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Fahmida Riaz: A neglected genius

Whilst my earlier piece on the IMF programme and the tremendous discussion it has invoked deserves a rejoinder, I want to write on a completely different subject this week. I am perturbed by the fact that thousands of jobs have been recreated for those who were rightly or wrongly dismissed in the earlier dispensations; there is silence about one luminary, a towering one at that, who lost state employment twice. Fahmida Riaz’s name is yet to appear amongst the reinstated ones.

Following the physical departure of the leading Urdu poets – Qasimi, Munir and Faraz – Fahmida Riaz is arguably the greatest living poet of Pakistan. Controversial though this statement might be, her originality and path-breaking poetry has yet to find an equal in the turbulent waters of the Pakistani cultural river. It is hardly surprising that Fahimda Riaz has been targeted all through her otherwise illustrious creative career by state and society alike. She was branded as unpatriotic when she had to run for her life in the Zia-ul-Haq days and live in exile. In India, she was termed as a Pakistani agent since she criticised the communal tensions that the Indian state had encouraged.

Fahmida Riaz reading her poems in Islamabad Fahmida Riaz reading her poems in Islamabad

Her bold poetic expression was considered indecent in a country where pornography, heroine and arms are sold on every street. And, where stage plays with “hot” mujras and explicit sexual innuendo are patronised by official cultural institutions in the name of commercial viability. Fahmida was sometimes labelled as a non-believer when she questioned the clergy; at other times a communist when she talked of social justice. Even last year, a group of Karachi-based “intellectuals” chided her for eulogising a letter by the fourth Caliph Hazrat Ali (AS) as a model for good governance. This time she was a reactionary and a “toady.”
She had to deal with a society that was unshackling itself of the colonial hangover and still continues to do so, where the mullah, the mighty arms of the state, oligarchies of vested interests flourish with ease; and all independent voices have to be silenced, co-opted or crushed. And, the hapless poets especially those outside the ambit of officialdom are the soft targets of such cultural cleansing. […]

Mian Mir’s 384th Urs

Mian Mir’s death anniversary celebrations are commencing today.

Mian Mir is regarded as one of the greatest Sufi saints of the Subcontinent. He belonged to the Qadiria order of the Sufis. He was famous for being a spiritual instructor to Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, who also held Mian Mir in great esteem.

Dara Shikoh was a devoted disciple of the saint. His father, Shah Jahan, often requested the saint to pray for his empire.

Mian Mir was the earliest Sufi saint who promoted the Qadiria order in Lahore.

He shunned worldly selfish men and proud high-ups of his time. He used to post his mureeds (disciples) at the gate of his house to stop rich people from entering.

Once Emperor Shah Jahan, with his attendants, came to pay homage to the great dervish. Mian Mir’s disciples stopped the emperor at the gate and requested him to wait, until permission was given. Shah Jahan felt insulted, but controlled his temper and composed himself. […]

March 17th, 2008|India-Pakistan History, Lahore, Sufism|3 Comments

saare aalam mein bhar raha hai ishq

What dependent creatures we are..

Since last week, there is no power supply at my house. It has been a time of reflection and getting back to books in dim candle lit rooms. Refreshingly quaint but this has meant that my blog is a stranger to me..

I cannot blog duing work-hours. This is against my grain […]

October 3rd, 2006|South Asian Literature, Urdu, Urdu Literature|3 Comments