Dr Afzal Mirza

Location: Baltimore, Maryland, United States

Studied in Govt. College, Lahore, Punjab University,Peshawar University & Zagreb University(Croatia). Started writing when in 7th class. Wrote prose & poetry,Have published writings in almost every Pakistani Urdu & English magazine and newspaper,held important positions in many literary and professional organizations. worked as a teacher, research scientist and industrial management professional, In the words of Arthur Miller I have always felt as being temporary. That is why there was no significant achievement.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


By Dr Afzal Mirza

There was a time when Mushaira culture was in vogue in Lahore. In his autobiography Intezar Hussain wrote of the Lahore after the 1947 partition when a large number of poets migrated to this city and Mushairas were commonly organised. "Almost everyday there would be a Mushaira somewhere," he wrote. And many poets who participated in these Mushairas read out their creations in a melodious way called tarannum. The term meant the melodious singing of a nazm or a ghazal without the accompaniment of music. My father used to tell me thatAllama Iqbal would recite his poetry in tarannum. Hafeez Jallundhri was another poet who recited his poetry in tarannum. Actually Hafeez knew the basics of classical music. He has also recited his Shahnama-e-Islam on Radio Pakistan in the accompaniment of Sarangi played byUstad Bundu Khan. Another poet who used to recite his poetry in tarannum was Ehsan Danish and because of this characteristic he was in great demand throughout India. But after the partition he gave up tarannum altogether.In an inter-school Mushaira in 1949 -- when I was a school kid --some known poets participated and many of those were the poets mentioned by Intezar Husain. One of these was Iqbal Safipuri who stole the show at this Mushaira. He was a thin man with a lean but melodious voice. He became a celebrity in Lahore in the early 1950s. At about the same time, the Red Cross organised a Mushaira in thePunjab University hall. Among the participating poets, was JigarMuradabadi who was known for his excellent rendition of poetry in tarannum. He was a dark-complexioned man with a black beard and was wearing a black sherwani with a black Jinnah cap in the Red Cross Mushaira. The edges of his mouth were smeared with excessive chewing of paan but he kept the audience spellbound with his beautiful tarannum:
Jab tak keh ghm-e-insaan say Jigar insaan kadil ma'mur nahin
Jannat sahi yeh dunya lekin jannat say jahannumdoor nahin
The show, however, was stolen by a young teenage girl -- all dressed in white called Zahra Nigah. She had a young and fresh voice then which touched every one's heart. It was for the first time that a woman had dared to enter the domain of Mushaira, hitherto exclusively monopolised by men. But her appearance changed the earlier trend altogether and people also started inviting women poets to theMushairas. Zahra Nigah, the elder sister of Anwar Maqsood and Fatima Surayya Bajya, had migrated from Hyderabad Deccan. After a couple of appearances in Mushairas she got married and migrated to the UK where she is now living a life of relative obscurity.Among others who made their debut in that Mushaira was one HabibJalib. A young man with long hair and nicely cut features, Jalib also succeeded in impressing the audience with his beautiful rendering of his famous ghazal:
Aik hamein awara kehnakoi barra ilzam nahin
Dunya walay dilwalon ko aur bohat kuch kehtay hain
Only Jigar, Zahra Nigah and Jalib were repeatedly called to the stage during this Mushaira. Afterwards, Jalib became a star poet. He had his own individual style of presenting his poetry and unlike other poets he maintained it till the end.Another poet who started as a tarannum poet was Qateel Shifai and his earlier rise to fame was due to his good voice but in his early forties he gave it all up. Nasir Kazmi was also one of those poets who could render his ghazals in tarannum but he gave it up at a later stage in his life. Tufail Hoshiarpuri was yet another poet blessed with good voice. He knew the intricacies of classical music as well. Zameer Jafri and Shaukat Thanvi also recited their poetry in tarannum, though their tarannum did not produce the desired effect. Also in 1950s, it was the Majlis-e-Iqbal of the Government College which had banned tarannum during its annual Mushaira. But in some of the meetings of the Majlis, Shakoor Bedil used to recite with tarannum on demand. The ban on tarranum was due to the fact that during the competition it was not possible to compare the poets who recited their poetry with tarannum with those who did not. I remember Sufi Ghulam Mustafa Tabassum asking Shakoor to recite a poem for him.Once Shakoor also recited M D Taseer's poem: Maan bhi jao/Janay bhido /Chorro bhi ab pichli batain. Shakoor Bedil had a trained voice.He was also the first playback singer of Pakistan. He sang for the movie Shahida as A Shakoor. At that time he was studying in the M A O .College Lahore. He was a short, dark and balding man who joined theGovernment College for his masters when he was in his thirties. His younger brother Khayyam is a known Indian composer.Many years later in one of the Oriental College Mushairas, a new poet stole the show. His name was Kalim Usmani:
Atish-e-gham to barrhaktihai mere seenay mein
Aanch kiyon aap kayrukhsar tak aa pohnchi hai
Usmani was a prote´ge of Ehsan Danish who had a large number of pupils. Usmani ended up writing for movies and produced many memorable songs. Saqib Zeervi was another tarannam poet much in demand in the Mushaira circuit. One of the poets who had a voice comparable to that of Jalib was Muzaffar Warisi. He became popular during 1960s and during Zia's dictatorship, he turned towards naatwriting. He is now a popular naat writer besides Mansur Tabish. Like Jalib, however, Warisi has maintained the quality of his voice even in the old age. There was one Rifat Sultan -- a poet from Shorkot --who used to present his poetry in compositions derived from ragas.Aiman Kalyan is quite a favourite raga among the poets and many of them presented their poetry in it. I remember an excellent poet from Jhang named Ram Riaz who had beautiful voice and wrote ghazals of high quality:
Tum to dunya kay mukhalif thay magar yehkiya hua
Tum peh hi chorr gayarang zamana apnna
As a student of the Government College Jhang, Ram along with his close friend Mahmood Sham participated in many inter-collegiateMushairas. Ram Riaz, being extremely sensitive, served as a teacher at many places and died prematurely. Then there was and is Aqeel Rubi who appeared a little later and could steal the Mushairas with his melodious voice. A teacher by profession, he has now given up reciting his poetry in tarannum.Among women poets, Zahra Nigah was later replaced by Munawwar Sultana Lakhnavi but she was no match for Zahra as far as the quality of poetry and presentation was concerned. She came into limelight because there was no one else to take the baton. A Sahiwal poet Bismil Sabri, also a protege of Qateel Shifai, also had good quality voice.Music and poetry are two inseparable things. Anyone who does not have a taste for music cannot compose balanced poetry. After all what distinguishes poetry from prose is the rhythm and the rhyme scheme.Barring prose poems, all other poetry is written according to certain rhyme scheme. Many poets who normally did not present their poetry in tarannum had an ear for music. Major Ishaq has written in his introduction to Zindan Nama that Faiz used to hum his verses while composing them. Some other poets who did not read their poetry in tarranum, in fact, lacked a quality voice.But the advent of the electronic media and the easy availability of a trained voice of a professional singer has changed the whole scenario. Now a poet needs not to be melodious to impress his audience. He can pass on his poetry to a reputed singer to sing and become famous as a result. The fact, however, remains, that with Mushairas becoming rare, the poets who presented their poetry in tarannum have also become few and far between.(Taken from Jang)

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Ace story writer Saadat Hasan Manto arrived in Pakistan sometimes in the beginning of February 1948 that is only six months after the partition of the sub-continent. They say that he was well-established in the Bombay’s film industry as a story and dialogue writer.He had personal friendships with most of the actors and producers of that period which can also be found in his collection of sketches written under the title Ganje Farishte (The featherless angels). Bombay was and perhaps continues to be the city generally considered as melting pot of different ethnic and religious groups. There were so many Muslims there who belonged to the areas that later on became part of Pakistan and they chose to remain there even after the partition. So what compelled Manto to leave India and settle in Pakistan? In his sketch of actor Shayam written under the title Murli Ki Dhun Manto has shed light on his mental condition at the time of partition and his decision to migrate to Pakistan.
He writes,”Those days when there was a bloody tussle going on between Hindus and Muslims on the partition of India and thousands of people of both the factions were being killed every day Shayam and I were sitting with a Sikh family that had migrated from Rawalpindi . The members of the family were narrating the tales of their woes which were very depressing. Shayam couldn’t remain unaffected by them. I could easily understand the disturbance that was shaking his mind .When we left that place I asked Shayam,’I am a Muslim. Don’t you feel like killing me?’.Shayam replied very seriously,’Not now….but when he was telling me the atrocities committed by Muslims on them I could have killed you.’ Hearing this from Shayam gave a big blow to my heart. May be at that time even I could have killed him. But afterwards when I thought over it and found that there was an enormous difference between the thinking of that period and now and then I could understand psychological background of all these riots resulting in the killing of thousands of innocent Hindus and Muslims.’Not now….at that time yes…why?’.If one closely follows he can find the true answer to the nature of human beings behind this problem.”
Manto then goes on to narrate the immediate reasons behind his decision to migrate. He writes,” The communal hatred was increasing day by day in Bombay. When Ashok Kumar and Wacha got the control of Bombay Talkies the important positions all went to Muslims. This resulted in a wave of hatred among the Hindu staff of the Bombay Talkies.Wacha received anonymous letters in which he was threatened with burning down the studio or killing important people. Wacha and Ashok did not give much imporatnce to these letters but being a sensitive person and a Muslim I was giving due importance to the situation and many times I mentioned my concern to Ashok and Wacha advising them to relieve me from Bombay Talkies. Actually Hindus were thinking that whatever was happening in Bombay Talkies was due to me.. But they (Ashok and Wacha) would say ‘Are you insane?’ I was really insane perhaps. My wife and children were in Pakistan when it was a part of India . From time to time some Hindu-Muslim riots would take place in that area but I understood it. But what this new name had made of that piece of land was beyond my comprehension.What is self rule? I had no concept of it……I couldn’t understand which was my country Hindustan or Pakistan and whose blood was spilling so callously every day? Where would they bury or burn those bones whose flesh had been devoured by vultures. Now that we had become independent who would be our slaves? And there was the question whether we had actually got independence or not?.There were answers to these question but those were Indian Answers, Pakistani Answers and British Answers….Hindustan had become free. Pakistan had become independent soon after its inception but man was still slave in both these countries—slave of prejudice…slave of religious fanaticism…slave of barbarity and inhumanity.”
Manto writes about the final moments of his departure in these words,” Shayam would look at me and smile although he knew my state of mind. I was very upset as to why Shayam did not think like me…but perhaps he had reached the conclusion that it was futile to ponder over what was going on in our envirionment.I thought a lot but could not come to any conclusion. At last getting fed up I said,’Okay let me go from here..’Shayam had night shooting. I started packing my baggage. The whole night I did it.In the morning Shayam came back from shooting. He saw my packed baggage and only asked me,’Are you going?’I also said only,Yes..’And after that we did not say a word about ‘migration’ (hijrat). He helped me in collecting the rest of the baggage and kept telling me stories of his previous night shooting and laughed. When it was the time of my departure he took out a bottle of brandy from the closet and made two pegs and handing me one said,’Hiptulla !’. I also said in return ‘Hiptulla” and with a big laughter he dragged me to his broad chest saying,’ you swine..’.I tried to stop my tears and he raised a sincere slogan,’Pakistan Zindabad’..’Zindabad Bharat..’ I said and went downstairs where truck was waiting for me. ” Manto came to Pakistan by a steamer and after disembarking in Karachi travelled to Lahore by train. Manto’s narrative in this sketch shows that there could be two main reasons for his migration to Pakistan. Firstly he missed his family who were already in Lahore and secondly he was not sure about his future because of the communal hatred that had reached Bombay as well. Manto mentions of a letter that Shayam wrote to him from Bombay that says,” Every one remembers you here. They miss your humorous anecdotes.Wacha thinks that you have dodged him because you left for Pakistan without informing him. It is ironic that one who was foremost in opposing the entry of Muslims in Bombay Talkies was the first one to escape to Pakistan making himself the martyr of his own ideology. This is Wacha’s point of view.”
Manto’s contemporary writer Upinder Nath Ashk on the other hand had a different story to tell about Manto’s decision of migrating to Pakistan. During early 1940s Ahmad Shah Bukhari (Patras Bukhari) had engaged a number of important writers in All India Radio where he was the director general. Among those writers were Krishan Chandar, Manto, Ghulam Abbas, Upinder Nath Ashk, Noon Meem Rashed, Mahmood Nizami, Meera ji and others. So there was a spirit of competition among these writers. In an article entitled Manto—Mera Dost Mera Dushman(Manto—My Friend, My Foe)Upinder Nath Ashk wrote about his antipathy and a strange type of friendship with Manto. He wrote, “ Manto had written about Bari Sahib( Bari Alig) that he was very sensitive person . But as I saw Manto he seemed to be influenced by Bari Sahib although he did not know this aspect of his character. The circumstances in which Manto disappeared from Delhi one day were almost similar to those in which he ran away from Bombay to Pakistan. In Delhi I was responsible for his flight but in Bombay it was Nazir Ajmeri. But in reality Manto was also himself responsible for this flight. In fight as long as he was on the giving end he was happy but when others would start using his tactics he used to run away. Talking about Nazit Ajmeri’s opposition that caused his flight from Bombay Manto once wrote,’ I thought a lot but could not understand anything. Then I told myself,’ Manto Bhai…you won’t find any way if you go straight so stop the car…go through the side street and from the side street I came to Pakistan.”” Ashk had thought that Manto could not compete with him in Delhi so he escaped to Bombay. In his article Ashk also mentions of strained relations between Manto and Rashed as he was also in his words “an authoritarian type..” Though Manto’s superiority over his contemporaries was unchallenged yet his problem was that he could not tolerate any criticism or would not allow any one to change any word or sentence in his writings which generally caused heart burning among them. But the question is if Manto left Delhi because of Ashk then why did he call him to Bombay to take up a job in Bombay Talkies? Ashk says that Manto did it to show his superiority over him. But it was common with Manto to help his friends to get jobs in Bombay’s film industry. He invited Ahmad Nadim Qasmi as well who went there but did not like the environment and came back. Ashk writes,” Although Ashok and Wacha were Manto’s friends and Manto joined Bombay Talkies with them but Manto couldn’t give any story there.Once when I asked Ashok as to why Manto left he said that he had written a story but we decided to take Kamal Amrohi’s ‘Mahal’. Manto did not say a word before leaving although we had said that after this we would make his story but he did not listen to us.’….Actually he got involved in such people there whom he had forced earlier to leave Filmistan. Yes, Ashok and Wacha did receive some letters because of placing Muslims in important positions but it was not easy to burn the studio and become jobless.Neither Shahid Latif, nor Nazir Ajmeri got scared due to these letters. The main reason of Manto’s disappointment was firstly the selection of the story of Nazir Ajmeri and secondly that of Kamal Amrohi. The day Manto found out about Kamal Amrohi’s story he decided to leave Bombay….Manto ran away from the arena due to his great egocentricity and perhaps that was the reason of his greatness.” (End)