A new face of the ghazal

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Intizar Husain

I RECENTLY received a research journal, Taqeeqi Zawiay, from the Urdu Department of Al-Khair University — a university hitherto unknown to me — in Bhimber. A casual look at the contents of this journal made me curious and a few titles immediately attracted my attention including ‘Sher Afzal Jafri, Punjabi Siqafat ka Akkas’ written by Mohammad Arif Mughal, a research scholar.

The subject of research was contemporary poetry. The article reminded me of the early decades of Pakistan when, on and off, I came across the ghazals of Sher Afzal Jafri, who infused Punjabi into the Persianised expression known as taghazzul. The resultant expression appeared a bit odd. But soon we came across an infusion of modern vocabulary in our ghazal which came to be known as anti-ghazal. Here I found myself justifying this infusion by arguing that the new ghazal revolts against the traditional expression. There is also incorporation of the odd English expression into the ghazal’s Persiansied expression such as:

URDU first stanza/lines

But the problem with Jafri was different. He had entered the world of Urdu poetry with all that he had imbibed from his own region. He had drunk deep from the waters of the Chenab, and grown up amidst the flora and fauna of the Punjab. He had a strong urge to express himself drawing inspiration from his roots and surroundings. This led him to experiment with his poetry, resulting in an attempt to blend two linguistic expressions with each other. At one level the resultant expression appears odd. But when seamlessly merged, it develops its own flow and rhythm such as the following:

URDU second collection of stanzas/lines

And now he was in a position to assert, as quoted in this article, “I have imparted a new face to the ghazal, and have laid the foundation of Urdu, which will emerge in times to come”.

But I wonder why our critics didn’t take note of this meaningful experiment. That is why I was excited to see that a literature student had chosen to make this poet the subject of his research. On one occasion he has quoted Nazir Siddiqi, and his critical opinion is not always very valid. However, he, too, has not cared to understand the significance of this bold poetic experiment. How strange that these critics were all praise for those fiction writers who depicted Punjab in their fiction — it is mostly for this reason that Balwant Singh earned praise for his stories — but when a poet ventured into such territory, the critics ignored it.

On the other hand, while going through Mughal’s article, I sensed a deliberate attempt to select those couplets in which the poet has written fluently in Urdu with no mixture of Punjabi expression such as:

URDU third collection of stanzas/lines

Is Mughal trying to placate Siddiqi and the likes of him? If he aims to show that the poet’s ability was not limited to his experimental expression, and that he was capable of writing in a masterly way in pure Urdu, then it is alright. But if he has surrendered to those insensate readers and critics who are incapable of looking beyond a certain expression or a style acceptable to all, then he is doing injustice to the poet. In fact, one would have expected him to present readers with a selection of verses where Jafri has boldly written in a mixture of Urdu and Punjabi so as to evolve a new expression in accordance with the poet’s regional experience.

Intizar Husain, “A new face of the ghazal,” in Dawn, August 23, 2015. Accessed on August 23, 2015, at: http://www.dawn.com/news/1201910/column-a-new-face-of-the-ghazal

The item above written by Intizar Husain and published in Dawn on August 23, 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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