Saturday, March 12, 2011

Mustafa Zaidi – a literate poet

I am no big fan poetry and poets, and my interest in poetry is only restricted to a melodious song on a well composed musical note. Although poets like Iqbal, Munir Niazi and Faiz attract me to their thought provoking verses more often than not. As for Mustafa Zaidi, all I knew of him was his mysterious death that made headlines decades ago.

A couple of days back, while cleaning my junk, as I have mentioned in some of my earlier posts, I found “Koh-e-Nida”, a compilation of published poetry of Mustafa Zaidi. And before going any further, I sat amid the heap of torn pages and old buttons, I opened the book and read about the man who was literate, well read and above all a bureaucrat. Born in 1930, he had a flare for reading and literature. He obtained his masters in English Literature from the prestigious Government College Lahore, and thus like me he was a Ravian too. He then joined the civil services of Pakistan and climbed to the ladders of success till he retired as a deputy secretary.

During his service, he got a chance to extensively travel abroad, which gave depth and meaning to his poetic work. He was sensitive by nature, which is a must for any poet to feel the wrath of the poor due injustice and unjust society. During his almost forty years of literary life, six volumes of his poetry were published and Koh-e-Nida was the seventh and the last. Besides poetry, photography was also his passion and he even had a dark room in his house where he developed his films. He also loved flying and had obtained a PPL (private pilot license) but a forced landing took away his flying hobby from which he barely survived.

Now coming back to his poetry. He is remembered as one of the few great progressive Urdu poets of the twentieth century. And it would not be wrong to say that his vision, thought and accomplishments are even relevant today, as I would go on to prove. I wish I could include many of his verses that showed his sensitivity and injustices he found around him. But would leave my readers ponder over a very small poem which was written in late sixties but is true and relevant even today. The coarse translation of this poem titled “Teacher” portrays the helplessness of students who even after graduating find no employment and return home dishearten and dejected. In the poem, a teacher addresses his students and says, “Oh my sons!! Do not see what you know, but see whom do you know.” It is not one’s qualification and intelligence that matters, it is one’s knowing of someone who can get him a job, even if the applicant is a fake and without any knowledge or qualification. Or for that matter even if he happens to have a fake degree ……

As a bureaucrat, he received the prestigious civil award of Tamgha-e-Quaid-e-Azam for outstanding service. While during his literary pursuits, he won prestigious accolades such as Professor Dunn’s Gold Medal; Dr. R.N Bhatia’s Medal; and Iqbal Gold Medal.

PS: And as my friend Shirazi points out, his famous couplet which he wrote while at Fort Munro, will always let people remember him for being a sensitive, though provoking poet, never seeking personal glory and admiration.

کسی اور غم میں اتنی خلش نہاں نہیں ہے 

غم دل مرے رفیقو غم رائگاں نہیں ہے 

کوئی ہم نفس نہیں ہے کوئی رازداں نہیں ہے 

فقط ایک دل تھا اب تک سو وہ مہرباں نہیں ہے 

مری روح کی حقیقت مرے آنسوؤں سے پوچھو 

مرا مجلسی تبسم مرا ترجماں نہیں ہے 

کسی زلف کو صدا دو کسی آنکھ کو پکارو 

بڑی دھوپ پڑ رہی ہے کوئی سائباں نہیں ہے 

انہیں پتھروں پہ چل کر اگر آ سکو تو آؤ 

مرے گھر کے راستے میں کوئی کہکشاں نہیں ہے

Come to me if you can by walking over these stones,
There is no galaxy en route my house

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S A J Shirazi said...

Ya. Mustafa Zaidi was a very 'situational' poet. He once, sitting on a stone near Fort Monro write, "inhi pathroon pe chal ke, agar aa sako to aao." And here again, what he wrote sixty year ago, more relevant than ever today.

Nice post Jalal HB.

Jalal HB said...

Thank you, SAJS

Rizwan Chaudry said...

Mustafa Zaidi became famous because of his affair with Gujranwala beauty of the yore Shahnaz Shiekh He was a renowned poet and an excellent civil servant May Almighty bless his soul