Centenary recital: Noon Meem Rashed - the unorthodox poet

Published: April 8, 2011
Among contemporaries, his name figures due to complexity of work and ideas.

Among contemporaries, his name figures due to complexity of work and ideas.


Noon Meem Rashed hails from the league of revolutionary poets like Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Ahmed Faraz. Yet, that is not his claim to fame. He rose to heights of poetry through his indigenous multilingual brand of free verse, using styles and diction influenced by Persian, French, Punjabi and English, even though his kalaam remained in the Urdu vernacular.

He was a difficult poet and person, as cited by his readers and fans at a seminar organised by The Literary Podium at Safma on Thursday, to commemorate his hundredth birthday this year. The participants included imminent poets, writers and academicians.

English-language poet and scholar Alamgir Hashmi presided over the session, sharing excerpts of emails sent to him by two of the poet’s daughters the same afternoon.

Nasreen Rashed, the eldest daughter, shared fond memories from his lifetime. Select verses from his poetry were read out, while the panel discussed and dissected his works. They discussed the themes of romanticism, philosophy and mundane things that he weaved into an intricate web.

Hashmi termed him a progressive, inventive poet, “[He is] a major poet of the subcontinent; perhaps of the world. [He was] inventive in his diction, rhyme and style, the hallmark of a great poet.” He talked about the symmetry and lyric that his poetry unfolds, almost effortlessly.

Apart from these deviations, Rashed was an unassuming poet, westernised in appearance and mannerism, given to indulgence as evident from his lust for peanut butter, caviar and champagne and company of like-minded people, according to his daughters’ emails.

The speakers interspersed their renditions with accounts from the challenging and poignant life of the poet, his relationship with the family and his many passions.

Inspired by his lyrical
style, Indian actor, producer and director Amir Khan adapted his poetry for the soundtrack of his 2010 film, Peepli Live.

Fariha Rashed, his granddaughter and journalist, told The Express Tribune through email, “Indians are familiar with his poetry and they had even printed his verse at a time when his poetry was ignored in Pakistan. Zindagi Sai Dartai Ho fit in with the theme of [the film] – having to overcome difficulties in life and handling them head on instead of shying away from harsh realities.”

His poetry’s readings by Zia Mohiuddin are popular and appreciated by lovers of quality Urdu poetry.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 8th, 2011.

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