Thursday, May 28, 2015

Comic Relief

Reviewed by Asif Anwar Alig 

Ajnabi Shahar (Unknown City), Poetic Collection, by Zubairul Hassan ‘Ghafil’, pp164, Bazm-e-Hassan Publishers, Kamaldaha, Araria (Bihar), Indian Rupees 100/-, Hard. 

Poetic Collection Ajnabi Shahar
udiciary and literature has parting of ways. The jigsaw between law and poetry, particularly comic is bound to differ. Both have uniqueness in approaches to define life that never ever synchronizes anyway in treatment while defining gloom and progresses of human history. 

In contrast to literature, judiciary looks into life cycles with genuineness in their respective treatments to look into objectivity on the conjugative issues of human experience and its existence. Both law and poetry, particularly comic don’t even prefer to go along in one go being streams of different connotations. Judiciary has menial ways to hypnotize its own predefined subjects in the social spectrum of human races world over because it contours issues on the lines of established idealism. 

Law and literature have remained unbiased for each other since time immemorial on the grounds that both have nothing to work out for each other.

The poetic collection Ajnabi Shahar, a book of poetry breaks this myth assenting that the author Zubairul Hassan Ghafil is not a professional poet. Neither had he intended to be a poet enlisting rather commenting on the social arbitraries in poetic fashion – like he intends to give us comic relief out of the crisis that our society is undergoing. Mr. Ghafil served in Bihar Judicial Services as Additional District & Session Judge for years.

Reviewer Asif Anwar Alig
The poetic collection guffaws this humane feeling, emotional pitches, close encounters, compromises in tackling issues, confessions and un-uttered fringes that he had have with political circles, hypocrisies and deep rooted political analogues that couldn’t be expressed while he served in Judicial department. But he never leaves any stone unturned to express unfinished anger through this poetic collection.

Writing comedy is rather a serious task that needs more pains to express anger into unique language felt with satirical or ironical expressions. This book justifies such literary anecdote. It is summed up into seven broad sections comprising of eighty-five sub sections. 

Poems on political bigotries, social trends, communal dis-harmonies, comments on society, commenting political system and last but not the least comment on self besides in-camera feelings of litterateurs, intelligentsias and his near and dear ones—a life sketch of a Judicial Magistrate cum poet.

rdu poetry has, no doubt, come out of the dogmatic trends of indigenous proprietors of literature. The approach Ghafil has is out of the pretext of earlier trend instead he redefines poetry in his own unique style, though this approach seems novice, what he has seen and faced is beyond the thinking level of “progressive process of thought” that has now confined to the ivory tower literature.

This poetic collection is a compilation of poems that Ghafil wrote in his long span of judicial career. Though he kept poetry aloof of the purview of media, some of them were published in the newspapers on the insistence of his friends, which he never intended. Each poem has different approach in treatment and style and appeals all without any reservation of thought, ideology, logic or community bashing.

Kashmir Times 
The collection of poems is comic but its message is true like what Keats said, “Beauty is truth; truth is beauty.” Some of them as much small as of a few lines makes us laugh but instantly comply to think on the other ugly side and weep. Of course the issues give one comic relief; full of laughter and go deep into situational irony from where truth is understood and poems are born.

From Bihar to national politics to social conditions to so called progress to the condition of educational institutions to professors to lingua franca to judiciary to self—the reality byte of travesty and agonies remain prevalent in our society. 

They are brought into our notice by the medium of poetry. How poet sings a song that has lots for us to laugh and weep afterwards because we pay for laughter when we are happy we should also expect, obviously, to welcome sorrow because Indian subcontinent is diverse and its countrymen has got that much of patience that it leads life happily in same pace it encounters pogroms. This collection of comic poetry is a must-read for every sensitive reader.

This book review first appeared in Kashmir Times newspaper, Jammu on 1o June, 2007.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Tribute to a Master

By Asif Anwar Alig

Ajkal aur Premchand (Ajkal and Premchand), edited Abrar Rahmani, pp238, Indian Rupees210, Publication Division, Government of India, New Delhi, Hard.

Book Ajkal Aur Premchand
Simplicity is the glory of expression,” said Walt Whitman while defining the everlasting attributes of a great personality. Littérateurs attached to the roots usually possess such caliber whose down to earth approach make them "idols worth worshipping.” A common man too can show envisioning insight to the herd of masses from where he or she is born to become godfather.

Premchand is one such immortal nom de plume of the past century. His contemporaries did have hypes but their success was perishable that swept out of the history of literature.
There is no dearth of books and articles written on Premchand, who was born Dhanpat Rai on July 31, 1880 at Lamati near Varanasi. His father Munshi Ajaib Lal was a clerk in the postal department. Premchand lost his mother at the age of eight.

Though his grandmother raised him, she too died sooner. Both Urdu & Hindi critics have counted minute details of his life time and again since last five decades wherever littérateur in Premchand is being re-searched. Newer researches are still in continuum but there is ample scope to understand the multifaceted dimensions of his personality for “discovering” him–the person and the littérateur.

Reviewer Asif Anwar Alig
Recently launched book Ajkal aur Premchand is a major initiative by the publication division of India. This book, a compilation of published articles on Premchand’s life is a brainchild of the then editor of Ajkal magazine, Abrar Rahmani to tribute the legend. Rahmani gathered selected articles for this book: each thematic compilation of scholastic ideas that had already been printed in the literary journal Ajkal since independence.

Ajkal has given due respect to Premchand and published scholarly articles on him written by the critics of Urdu & Hindi, which attributed his contribution as a littérateur and evaluated the unique features of his fiction work in context of Indian subcontinent.

Editor, Abrar Rahmani
Each article of the book deals with a particular “corner” on this literary doyen, which is based on the evidences brought out over constant research. Mostly analytical they were written by eminent critics having expertise on Premchand. Troubled childhood didn’t hamper his urge to attain higher education. 

From receiving early Urdu education in a madarasa under the guidance of a maulavi to being married off against his wishes in the ninth standard barely at the age of fifteen and et al are the revelation of the thorough monologue quoted by Premchand himself—describes the facets of his life. After passing away of his father Premchand had to stop his study in intermediate to let his family run.

Destiny enforced him to join the job of a teacher in a primary school. Hard times of his life didn’t hinder his urge to attain higher education. In the year 1919, when Premchand was a teacher at Gorakhpur passed B.A. with English, Persian and History. His association with government of India as deputy inspector (schools) wasn’t the bed of roses.

In response to Mahatma Gandhi’s call for non-cooperation with the British, Premchand quit his job and gave full attention to writing. His plots are based on daily life events. He belonged to village hence knew the problems of the rural life that depict from the characters of his novels and short stories which are altogether a miniature of the rural undivided India. One gets enough chance to understand the versatile littérateur through this book. Most admirable aspect, though, is the personality sketch of Premchand on the basis of facts and findings identified ever.

Ajkal Urdu Journal
Sometimes, Premchand wrote the plots of Urdu stories/novels in Hindi and vice versa. He used to note down most Hindi & Urdu plots in English. This fact has been evidenced from his personal diaries that has a lot on his literary life, personal problems and the relationships he would have with his friends and publishers. These facts have already been made public through the special issues of Ajkal. The scholastic articles were until now scattered which needed compilation for more evidenced knowledge pool on Premchand.

This book provides us a chance to think beyond a particular framework of mind applied by the critics and researchers. The impartial leaning makes a room to know the momentous incidences that had happened in his life. Premchand penned meaningful details of his life in his diaries and letters and transformed some of those happenings into themes of his fiction work. It helps us to read between the lines the unrevealed corners.

Some critics might claim that Premchand had exchanged ideas with the writers of English. He could be influenced from few of them to design his own plots. He had been compared with the veterans of the literary world in the mid of his career. The unique style applied by him had already been admired by all. Renowned littérateur George Eliot had an impact on him whom Premchand liked. He had a thought that Eliot wrote sensible literature because her thoughts were beyond the imagination of her counterparts. Looking into Urdu & Hindi, one sees same individualism intense in Premchand what Eliot had in English. His novels and short stories created renaissance amongst the pre-independent Indians and awakened them to know their rights. His literature was educative and inspirational source for the masses to cope with their sufferings. The “provocative” ideals, according to some, included him in the group of progressives.

English Writer George Eliot 
In novels Seva Sadan was his first attempt. Ajkal aur Premchand sums best critical comments on his magnum opus novels and short stories Sevasadan, Rangamanch, Ghaban, Nirmala, Godan and Kafan. It also has a corner on his first short story that appeared in Zamana published from Kanpur. He had set principle in life to ‘hate the sin and not the sinner.’ Likewise concept of realism began with Premchand that others adopted later. This trend is a pioneer in the art of fiction.

He wrote primarily about life around himself to make his readers aware of the problems of middle class Indians. Each story/novel emphasizes on presenting the realities of life for that he made villages pivotal. His work augurs communal harmony. They are simple flowering of language with excellent use of satire, humour, drama and “comment”.

Godan by Premchand
Dealt in serious literature they keep pace with the realities portraying the nerve of the society that was rooted upon unequal bases. His famous stories Qaatil Ki Maan, Zewar Ka Dibba, Gilli Danda, Eidgaah, Namak Ka Daroga and Kafan explain this psychology, which still haunts the social and political system of the independent India. 

A few articles of the book describe Prem Pachisi, Prem Battisi, Wardaat and Zaad-e-Raah and the reality behind their inception. Three of Premchand’s novels have been made into films.

Being a social reformer and thinker he served his society from the bottom of his heart. To fulfill this and for the sake of a few bucks he moved to the film industry in Bombay (Mumbai) but the worsening condition of filmdom shattered his dreams. 

He had to return back disheartened. Literature being exploited in the name of glamour and monetary gains through cinema medium shivered his spines. That disrespect was intolerable to Premchand. His bitter experiences are noted comprehensively in a whole chapter of the book. Ironically same film industry attributed his novels in actuality after his death.

Literature embodies purpose, which can’t be merely a source of entertainment. According to Premchand, it is a powerful means to educate people that count the deeds of a society. He died in 1936 but since then he has been alive with us. Regarded in the Indian subcontinent and world over as one of the eminent fiction writers his contribution to literature is of paramount importance.

This book review first appeared in, Mumbai on 19 July, 2007.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Apni hi kokh se: helping to fight communalism

By Asif Anwar Alig 
Book: Apni Hi Kokh Se (Poetic Collection) (From own womb); Author: V. Sudhakar Rao
Publisher, Isteara Publications, 53/A, Zakir Bagh, Okhla Road, New Delhi-110025 (India); Year: 2004; Pages: 120; ISBN-81-89179-02-0

Apni Hi Kokh Se
rdu poetry has always played subversive role in depicting the social gamut of the particular era it belonged. It demarcated the tunes and vibes time and again. In the Mughal Rule Urdu literature was somehow or the other a means of documenting Darbari Shayeri (Court history in poetic format). In between the lines it also advocated the cultural extravaganza incepted by various empires of the time working as an afterward of the empirical traditions thus formatting the royal history.

After and before the post-independent Indian literary history, Urdu poetry became instrumental earlier to free India from British and later to streamline the literary renaissance (Read Progressive Movement) to upgrade the condition of the poor Indians. Poetic themes always varied. They came up as the bonhomie for highlighting the dilapidated social, economic and political conditions of already destroyed Indian megalomania.

At present the themes of various young writers have turned up to jeopardize the pathetic conditions of the particular society it undergoes.  This is one of the reasons that poets like Ali Sardar Jafri, Kaifi Azmi, Sajjad Zaheer and et al emerged and tried to make the masses understand that poetry is not merely a mental romance. This is more than recitation and appreciation. This may evoke a silent revolution to mould the already evaporated social system and can play crucial role in highlighting the issues related to social evils. And finally the movements Jadidiat (Modernism) and Maa-Baad-e-Jadidiat (Post Modernism) came into existence. 

Both of these conceptual revolutions faced violent protests from the old-fashioned Urdu poets and the obsolete Urdu mentality. But the trend continued withholding all hindrances. The majority of those literati who never wished to see themselves nowhere tried to crush the movement by various means, sometimes by fabricating allegations and sometimes by throwing blames mainly personal protests with the help of religious doctrines. But the trend survived like a strong warlord and is continuing even today.

Recently published book Apni Hi Kokh Se, a collection of poems by V. Sudhakar Rao and published by Isteara Publications, New Delhi is another feather in the cap. The collection of poetry is not merely a book to be read but to be chewed rather to be drunk. These poems are the story of today's youth, their grievances, their pains and their reactions. Rao has evoked the voice of the young generation in his poetry. He weeps in solitude and vomits the pain of communal flames like Hemlock, which keeps the society at loggerheads affecting them to survive peacefully.

Neither have they helped the violators to confront their own heroism. Rao eschews the game of death played by those evils that have got the supervision of their 'rulers'. His pain is immortal. One couplet of the said book indicates this way…

Dahshat -o- Khauf ki Aandhi Si Chala Karti Hai
Raat Bhar Shahar Mein Ek Nind Si Uda Karti Hai

(The storm of terror and fear is at full swing. A sleep is wandering for the whole night). 

Reviewer Asif Anwar Alig
The book is an epilogue of a writer's depression that cumulates after the communal clashes, which never recognize a Hindu and a Muslim, but drenches both in equal proportion. Riots never leave any community happy instead they spread hatred amongst the masses that might wish to survive in the spartan of a single religion Humanity. This couplet endears his thought…

Mas'ala Hindu-o-Muslim Ka Hai Nazuk Itna
Is Se Aage Jo Kahoun To Buda Ho Jaaye

(The problem of Hindu and Muslim is so sensitive that if something more is told it becomes controversial). 

Urdu Alphabets
Indian critics have always discouraged young writers. Their assumptions and deterrent antagonism that hinder them not to cross a particular parameter fixed by their predecessors and now by themselves compel them to stick to the dogma. 

Writers, here, are entertained on the basis of seniority and not on the basis of maturity of thought. Young writers may have mature thoughts, more than a senior, but the critics and literary circle might ignore them most of the times as they lack guts to accept the politicization of literature.

On contrary to that new trends are also emerging where youth are given chance to share the platform of elders. Isteara Publications has proved itself as the pioneer of spreading this trend by inspiring young writers to get published including Rao's first book Apni Hi Kokh Se. This book has left an imprinting effect on the poetry lovers, on the masses and on the society that watch its gradual death at every juncture.
Killings in the name of religion and paving the way to mesmerize the gory scenes of genocide to emerge might primarily seem the social decadence but it also hampers the essence of literature, culture and arts. Rao has keenly observed the 'crusade' before writing this couplet….

Deen Aur Dharam Ke Jhagde Mein Huwa Tha Jo Shaheed
Bechaara Bhook Aur Piyaas Kaa Maara Huwa Kaafir Nikla

(The person who died in the name of religion was found out as one of the cases of starvation death). 

These lines incarnate the provocations and anger of the entire community of youth who have understood the social aesthetics and horrendous pitfalls of the so-called advocators of peace. A human being, either Hindu or Muslim needs food to survive. The unaccountable toll of death in the name of crusade pampers another story. 

Thousands of masses might cooperate with the snoops to infuriate their modus operandi. But in real terms these are just for getting a few score of meals in the frowning atmosphere of hatred and starvation that ultimately force them for the 'immortal sleep'.

As a harbinger of peace, Rao repeatedly tries to eulogize the masses to understand the ethics of humanity instead of fighting for their respective religions they follow. His emotional illness cocoons him to comprehend religion and politics of religion. He is mingling between the right and the wrong intricacies of religious and political atmosphere when he says….

Mujhe Raas Aayein Ibadatein
Na Samajh Mein Aayein Siasatein
Wahan Ghar Jalaye Gaye
Jahan Faqat Ek Chirag Jalna Tha

(I did worships but could not understand the politics. Houses were burnt out where one candle light was enough). 

Rao has given new meaning to the trend of poetic regression. He has seen, faced and felt the anarchies of abrogation and contradiction in religious ethics and provocations that stouts that one who is truly religious cannot be communal. But the fact remains in the back lane once the sentiments overpower religious sermons. These three couplets discretely define the macro mania.

Arsa huwa Curfew Uthe Lekin Ab Tak Ye Aalam Hai
Khali Khali Aankhen Hain Aur Khwab Bhi Hein Sune Sune
Ho Gayi Hai Maut Ab Ghar Ghar Muqeem
Zest Kiyoun Deti Hai Pehra Shaher Mein
Daal Do Saara Usi Ke Laash Per
Ban Raha Hai Jitna Kapda Shaher Mein

(Curfew has ended for the long time but the situation is still pathetic. Eyes are blank and dreams are silent. Death has now shifted to every home. Why unnecessarily the life is guarding the city. Through all the clothes on dead bodies whatever manufactured in the city).

Poetry is incomplete without the involvement of the reader. This is appreciable that young writers including V. Sudhakar Rao have been the part of the chain of poets encircled by Isteara Publications, who takes firm determination in understanding the minds of the readers. Apni Hi Kokh Se is one of the few books that not only encompass its message by reading once or twice but also inspires the young writers to understand that literature is more of ethics and not controversies. Poetry can convey a universal message and can inculcate the sense of brotherhood and love. Rao has maintained it with firm determination.

His first book of poetry is a surprise entry for the critics and Urdu poets. This is almost heroic to be bold enough to write a book in a language in which he never got any formal education.« 

Mr. V. Sudhakar Rao is not a writer by profession. After graduating himself from Film & Television Institute of India, Pune, he assisted several Indian Film Makers as Assistant Director. Besides learning the ups and downs of filmmaking he learnt Urdu Literature under the able guidance of India's Prominent Urdu poet and writer Late Kali Das Gupta Raza. 

He wrote scripts, he directed several television serials and achieved pioneering position in the field of electronic media. He has been very much aware of the developments of mass communication for the last ten years. At present, he is associated with Hyderabad based India's prominent Digital television Channel, Ushakiron Television as Producer. His love for Urdu literature and Language made him crazy to learn this sweet language besides English in which he has got mastery.

This book review first appeared in Milli Gazette, New Delhi in 01-15 October, 2004 edition. Its shortened version also appeared in The Friday Times, Lahore on October 01, 2004.