While the literati may not still be reconciled to the idea of Karachi being a distinct school or dabistan of poetry, Dr Javed Manzar not only did his doctorate to argue this thesis but has also come out with a book based on the PhD.
The book, Dabistan-e-Karachi mein Urdu ghazal ka irtiqa (The evolution of the Urdu ghazal in the Karachi school of poetry) on about 80 poets was launched at a ceremony at Arts Council on Thursday evening. The list includes some of the big names such as Jamiluddin Aali and Mauj Lakhnawi, who Manzar says was one of the pioneers of the Karachi dabistans. His PhD was done at the University of Karachi.
Fortunately, a number of poets and critics, who had come to attend the ceremony, endorsed the views of the author on Karachi’s separate and distinct poetical identity.
One of them recalled that before Partition four major schools or dabistan of poetry were recognised: Delhi, Lucknow, Rampur and Punjab. Partition not only altered geographical boundaries but also led to cultural disruptions which precipitated an identity crisis for many. The poets too wrestled with the metamorphosis of their cultural and literary identity in the newly created state. These endeavours led to the emergence of Lahore and Karachi as two distinct schools of poetry.
For Dr Manzar, “the anguish associated with migration” is the most important reference for the Karachi school of poetry. “It [Karachi] is a city where people came to from more than 50 cities of India and the pain and anguish witnessed during the process of migration echoed well in their art, including poetry,” he said.
Dr Manzar, himself a poet, traces the lives and works of Karachi-based Urdu poets who were born in 1926 and after and those who went through the trauma of migration after the division of the sub-continent in 1947.
Supporting the thesis, critic and linguist Professor Sahar Ansari said that poets with specific points of view on a variety of ideas gave birth to dabistans and the similarity of their experiences led to a distinct kind of poetry that became the hallmark of their particular dabistan. While the experiences of migration were echoed in the compositions of poets of the Punjab their approach was essentially different on this subject.
Poet Sarshar Siddiqui recalled that there was a time when poets of Karachi were ridiculed by a group of poets in Lahore. “By saying that there were no poets in Karachi, they would hurt the feelings of all the poets of this city,” he said, adding that Dr Manzar’s book is an eye-opener for all of those who were so derisive.
The book costs Rs500 and is self published.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 5th, 2012.