Qasmi's columns: Surprise, surprise
Ataul Haq Qasmi’s M’aasir's columns have become periodical publications, but they still make my day.
One can never really be sure about two things: death and Ataul Haq Qasmi’s M’aasir.
M’aasir makes an appearance every once in a while and you are surprised that it has been published again. Gradually, the surprise gives way to a feeling that it is going to be a periodical publication. But the hope is dashed and you quite forget after a while about M’aasir, the journal that used to appear out of nowhere one fine morning and make your day.
Now this special issue – every M’aasir issue is special – deserves applause for the great writers and the wonderful writings it brings you. But maybe even more deserving of applause are the writers who contributed to it, considering the fact that writing for M’aasir comes closest to doing a good deed without expecting a reward. But as they say no virtuous deed is ever wasted, the paper has finally made it into print and the good the writers did is shining bright.
Look, for example, at Masood Asha’ar’s article, or Dr Saleem Akhtar’s memoir and his “bad intentions, good deeds” comment. Of course, one needs to understand the context to appreciate the article. Saleem Akhtar, Masood Asha’ar, Asghar Nadeem Syed are all Multan’s exports to Lahore. So they keep an eye on one another. See how lovingly Saleem Akhtar has mentioned the beauties who fell head over heels for him and his further claim to absolute virtue. Asha’ar’s reaction is disbelief. When did this happen, he cannot help asking repeatedly? Certainly not during our Multan days, he seems to add.
But this should not cause Akhtar to lose heart. The remarks so clearly sound like envy. Lack of appreciation from the rivals aside, the love story is a great read.
The great disappointment, as Akhtar, himself writes, was that he never became the film hero he had wanted to be and had instead to ply the unexciting literary criticism trade. To top that, he has people like Asha’ar for friends.
In the poetry section, three people are a must-mention. First, Tehseen Faraqi. I read the poetry and wondered how somebody I had known only as a researcher and a critic could have been hiding the poet in him. I have yet to congratulate the poet but let me first recover from the surprise it has been.
Second, the Sarmad Sehbai poems. Finally, there is new poetry that makes sense. He sees the need now for a Suleimani Topi (Solomon’s hat) to shield one from the peeping eyes of an ugly world. New poetry, the way my recollection goes, always came with the miracle hat. The style wowed all but the meaning wore the Suleimani Topi and was not accessible to lesser folk.
I have been reading Sarmad Sehbai’s poems but deliberating on the content has always been an effort that resembled catching fireflies in the dark. This time, I think, I understand them. This is welcome progress.
Third, surprise, surprise, the Nazir Naji ghazals. Well, writing poetry is a protean disease.
So often when people are believed to have recovered from it, it is just lying dormant. Some random day there is a sudden relapse. So, I have read the ghazals but am holding back the applause until I can be sure whether it is a momentary relapse or a case of a poet gone astray returning, or trying to return, to his calling.
Protocol requires that the piece end with a prayer that there be another issue of M’aasir, and soon.