The setting was quaint and the listeners few. But with his baritone voice and effortless reading style, the legend Aslam Azhar, also popularly known as the “father of Pakistan Television” managed to engage the audience with his readings of select translated works from Mirza Ghalib’s poetry at a local hotel on Friday evening.
Prior to being asked to read at the recital, Azhar said he had known very little about Ghalib, “except that he was Ghalib.” So he picked up a book from his shelf and began reading.
The poet is reputed to fall anywhere from easy to understand to extremely difficult to comprehend. One of the reasons for this can be that the standard of the vernacular Urdu spoken and written in Ghalib’s era was very high as compared to what we see now. This makes Ghalib’s poetry even more difficult with today’s user of the language.
Underlining this diversity, an audience member recited the famous verse, “Sabza-o-gul kahan se aye hain, abr kya cheez hai hawa kya hai.”She remarked at the simplicity and beauty of the verses, which imbued in the listener a soulful sensation.
Prior to rendering the verses, Azhar narrated the details of War of Independence and how the ruled took over the rulers and the long oppression by the British and the locals saw the end of their rule and little else than blood.
The former elite of the Indian subcontinent was restricted in misery so much that they found it extremely difficult to find food, water and adequate shelter for themselves.
Although the audience was enthralled by the content and the narration style, yet most of them were of the opinion that justice cannot be done to a poet particularly of the genius of Ghalib when it is translated into another language. The range of Ghalib’s poetry is from very simple to very abstract so much so there are books available to guide the reader as how to go about the different verses of Deewan-e-Ghalib. The session was organised by the Asian Study Group.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 20th, 2014.