Gentle Urdu poets rail against the machine

The usually soft-spoken Urdu muses struck a defiant tone at the mushaira held condemning militancy and terrorism.


Ghouse Mohiuddin February 07, 2011

KARACHI: The usually soft-spoken Urdu muses struck a defiant tone at the mushaira held on Saturday night, condemning militancy and terrorism.

Almost all of the poets, even the younger ones, focused on issue-based poetical pieces instead of the usual lovey-dovey stuff.

Most of the icons of poetry - be they the scholarly Prof. Sehar Ansari, Anwar Shaoor or Peerzada Qasim, avant-garde Amjad Islam Amjad and Imdad Hussaini or the erudite Iftikhar Arif - presented outstanding readings from their collections.

The erudite maestro of gender sensitisation, Kishwar Naheed, also read out her work. As she started reading her powerful litany against militants ‘Taliban sey Qibla-ru Guftagu’, everyone inside the hall was mesmerised. When she ended, people burst into tumultuous applause.

Shortly after the start, the compere asked the audience to avoid clapping and prefer ‘wah-wah’ and ‘mukarar irshad’ (request for an encore of a couplet) and they complied heartily.

People were forced to give their full attention when poet and literary figure Zehra Nigah joked that she had not known that she would be called to chair the sitting and that, she had, keeping in line with our country’s recent traditions, ‘accidentally’ been made the chief guest, eliciting a hall-wide splutter of giggles and snickers.

However, her renderings criticising people with an artificial religious mindset, whose ‘Rooh Laghar Hey, Jism Farba Hey’, and who have been gracing the silver screen for quite some time, were well received. She also read out another poem titled ‘Gul Zarmeena’, the story of a girl deprived of education in the country’s northwestern tribal areas, where she vows to continue the lessons she learnt in school before it was blown up.

Amjad Islam Amjad was rewarded with repeat requests for his rhythmic free verse on the fate of self-made men.

Imdad Hussaini got the audience’s attention with his sufi-style couplets on contemporary problems facing Sindh in particular, and the country in general, especially poverty, illiteracy and extremism.

Iftikhar Arif’s supposed self-obituary (kooch) was moving as was his rendering of ‘Abhi kuch din lagen gey’. Peerzada Qasim’s reminiscences of his own mercurial nature were breathtaking while Sehar Ansari was outstanding in his emphatic manner.

A poem by Islamabad’s Ali Akbar Natiq on the plight of all manual workers and artisans was moving and so were the verses of Razia Fasih Ahmed, a novelist and author of ‘Ablapa’. Attiya Dawood also read her piece on women’s liberation.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 7th, 2011.

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