Lest we forget!


Remembering some literary figures

An agricultural scientist by profession, Jaffar Shirazi was a popular literary figure too. He started his literary career in 1936, at age 16 with Pundit Brijmohan Dattatarya Kaifi as his guide. As a poet he excelled in composing ghazal. After retiring as deputy director agriculture, he based himself at his native town Sahiwal from where he would frequently travel to different places to attend mushairas and other literary functions. He had a wide circle of literary friends and pupils.

Sincerity, humility, and self-abnegation were the marked traits of his personality, and these were amply reflected in his verse for the artist in him was never at variance with the man in him.

Jaffar was a prolific versifier fully conversant with the technique of poetry. An anthology of his verse titled Yeh Hisab HaiN Mah-o-Saal Kay (comprising three verse collections: two of them titled Hawa Kay Rang, Harf-e-Darya and the third, unnamed) was published in the early 1990s. He was very generous in guiding and grooming his pupils for whom ‘Shiraz Cottage’ in Sahiwal’s Satellite Town was a favourite rendezvous.

Majeed Amjad once remarked that Jaffar possessed a lyrical quality by which he sought to effect a change in the complexion and format of the tradition of ghazal within its given framework.

Comparing his last but untitled verse collection to his first publication Hawa Kay Rang, one would notice an imperceptible evolution in his poetic approach from the personal and sentimental to the impersonal and contemplative.

Dr Syed Moin-ur-Rahman (Lahore) was another literary celebrity whose memory one would cherish with love and esteem. He was a model of a gentleman with modesty, politeness, and sincerity as its abiding features. Endowed with inexhaustible literary energy, his numerous research publications bespeak his vast learning and deep critical insight.

Literature was not his only identity; he was an outstanding educationist having served as the head of Urdu department at Government College, Lahore for nearly two decades. He had around twenty-eight publications relating to research, biography and criticism, to his credit besides some original and compiled work on Ghalib and Iqbal which doubtlessly testified to the variety and scope of his research and critical approach.

As ill luck would have it, his relations with some of his erstwhile colleagues and friends became strained around the turn of the century. Ik zara si baat pay barsoN kay yaranay ga’ey! Asghar Nadeem Syed wrote a soulful commemorative reference on Dr Syed Moeen-ur-Rahman’s passing, vindicating the latter’s position vis-à-vis the grievances of his critics.

Arsh Siddiqui (Multan) was an eminent poet, fiction writer, critic, and educationist. He spoke and wrote copiously on diverse literary issues in a style characteristically ‘Arshian’ – inquisitive, moderate, and lucid. He was quite candid and outspoken in his literary pronouncements which emanated from his belief in rational progressivism as he seemed to strive for ‘a kind of poetic statement both precise and passionate; both profoundly felt and desperately accurate’ even if it involved wresting language to a new and startling shape.

He regarded exploration of experience as a primal function of art. To him poetry was not an end in itself but it was akin to truth which in itself was nothing but beauty. In his ace verse collection Mohabbat Lafz Tha Mera, he enunciated his theme of love not as a sentimental attachment with a person or object but as an experience coalescing body and soul or matter and essence. In his verse he juxtaposed philosophic narrative and poetic imagery envisaging that self-awareness born of emotional frustration was not antithetical to love. The conflict between romance and reality could be resolved by the intervention of reason.

In his Punjabi verse collection titled Kali Raat Day Ghungroo, he reiterated the same theme that emotions and instincts did motivate the creative process but they needed pruning by the conscious which was synonymous with intellect that for the creative artist worked as self-censor.

Then in fiction, Arsh Siddiqui would often rely on psychology while portraying characters and situations whereas an element of fantasy coupled with experimentation with technique characterized its substance. And as a critic, Arsh Siddiqui seemed to focus on expressionistic evaluation of literature rather that its objective analysis.

Shams Naghman (Faisalabad) was a talented short story writer. He belonged to the age of Salim Betab, Adeem Hashmi, Manzar Mufti, Riaz Majeed, Asmatullah Khan and Fayyaz Tashna. His first short story with a slightly stereotypical title Aur Deep Bujh Ga’ey appeared in 1959, when he was only 17. In time he grew into a seasoned short story writer with a creative graph graduating from romantic sentimentality to down-to-earth realism, and then to, what may be termed as psycho-impressionistic realism. Thus he employed the medium of short story as a kaleidoscope of the human panorama in its varying shades.

His stories Saatwan Ghar, Shinakht Ka Safar, Jungle May Gumshuda Shaher, and Lahu Kay Raastay projected him at his best as a writer of fiction wherein he translated the inner turmoil and barrenness of the modern man in an environment of utter chaos and confusion.


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