Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Majeed Amjad - The Poet Less Remembered

Inspired by my friend Raza's literary blog Jahane-e-Rumi , I have been meaning to post something on Urdu poets and poetry. In the post-Iqbal era of Urdu poetry there are few greater poets than Majeed Amjad (this is a link to a short bio of him in Wikipedia that I wrote and I would love readers familiar with his work to add to it). Even amongst the lovers of Urdu poetry his name is least likely to be recognized. Reading Majeed Amjad's magnificent poetry I have often wondered how it is that some literary reputations get created from meager contributions but some people forever struggle to gain just acclaim.

In Majeed Amjad's case I think it was a confluence of factors: he was a quiet, reserved introvert with no inclination for self-marketing. He lived away from the literary center of Lahore in small Punjabi towns like Sahiwal and Jhang and never had many influential advocates of his literary merits. But, perhaps more importantly, Majeed Amjad was not an ideological poet affiliated with one or the other group of literary luminaries who could beat their partisan drums on his behalf (Progressive Writers Movement managed to turn everyone who knew the words 'mazdoor' or 'kisan' into literary giants).

However, on to some examples of his wonderful poetry (unfortunately I do not possess any talent for translation so my apologies to those who struggle with literary Urdu).

"Shab-e-Rafta" was the only collection of his poetry published in his lifetime. He wrote a beautiful poem ("Harf-e-Awwal") as an introduction to that collection:

DardoN ke is koh-e-garaaN se
MeiN ne tarashi, nazm kay eewaN
ki ik ik sil,
Ik ik soch ki hairaaN moorat ...

Garche qalam ki nok se tapke
Kitne tarane, kitne fasane
Lakh masaail
Dil meiN rahi sub dil ki hikayat!

Bees baras ki kaawish-e-paiham
Sochte din aur jaagti raateiN
Un ka haasil:
Aik yahi izhaar ki hasrat!

The persistent undercurrent of Majeed Amjad's poetry is a view of life that is essentially tragic (perhaps another reason why it is difficult for the young to embrace him compared to say Faiz's optimistic theme of 'we shall overcome') . Majeed Amjad feels the inexorable cruelty of time in his bones. Life's circle continues with unremitting regularity indifferent to what it leaves behind.

In the poem "KunwaN", the water wheel symbolizes the perpetual circle of time and the water carrier, symbolizing the divine, watches this passing of time and its ravages with complete detachment:

KunwaN chal raha hai! magar khet sookhe pare haiN, na fasleiN, na khirman, na dana
Na shakhon ki bahein, na phooloN ke mukhre, na kalioN ke mathe, na rut ki jawani ...

KunwaiN wala, gaadi pe leta hai, mast apni bansi ki meethi sureeli sada meiN
KahiN khet sookha para reh gaya aur na us tak kabhi aai pani ki bari
KahiN beh gayi aik hi tund rele ki fayyaz lehroN meiN kayari ki kayari ...

Aur ik naghma sarmadi kaan meiN aa raha hai, musalsal kunwaN chal raha hai
Payape magar narm rau us ki raftaar, paiham magar betakan us ki gardish
Adam se azal tak, azal se abad tak badalti nahiN aik aan us ki gardish
Na jane liye apne dolaab ki aastinoN maiN kitne jahaaN us ki gardish

RawaN hai rawaN hai
TipaN hai tipaN hai
Yeh chakkar yuhiN jaawidaN chal raha hai
KunwaN chal raha hai

I could go on but the last poem that I would like to quote in this piece is "Maqbara-e-Jahangir". I was particularly reminded of this reading the poem Raza has posted on his blog with an allusion to Shalimar. Notice the wholly different tone of Majeed Amjad's poem. His reaction to this beautifully historic sight is a deep sadness as he sees human beings (gardeners, people picknicking etc.) in this serene setting either struggling to get through the day or wholly oblivious to this fleeting existence.

Khurdre, maile, phate kaproN meiN boorhe maali
Yeh chaman band, jo guzre hue sultanoN ki
HaddiaN seench ke phulwariaN mehkate haiN
Ghaas kat ti hai ke din in ke kate jate haiN ...

Teen sau saal se mabhoot khare haiN jo yeh sarv
In ki shakheiN haiN keh afaaq ke sheeraze haiN
Saf-e-ayyam ki bikhri hui tarteebeN haiN
In ke saaye haiN keh dhalti hui tehzeebeN haiN ...

MarmareeN qabr ke ander, tahe zulmaat kahiN
Kirmak-o-Moor ke jabroN meiN salateeN ke badan
Koi dekhe, koi samjhe to is eewaN meiN jahaaN
Noor hai, husn hai, taz'een hai, zeebaish hai
Hai to bus aik dukhi rooh ki gunjaish hai

Update: (December 15th, 2009)

An extremely rare recording of Majeed Amjad reciting his own poetry. This is recorded at the residence of Mr. Mazhar Tirmazi in Farid Town, Sahiwal on November 13th, 1973.


Anonymous said...

Two thumbs up

Raza Rumi said...

thanks for writing on Majeed Amjad and posting his amazing poetry in the blogopshere. Indeed Amjad is less remembered and this is only a metaphor of what sells in the world of Urdu Literature. He was neither a ringmaster, nor a cheap romanticist nor an ideological zealot. He was truly original and therefore not easily brand-able. This is why the literati has found it difficult to place him in a 'category'. I am hesitant to agree that lack of optimism makes him unattractive for the younger generation. Since Amjad defies the boundaries of conformism, the mainstream was nervous to acknowldege him; and state and civil society being consenting bedfellows in Pakistan conveniently chose to ignore him. He is not known because his works were deliberately under-rated and brushed aside by media, literary critics and mini-mafias that rule Urdu literature across the globe. It was only when the independent and thoughtful Professor Khawaja M Zakariya of Lahore researched for years to compile and document his works, that Amjad re-appeared. Professor Khawaja's labour of love is a befitting tribute to the fountain of creativity that Amjad is.
Advance warning: I will cross-blog this post on JR.
thanks again.