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Category Archives: Poetry

Poetry is a deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary. – Kahlil Gibran

NON-FICTION: MAESTRO ON MAESTRO

Poetry has textures and feeling. And the greats of poetry have lent textures to their words that are felt the moment you hold their compilations in your hand, or read those oft-quoted lines in moments of inner silence. Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s imagery is almost silken, even when he uses difficult and piercing words such as nashtar [lancet]. Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib’s words, on the other hand, are faintly granular, subtle yet abrasive, and layered — as are the ideas behind his words laden with deeper meaning, Farsi derivatives and a timelessness exclusive only to Ghalib. Perhaps this unique texture of his poetry is where Ghalib crosses paths with the texture of the art of Syed Sadequain Ahmed Naqvi.

The work in focus for review is a collection of 47 folders weighing almost five kilogrammes — heavy not just in terms of its physical volume. There is a lot to take in, as it features 43 of the 50 paintings that make up Sadequain’s ‘Ghalib’ series. Titled Ghalib: Call of Angel, this collection was compiled and published as a commemoration of Ghalib’s 150th death anniversary. It has a distinct texture, perhaps by deliberate design of the compilers — the folders are separate and individually complete, yet are bound by thematic cohesion. This allows the reader the choice to pick up one and reflect on it for a day, or days, or pick an irresistible one after the other and turn it into a marathon of reading a choicest selection. The paper is hard and heavy, yet smooth — suited to the texture of Ghalib’s poetry — and solid enough to carry the weight of Sadequain’s artistic renditions.

Compiled and authored by Sibtain Naqvi, the book has been published by Mutbuaat-i-Irfani and this is the sixth book that the publishing house has produced. All six books have centred on the life, times and works of Sadequain. The translation of poetry has been done by none other than the renowned Ghalib translator Dr Sarfaraz K. Niazi.

A compilation of Sadequain’s artistic interpretations of Mirza Ghalib’s poetry delights

The third folio has a sketch of Ghalib’s person by Sadequain, alongside the famous poem Allama Muhammad Iqbal wrote, lauding the prowess of Ghalib. As Iqbal accepts in a line from the poem:

Lutf-i-goyai mein teri humsari mumkin nahin

[Matching you in literary elegance is not possible]

Images from the book
Images from the book

The fourth folio is a brief write-up in Urdu by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, where the inimitable Faiz explains why Sadequain deserves to translate Ghalib into his art, and in the last line gives a testimonial to both Ghalib and Sadequain by saying, “Ghalib ke ashaar ki musawwari Sadequain ke fann ka haqq hai” [An artistic rendition of Ghalib’s poetry is the due right of Sadequain’s art].

This fourth folio is perhaps the only one where a painting of Sadequain is by another artist, Haider Ali.

The fifth and sixth folios include calligraphies of Ghalib’s poetry by Sadequain. It seems Sadequain put his heart into these particular calligraphic renditions, very aware of the power of what he was depicting.

There onwards, it is Sadequain’s artistic depictions of selections from Ghalib’s poetic works. The selections — from both Ghalib’s poetry and the complementing art of Sadequain — are matched so judiciously that it seems like a careful slice from the work of these two has been selected and married in a way so as to give a taste of the many facets of their work. Some of the couplets seem to have touched Sadequain so deeply that they have elicited not one, but two works of art from him, as if the artist felt one was not enough to do justice to it. The compiler and author has dealt with this sensitively and the result is a book that is unmissable by lovers of Ghalib and Sadequain.

In folder 13, the words have the timelessness so typical of Ghalib, where he expresses the dilemma of one trying to walk the tight rope of balancing between love and mundane worldly concerns:

Go main raha raheen-i-sitam-ha-i-rozgar
Lekin tere khayaal se ghaafil nahin raha

[Though I remained involved in managing the tyrannies of living, I was, however, never oblivious of your thought and memory]

Possibly, Faiz was inspired by the sentiment when he wrote “Kuchh ishq kiya kuchh kaam kiya…” [I loved a little and also did some work]. Juxtaposed opposite this verse is an oil-on-canvas painting which Sadequain created in 1969, showing a man bent under the weight of earning a living by carrying heavy wood logs, yet having enough strength to have kept alive an element of romance in him, holding a flower close enough to breathe in its aroma.

Another example of one of the verses where Ghalib wrote about man’s existential condition spanning over the past, present and future is in folio number 27:

Sab kahan, kuchh lala-o-gul mein numayaan ho gaeen
Khaak mein kya sooratein hongi ke pinhaan ho gaeen

[Not all, only a few have become evident as tulips and roses What images may lie in the dirt that remain hidden from us?]

Sadequain, a great in his own right, calls himself “Banda-i-Mirza Asadaullah Khan Ghalib” [follower/servant of Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib] in the 47th folder, the striking and fitting Addendum, where the right-hand side presents a black-and-white photograph of Sadequain showering flowers on the grave of Ghalib alongside Zaheen Naqvi, who was then the secretary of the Ghalib Academy in Delhi. The left-hand side of the folio has what are perhaps scribblings of Sadequain as he calligraphs impromptu some of his favourite lines (not couplets) from Ghalib’s poetry, ending the page with giving himself many self-proclaimed titles, the last two being Baykal and Baychayn, both almost synonyms, meaning uneasy and restless.

Such was the temperament of the works of Sadequain — peace within restlessness, order within chaos, faces defined by his typical sharp, angled strokes, but the overall impact made whole by some softer maestro strokes. This contradiction is perhaps one other similarity between Ghalib and Sadequain, then. While much of Ghalib’s poetry is clearly inspired by the love of the Beloved, he was a man who simultaneously gave in to human temptations — gambling and consumption of alcohol being the most well known. As Naqvi writes in the introduction about him, Ghalib was “equally at ease at the king’s court or the gambler’s den, he was aware of both his poetic genius and his disreputable ways. Rather than put people off, it is this disrepute or badnaami that endears him to the general masses. The man on the street loves a flawed genius.”

The reviewer is a Karachi-based journalist, editor and media trainer; human-centric feature stories and long form write-ups are her niche

Ghalib: Call of Angel
By Sibtain Naqvi
Mutbuaat-i-Irfani, Karachi
ISBN: 978-969792700
188pp.

Published in Dawn, Books & Authors, July 5th, 2020

https://www.dawn.com/news/1566957?fbclid=IwAR330X7T01cAlyH4EEk4vO0g2gWmls_sFzrOL6tjOkdTMgKc2pucF72vIdg

Sufisticated: Celebrating Amir Khusrau via Saami

Published: August 21, 2014
tribune.com.pk/story/751231/sufisticated-celebrating-amir-khusrau-via-saami/

The Saami Brothers qawwal group is presently performing events that are thematic tributes to Hazrat Amir Khusrau. PHOTO: FAISAL SAYANI

KARACHI: Guftam ke Roshan az Qamar/Gufta ke Rukhsaar-e-man ast/Guftam ke sheerin az shaker/Gufta ke guftaar-e-man ast.” (I said: What is bright like the moon? He said: The cheek of Mine. I said: What is sweeter than sugar? He said: The talk of Mine.) The lights are dim. The voices and clapping resonate across the hall. The crowd is almost mesmerised as this beautiful bit of Amir Khusrau’s Persian poetry is performed by The Saami Brothers.

“So, who is the speaker and who is he speaking to in this nazm?” is the question a listener poses to Rauf Saami, the eldest of the brothers. “Nazm nahi, bibi. Ghazal,” he points out and goes on. “On purpose, this has not been spelt out here. Hence, this can be interpreted in more than one way,” he smilingly says that not all of Amir Khusrau’s poetry was for his spiritual master. “Where he wants it to be understood as specifically for Khwaja Ghareeb Nawaz, he takes his name.”

In a later sitting, Rauf’s father sheds more light on this. “Some people are given so much in so many aspects. They are God’s special people. Amir Khusrau was one of them. A linguist, a scholar, a poet, a mystic, an advisor to kings, the devotee of his Peer-o-Murshid Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya and a musician,” says Ustad Naseeruddin Saami.

We are sitting in his spacious apartment in Garden Town with two of his sons sitting around him. Two tanpuras named Saawan and Bhaadon sit majestically in the room; they are some 430 years old, passed on through generations of the Saami family as heirlooms.

Ustaad Naseeruddin Saami’s four sons and a nephew make up The Saami Brothers group of qawwals. The troupe is currently performing in events that are thematic tributes to Hazrat Amir Khusrau, the father of qawwali and a 13th-century Sufi musician, poet and scholar, and a spiritual disciple of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya.

Titled Kalaam-e-Khusrau Ba Zabaan-e-Saamat, their next performance will be held at T2F on Thursday afternoon after a successful event at the PACC auditorium. They are doing this to celebrate the Urs of Hazrat Amir Khusrau.

While other qawwals, even in their own family, have experimented with fusion and innovations, this group remains more puritanical in its approach. They safeguard their link to their ancestor Miyan Saamat, who was both a student and colleague of Amir Khusrau. “They were peers. Miyan Saamat was already doing zikr in the darbar of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. But when Khusrau entered, the two started working as a team. They experimented with it and the name ‘qawwali’ was introduced for this art form,” says Ustaad Saami.

Talking about the many languages Amir Khusrau wrote poetry in, the conversation wanders into the makings of the Urdu language. Urdu, the language symbolic of pluralism, has words of Arabic, Turkish, Hindi and Persian. Khusrau dabbled with all of these languages in his poetry. “The purpose of the Urdu language was mingling and communication of the many races here. Music is also a means of communication and nothing else. And Khusrau was the master mingler,” says the maestro.

For Saami, music is about “invoking in yourself and your audience the correct kaifiyat (feeling)”. Ustad Saami, for whom his close students use the term of endearment ‘jaan’, has a deep attachment to Khusrau. He had travelled to India on what one may call a ‘study tour’ to search his roots to Amir Khusrau. “Qawwali kiya hai? Kisee achhay qaul ko logon tak pohnchana,” says Saami. “The divine words given to us by those who were directed by Him.”

Published in The Express Tribune, August 21st, 2014.

I miss the things that were never meant to be

An attempt at Spoken Word poetry… a beginning.

I miss the things that never came into being.
Sunrise in your arms,
the aroma of baking bread in that little house with a red tiled roof…our home,
the tug of little hands at my apron…you looking up from your book and smiling at that sight,
that evening when you cooked for me and waited for me to come home from work,
you saying my beauty still left you speechless…you said this the day I gave up on dyeing my hair because it was almost all white.
I miss our growing old together…
and feeling a current even at that age…a current of passion still alive,
and the joy of each other’s company.
Oh I miss the laughter we were supposed to share each night after dinner.
I miss the quilt you never tucked me in in winter nights.
I miss your first pair of reading glasses.
And I miss that walk in New England we were meant to take.
I miss the things that were never meant to be.

I carry your heart with me

One of the prettiest love poems ever…This is E E Cummings for all those who carry hearts of their beloved in their heart.

snuggle barca
i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart)
i am never without it
(anywhere i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)

i fear no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet)
i want no world (for beautiful, you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;
which grows higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart)

Serenade me, my love

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Put me to sleep with a serenade of togetherness. Wake me up with an aubade that is one of joy. Let the rays of sunlight touch us together. Leave not. Go not. Stay. Here. All we need is us.

What is love? – “TUM HUMSE HO YA HUM TUMSE” by Gulzar

Love…It sweeps us off our feet. It gives us unbelievable pain. It makes us fly. It puts us through hell. We question, at times, if there is something as true love, or not. Does it exist?
One feeling the pivot of all other feelings…descriptions so varied. Each one us has a different way of understanding it. Or the same person defines it differently at different stages of life.

Rarely has a poet summed it up as beautifully as Gulzar Sahab does in this poem.

Here’s to the lovers.
And to a feeling that is fluid, lasting, evolving, growing, but never really ending, if it is true.

Pyar wo beej hai…………

PYAR AKELA JEE NAHIN SAKTA
JEETA HAI TO DO LOGON MEIN
MARTA HAI TO DO MARTE HAIN

PYAR EK BEHTA DARIYA HAI
JHEEL NAHIN KE JISKO KINAARE BAANDH KE BAITHE RAHTE HAIN
SAAGAR BHI NAHIN KE JISKA KINAARA HOTA NAHIN
BAS DARIYA HAI AUR BEHTA HAI
DARIYA JAISE CHADH JAATA HAI, DHAL JAATA HAI
CHADHNA DHALNA PYAR MEIN WOH SAB HOTA HAI
PAANI KI AADAT HAI OOPAR SE NEECHE KI JANIB BEHNA
NEECHE SE PHIR BHAAGTI SOORAT OOPAR UTHNA
BAADAL BAN AAKASH MEIN BEHNA
KAANPNE LAGTA HAI JAB TEZ HAWAYEN CHHAREIN
BOOND BOOND BARAS JAATA HAI

PYAR EK JISM KE SAAZ PE BEHTI BOOND NAHIN HAI
NA MANDIR KI AARTI HAI NA POOJA HAI
PYAR NAFA HAI NA LAALACH HAI
NA LAABH NA HAANI KOI

PYAR AILAN HAI EHSAAN HAI NA KOI JANG KEE JEET HAI YEH
NA HI HUNAR HAI NA HI INAAM NA RIWAAJ NA REET HAI YEH
YEH REHEM NAHIN YEH DAAN NAHIN
YEH BEEJ NAHIN JO BEEJ SAKE
KHUSHBOO HAI MAGAR YEH KHUSHBOO KI PEHCHAN NAHIN

DARD DILAASE SHAQUE VISHWAS JUNOON AUR HOSH-O-HAWAS KE EK AHSAAS KE KOKH SE
PAIDA HUA HAI
EK RISHTA HAI YEH
YEH SAMBANDH HAI –
DO NAAM KA DO ROOHON KA PEHCHAANON KA
PAIDA HOTA HAI BADHTA HAI YEH
BOODHA HOTA NAHIN

MITTI MEIN PALAY EK DARD KI THANDI DHOOP TALE
JAR AUR TARAKKI KI FASAL
KAT’TI HAI
MAGAR YEH BANT’TI NAHIN

MATTI AUR PAANI AUR HAWAA KUCHH ROSHNI AUR TAREEQUI KUCHH
JAB BEEJ KI AANKH MEIN JHAANKTE HAIN
TAB PAUDA GARDAN OONCHI KARKE
MOONH NAAK NAZAR DIKHLATA HAI
PAUDE KE PATTE PATTE PAR KUCHH PRASHN BHI HAI UTTAR BHI

KIS MITTI KI KOKH THI WOH
KIS MAUSAM NE PAALA POSAA
AUR SOORAJ KA CHHIDKAO KIYA
KIS SIMT GAYEEN SHAAKHEIN USKI

phool

KUCHH PATTON KE CHEHRE OOPAR HAIN
AAKASH KI JANIB TAKTE HAIN
KUCHH LATKE HUE HAIN
GHAMGEEN MAGAR
SHAAKHON KI RAGON SE BAHTE HUE PAANI SE JUDE HAIN
MATTI KE TALE EK BEEJ SE AAKAR POOCHHTE HAIN –

HUM TUM TO NAHIN
PAR POOCHNA HAI-
TUM HUMSE HO YA HUM TUMSE

PYAR AGAR WOH BEEJ HAI TO
EK PRASHN BHI HAI
EK UTTAR BHI !

-GULZAR

Sonnet LXXXI: “Rest with your dream inside my dream” – Pablo Neruda

Already, you are mine. Rest with your dream inside my dream.
Love, grief, labour, must sleep now.
Night revolves on invisible wheels
and joined to me you are pure as sleeping amber.

No one else will sleep with my dream, love.
You will go we will go joined by the waters of time.
No other one will travel the shadows with me,
only you, eternal nature, eternal sun, eternal moon.

Already your hands have opened their delicate fists
and let fall, without direction, their gentle signs,
you eyes enclosing themselves like two grey wings,

while I follow the waters you bring that take me onwards:
night, Earth, winds weave their fate, and already,
not only am I not without you, I alone am your dream.

DSC_0086

My Soul Preached Me – By Khalil Gibran

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My soul preached me and taught me to love that which people abhor and befriend him whom they revile.

My soul showed me that love prides itself not only in the one who loves, but also in the beloved.

Ere my soul preached to me, Love was in my heart as a tiny thread fastened between two pegs.

But now Love has become a halo whose beginning is its end, and whose end is it’s beginning. It surrounds every being and extends slowly to embrace all that shall be.

My soul advised me and taught me to perceive the hidden beauty of the skin , figure and hue. She instructed me to meditate upon that which the people call ugly until its true charm and delight appear.

Ere my soul counseled me, I saw Beauty like a trembling torch between columns of smoke. Now since the smoke has vanished, I see naught save the flame.

My soul preached to me , I heard naught but clamor and wailing. But now I eagerly attend Silence and hear its choirs singing the hymns of the ages and the songs of the firmament announcing the secrets of the Unseen.

My soul preached to me and instructed me to drink the wine that cannot be pressed and cannot be poured from cups that hands can lift or lips can touch.

Ere my soul preached to me , my thirst was like a dim spark hidden under the ashes that can be extinguished by a swallow of water.

But now my longing has become my cup, my affections my wine, and my loneliness my intoxication: yet, in this unquenchable thirst there is eternal joy.

My soul preached to me and said, “Do not be delighted because of praise,and do not be distressed because of blame.”

Ere my soul counseled me, I doubted the worth of my work.

Now I realize that the trees blossom in Spring and bear fruit in the Summer without seeking praise, and they drop their leaves in Autumn and become naked in Winter without fearing blame.

Tujh ko kitnon ka lahu chahiye ae arz-e-watan….

Elections 2013 to be held on May 11th are a week away. We all wait for a new beginning for our beloved Pakistan…..but everyday innocent people continue to lose lives at the hands of militant forces, and the upcoming elections promise to be a time of more bloodshed. I hope our worst fears are proven wrong.

Did Faiz write this for us? For Pakistan today?

Tujh ko kitno(n) ka lahu chahiye ae arz-e-watan
jo teray aariz-e-bayrung ko gulnaar kare(n)
kitnee aahoo(n) say kalejaa tera thunda ho gaa
kitnay aansoo teray sehraao(n) ko gulzaar kare(n)

Teray aewaano(n) mei(n) purzay huay payma(n) kitnay
kitnay waaday jo na aasoodaa-e-iqraar huay
kitnee aankhoo(n) ko nazar khaa gaeey bud-khwaho(n) kee
khwab kitnay teree shehrahoo(n) mei(n) sungsaar huay

bilaa-kashaan-e-muhabbat pe jo huaa so huaa
jo mujh pe guzri mut us say kaho, huaa so huaa
mabada ho koee zalim tera garebaa(n) geer
lahu kay daagh to daman say dho, huaa so huaa

hum to majboor-e-wafa hei(n) mugar ae jaan-e-jahaa(n)
apnay ushshaaq say aysay bhee koee  karta hai
teree mehfil ko Khuda rakhay abad tak qaaim
hum to mehmaa(n) hei(n) gharee bhar kay hamara kya hai

She Never Knew…….

She never knew till it happened

That someone who was her joy could be her biggest sorrow

And the sorrow could actually ache, physically

That words that had hurt would sting like a wound splashed with salt

…long after they had been said

They always say nostalgia is selective….that all you remember from the past is good times…

….like photographs! We store photographs of smiles, of achievements, of vacations & weddings…

Not of broken glass panes or a burnt casserole or of a stab in the heart.

But her nostalgia was her bane…it kept bringing back the hurt…

Sting by sting, prick by prick, tear by tear…

She never knew her nostalgia would consist of visions and sounds and words…

Vision of the look on his face that had told her that love is not always reciprocated

Sound of his feet as he walked away

Words he had said that had actually caused gashes in her heart……

She never knew that she would have to be so on her own

She never knew that long after it was over, hope would linger on

….hope that held her back from waking up to reality

With time, she knew…

She knew that she was stronger than she had given herself credit for

She knew that pain does not ask before coming, but dwelling on that pain or not is a choice she had

And somehow, somewhere, she knew that pain, just like love, is never one-sided