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Baidar Bakht is known to us mainly as a translator of Urdu poetry into English. But he also writes about the poets he translates and provides his readership a full introduction to them. Bakht has now brought out a collection of his articles on poets under the title of Laghzish-i-Raftar-i-Khama. It has been published by Nai Kitab Publishers, New Delhi.

The sketches in this collection are of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Ali Sardar Jafri, Akhtarul Iman, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Muneebur Rahman, Mohammad Alvi and Amjad Islam Amjad. Bakht also plans to compile a second volume, this time of articles on Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi, Balraj Komal, Jamiluddin Aali, Kishwar Naheed and Parveen Shakir, poets whose translated works have been published.

The articles in Laghzish-i-Raftar-i-Khama offer a detailed account of the poets’ personalities as well as their works. Bakht has an easy manner of introducing each poet. As he starts talking about a particular individual, we grow familiar with him. We read about his behaviour in relation to his writings, his commitment to a particular ideology or his insistence on a non-compromising attitude towards his art. Bakht tells us about Akhtarul Iman’s refusal to employ his poetry as a means of earning a livelihood. He did not write songs for films. Instead, he chose to be a script writer. Bakht talks about how Iman took a long time writing a single poem; it took him almost 20 years to compose “Aik Larka”.

Bakht also tells us that each publication of his verse collection felt like the end of a poetic era in his life. The poems which failed to find place in the collection were for him the vestiges of a bygone age and deserved to be destroyed. And he did not hesitate in destroying them.

Iman, as we are told in the account of the poet, regarded himself as divided into two, one part similar to the boy in “Aik Larka” and the other a worldly wise man who has learnt to make compromises for the sake of living in peace.

In the introductory article about Ali Sardar Jafri, Bakht refers to his excitement as a young man at the sight of Kulliyat-i-Mir. But what is there to be excited about? It is an old classic well-known to us. But in the edition compiled by Jafri, there is a difference. The poetry is presented here in two scripts, the Nagari and the Persian. And then he refers to three other such compilations, those of Ghalib, Kabir and Mirabai. While paying compliments to Jafri for these scholarly works, Bakht dexterously portrays him as an open-minded scholar in contrast to the commonly known image of him as a zealous Marxist. In support of his portrayal, Bakht quotes Jafri saying that verses written for current political purposes are inferior poetry compared to the poetry which carries a permanent value.

Munibur Rahman is portrayed as a soft-spoken, amiable personality. His poetry too was cast in the same mould. This poet, with his soft voice, was hardly in consonance with the revolutionary zeal of his times. The Progressives, as pointed out by Bakht, could never decide whether to accept or reject him.

So this is how Bakht has written about his favourite writers. Each article is a mixed bag of a poet’s life story and causal but interesting references to his poetry.