Urdu Conference remembers departed souls

Lahore:09 December:As the 12th International Urdu Conference drew to a close on Sunday evening, one of the last sessions of the four-day event remembered some of the prominent writers, music composers and artists who passed away in recent years. The session, aptly titled ‘Yaad-e-Raftgan’, featured a moderator and six speakers who paid heartfelt tributes to as many departed luminaries. Writer Masood Ashar was the first speaker who talked about the late Dr Enver Sajjad, a multi-talented man who had been involved in many forms of arts ranging from fiction writing and acting to dance. Ashar recalled Dr Sajjad as a member of a group of literary rebels headed by Iftikhar Jalib who did not conform to the existing ideas about literature. Sajjad changed the course of Urdu short story by employing such symbols and metaphors that were very unique, the speaker said. He added that the late writer had studied medicine to fulfil his father’s desire but his personal interests always revolved around various forms of art. According to the speaker, Sajjad initially joined the Pakistan Peoples Party but later changed his political stance because of the kind of mercurial personality he had. There was also a period in his life when he was fascinated by Dr Tahirul Qadri, Ashar said. Commenting on the artistic career of Sajjad, the speaker said that with the advent of the television, the late artiste started his association with the new medium and became one of the successful writers of TV drama. But his passion for television also did not last long, as he then learnt Kathak dance from Maharaj Ghulam Hussain Kathak, Ashar remarked, adding that he later learnt painting and created many artworks. Ashar also discussed the domestic life of the late writer who married twice and spent his last days with his first wife, who was known as Ratti Bhabhi among his friends. The speaker was of the view that the new style which Sajjad used in his fiction writing eventually led him into a blind alley from where there was no escape. “Sajjad destroyed his creative talent without realising what he was doing.” Scholar Dr Tehseen Firaqi showered praise on the late linguist and author Dr Jameel Jalibi for his various literary achievements, including his history of Urdu literature in four volumes, ‘Tareekh-e-Adab-e-Urdu’. Jalibi was born in Meerut, Firaqi said. He added that the late writer had many literary dimensions, as he was a historian, researcher, translator and editor. His creative output includes books on linguistics, culture and literary criticism, as well as translation of George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’. “I have never written anything on the desire of someone else,” Firaqi quoted Jalibi from the preface to his book ‘Aristu Se Eliot Tak’. Jalibi also did not like applying standards of English literature and criticism to Urdu, the speaker said, adding that the late linguist staunchly disagreed with the stance of those critics who wanted Urdu literature to be interpreted in terms of the established standards of English literature. Firaqi also lauded Jalibi’s contributions to Urdu through his editorship of the literary magazine ‘Naya Daur’. It was Naya Daur which properly introduced major poet Fareed Javed, and the special issue of that magazine on Noon Meem Rashid became a permanent reference in any discussion on Rashid later on, it was said. Aqeel Abbas Jafari fondly recalled his memories of poet Liaquat Ali Asim, who lived in Manora and had to leave literary gatherings in the city at 10pm sharp, as the last ship would leave for Manora at 11pm. Asim started writing poetry when he was 14, and his first collection came out when he was just 20, Jafari said. The late poet published his many collections, including ‘Aangan Mein Samundar’, ‘Raqs-e-Visaal’ and ‘Baagh To Saara Jaane Hai’. He also worked for the Urdu Dictionary Board. The speaker recalled the literary gatherings in Karachi where Asim and other poets such as Hasnain Zaidi and Javed Saba would meet and discuss literature. The next departed soul remembered at the session was a renowned music director who composed many memorable songs and ghazals for radio and television. The life and works of Niaz Ahmed were discussed by Amjad Shah, who said the late music director belonged to the Kirana Gharana, and the first passion of his musical journey was playing the harmonium. Ahmed composed more than 3,000 songs and was a versatile music director who could easily employ both the eastern classical and the western pop music style in his songs based on the singer and lyrics. Shah said the tunes set by the late artiste were sung by almost every major and not-so-major singer in the country. Those who rendered their voices to Ahmed’s compositions included Mehdi Hasan, Noor Jehan, Ghulam Ali, Mehnaz, Nayyara Noor and Muhammad Ali Shehki. The speaker said Allan Faqir was a folk singer but Ahmed made him sing a patriotic Urdu song, ‘Itne Bade Jeevan Sagar Mein Tu Ne Pakistan Dia”. Another landmark patriotic song of his is ‘Mera Inaam Pakistan’ sung by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Ahmed’s association with Alamgir also produced gems like ‘Kabhi Tum Idhar Se Guzar Ke To Dekho’, ‘Dekh Tera Kia Rang Kar Dia Hai’ and ‘Yeh Shaam Aur Tera Naam’, Shah said. The late fiction writer Zakaur Rehman was paid tribute by painter Shahid Rassam, who remembered him as a highly learned person whose room was crammed full of books. One would not find the late novelist talking ill about others, Rassam said, adding that his heart was as big as the sea. The speaker said Rehman had never had a passport, and it was surprising that without going anywhere, he was able to create scenes of other countries in his novels just because of his vast reading on them. Rassam also recited an excerpt from ‘Kashful Kitab’, a novel on which Rehman was working when they met for the last time in Lahore, where the late novelist had shifted before his death. One of the greatest painters of Pakistan, Jamil Naqsh, was the last luminary who was discussed at the event. His daughter Sobia Naqsh, who manages the Jamil Naqsh Museum in Karachi, read a paper on her late father. Sobia said Naqsh was born in Kirana in India and migrated to Pakistan after Partition. She added that her father valued time very much and since his early years, he had given up all other things that could waste his time. Commenting on the discipline of her father, she said that any kind of mess would turn him off. Even in his last days, Naqsh worked for 12 to 14 hours daily, the speaker said. She also lauded him for his role in introducing the art of Pakistan to the foreign world. Quoting art critic Marjorie Husain, Sobia said: “For Jamil Naqsh, art was his way of life.” The speaker added that the late artist displayed his talents in miniature and calligraphy as well, but his favourite theme remained ‘women and pigeon’ throughout his life. “It’s a sign of genius artists that while sticking to one single subject, they are able to produce innumerable variations,” Sobia remarked as she touched on the symbol of pigeon in Naqsh’s works. She added that her father’s mastery lay in the exploitation of the form. It was indeed a session worth attending, but what was heartbreaking was a large number of vacant seats in the auditorium, signifying the people’s lack of interest in remembering the dead, no matter how much they had contributed to society. The moderator, Abbas Naqvi, remarked that in the recent Faiz Festival held in another city, only nine people attended a session on Iqbal, while a session featuring a female actor at the same time was crammed full of people, signifying the lamentable level of our collective intellect.The news.

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