the impatience of the younger lot, dealt with the situation by resorting to only some of his well-known couplets, such as:

Ye zindagi hai naql makani ka tajriba/ Ujlat mein kon kon sa saaman uthayey (Life is nothing but migration/ What to take with you in haste?)

Perhaps the highlight, thus far, of the Mushaira was Rahat Indori’s delightfully profound poetry rendered in simple diction. His animated style of reading immediately caught the attention of the listeners. He, too, like one of his colleagues, appeared to be displeased with some members of the audience which perhaps prompted him to recite:

Ye jo loag farishton se baney phirtey hain/ Merey hathey kabhi charh jaen to insaan ho jaen (If I get hold of those who think they’re angels/ They’ll turn human in no time)

Main noor bun ke zamaney pe phael jaon ga/ Tum aaftab mein keerey nikaltey rehna (I’ll conquer the world with my light/ You keep nitpicking the sun)

Afwah thi ke meri tabiat kharab hai/ Logon ne pooch pooch ke beemar ker dia (Rumour had it I was not well/ Well-wishers made me fall sick)

He also read out his famous ghazal, ‘Us ki kathaee aankhon mein hain jantar mantar sub’.

Eminent Urdu poet Rasa Chughtai kept the quality of poetry intact with his brilliant ghazal:

‘Rukh ghata ka hai samandar ki taraf/ Aur nazar sub ki merey ghar ki taraf’  (The wind is headed towards the sea/ Yet everybody is looking at my house).

Kishwar Naheed presented two of her taza ghazals and a poem at the request of some of her fans. The following two lines from a ghazal were evidence of her talent:

Apni be-chehragi chhupane ko/ Aaeney ko idhar udhar rakha (To conceal my facelessness/ I kept the mirror away)

Anwar Shaoor, Manzar Bhopali, Wasim Barelvi and Iftikhar Arif (who presided over the event) read their poems at the end (early Friday morning).