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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

saifuddin saif - dr afzal mirza


Bard in a big city

Many Urdu poets have used city as a metaphor in their poetry but none as passionately as Saifuddin Saif

By Dr Afzal Mirza

From Mir Taqi Mir to Munir Niazi every poet of repute has in one way or the other referred to the city or 'shehr' in their verses. The city is sometimes their home towns which they had to leave under the force of circumstances or in many cases it is the city of their beloved. Mir remembered his home town when he had to migrate to Lucknow in search of livelihood. Nostalgically he wrote:

Dilli keh aik shehr thaa

aalam main intikhab

Rehtay thay muntakhib hi

jahan roozgar kay

Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Nasir Kazmi, Ahmad Faraz and Munir Niazi don't name any particular city in their poetry but call it shehr. It is said about the dwellers of Peshawar that they always refer to their city as shehr. Many years ago when I visited Sarajevo in Bosnia, I was surprised to know that people there also referred to their city as shehr -- a Turkish tradition perhaps. Faiz wrote beautiful poems on Lahore naming it as the city of lights:

Basta hai iss kohar kay

peechay raushanion ka shehr

But he is not the only poet to write about Lahore, referring to it as shehr. Nasir Kazmi wandered in the dark streets of Lahore in search of the 'lost ones' as did Shohrat Bukhari. Munir Niazi called it 'uss baiwafa ka shehr' and Safdar Mir prayed for it in his native Punjabi as 'jeevay shehr Lahore'.

It was poet Saifuddin Saif who highlighted his deep emotive experience while referring to the word shehr. This word in his long and short poems symbolises the painful separation from his beloved.

Saif came to Lahore from Amritsar after Partition in 1947 as did his many contemporaries and juniors like Ahmad Rahi, A Hamid, Zahir Kashmiri, Shahzad Ahmad, Javed Shahin, Ahmad Mushtaq, Salahuddin Nadim and others. Famous writer Saadat Hasan Manto also belonged to Amritsar but he arrived in Lahore from Bombay as he had shifted there much earlier than 1947.

The city of Amritsar can rightly boast of its role in the cultural development of Lahore after the partition. So much so that Beli -- the first movie made in Pakistan -- was all an Amritsar affair with Saadat Hasan Manto as the writer, Masud Parvez as the director, Rashid Attre as the music director and Ahmad Rahi as the lyricist.

Some of these people were introduced to the realm of literature by Saifuddin Saif but many were inspired by the literary stalwarts that had converged on Amritsar in 1940's as teachers at the M A O College. Some of these luminaries were Dr Rashid Jahan, Mahmooduz Zafar, M D Taseer and Faiz Ahmad Faiz.

Like all well known writers, Saif started writing very early in his youth. Being a genuine poet he received an early acclaim and his popularity reached its zenith during his college days when he became star poet of all mushairas in Amritsar. He had a melodious voice that left a deep impact on the sensibility of listeners. Thus even as a college student he had a large following among the youth of Amritsar who almost 'worshipped' him. Soon his fame spread beyond Amritsar and his ghazals and poems became popular in the literary circles of whole India.

I first became familiar with his poetry during my college days when in early 1950's besides Faiz's Dast-e-Saba two more books appeared in the market and became instantaneous hits. These were Saif's Kham-e-Kakul and Adam's Kharabaat. Some of the ghazals from Kham-e-Kakul became so popular that people used to quote them in the gatherings. I remember that in a discussion in the Punjab Assembly one of the members retorted to a remark by another member with Saif's line Ronay walay tujhay kiss baat pay rona aya.

Saif's poetry was characterised by the pain of separation and recounted early setbacks of his life. Poet Shaukat Rizvi says Saif's poetry resulted from an unsuccessful love affair. Like Sahir Ludhianvi, Saif expressed his emotional grief in highly inspired verses:

Tumharay baad khuda janay

kya hua dil ko

Kisi say rabt barhanay ka

hausla na hua

Shaukat says the above-mentioned verse was the outcome of Saif's failure in his intense love affair. In another verse written in the same vein, the poet said:

Chamak kay aur barhao

mairi siah bakhti

Kisi kay ghar kay ujalo

tumhay kisi say kya

In a similar mood of utter frustration, Saif wrote his famous ghazal that became a hit song of a movie called Saat Laakh:

Qarar lootnay waly qarar ko


As happens in most of the cases, the poet's lady love after marriage departs for another city and thereafter the whole of poet's attention is focused on that city. The long poems and some of the ghazals of Saif portray the feelings of the poet about the city to which his beloved had moved to. His poem Jab tairay shehr say guzarta hoon -- an abbreviated version of which appeared in film Vaada -- beautifully represents those emotions:

Koi pursan-e-haal ho to


Kaisi andhi chali hai tairay



sarsar-e-gham main

Kiss bahanay jali hai tairay


Jiss main koi makeen na

rehta ho

Dil woh sooni gali hai tairay


Din guzara hai kiss tarah

mein nay

Raat kyooonkar dhali hai

tairay baad

Roz jita hoon roz marta hoon

Jab tairay shehr say guzarta


Saif also wrote a poem Mein taira shehr chorr jaoon ga which Mujib Alam sang in his melodious voice for film Shama aur parwana:

Main akaila nakhl-e-sehra ki

tarah hoon kya karoon

Yaar tairay shehr main

aghyar tairay shehr main

Tairi rusvai ka dar sau bar

wapas lay gya

Shauq laya hai mujhay sau

bar tairay shehr main

Jis kay shanon par tairi

zulf-e-parishan thi woh Saif

Dhoondhta hai saya-e-deewar

tairay shehr main


Blogger Utkarsh said...

It was to rich experience to read this blog

February 19, 2009 9:18 AM  
Blogger Waqas Yousaf said...

Very informative Article.. Keep it up sir

March 14, 2011 10:21 AM  
Blogger Talat Afroze said...

June 15th, 2014. (Father's Day)
Dear Temporal: I absolutely loved this post by Dr. Afzal Mirza. I am in the process of setting up a web page or pages for Saifuddin Saif's poetry on my web site Dareechah and would like to request your permission to upload a copy of Dr. Mirza's post on my web pages dedicated to Saif. I hope you will permit this.
Looking forward to your blessings
Khair Andaish,
Talat Afroze, Toronto.

June 15, 2014 1:57 PM  
Blogger temporal said...

please go ahead and do send me a link later:)

June 18, 2014 4:13 PM  

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