“Jins-e-hunnar ka kaun kharidaar hai Faraz,
Heera, keh pathro’n sey bhee sasta dikhai day.”
This couplet, penned by the legendary romantic rebel of Urdu poetry, the immortal Ahmad Faraz, aptly describes Hassan Liaquat, a man who remains in the shadows despite being exceptionally talented. Thirty-five-year-old Liaquat, who was born in Chakwal, is blind since birth. While he has never seen the inside of a school, not only is Liaquat a great singer but also has a strong grasp over the works of noted poets, writers and philosophers.
Liaquat fell in love with music very early in his childhood. When he was five years old, he would sing famous songs of his era by reputed singers like K L Sehgal, Mohammad Rafi, Talat Mehmood and Lata Mangeshkar. Due to his disability, Liaquat could not be admitted to any school. But his father took it upon himself to educate him, while also teaching him how to play the flute.
His formal music education, however, was received from the famous Ustad Ejaz Khabu of Lahore and for this, Liaquat has been visiting his teacher’s house for the last 10 years. His passion for music, the hard work of his teacher and the active support of his father and other family members have moulded him into a great singer who has yet to perform at a big theatre.
Despite having few opportunities to draw attention to his talent, Liaquat has some big prizes under his belt. In 2005, he performed in a ceremony organised by the Pakistan Army at the Mangla Cantonment where he won the prestigious “Sword of Honour” presented to him by the then Core Commander of Mangla Cantonment Lieutenant General Javed Alim. In 2009’s All Pakistan Blind Singers Competition in Multan, Liaquat clinched the first prize.
Among his favourite poets, Waris Shah and Ahmad Faraz are the most prominent, while he also has great admiration for Punjabi poets Shiv Kumar Batalvi, Faiz Ahmad Faiz and Majeed Amjad, whose works he has recited and recorded.
Whenever he receives a new book on poetry, his wife reads the ghazals before him and he learns it after which he records it in his own voice.
Liaquat currently teaches music at The Educators, a private educational institution, where he has trained five disciples to move the audience by playing the flute.
He aspires to sing the entire “Heer Ranjha” by Waris Shah. “Although many great souls like Iqbal Banu and Abida Parveen have sung ‘Heer’ by Waris Shah, no singer has done the whole epic poem. I want to do it and am working on it,” he says.
The state of art and literary heritage in Pakistan pains Liaquat greatly. “Talent is being wasted in Pakistan and it seems that classical music, art and heritage are being slaughtered through a well-thought out plan,” he says, adding that talented artists are not encouraged while pseudo artists are being promoted just because of their physical appearances. “Talent does not matter here,” he sighs.
Commenting on the plight of blind singers, Liaquat laments that it is unfortunate that Pakistan neglects his kind while India celebrates blind artists like Ravinder Jane, K C Day and Pandat Omi.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2012.