Decoding ghazal

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Shafey Kidwai

Colossal and widespread popularity of Urdu language despite continuous official renunciation and lukewarm response of new generation of its native speakers owes much to its most-admired verse genre “ghazal” which through its sensorial imagery caters to aesthetic sensibilities of people who differ significantly on linguistic, cultural and religious counts. In our fragmented and subversion-prone times, does ghazal still dominate the literary and cultural discourse? Can one come across with the traces of paradigm shift on its structure? Does the term ghazal remain intact or new terms such as new ghazal or modern ghazal or post-modern ghazal have gained acceptance? Can one differentiate between Indian and Pakistani ghazal on content or style levels? What constitutes “new ghazal” and what are salient features of its poetics? There pertinent questions are unfailingly brought to fruition by a recently published erudite study “New Ghazal”. The author Dr. Sarwarul Huda, a young critic and scholar of proven academic credentials, zeroes in on both surface and deep structure of the contemporary ghazal and he meticulously attests to its affinity with the classical ghazal. For Sarwarul Huda, ghazal’s generic continuity is maintained all through and geographical boundaries hardly have any bearing on its structure. Ghazal essentially turns attention on the ultimate concerns of life and various strands of human predicament form its much appreciated sensual and cerebral import. Ghazal symbolises creative juxtaposition of collective sub consciousness of Indian mind which cannot be expressed in a specific or formulated phrase.

Marking off Indian and Pakistani ghazal is not a question related to literary canon; it is a patently political issue. If it is not so, Faiz, Ahmad Faraz, Parveen Shakir and Kishwar Naheed hardly fire the imagination of even those Indians who are even unfamiliar with Urdu script. This is not to deny that poets composing ghazal in Pakistan on concentrating on certain issues and Indian poets put premium on some other aspects but according to Huda they are not as distinct as they are made to be.

Elucidating the deeper structure of contemporary ghazal, the author asserts that ghazal in both countries now draws its sustenance from the settings produced by tales, myths and folk lore. It makes it quite clear that both the countries share the cultural and ontological concerns across the border, and the poets continue to lean heavily on old tales and it is nothing but a clear attempt to stitch up creative bond with the old culture. Divided into five well-argued theoretical chapters, the book offers a perceptive focus study of 20 poets of the subcontinent that include Nasir Kazmi, Khalilur Rehman Azmi, Majeed Amjad, Khurshid Ahmad Jami, Shakaib, Jalali, Muneer Niyazi, Sulaiman Uraib, Shaz Tamkenat, Waheed Akhtar, Hasan Naeem, Zeb Ghori, Bani, Kaleem Aatiz, Mazhar Imam, Makhmoor Sacedi, Mohammad Alvi, Shaheryar, Ahmad Mushtaq, Irfan Siddiqui, Zafar Iqbal, Sultan Akhtar, Asad Baduni, Ghulam Hussain Sajid, Mohammad Izharul Haq, Farhat Ehsas Shaheen Abbas and Irfan Sattar.

The first chapter explains the background of new ghazal dispassionately in the back drop of theoretical positions taken up by Urdu critics belonging to progressive, modern and post-modern literature. The author does discuss the theoretical orientation and linguistic rendering with remarkable thoroughness but Huda seems to be in awe of one of the famous critics of Urdu as he refers to him time and again without a valid reason. Further, he quotes and either appreciates or repudiates the critical opinions which hardly denote profound critical insights. Noted Pakistani critic Nasir Abbas in his brilliant preface rightly mentions that ghazal is not only a creative text but it is also linked closely with critical discourse of our time. Again, he tears apart the argument that a successful experiment must be in line with the tradition. For him it is an attempt to usurp the freedom of the author.

Huda rightly points out that new ghazal eschews compound Perso-Arabic words and makes use of Hindi words. A keen interest in Hindu mythology, folk fore and cultural aspiration is what that sum up the structure of new ghazal. The author deftly elucidates the simultaneous development of ghazal both in India and Pakistan after Partition and his analysis of several couplets seems quite outstanding. The book has become so popular that it got published in Pakistan within no time.

Shafey Kidwai , “Decoding ghazal ,” in The Hindu, April 16, 2015. Accessed on April 17, 2015, at:

The item above written by Shafey Kidwai and published in The Hindu on April 16, 2015, is catalogued here in full by Faiz-e-Zabaan for non-profit educational purpose only. Faiz-e-Zabaan neither claims the ownership nor the authorship of this item. The link to the original source accessed on April 17, 2015, is available here. Faiz-e-Zabaan is not responsible for the content of the external websites.

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