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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

nasir kazmi - intezar hussain

Nasir Kazmi remembered

By Intizar Hussain

A function was held in memory of a poet, leading to memories of a vanished city. The poet was Nasir Kazmi, while the city was Lahore as it existed and flourished during the '50s and the early '60s of the past century. The occasion was his death anniversary.

Nasir Kazmi died on March 11, 1972. So now it was his 32nd death anniversary. The Urdu Department of the Government College University chose this occasion to pay compliments to him for his poetic achievements. Asghar Nadeem Syed's introductory remarks about the poet and the significance of the present function were followed by Suhail Ahmad Khan's lecture. He tried to explain that though a romantic soul talking of the magic of night, of trees and birds, he had a deep awareness of his time. He referred to his ghazals written in his last days. They speak of his anguish and pain at the tragic events culminating in the East Pakistan trauma.

Next came Ghalib Ahmad, who recalled the years when he was a student in Government College and had come in contact with Nasir Kazmi. This contact soon developed into friendship, which gave him an opportunity to accompany him in his journey of nights. He nostalgically talked of those nights when he, along with a host of friends mostly from Government College, accompanied Nasir Kazmi in his wanderings in the streets and lanes of Lahore. This kind of personal relationship helped him understand the poet and appreciate his ghazals, which have a magic of their own.

Most prominent and senior-most among those young men from Government College was Muzaffar Ali Syed, who worked as a liaison between Nasir and the budding talent in the college. They met him at his rendezvous, say, Tea House or the Coffee House, and joined him in his nightly wanderings. And it was in the late hours of the night that he spoke like a man inspired and appeared his creative self.

Nasir Kazmi was a perennial nocturnal wanderer. He wandered aimlessly but not thoughtlessly. He had devised a theory justifying his wanderings. The cosmos, he thought, had come into existence in the deep, dark hours of the night. Those hours are pregnant with the possibilities of a supreme creative act. I cannot, he said, afford to waste my time in sleep during these precious hours. And for years, he availed these precious hours to the full. It was only in the small hours when the birds began chirping that he felt sleepy and thought of returning home.

Night, as depicted in Nasir's ghazal, has a different import from what it has in modern Urdu verse. In modern Urdu verse, more particularly the one written by the progressives, the dark night symbolizes the reign of oppression and injustice. Here, in Nasir's ghazal, it appears to carry a different meaning. We have a portrait of a city which, after the din and noise of the day, seems recovering its true character in the quietness of the night.

Night in Nasir's ghazal is not compelled to serve necessarily some symbolic meaning. In the first instance, it is night in the real sense. It is palpable. The streets and lanes, the buildings high and low, the footpaths and the trees, all seem transformed under the spell of the night, which at times is moonlit and at times has a darkness suffused with the soft light of the stars. Nasir Kazmi calls it the magic of the night.

This magic of the night, as perceived by Nasir, was not wholly a figment of a poet's imagination. It had a touch of reality in the sense that commercialization which has disfigured the city, had not yet set in. The traffic had not yet the speed and the noise which we see now. It was sparse and slow and far less noisy. With the approach of night, the roads and streets grew quieter. And as the nocturnal hours passed by, quietness touched with a sense of peacefulness seemed to pervade the whole atmosphere inspiring the poet to say:

Khali rasta bol raha hai

In fact, in these hours, the city was more in harmony with that ideal city which Nasir carried in his imagination and liked to call Shehr-i-Tarab.

Such was the city of Lahore during the '50s and the early '60s. A number of writers living in Lahore seem to have developed a nostalgia for that vanished city. But it was left for Nasir to capture that whole atmosphere in the best poetic way. We find this atmosphere with its cycle of the seasons reverberating in his ghazals. That is what has imparted a different hue to his ghazals, a hue we can scarcely trace in the tradition of the ghazal. The lover here is more in communion with nature than with the beloved.


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