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Sahitya Academy Award winner Ameer writes on Urdu poetry

Urdu poetry has always been very special, writes Ameer Imaam.

Though all the poetries of world are special in a way for poetry is the mother of the fine arts, but despite that Urdu poetry has some features that make it unique among the world literature.

We find a glittering galaxy of literary personalities in Persian and English literature too and the names like Wordsworth Keats, Hafiz and Urfi are the never ending traditions and stand as the ever lasting impressions on the world literature but I couldn’t come across the any name of these languages, make me correct if I am wrong, that can be mentioned as the poet of present age. By this day, to the best of my knowledge, English poetry is synonymous with the literary stalwarts like Wordsworth Keats etc. Same is true with Persian poetry but this is not the case with Urdu. There was a time when Urdu poetry was meant to be Ghalib, Zauq, Anees etc. There is a time when Urdu poetry is meant to be Iftiqar Arif, Saqi Fatuqi, Jon Alia, Itfan Siddiqui and Farhat Ehsas. The urdu poetry is growing and has not been exhausted by it’s literary immortals, but these legends seem paving the way for the upcoming generations .

This walk of literature has another unique feature that is Mushira, a gathering where poets are supposed to recite their poetries for the audience. In these gathering, the poetry gets connected with every soul, who is present there in a different way. But this very speciality of mushaira gives birth to a problem. Some poets start coming with some extra efforts to maintain this connection. Most of the time these extra efforts appear a desperate attempt to camouflage the week ness of the works that turn mushaira into a sort of political rally and hooliganism.

urdu poetry

Mushaira had not been like it since ever. All the big guns of literature of classical era shot to fame through mushairas and in those days it was the only bridge between a poet and the masses. There was a time when the reader was a listener first. So what we’re the circumstances that drove mushaira to this slogan raising, face making and,,,”the raised up hands should be there to the last row if you really appreciate it” sort of begging. To answer this question is not easy but it is not tough as well. This question too is standing in the que of the questions that have been demanding their answers since partition. The Exodus that was not of the people but was of the culture as well. The feudalism breathed it’s last and gave way to the industrialization.


Despite various demerits, feudalism was not the demerits only and was with some shiny patches like the dark ones of industrialization. Feudalism was stagnation, old fashioned, obsolete but a system of values and it could be anything but business. Industrialization was a flow, modernity, need of the hour but a business and it could be everything but a system of values and commitment.

urdu poetry

The industrialization established the new monies of society and it changed not only the political but cultural scenario as well. He who pays the piper calls the tunes and with the new class of payers came a new class of pipers. The mushaira became a business and business is about making quick money only. Mushaira took a turn in that direction and the pipers were about not only making quick money but quick fame too. The post independent era was dotted with a series of communal riots and mushaira of that time exploited the situation quickly and became a wailing wall for a particular community. Though it kept masquerading so but it was no more an intellectual venture. It turned to be sensational and poetry, if it was poetry, based upon double meaning jokes, got a way to the podium. This melee left the pure literary poets like Mohd Alvi, Zeb Ghori and Musawwir Sabzwari far behind and they all we’re shrunk and cocoon to some journals and the collections of their poetry. They braved the boastful declaration of Bashiir Badr with silence when the later announced

urdu poetry

Kaaghaz me dab ke mar gaye keedey kitab ke
Dewana bin parhey likhey mashhuur ho gaya

The book worms met a bookish, crushed between the paper death,
While a careless wanderer shot to fame without exploring the books.

Partition divided the Indian Urdu poetry into two sections. The one was for the audience and the other was for the readers.

But like every thing this mushaira too reached it’s saturation point and a new mushaira started itself stretching up to it’s height. A mushira that was different from the mushaira of last thirty to forty years.

Rekhta came as a whiff of fresh air. But there were some individual attempts too. The mushaira that has annually been organized by Tariq Faizi under the banner of Urdu Press Club falls into this category. It provides a platform to the poets who are known enough and the poets who are ascending the ladder of fame step by step. In this mushaira both the sections are supposed to come with quality poetry and they do. Javed Akhtar can compose Dard e disco for Shahrukh Khan but here he appears as the true grandson of legendary Muztar Khairabadi with his couplet

Woh shakl pighli to har shai me ghul gayi jaise
Ajeeb baat hui hai use bhulaney me.

Having melted down that face has mingled with everything here,,
Strange is the process of forgetting him.

Shariq Kaifi belongs to the city where once an ear ring was lost. He is a critically acclaimed poet and his collection of poetry, apney tamashey ka ticket, should be taken as an addition to the Urdu nazm but both the mushaira and the discussed poet had long been alluding to each other for in traditional mushairas there was no space for him or he couldn’t see any scope for his poetry there. Such a pleasant surprise it was to find him on the podium of Dubai Mushaira after his appearance in Jashn e rekhta. Two other invites were Kashif Husain Ghaiir and Zulfiqar Adil from Pakistan whom I happened to meet first in the Mushaira of Pakistan Arts Council Karachi. Kashif bhai, quite an introvert person, gave me his collection of poetry and what a fine poetry it was. The same was true with Zulfiqar Adil, another accomplished poet from the same land. Besides being an exceptional poet kashif bhai proved himself exception in another way for he appeared one of the few poets who could listen the poetry of others without reciting a single couplet of him. One of his couplet goes on like,,

Ham aise log zyada jia nahi kartey
Hamarey baad hamara zamana aata hai.

The people like us are bound to early death,
Our age dawns after our departures.

The couplet shows the agony of these cornered poets. We should be happy that he ,with his contemporaries, is witnessing his age dawning through his own eyes.

Once someone asked me about the challenges of young generation. I replied that being young in the literature is the biggest challenge before the young generation. The vultures hover upon the dead bodies, and if you are alive, you have to be a toothless, grey haired, or bald headed poet to win some recognition here. But the air is blowing in a changed direction and I am happy that it is going to prove me wrong soon. Vipul Kumar got a chance to be on the stage with the great stalwarts like Sahar Ansari. The young Turks like Abhishek Shukla and Muiid Rashidi too were introduced to the literary world on the same podium before.

The pure literary poets like Azhar Faragh, Anwar Shauur, Liaqat Ali Asim .Irfan Izhar .Ambreen Haseeb Amber and Farhat Ehsas have not only been invited here time to time but have been applauded as well.

Yes we are living in a changing world. Congratulations Tariq!

(The writer is Sahitya Academy Award winner)

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