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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

I lay his poems on my lips and sip at leisure

By Beena Sarwar

The iconic lyricist

and poet Gulzar
in his preface to
Dr Bina Biswas
translation of a
collection of
Urdu poetry
pays rich tribute
to Pakistani
poet Naseer
Ahmed Nasir

hether it be a
him, I feel like that driblet of water floatbeen reading over time. They had been
the way she has kept the cultural ethos of
droplet or a lake,
ing on the palm of his hand.
corresponding with each other, and Gulzar
Urdu intact. It's not only the meaning, she
water has a way of reThis is, after all, a poet writing about
had written for the Urdu literary journal
has carried the subtle shades of the words
flecting what it sees.
another poet.
Tasteer that Nasir edits. Due to the restricand phrases into English.
There is an ocean-laden
Ingressing Naseer Ahmed Nasir's
tive visa regime between India and PakDr Biswas writes that she embarked on
droplet called Naseer
poems is to wade through a stream, conistan, he was resigned to the thought that
this difficult odyssey of translating
Ahmed Nasir, says the actinues Gulzar. No rapid passage there.
they would never meet. He writes:
Nasir's Urdu poetry not just because many
claimed lyricist and writer
One has to stop frequently and till one has
And then time turned on its side and I
in Pakistan and India consider him the
Gulzar in his forward to the
not absorbed the verses, it's not possible
went to Lahore. After a five-hour journey,
greatest living exponent of this art in the
English translation of a collecto turn the page. I lay his poems on my lips
over Jehlum's bridge, I reached Dina to
country but also because of how deeply
tion of poems by the
and sip at leisure. This white-whiskered
see my ancestral home -- to touch the dust
his poetry appeals to her.
Rawalpindi-based Urdu poet.
friend of mine is a poet par excellence.
of the land of my birth. I was eight years
They touch me inside, in my heart,
A Man Outside History is a
Gulzar says he recognises Nasir
old when we left and I returned after sevwhere I live and love, in their rich and
slim, 173-page volume of the
through his idiom and locution, and cites
enty years! Went to Dina Train Station.
powerful but homespun imagery and their
poems of Nasir translated by Indian
a verse as an example:
Met some friends. A man stepped forward
extension of a tradition in poetry that is alwriter and professor of English Dr Bina
God! Turn my words into beetles
to grab my hand, 'imam Naseer Ahmed
ready extremely wealthy (Urdu)... to
Biswas (Hyderabad, Deccan). It includes a
God! May my
Nasir.' I was wonderstuck. He had
which it is really challenging to add any1994 tribute by the American poet Sandra
poems become floatthing new, deep or original,
Fowler eulogising Nasir, one of Pakistan's
ing flocks of birds
most respected modern poets, as a wordVoyaging towards
far-off lands
The book includes a postscript by
the Russian
scholar Yelena Sapranova, and several accolades
to Nasir by
readers from
India and Pakistan as well as
countries further afield like
Australia, the
United States,
Britain, South
Africa and Romania. Nasirs work
has been translated into various
languages besides
English, including
Nasir: d
Spanish, Russian,
poetr y
Romanian, Uzbek,
Hindi and Farsi, besides various reGulzar: fulsome tributes
gional languages.
yet he has done all of these three things.
icult odyssey
A blurb on the Dr Bina B
I have enticed those
Nasir also pleads poetically for world
back cover quotes anbirds with seed to alight on my roof. I have
white whiskers on a bright face. I had
peace and unity as Dr Biswas puts it, not
other reputed writer Abdullah Hussein, aucaressed their feathers and kissed them.
never been handed such a lovely surprise
confining himself to Pakistan or by dethor of the iconic partition novel Udas
To Gulzar, Nasir talks like Siddhartha
before! How benevolent is life that blesses
fault it's 'big brother' India.
Naslein, on Nasir: His deathless poetry will
and he imagines him to be Gautam. They
us with such friends and such poets!
He is, in the best sense of the word, a
keep giving hope to generations whim we
are not really the same; one of them is a
Gulzar first visited Pakistan in 2004,
world poet. He speaks of Bosnia and Sodon't even know and will never ever see.
seeker and the other has already acquired
but due to visa restrictions was only able
malia or Damascus or a Buddha in his
But the most fulsome tribute to Nasir
suffering but I see them both in Nasir.
to visit his hometown Dina in 2013.
poems with the same compassion as he
comes from Gulzar in his preface. Nasir,
Modern Urdu poetry has nothing betBeing well versed in Urdu himself,
does of his own village...
says Gulzar, imbibes the smallest moter to offer than Naseer, writes Gulzar.
Gulzar must have read Nasir in the origiIt is such works of art and poetry that
ments and renders them into poems that
This is high praise indeed from the man
nal. This makes his commendation for the
remind us of our common humanity and
encourage, pass the whole of existence.
whom many consider as one of the greatEnglish translation by Dr Bina Biswas -provide an alternative to the dominant narHe pierces clouds with the tip of his pen
est living writers of Urdu -- prose or pomagnificent -- even more compelling.
rative overshadowed by hostility and deand causes raindrops to fall, then speaks
Nothing, says Gulzar, has been lost in
spair. And this is what gives hope that anto a driblet -- resting on a verdant leaf -- to
Gulzar says has always been a great
other world is not only possible, but worth
divulge complete jungle fables... Reading
admirer of Nasir's, whose work he has
The most amazing part of the work is
organising and fighting for.

An anti-national
By Saim Saeed
s a Pakistani, its easy to act friendly
towards Indians. You bring up familiar cultural tropes cricket, Bollywood have a couple of rounds of
expletives directed towards the
British, and talk about how great aloo parathas
are, and for the most part, youre set.
Yet Ive always been careful about dipping
my toe into political waters. Its a more awkward discussion to have when there are real disagreements about Kashmir, partition, 65, 71, or
even 26/11. People al-

sincerity and the conviction to talk about the

things that pit us on either side of a still disputed, now-nuclear fence.
I found those conversations, and more importantly, the person to have them with, in my
final year of high school in India. Amey Charnalia had a difficult upbringing. He was a child
when his father died in the midst of switching
back and forth between India and Canada. His
mother struggled to make ends meet, and his
school years are dotted by transfers from
school to school. He somehow ended up being
my roommate at United World College, the international residential school I
attended outside Pune.

We clicked.
Ultimately it had more to
do with the person he was
than the language he spoke.
Amey was kind, sensitive, and
responsive. He understood
people, and knew how to listen to them. He also had stories about how his greatgrandfather was from
Pakistans frontier areas,
had settled in Lahore, and
but had to move to Delhi.
As the generation that lived
through Partition dies out,
we only have their words
to count on; our histories
otherwise have been deliberately wiped out.
When he drank too
much, Id change his
sheets and put him to
bed. He would cook me
food, buy me a drink and
pat me on the back when
I went through one of
ft) and Am
many relationship
es ha
Crossing the lin
crises. We ate forbidden meats together.
lude to the post-partition stories
The transgression wasnt the India-Pakistan
the my old street in Lahore/Delhi, the neighfriendship; it was the lines we were too afraid
bours but few wish to recall their grandparto cross on our own. To admit to ourselves that
ents role, either as victims or perpetrators in
neither of us cared very much for Kashmir, that
the violence of 1947.
neither of us were particularly religious, patriBut those are the necessary conversations.
otic in the hyper-nationalist sense, or good at
We can talk about peace, and play down our difcricket. That we ceased to be what we were
ferences as much as possible, but ultimately it
supposed to be, was the transgression and the
comes down to whether we have the trust, the
Saim Saeed is a Karachi-based journalist who studied for two years at the Mahindra
United World College, India, on a scholarship. This piece was adapted for Aman ki Asha by
Friendships Across Borders: Aao Dosti Karein, an initiative to transform the long-standing
hostility between India and Pakistan by building on the power of cross-border friendships.
See: www.facebook.com/fabaaodostikarein

Feedback, contributions, photos, letters:

Email: amankiasha@janggroup.com.pk
Fax: +92-21-3241-8343
Post: aman ki asha c/o The News,
I.I. Chundrigar Road, Karachi

Fasting in solidarity

ver 150 Hindu prisoners in

India are fasting along with
some 2,300 Muslim inmates
during the holy month of Ramazan
this year. The Hindu inmates started
keeping Rozas (fasts) along with the
Muslim inmates from the first day
and plan to continue the month-long
fasting, reports Outlook magazine.
The prison, Indias largest, houses
over 10,000 inmates. Prison authorities have made special arrangements
for the inmates to pray, and for sehri'
and iftar with seasonal fruits, sweets
like Jalebi, dry fruits, and other
Meanwhile, a report in Gulf
News, Abu Dhabi, features UAE's Fasting in solidarity: Chandra Shekhar.
non-Muslims who embrace fasting. Photo: Abdul Rahman, Gulf News
The report quotes Arun Lal who
grew up in a village in India where
Hindus arranged iftar meals for Muslims in their temples along with space for
Maghrib prayers.
He has been fasting every year in Ramazan since 2006 when he first started
along with his colleague, Shaukath Ali. He initially found it difficult but soon
began enjoying the mental and physical benefits of fasting.
He felt his participation in Ramadan has made him closer to his Muslim
colleagues and friends. Likewise, I think if all participate in the good practices of other faiths, there wont be any differences in the name of religions,
he said. His family in India supported him. We Hindus have no restrictions in
observing any spiritual practice. Thats why Hindus welcomed all religions
such as Islam and Christianity and coexisted with their believers for centuries.
The report features interviews with several other Indian Hindus who fast
in solidarity with Muslim colleagues.

Zindagi: Heart-felt happiness

ee TV Indias new channel

Zindagi that is broadcasting
Pakistani television serials has
got off to a roaring start, with viewers bowled over by the quality of acting, production and storylines.
Devang Shah, of the Vellore Institute of Technology, sums it up in this
comment on the Aman ki Asha Facebook group:
This is a heart-felt happiness
post about the entry of Pakistani
shows in our lives. Zindagi is an excellent initiative and it feels that we
have got new flavors added to our
life. The Pakistani shows are truly
brilliant. Starting from the acting to
the storylines, they are phenomenal. Devang Shah: We warmly welcome
They are serene yet sensitive. They such shows
have given a chance for us to think
that even today our culture, traditions and basic ideologies are so similar.
We had smiles on our face when we saw Aunn Zaraa fighting and our
heart overwhelmed with emotions when we saw the intense poverty in Kaash
mai teri beti naa hoti. We also respect and appreciate the attempts made by
Kitni girhain baaki hain and ZIndagi Gulzar Hai for women emancipation. We warmly welcome more such shows because they make us realize the
latent bond of cultures that still these both countries share!

A Man Outside History

Poems of Naseer Ahmed Nasir

Translated into English by Bina Biswas
Foreword by Gulzar
Free Verse, an imprint of LiFi Publications,
New Delhi, 2014; Pp 173; INR 300

I Courier You A Song

Everyday (For Gulzar)
By Naseer Ahmed Nasir
Translated by Bina Biswas
The magical dreams that you weave
your melodies with
when you turn them into tears
and make stream your agonies from the
you surround like the laden
The scent of the memories
that you adorn your nights with, and
the shade of the tree
that you wrap yourself with
the village named Dina
that you swathe yourself in,
on diverse paths, in different soils,
you grow and reap.
Your blossom flowers under the sun
become rain, wind, bird and umbrella.
Taking those magical dreams
tears of that eye,
the fragrance of those reminiscences,
and, the shade of that tree,
from remote courses and directions,
I, with showers and storms
mould them them into a golden song, and
send one everyday towards your
and prospect for a chance to meet you!

Hope for prisoners

ndia on July 4 released nine Pakistani nationals, including five fishermen

and four others, following the exchange of prisoners list that takes place
every January 1 and July 1, according to the Consular Agreement of May
On July 1, 2014, Pakistans Ministry of Foreign Affairs provided the High
Commission of India in Islamabad a list of 296 Indians lodged in Pakistani
prisons, including 47 common citizens, 237 fishermen and 12 youthful offenders.
A similar list handed over by the Indian government to the Pakistan High
Commission in New Delhi provided details of 380 Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails, including 116 fishermen and 264 common citizens.
On May 30, India had released 37 Pakistani prisoners, including 32 fishermen, while Pakistan on May 26 released 151 Indian prisoners including 150

Freed Pakistani prisoners cross Wagah border

fishermen, ahead of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharifs visit to Delhi to attend
Narendra Modi's swearing-in ceremony.
If lists continue to be regularly exchanged and prisoners freed periodically, it will go a long way towards creating more goodwill between both
countries. Even better would be to stop criminalising minor transgressions.

Samjhota Express re-launched

he revised edition of Pakistani lawyer

Awais Sheikhs book
Samjhota Express
was launched on
July 4 in Chandigarh,
India. The Delhi
launch will take
place on Saturday,
July 12, 2014, at 6.00
pm at India International Center, Kamla
Devi Complex, Gate
No.1, Lodhi Road,
New Delhi, with the
High Commissioner
of Pakistan Abdul At the launch in Chandigarh
Basit as chief guest.
Dr. Adish Aggarwala, President International Council of Jurists, will preside over the event. Other luminaries expected include former Chief Justice
of the Delhi High Court, Justice Rajinder Sachar; Chairman Press Council of
India, Justice Markande Katju; prominent journalist Kuldip Nayar, senior advocate, Supreme Court of India, Prof. Bhim Singh; and prominent retired bureaucrat Dr. Bhure Lal.

A peace initiative whose time has come...

Destination Peace: A commitment by the Jang Group, Geo and The Times of India Group to
create an enabling environment that brings the people of Pakistan and India closer together,
contributing to genuine and durable peace with honour between our countries.

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