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Literary stalwarts remembered

December 08, 2012

KARACHI, Dec 7: The second day of the 5th International Urdu Conference was marked by two important sessions on some of the giants of art and literature at the Arts Council on Friday.

Interesting thoughts were presented in the afternoon session titled Bayad-i-Raftagan presided over by Begum Lutfullah Khan, on the lives and works of those artists and men of letters who are no more with us.

Sabir Jaffry, who sounded a bit irritated on being asked to shorten his thesis, spoke on Nazeer Akbarabadi.

He claimed that poets like Hali and Ismail Merathi were influenced by Nazeer.

Dr Ayub Sheikh shed light on the creative prowess of distinguished Sindhi poet Shamsherul Hyderi. He told the gathering that he was one of the pioneers of free verse in Sindhi poetry and Sindhi literature would be incomplete without his invaluable contribution.

Dr Asif Farrukhi read out a paper on Krishan Chander. He commenced his paper by suggesting that today everybody was raving about Saadat Hasan Manto’s life and works, including those who did not have anything to do with him. He argued that though partition riots did not elicit a response from Krishan Chander as they did from Manto, his novel Ghaddar was a ‘sustained effort’.

Yet the novel was rarely discussed among relevant circles. He said perhaps one of the reasons why Manto became more popular was his untimely death whereas writers like Chander and Ismat Chughtai lived way past their peak time as writers.

Dr Fatima Hasan talked about oral historian and archivist Lutfullah Khan’s achievements and gave a pleasant surprise to the audience by letting them know that the Citizens Archives of Pakistan was going to digitalise his library.

Playwright and poet Asghar Nadeem Syed gave a very interesting account, peppered with anecdotes, of Hameed Akhtar. He said Akhtar was a fine raconteur or storyteller. According to him, once he (Akhtar), poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz, music composer Khwaja Khurshid Anwar and singer Noor Jehan were at a gathering. Noor Jehan said she could drop them off at their respective destinations in her car. When Hameed Akhtar and Khwaja Khurshid got off the car, Faiz came running to them and asked them not to leave him with Noor Jehan. This made the audience smile. He also highlighted the difficult times that Akhtar Sahib had to face, particularly during Ziaul Haq’s martial law.

Music composer Arshad Mahmood talked about the legendary vocalist Mehdi Hasan. He said the singer had a sweet voice and command over every taal (beat). What distinguished him from the other artists was his ghazal singing.

Writer Zahida Hina threw light on Hajra Masroor’s work and went down memory lane when the writer and her sister started putting pen to paper from a very young age. This happened primarily because their parents themselves were fond of books. She said Bhag Bhari was one of Masroor’s finest stories.

Dr Pirzada Qasim spoke on Saleemuzaman Siddiqui. He said apart from being a scientist, he had also substantially contributed to the world of art, literature and music.

The session on poet Miraji, presided over by Kishwar Nahid, was also worth witnessing. Wusutllah Khan discussed Miraji in today’s context, while Dr Nasir Abbas Nayyar shed light on the poet’s achievements in translating poems from world literature.

Prof Shahida Hasan’s subject was Miraji’s geet writing. She attributed his accomplishments in that genre to the musicality (mauseeqiat) that was part of his personality.

Poetess Fahmida Riaz based her paper on two books on Miraji — one by Manto and the other by a French writer.

She lauded Manto for he had tremendous respect (ahtaraam) for Miraji and although he (Manto) likened his poetry to a jigsaw puzzle, he never deemed it devoid of meaning. She said Miraji was a Hindustani and he took a great deal from Hindu mythology.

Writer Masood Ashar narrated how he first got to know about Miraji and recited lines from Kanhaiya Laal Kapoor’s parody of a Miraji poem.

Prof Shamim Hanafi said the spirit of the 20th century could not be understood without acknowledging the works of Faiz, Rashid and Miraji. While followers of Faiz and Rashid pleaded their cases for their heroes, Miraji was not brought into focus the way he merited. He said Miraji did not care much about his life and poetry and kept moving with the dark flow of time. He did not even care about his readers. He was trapped in a labyrinth getting out of which was not in his control. He lamented that his friends did not paint his right picture leave alone detractors. He pointed out that unlike Rashid and Faiz, Miraji existed in many spheres at a time. He remarked Miraji achieved many things including altering the geography of Urdu poetry, since the ‘jungle’ played a key role in his poems.

The morning session was dedicated to contemporary trends in criticism and research in which noted critics presented their theses.