Whilst my earlier piece on the IMF programme and the tremendous discussion it has invoked deserves a rejoinder, I want to write on a completely different subject this week. I am perturbed by the fact that thousands of jobs have been recreated for those who were rightly or wrongly dismissed in the earlier dispensations; there is silence about one luminary, a towering one at that, who lost state employment twice. Fahmida Riaz’s name is yet to appear amongst the reinstated ones.
Following the physical departure of the leading Urdu poets – Qasmi, Munir and Faraz – Fahmida Riaz is arguably the greatest living poet of Pakistan. Controversial though this statement might be, her originality and path-breaking poetry has yet to find an equal in the turbulent waters of the Pakistani cultural river. It is hardly surprising that Fahimda Riaz has been targeted all through her otherwise illustrious creative career by state and society alike. She was branded as unpatriotic when she had to run for her life in the Zia-ul-Haq days and live in exile. In India, she was termed as a Pakistani agent since she criticised the communal tensions that the Indian state had encouraged.
Her bold poetic expression was considered indecent in a country where pornography, heroine and arms are sold on every street. And, where stage plays with “hot” mujras and explicit sexual innuendo are patronised by official cultural institutions in the name of commercial viability. Fahmida was sometimes labelled as a non-believer when she questioned the clergy; at other times a communist when she talked of social justice. Even last year, a group of Karachi-based “intellectuals” chided her for eulogising a letter by the fourth Caliph Hazrat Ali (AS) as a model for good governance. This time she was a reactionary and a “toady.” Continue reading
“Not a famous man” Ralph Russell called himself in his autobiography “Findings, Keepings: Life, Communism and everything“. It’s quite an understatement. Anyone who loves Urdu and has any interest in the literary movements in Indian subcontinent knows Ralph Russell. He was one of those rare men who become legends in their life time. Ralph Russell spent all his life serving Urdu language. He popularized it , built structures and mechanisms of teaching Urdu in Europe especially in the UK. He has been called the “Baba e Urdu of Britain”. He developed friendships with great Urdu poets and writers. He wrote books introducing the classic Urdu poets , introducing their thought and craft to the western audience.
Ralph Russel’s life is an inspiration. His struggle, his commitment to humaniyy and the oppressed and his continuous unrelenless opposition to colonialism, imperialism , capitalism and wars. In that he can be compared to likes of Eric Hobsbawm, perhaps the greatest of historians of our times. Just like him Russell remained till his death “an unrepented communist”
Just like every progressive Russell started his quest by adopting “Atheism”, which led to “humanism” than to Socialism and Communism. The opposition to poverty, war, oppression, colonialism,censorship, imperialism bound him to communism for life. He was sharply critical of the degeneration of Communism in Soviet Union and China. He never accepted their adoption of totaliterianism which is anathema to Marxist thought. Continue reading
By Bhupinder Singh
Mir wrote more profusely than Ghalib and much of it, like Kabir and Insha, in simple words. There are a number of ghazals in the long behr, but the most memorable ones are in the short.His stress on feminine beauty (or, in other words, formalism) unlike in Ghalib, lead the late Ali Sardar Jafri to observe that Mir had one foot in modern and another in what in Urdu poetry is derisively called kanghi choti ki shayari.
Some of Mir’s sheyrs are hauntingly simple and touching:
nazuki uske lab ki kya kahiye
pankhadi ik ghulaab ki si hai
yeh jo mohlat jise kahain hai hum
dekho to intzaar sa hai kuch
And my favourite ghazal (rendered memorably by Mehdi Hassan- and according to me the finest ghazal ever sung):
dekh to, dil ke jaan se uthta hai
ye dhuan sa kahan se uthta hai
gor diljale ki hai ye falak
shola ik subha yaan se uthta hai
khana e dil se zeenhara se na ja
koi aise makaan se uthta hai
yoon uthe aah us gali se hum
jaise koi jahan se uthta hai Continue reading