“Bol ke lab azaad hai tere” is a famous poem by legendary Urdu poet, Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Eleven artists from Singapore recited this poem to inspire others and pay homage to Faiz and his spirit of speaking up, and speaking truth to power. The artists shot their own clips at their homes using mobile devices, respecting the social distancing regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This poem has been attributed to well-known poet and Hindi film lyricist Guzar but we are not sure […]
Urdu poetry is replete with references to Ibn-e-Maryam, the son of Virgin Mary, writes Rakshanda Jalil in the […]
I’m of a pure Somnathi extraction
My ancestors were idol worshippers
In a wide green field, a crowd chases a pretty, white pigeon. The pigeon circles above the heads of the chasing party. The crowd, in a mad dash, tries to capture the bird in flight. Now the bird flies high and now it descends down, teasing those who are sprinting after it. At last the pigeon swoops down into the lap of a tall and handsome 40-year-old man who accepts it as a gift from the heavens.
Shaikh Noor Muhammad, the man dreaming this dream, wakes up with a smile in a house near Do Darwaza Mosque in Kashmiri Mohalla in Sialkot, a border town of the Punjab located by the Chenab river, at the foot of the Kashmir hills.
It is a cold night in early November and he sees his wife Imam Bibi sleeping peacefully next to him under a warm blanket. She is expecting again and he interprets the dream to be a divine indication that he will be blessed with a son whose good fortune it will be to serve mankind.
The tall Kashmiri Noor Muhammad, red of skin and with a penetrating gaze, is known for his simplicity in the community. He has a peaceful and aff ectionate nature. When he was growing up, he could not study at the maktab, the local school; but this did not stop him from teaching himself the alphabets. Because of his own efforts he becomes literate and is able to read books in Urdu and Persian.
He is the eleventh child of his father, Shaikh Muhammad Rafiq, the only child to have survived from his father’s second wife. After him, another son, Ghulam Muhammad, was born. He grew up to be an overseer in the department of canals in the British government.
Noor Muhammad and his family have always lived together with his younger brother Ghulam Muhammad’s family. The house near the Do Darwaza Mosque was bought in 1861 by their father Muhammad Rafiq and they have been living in this house ever since. It has been expanded over time to accommodate new members of the family.
Noor Muhammad loves to spend a good deal of his time among sufis and Islamic scholars. By virtue of keeping such pious company, he has come to have a good grasp of Shariat and Tariqat. His knowledge of tasawwuf (mysticism) is so deep that his friends call him Anpadh Falsafi (Untutored Philosopher). He regularly studies and recites the Quran which he considers to be the ultimate source of all bliss, worldly and for the hereafter.
By profession, he is a tailor and embroiderer. In his early career, he helped his father, Shaikh Muhammad Rafiq, in his dhassa and loi (blankets and shawls) business but when an official rents him a Singer sewing machine, a mechanical marvel of its time, he turns to tailoring. His wife, Imam Bibi, disapproves of the sewing machine when she learns that the machine was bought with illicit money. Noor Muhammad returns the machine to the official and he strikes out on his own as a cap embroiderer, and makes Muslim prayer caps. The enterprise becomes a success and soon he employs other workmen in his workshop. By virtue of his popular merchandise, people start addressing him as Shaikh Natthu Topianwale. In the later stages of his life, he slowly loses interest in his business and takes a deeper interest in mysticism. He ignores his business and, with time, his business suffers decline.
As I have mentioned earlier, prior to the branding of Jaffna Street, our area was notorious, constantly attracting search operations. In the summer of 1992 the security apparatus launched ‘Operation Tiger’, which achieved notoriety for allegedly bumping off insurgents rather than capturing them. The operation was initiated from our Noor Bagh area and its first casualty was a local lad, a big fish, a much-wanted insurgent leader of the Al Umar insurgent group that controlled the entire downtown area. Earlier that same night, our next-door neighbour, Yusuf, an affable and mild-mannered artisan, died in a concomitant raid by the Indian armed forces to trap a group of armed insurgents. Giving no heed to his or his parent’s protestations, the militants had forcibly entered his home to stay the night.
Weeks before, my sibling and I had finagled our way out of another army cordon using our exam slips. Allowed at first to leave, we were then detained along with a host of others at the Noor Bagh chowk. An autorickshaw driver who had inadvertently walked into the cordon had been forced to sit under a horse cart. Irate soldiers playfully made our release from the cordoned area conditional on our setting the range plates of their AK 47 rifles to the correct measure; a sure way of self-implicating. In the afternoon sun we watched in trepidation as the soldiers cursed and accused us of studying during the day and fighting them at night.
But afterwards, with the changing contours, even as foreign fighters started pouring into the Kashmir theatre of operations and Srinagar itself, the assassinations of former militants and people accused of snitching were regularly carried out by a new insurgent crop. Ironically, though, the spate of extortions and carjacking that had been the norm ceased. The racketeer insurgent lot steered clear of our area for fear of being shot in broad daylight.
The increase in insurgent activity again led to an increased level of cordon and search operations and arrests by the paramilitaries and the military. Their lack of hard intelligence led to indiscriminate and random arrests; many of my own friends and acquaintances were also taken in and had to weather vicious interrogation techniques in makeshift detention centres during the two- to three-day mopping operations. Many had to be carried home, so broken and battered, unable to even stand. Many a times I thanked my stars for never having to go through these ordeals.
In June 1995, I stood in the large crowd in the main square on Nalamaar Road. My previous attendances in the cordon and search operations had left me with a sunburnt face and arms so I was trying to find a place to perch and protect myself from the summer sun, which in a few hours would attain a furious face, enough to melt the surface of the tarmac road.
What I hadn’t considered was that my dandyish though worn-out attire, complete with Lacoste and Levi’s components, would mark me out in the crowd. Within moments, a young officer in cammies wigwagged his fingers, signalling me to come forward. Ever the cocky person I was in those days, I blurted, ‘What am I supposed to do,’ in English. The officer retorted in a serious tone, ‘I will let you know.’
Though Mirza Ghalib’s contribution to ‘Urdu Adab’ is considered as significant as Shakespeare’s to English, the mansion in […]
It was Urdu poetry at its best as the festival that has been celebrating the language’s literary side returned to its original, more familiar abode. Majlis-e-Frogh-e-Urdu-Adab (Organisation for the promotion of Urdu Literature), Qatar returned this year with its 19th annual Aalmi Frogh-e-Urdu Awards (International Awards for Promotion of Urdu literature) and Mushaira (Poetic symposium) to Al Majlis Hall, Sheraton Hotel where it has been taking place for years.
For some reason, whenever I think of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, I think of poets like Pablo Neruda and Octavio Paz, which is not fair because Faiz was neither a South American poet nor were Neruda or Paz poets of exile like Faiz. God knows what led me to forge this image of Faiz in my mind because in 1984, when he passed away, I was still a child, and I might have seen the pictures of this celebrated poet in Urdu literary journals that were still alive and kicking in India at that time.
When I think hard about that image now, it dawns on me that I might have gathered this impression of Faiz because I remembered him as a cultural ambassador from the Indian sub-continent – Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had appointed Faiz to the National Council of the Arts after his incarceration had ended. Later on, he had also won the Lenin Peace Prize in 1963 for his poems that had been translated into Russian.
Indian and Pakistani writers Intizar Hussain, Javed Akhtar, Ashok Vajpayee, and Nida Fazli, among others will participate in an Urdu festival in Delhi to celebrate and explore the spirit of the language.
The two-day “Jashn-e-Rekhta” festival will begin March 14 and will bring together 60 renowned personalities from both the countries to celebrate Urdu language through performances, recitations, dastangoi, musical renditions, mushaira, dramas, panel discussions, film screenings and interactive sessions.
URDU POETRY: AN INTRODUCTION
By Anees Ayesha
(Translated and Introduced by Zafar Anjum)
Kitaab International Ptv. Ltd., 10 Anson Road # 26-04
International Plaza, Singapore – 079903
Year 2013, 247pp, Singaporean Dollar25
Paperback (ISBN 978-981-07-8055-5)
Review by Asif Anwar Alig
While Urdu became victim of prejudices in its birthplace – India, it brimmed in the far off regions. An original Urdu work of Anees Ayesha, Urdu Poetry: An Introduction is an English translation by Singapore based author Zafar Anjum. Presenting the knowhow of Urdu poetry to Singaporean readers, it is a valuable addition to literature on Urdu poetry for those willing to learn Urdu poetry’s distinct features or stages of development.
Prejudices have relentlessly shrunk Urdu in its country of birth. But it has advanced worldwide in many forms, especially by translations to give strong message. Anjum’s translation is an archetypal effort for English readers to learn the richness of Urdu poetry. This book briefs Urdu’s role from its inception to shaping Indian societies and cultures since the 17th century to the colonial British period and its challenges while encouraging nationalistic revolutions and spreading the message of Islam.
This book introduces multiple forms of Urdu poetry through highlighting its pivotal role to nourish cultures – socio-religious and revolutionary movements to Sufism. Contributions of prominent poets in the subcontinent are credible introductions which turn this book into a summarised encyclopaedia.