An invaluable compendium on Ali Sardar Jafri

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Rauf Parekh

AQEEL Abbas Jafri is a restless soul whose thirst for knowledge is unquenchable. A digger of information and an explorer of knowledge, he is often found busy reading a research work or writing a book based on research. When he is not doing either of the two, believe me, he will be either running after a rare book or sifting through dusty, old magazines in a library.

Or, maybe, you will see him in a secluded corner of a library, digitizing extremely rare photographs and recording rarest of information found in the weirdest of sources one can imagine. Not satisfied with his own rich collection of over 15,000 books and magazines, some of which are very rare, the restless soul is spotted almost on every Sunday in Karachi’s old book bazaar, usually with a sack full of his fresh haul.

The good thing about his quest for knowledge is that he shares his findings with others in the shape of well-written, well-produced books. Most of Aqeel Abbas Jafri’s books are packed with rare information. Whether it is the book on Pakistan’s first and official national anthem or the encyclopaedic chronicle of Pakistan’s history, be it a work on Pakistan’s political feudal lords or Quaid-i-Azam’s marital life, Jafri’s works are virtual treasure troves of knowledge. You will find in them the information that is usually hard to come by. With 16 books already under his belt, last year Jafri came up with a book on Mir Baqar Ali dastan gau, Urdu’s legendary storyteller whose writings are not easy to find.

This year he has given us another book Ali Sardar Jafri: shakhsiyet aur fun. The book, published by Virsa Publications, Karachi, is a compilation of articles written by different authors. In addition to selected poetry of Ali Sardar Jafri the book includes some important papers on Ali Sardar Jafri and encapsulates the important aspects of his life and works.

In his foreword to the book, Aqeel Abbas Jafri says that “when it was decided that the birth centennial of Ali Sardar Jafri, a distant cousin, would be commemorated in 2013, I began working on the book. But its publication was delayed for one reason or the other till 2015”. He adds: “I have tried to fully cover every aspect of Ali Sardar Jafri’s life in this book which includes an autobiographical piece and articles written on his life by his dear and near ones. It also includes his creative writings and critical articles on these writings by renowned critics. The book offers some pieces by Ali Sardar Jafri on elegiac literature as well as his interviews.”

The 576-page book carries some very interesting and some not-so-interesting articles. The book brings together some real big names of Urdu literature along with their articles, such as, Qurratul Ain Hyder, Sibt-i-Hasan, Syed Sajjad Zaheer, Abdullah Malik, Hameed Akhter, Baqar Mehdi, Dr Qamar Raees, Gopi Chand Narang, Waris Alavi, Hilal Naqvi, Baidar Bakht, Sajid Rasheed, Siddiq-ur-Rahman Qidvai, Yousuf Nazim, Raahi Massom Raza, Ali Ahmed Fatemi and many others. Qurratul Ain Hyder has mentioned in her article that Ali Sardar Jafri’s wife Sultana Jafri was his true comrade. She always stood with him through thick and thin. A progressive activist and a lover of literature, Sultana Jafri became more famous when Ali Sardar Jafri composed a couplet eulogising her. The line of the couplet that has become famous is:

‘Har aashiq hai sardar yahan har maashooqa sultana hai’

Keeping in view her role in Ali Sardar Jafri’s life, Aqeel has very aptly dedicated the book to her.

Born on Nov 29, 1913, in Balrampur, UP, Ali Sardar Jafri was a poet, critic, translator, researcher, playwright, editor, song writer, moviemaker and Marxist activist. In his article included in the book, Aqeel Abbas Jafri writes that Sardar Jafri took admission to Aligarh Muslim University in 1934, but was rusticated for his anti-imperialistic activities. Later, he was admitted to Delhi’s Anglo-Arabic College and graduated in 1938. According to Dr Qamar Raees, Sardar Jafri’s education at Lucknow University — where he had taken admission to MA — ended when he took part in political activities along with other progressive students. He was arrested and remained in jail for about eight months. He remained behind bars on two more occasions even after Independence. Ali Sardar Jafri never did any job, government or otherwise, though he worked for many literary bodies and magazines on honorary basis. He actively worked for Progressive Writers’ Association and remained attached with the leftist philosophy till he breathed his last on Aug 1, 2000, in Mumbai, India. He was buried in Mumbai’s Santacruz Graveyard.

Ali Sardar Jafri penned a large number of books and articles. Parvaaz, Nai dunya ko salam, Khoon ki lakeer, Amn ka sitara, Patthar ki deevaar, Aik khwaab aur, Pairaahan-i-sharar and Luhoo pukaarta hai are some of the collections of his poetry. His prose works include Taraqqi pasand adab, Manzil, Teen mukhtasar drame, Iqbal shanasi and Paighambraan-e-sukhan. He also edited Divan-i-Ghalib and Divan-i-Mir.

The book gives a list of books and dissertations written on life and works of Ali Sardar Jafri, making it an invaluable compendium of information on Ali Sardar Jafri. Aqeel Abbas Jafri has done it again in style.

Rauf Parekh, “An invaluable compendium on Ali Sardar Jafri,” in Dawn, August 3, 2015. Accessed on August 23, 2015, at:

The item above written by Rauf Parekh and published in Dawn on August 3, 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 August 23, 2015, is available here. Faiz-e-Zabaan is not responsible for the content of the external websites.

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