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URDU LITERATURE: Bokhari of the radio

October 31, 2010

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ZULFIKAR Ali Bokhari, the first director general of Radio Pakistan, had a versatile personality. Besides being an administrator, he was an excellent broadcaster. At the same time he was a good poet and also possessed deep insight into the intricacies of music.

Though the book under review, Marconi se Bokhari Tak, includes some information about the invention of the radio and the development of broadcasting, it is largely about Z.A. Bokhari. The author, Ghulam Husain Jafri, was a senior engineer in Radio Pakistan and enjoyed the privilege of Bokhari's company during the last few years of the great radio man's life.

As a broadcaster, Bokhari possessed full control over his bass voice. And that enabled him to change the tone of his voice and to modulate it in such a manner so as to suit the various types of performances that he often undertook on the radio.

He took part in plays, of which two are Rustam-o-Suhrab and Lighthouse ke Muhafiz. In the latter play, there were only two characters and both of those had been played by Bokhari.

Bokhari used to write and deliver a weekly talk over the radio which was always done in a lighter vein. While he was the station director in Bombay, the talk was broadcast under the assumed name of Bombaya Khan and while holding the position of director general in Radio Pakistan, his talk was labelled under the nom de plume of Jumma Khan.

His recitations of poetical compositions in the tehtul lafz style were very impressive and he used it to present marsiyas during Muharram.

He was deeply involved in music and has to his credit a number of lyrical features that he produced for the radio. He also wrote a book about music which was entitled Rag Darya.

Bokhari retired from the radio in 1959. Several years later, he was called upon to become the first general manager at the Karachi Television Station. But on that occasion, luck was not kind to him. Arrangements made in haste for the inauguration ceremony of the television station were not liked by the then president Ayub Khan.

To make matters worse, sycophants around Ayub interpreted one of the shows being aired as a hit on the president. As a result, Bokhari had to resign within a few days of the inauguration.

But he did not remain unemployed for long. He was soon employed in the central production unit of Radio Pakistan as an advisor. It is a well-known fact that the advisors, like Officers on Special Duty (OSDs) had little work and no authority. Bokhari was given a separate room as his office, but hardly anyone would visit him. Therefore, he started spending most of his time in the writer Ghulam Husain Jafri's room. The continual exchange of ideas, information and opinions of Z.A. Bokhari has resulted in the book under review.

The book is mainly in anecdotal form. Besides providing glimpses of various aspects of Bokhari's life, it also sheds light on events like the selection and recording of Pakistan's national anthem and the extension of the radio's network in Pakistan.

The author has lamented that though Bokhari was the 'Father of Broadcasting' in South Asia, none of the universities in the country have so far cared to undertake research on this multi-layered personality.

Marconi Se Bokhari Tak
(BIOGRAPHY)

By Ghulam Husain Jafri
Nafees Academy, Karachi
352pp. Price not listed