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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

noon meem rashid- Parveen Rahim

N.M. Rashed - Iconoclast or sublime?

By Parveen Rahim

Noon Meem Rashed died as he had lived, denouncing conventional religion, rejecting all established norms and totally indifferent to the controversy his cremation aroused.

Iconoclasm, taken by itself, is sheer revolt, conceit, aggression and purely negative in form, but Rashed, also equipped with constructive genius, remains conspicuous not only for his utter rejection of all that is traditional, but also for the opening up of new vistas. Rashed refused to confine himself within the limits of literacy doctrines and schools. Language, style (which includes ghazal form), philosophy, technique and treatment have all acquired a new meaning in his poetry. A born rebel, Rashed was one of the leading pioneers of modern poetry, and in his dexterous handling of the blank verse and prose-poem is second only to Meeraji.

Jean-Paul Sartre, in his last interview, said that all creative writing required solitude, and like him, Rashed too, advocated the cause of the individual and emphatically asserted, in the realm of art, the supremacy of individual endeavour over stereotyped thought and ideology. He wished to be different and he found the prevalent subjectivism in poetry too constraining. The subjective treatment of art has also been deprecated by Goethe explicitly: "Poetry of the highest type when once it withdraws itself from the external world to become subjective, degenerates."

"Humanism", in the strict sense, is hardly a philosophy and is only made significant by Sartre's famous lecture "Existentialism is a humanism". Sartre's acceptance of "Closed Humanism" has visibly influenced Rashed's seemingly atheistic outlook, implying that man is the sole creator of meaning and value in the world and is abandoned to create and realize in his world such values as he can.

Destined for fame, with the publication in 1941 of Mavra -- his first collection of poems in free and blank verse - he was awarded instant recognition. In his preface to Mavra, Krishan Chandar acknowledges Rashed's innovations and shares with him, the pain of the downtrodden East. Rashed is disillusioned with his times. His heart bleeds for the ignominy and poverty the East has suffered for hundreds of years and which compels him to say:

and in yet another mood,

During the romantic Akhtar Shirani era of the early forties, Rashed, too lived through the ardours of romanticism but later laid them aside as he evolved into Guman ka mumkin.

Language is, strictly speaking, the basic raw material of the literary artist, but it is on discontent, disillusion, despair, frustration and heartbreaks that the true artist thrives and which assures his immortality. Would utopia be a befitting nurturing ground for Ghalib, Mir, Faiz, Rashed and Meeraji and would one accept a utopia without them?

The publication of Iran mein Ajnabi in the early fifties, was yet another landmark. The late Prof A.S. Bukhari, (popularly known as Patras) wrote to him from New York, congratulating him on his breadth of vision, on breaking new grounds and proclaiming him the "poet of Asia". Needless to say that there is again an abundance of Persian and Arabic vocabulary as well as the free use of political symbolism and the few poems which deserve special mention for their diction, treatment and style are: "Kon si uljhan ko suljhatey hain hum?", "Kashmakash", "Shab-i-gurezan", "Pahli kiran", "Zulm-i-rang", "Khud sey hum door nikal aey hain", "Maizban" and "Tail key saudagar".

>From Iran Mein Ajnabi to Ka-Insaan is a tremendous leap forward and has resulted in poetry which certainly has no parallel in blank verse amongst his contemporaries in thought, beauty, diction, positiveness, challenge and a larger-than-life canvas which includes all the colours of the rainbow. The late Prof A.S. Bukhari quite rightly wrote in his preface that the impact of Rashed's poetry, although universal, captivates the mind to total addiction. La-Insaan is undoubtedly his most beautiful collection of poems and "Hassan kooza gar" an unforgettable aesthetic experience. Through this poem Rashed identifies himself with Hassan and the symbol of pottery (koozey) which recurs constantly and forms a befitting refrain. The clay pottery is symbolic of his creation and by virtue of that he himself becomes the "creator". The thought profound, the diction at times aesthetic, at time Carlylian, the technique original; that is Rashed in "Hassan kooza gar".

I would like to quote lines from the poem:

In its treatment of the subject the most aesthetic poem is "Meer ho, Mirza ho, Meeraji ho", the most philosophic "Hamatan nishat-i-wisal ham", the most profound "Ham key ushaq natheen", the most challenging "Zindagi sey dartey ho?" the most illusively imaginative "Arzoo rahiba hai", the most ethereal "Salgirah ki raat", the most optimistic - "Is per pav hai boom ka saya" and "Hassan kooza gar" his masterpiece, the most beautiful synthesis of them all.

It is impossible in this brief evaluation to discuss all the symbols at length, but from La-Insaan to Guman ka Mumkin the deeper you immerse into them, the more enriched you emerge. Enriched, yes, but also hypnotized and in a state of trance. It is only after "experiencing" N.M. Rashed that I have been able to comprehend the meaning of Oscar Wilde's dictum: "All art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their own peril."

Rashed's poetry is studded with Persian and Arabic vocabulary which he attributes to his tutoring. Although the effect of the majority of his poems is mesmerizing, the rhythm soothing and soft, yet, when it comes to his prose poems he invariably sacrifices the sound effect, thereby purposely flouting yet another Aristotelian poetic tenet that "Poetry should please". The few specific poems I would like to mention for their jarring sound effects are "Marya gandhey", "Raat shaitani gaee to kiya hus" and "Zinjeel kay adami".

With the publication of his posthumous collection poems in Guman ka Mumkin, the transition from revolt, aggression and revolt to the philosophic and passive state of pensiveness indicates serenity, sublimity and maturity. The diction is noticeably different from his earlier poems in the lesser use of Persian and Arabic vocabulary. Rashed, though not unaware of the grandeur of the past, is strongly reminiscent of Andre Guide's view "Drink not from the waters of the past, Nathaniel". Despite the controversies he always aroused Rashed stands tall, a cut above the rest, in the Hall of Fame.

The title of the book Guman ka Mumkin, though extremely pleasing to the ear, is strictly speaking, abstruse. The poem itself discusses the beyond, the uselessness of arriving at any conclusion on the basis of religion, the futility of reasoning which leads only to ambiguity, the observation that time ironically is both the creator and the destroyer and arriving at the final conclusion that the sole reality, beyond the state of doubt, is the joint existence of "you and me".

The other outstanding poems from the collection are "Dil merey sahra naward-i-peer dill", "Andha kabari", "Dooi ki aabna", "Mujehy vida karo", "Yeh khala pur na hua", "Yaran-i-sar-i-pul", "Shab-i-wajood aur mazar", and the most sparkling of them all the ever recurring "Hassan kooza gar".

"Yeh khala pur na hua" in its choice of diction, the emphasis on the phonetic and the soft blending of images reminds one of "Meer ho, Mirza ho, Meeraji ho".

In "Shab-i-wajood aur mazar", Rashed mourns for the stagnant East and longs for a renaissance. The philosophy of "Naya nach" of "Yaran-i-sar-i-pul" and "Naya admi" more or less, rotates around a similar axis.

"Mujhey vida karo" is a profound observation of life, wherein, he strives to detach himself from the world, in order to concentrate more intensely on the finer nuances of life he has been unable to grasp because of the various diversions and the limitations placed on him by time and space. Here, you find, intellectual detachment of the highest order.

Trying to find the justification for his existence he exclaims:

But it is in his "Andha kahari", where his despondency is brought entirely to the surface. He knocks at every door, offering felicity, rejuvenense and innovation, only to be greeted by suspicion and disdainfully sent back .

It is strangely in his treatment of "Hassan kooza gar" that Rashed again excels. He is disillusioned by the limited comprehension he finds in us and proclaims himself the "poet of tomorrow", when he says:

>From Mavra to Guman ka Mumkin has been a long lonely, and arduous journey for Rashed. The positivism of La - Insaan, giving way to the profundity of thought and evolution is obvious from the following extracts:

Tired and pensive at the end of his journey, Rashed contemplates:

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