Punjab Research Group

Sangat: Dialog Punjab

Posted in Events, News/Information, Poetry and Literature by Pippa on March 27, 2015

Sangat: Dialog Punjab

Poetry is engrained in every aspect of the lives, stories, music, politics, philosophy, faith and culture of Punjabis. A number of us are gathering together to explore Punjabi poetry through time (and through this, a history of Punjab), meeting once a month at SOAS.

Starting with Baba Farid (12th century) through to Najm Hosain Syed and Amarjit Chandan writing today, we will focus in each session, on one or two poets; reading their poetry, listening to it being sung, and discussing it along with the historical/political/ philosophical context. We hope to have leading Punjabi poet Amarjit Chandan joining us for most of the sessions, sharing his knowledge, along with other guest writers/scholars/singers.

We welcome those of all ages and levels, those with knowledge, passion and interest that can be shared and developed, but also those who are new to Punjabi poetry/literature, who may not read Gurmukhi/Shahmukhi or be proficient in Punjabi, but want to listen and explore – we especially encourage you to join us.

For further information please contact ssai@soas.ac.uk.

Forthcoming Events

Session 2: Baba Nanak

7 April 2015, Russell Square: College Buildings, 4429, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM

Session 3: Ravidas and Kabir

5 May 2015, Russell Square: College Buildings, 4429, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM

Session 4: Guru Gobind Singh

9 June 2015, Brunei Gallery, B104, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM

Session 5: Sultan Bahu and Bulleh Shah

7 July 2015, Brunei Gallery, B102, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM

Session 6: Waris Shah & Damoodar (Heer)

4 August 2015, Russell Square: College Buildings, 4429, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM

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Sangat: Dialog Punjab

Posted in Events, News/Information, Poetry and Literature by Pippa on February 19, 2015

Sangat: Dialog Punjab

Poetry is engrained in every aspect of the lives, stories, music, politics, philosophy, faith and culture of Punjabis. A number of us are gathering together to explore Punjabi poetry through time (and through this, a history of Punjab), meeting once a month at SOAS.

Starting with Baba Farid (12th century) through to Najm Hosain Syed and Amarjit Chandan writing today, we will focus in each session, on one or two poets; reading their poetry, listening to it being sung, and discussing it along with the historical/political/ philosophical context. We hope to have leading Punjabi poet Amarjit Chandan joining us for most of the sessions, sharing his knowledge, along with other guest writers/scholars/singers.

We welcome those of all ages and levels, those with knowledge, passion and interest that can be shared and developed, but also those who are new to Punjabi poetry/literature, who may not read Gurmukhi/Shahmukhi or be proficient in Punjabi, but want to listen and explore – we especially encourage you to join us.

The first session is on Monday 9th March 2015, 6-8 pm at SOAS Russell Square (Room T102) and after that, on the first Monday of every month.

Session 1 (Monday March 9th):                  Baba Farid and Shah Hussain

Session 2 (Monday April 6th):                   Guru Nanak

Session 3 (Monday May 4th):                     Sant Ravidas and Kabir

Session 4 (Monday June 1st):                   Guru Gobind Singh

Session 5 (Monday July 6th):                   Sultan Bahu and Bulleh Shah

Session 6 (Monday August 3rd):         Waris Shah and Damoodar (Heer)

Future sessions (open to suggestions): Women’s folk songs, Peero, Amrita Pritam, Shiv Kumar Batalvi, Paash and Lal Singh Dil, Sant Ram Udasi, Gurdas Ram Alam, Najm Hosain Syed, Amarjit Chandan

For more information, email sangat.punjab@gmail.com

Sangat-Dialog.Punjab 2015

In the name of Punjabiyyat

Posted in Articles, Poetry and Literature by Pippa on February 15, 2015

In the name of Punjabiyyat by Mahmood Awan, TNS

In terms of Punjabi nationality, the literature produced by Punjabis is a multi-linguistic phenomenon; be it in Punjabi, English or any other language. Some of these writers may not identify themselves as Punjabis and this sensibility may be only reflected in their writings.

When Gujranwala born, British Pakistani novelist Nadeem Aslam quotes couplets of a rather unknown rural Punjabi Poet Abid Tamimi in his novel Maps for lost lovers (2004), he is subconsciously establishing his native connectivity. He furthers this theme in his latest novel The Blind Man’s Garden (2013) by creating a whole fictional town named Heer (inspired by Waris Shah’s legend) and proudly claims that  all his future novels will be set in this Punjabi town.

When Los Angeles born, Pakistani American Daniyal Mueenuddin’s book of short stories In Other Rooms, Other Wonders (2009) opens with a Punjabi proverb in Punjabi text, he is presumably asserting his Punjabi identity. More so, when one of his short story protagonists on watching a chestnut seller boy in the freezing cold of Paris pulls his American girlfriend closer and whispers: “He is one of mine, from Pakistan, from Punjab.”

Mulk Raj Anand (1905-2004) was our first global offering. Recipient of the prestigious Lenin Peace Prize, he was co-founder of the Progressive Writers’ Movement in the undivided India. He was born in Peshawar to a Sikh mother from Sialkot and a Hindu father from Amritsar. He studied philosophy at Cambridge University where he had gone on the behest of Allama Iqbal and received his PhD from University College London in 1929. He was close friends with George Orwell, TS Eliot, Virginia Woolf, Aldous Huxley, Herbert Read and EM Forster. His best-known novel Untouchable (1935) was issued as a Penguin Modern Classic in 1986.

Anand saw himself as a Punjabi citizen of the world. Khushwant Singh once remarked on Anand’s English as ‘Punjabi English’. In his 1982 interview with Amarjit Chandan, he termed his sense of Punjabiyat as inheritance of Punjabi culture. In response to a question regarding why he opted to write in an acquired language and in which language he thinks, Anand said: “Punjabi is my mother tongue. I frequently use Punjabi vibrations. Vibrations of the characters of my landscape, my region could only express themselves in the versatile movements of the Punjabi speech. I could not perform an operation on my mother’s mouth to make her speak like an English woman, as do other writers. I think in Punjabi mostly and transliterate or transcreate in English. At that time [pre-partition] there were no publishers and the books written about India, certainly by me, were banned and there was no way by which even one could express oneself in Punjabi to the people who were around us in the Indian national movement. Even Puran Singh started writing in English first. He was the writer of the Punjab in English language before me if you like.”…

Any writer is free to write in any foreign language for global reach, acceptability and other related gains. However, it’s also true that in that global space they generally remain ‘categorised’ and ‘compartmentalised’ while their original place always remains vacant in the literary countryside of their mother tongues. It will also be pertinent to mention that no linguistic movement should encourage racists, bigots and chauvinists as there is nothing more sacred than humanity. We strongly believe that within one mother tongue are all mother tongues and each one of them is universal. Our main concern is not those other languages but the contagious ‘self-hate’ virus inherited by most of the ‘well educated’ Punjabis and its bankrupt elite that has consistently demeaned the linguistic uprising and their own cultural identity.

Read full article: http://tns.thenews.com.pk/in-the-name-of-punjabiyyat/#.VOBaHXYtKHl

The feminine metaphor by Mahmood Awan

Posted in Articles, Poetry and Literature by Pippa on February 4, 2015

Mahmood Awan January 25, 2015

Recounting the women poets of the undivided Punjab, a poetic history that lies buried under male monopoly

Punjabi poetics is unique in adopting the feminine metaphor. From our classics to contemporary poets, the most intimate and challenging verses resonate in this naturalised voice. Female protagonists of our Qissa (epics) poets from Damodar Das to Ghulam Haider Mastana are not only self-assuring and assertive but are full of defiance against male authority and a martialised society.

Najm Hosain Syed summed up this power of choice and rejection assumed by women in a striking one liner: “She stands outsides the cycles of time and society”.

Punjab owes all the beauties and colours of its folklore exclusively to its womenfolk. This was the art that kept us enriched and sustained us through centuries of compressions, invasions and annexations. Those nameless women poets of the Punjab narrated our collective consciousness and protected our native identity.

Read full article: http://tns.thenews.com.pk/poetry-the-feminine-metaphor/#.VNJTM3YtKHk

Submissions for 2015 Dhahan Prize for Punjabi Literature open

Posted in News/Information, Poetry and Literature by Pippa on February 4, 2015

Vancouver, BC (January 7, 2015) – Following the success of the inaugural Dhahan Prize, submissions are now open for the world’s signature prize in Punjabi literature on January 1, 2015. Eligible authors writing in either of the two Punjabi scripts, Gurmukhi and Shahmukhi, are invited to submit a work of fiction for the $25,000 CDN first prize.

Novels and short story collections published in 2014 will be accepted from January 1 to March 15, 2015 at http://www.dhahanprize.com. Two second place prizes of $5,000 CDN will also be awarded.

Based in Vancouver, Canada, The Dhahan Prize for Punjabi Literature was established in 2013 to recognize excellence in Punjabi literature and inspire the creation of Punjabi literature across borders. The prize is awarded at the international level each year to three books of fiction in Punjabi written in either of two scripts, Gurmukhi or Shahmukhi.

“This is a truly an international literature prize,” says Raghbir Singh, Chair of the Dhahan Prize advisory committee. “In our inaugural year, the Dhahan Prize received over 70 entries from 5 countries around the world. We’re hoping to increase our reach and the number of submissions for 2015, while continuing to encourage new writers to take up writing in Punjabi.”

The first prize winner for 2014 was Avtar Singh Billing for his book, Khali Khoohaan di Katha (The Story of Empty Wells), which will be translated from Gurmukhi to English this year. Two second place prizes of $5,000 CDN were also awarded to Zubair Ahmad from Pakistan, and Jasbir Singh Bhullar from India. Winners were feted at the Dhahan Prize Awards Gala in Vancouver on October 25, 2014.

Submission guidelines and eligibility terms can be found at http://www.dhahanprize.com/apply/.

About Dhahan Prize for Punjabi Literature:

The Dhahan Prize celebrates the rich culture and transnational heritage of Punjabi language and literature by awarding a yearly prize for excellence in Punjabi fiction. The Prize mission is to inspire the creation of Punjabi literature across borders, bridging Punjabi communities around the world and promoting Punjabi literature on a global scale. The Dhahan Prize is awarded by Canada India Education Society (CIES) in partnership with the Department of Asian Studies in the Faculty of Arts at University of British Columbia (UBC). The prize is funded by an endowment from Barj and Rita Dhahan, and family and friends. Learn more at http://www.dhahanprize.com and join us on Facebook and Twitter.

For interviews and other media inquiries, contact Manjot Bains at media@dhahanprize.com.

Winners of first annual Dhahan Prize for Punjabi Literature announced

Posted in News/Information, Poetry and Literature by Pippa on September 24, 2014

Based in Vancouver, Canada, The Dhahan Prize for Punjabi Literature aims to inspire the creation of Punjabi literature across borders, bridging Punjabi communities around the world, and promoting Punjabi literature on a global scale.

The Dhahan Prize awards $25,000 CDN annually to one best book in fiction published in either of the two Punjabi scripts, Gurmukhi or Shahmukhi. Two runner-up prizes of $5,000 CDN are also awarded, with the provision that both scripts are represented among the three winners. The Dhahan Prize is awarded by Canada India Education Society (CIES) in partnership with the Department of Asian Studies in the Faculty of Arts at University of British Columbia (UBC), and is funded by an endowment from Barj and Rita Dhahan, and family and friends.

The winners of the inaugural Dhahan Prize in Punjabi Literature are:

First Prize of $25,000: Khali Khoohaan di Katha (Novel) by Avtar Singh Billing (Gurmukhi script) India/USA

Runner Up Prize of $5,000: Ik Raat da Samunder (Short stories) by Jasbir Bhullar (Gurmukhi script) India

Runner Up Prize of $5,000: Kbooter, Bnairy te Galian (Short stories) by Zubair Ahmed (Shahmukhi script) Pakistan

I feel happy and lucky to be the first author to win the prestigious, inaugural Dhahan Prize in Punjabi Literature, said Avtar Singh Billing, author of Khali Khoohan di Katha. [Canada India Education Society] and the University of British Columbia have really created history by establishing such a unique, international award for Punjabi fiction. I feel proud that the Punjabi literary world found my sixth novel worthy of this honour.

Punjabi literature has a long and rich literary heritage and is produced around the world. Barj S. Dhahan, co-founder of CIES states, Punjabi has been a Canadian language for 115 years and it is exciting that this prize is uniquely a Canadian undertaking.

The Prize Advisory Committee has been central to developing an independent and impartial jury of senior writers and scholars to adjudicate the prize. Professor Anne Murphy, chair of the prize advisory committee explains, We have three juries: one to choose Shahmukhi books, one for Gurmukhi books, and one Central Jury that determines the winner. There is no overlap among the juries and the names of members are not disclosed until after adjudication is complete. It is crucial that we always maintain a strong and fair process.”

About the Dhahan Prize for Punjabi Literature:

The Dhahan Prize celebrates the rich culture and transnational heritage of Punjabi language and literature by awarding a yearly prize for excellence in Punjabi fiction. The Prize mission is to inspire the creation of Punjabi literature across borders, bridging Punjabi communities around the world and promoting Punjabi literature on a global scale. The Dhahan Prize is awarded by Canada India Education Society (CIES) in partnership with the Department of Asian Studies in the Faculty of Arts at University of British Columbia (UBC). Learn more at http://www.dhahanprize.com and join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Please read complete versions SEPT 22 2014 Dhahan Prize Winners Announced – EnglishSeptember 22 2014 – Dhahan Prize Winners Announced Gurmukhi Version and September 22 2014 – Dhahan Prize Winners Announced Shahmukhi Version

Mother and Daughter: Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Posted in Articles, Poetry and Literature by Pippa on September 19, 2014

In memory of Alys Faiz by Andrew Whitehead

15 September 2014

Alys George was born a century ago this month. She was better known as Alys Faiz – she married the renowned Pakistani poet, journalist and activist, Faiz Ahmed Faiz. I met and interviewed her twice at her home in Lahore in the 1990s – and I am posting the audio of those interviews on this blog with the blessing of her daughter, the artist Salima Hashmi.

Alys was the daughter of a bookseller in the London district of Walthamstow. In the 1930s in London, she became politically active eventually joining the Communist Party, and got to know Indian nationalists and leftists in London. In 1939, she travelled to Amritsar to visit her sister Christobel, who married Dr M.D. Taseer, a noted Marxist thinker and educationalist. Two years later, Alys and Faiz married at Pari Mahal in Srinagar – with the nikah conducted by Sheikh Abdullah.

When I interviewed her in Lahore in October 1995, Alys reminisced at length about becoming involved in the British Communist movement (‘I wanted to go to Spain but my parents said no’), getting to know Indian activists, coming out to Punjab and spending time in Kashmir. She recalled the tragic, cathartic violence which accompanied Partition, and spoke of her husband’s ranguished poetic reflection on the manner in which India and Pakistan gained independence, ‘Freedom’s Dawn’.

See Andrew Whitehead’s website to listen to the interviews: http://www.andrewwhitehead.net/blog/in-memory-of-alys-faiz

 

‘Perhaps some day I might end up as a poet after all’ By Salima Hashmi

7 March 2013

The daughter of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, the Subcontinent’s iconic bard, discovers letters exchanged by her mother and father.

Since being Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s daughter has given me privileged access to the family archives, I have become an accidental archivist. In 2009 I embarked upon the Faiz Ghar project to set up a small museum in a house leased to us by a friend and admirer of my father. We commenced sorting through Faiz’s belongings, papers and books. It was not a massive collection by any means, owing to his nomadic, rather Spartan, but interesting life, that began on 13 February 1911 and ended on 20 November 1984. My mother Alys was instrumental in saving and sorting what little there was: a smart grey lounge suit, a cap, his scarf, his pen, and a reasonably large cache of letters, certificates and medals.

After my mother’s death in 2003 all these things had been packed away in cartons in my house, waiting for just the sort of opportunity that the Faiz Ghar project afforded. Sifting through the papers, I came across a plastic bag containing some scraps. On closer look, I deciphered Faiz’s writing, and the unmistakable stamp of the censor from the Hyderabad Jail, where Faiz spent part of his imprisonment between 1951 and 1955 for his role in the Rawalpindi Conspiracy – a Soviet-backed coup attempt against Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan. These few letters were in poor shape, but readable. It is surprising that they have survived at all. Alys and Faiz had moved to Beirut in 1978. On return, all seemed to be in order in the house – except the cupboard, which had been attacked by termites. That cupboard contained Faiz’s letters from jail, which were later preserved with the help of Asma Ibrahim, transcribed by Kyla Pasha, and published in 2011 under the title Two Loves.

See Himal South Asia for full article: http://himalmag.com/perhaps-day-might-end-poet/

Punjabi Research and Criticism by Dr Nasir Rana

Posted in Articles, Poetry and Literature by Pippa on August 19, 2014

 

This paper was written by Dr. Nasir Rana who teaches Punjabi at the Government M.A.O. College, Lahore.

PUNJABI RESEARCH AND CRITICISM: A Brief Study

Just like other languages of the world, Punjabi literature also started with poetry. Punjabi poetry is very old and some of its earliest poets were Charpat Nath (840 A.D.-940 A.D.), Gorakh Nath (940-1031), Pooran Bhagat (970-1070) and Shah Shams Sabzvari (1165-1276). However, Baba Farid (1175 A.D.-1265 A.D.) is regarded as the first regular poet of Punjabi, born at Kothaywal near Multan. He travelled widely in search of knowledge and after getting spiritual training from Khaja Bakhtiar Kaki in Delhi, he finally settled in Pak Patan. His poetry has been preserved in the form of Shaloks. Afterwards, Ameer Khusru (1253-1325), Shah Miranji (1400-1496), Burhanuddin Janam (1586) and Guru Nanak (1469-1534) spread the message of the Oneness of God in Punjab through their poetry. Later on, Ibrahim Farid Sani (1450-1575), Damudar Das (sixteenth century), Shah Husayn (1539-1599) and Nosha Ganj Bakhsh (1452-1554) made their contributions to Punjabi poetry and literature. Shah Husayn introduced the genre of Kafi in Punjabi, while Sultan Bahu (1632-1692) laid the foundation of another genre called Se-harfi. From Baba Farid to Guru Nanak and all the other poets expressed mystical views in their poetry. In the subsequent period, Bullhay Shah, Ali Haidar, Khaja Fareed and Ameer Baloch continued the same tradition.

Punjabi literature was formally started with the inspiring poetry of Baba Farid. Later, Guru Nanak composed his poetry on similar lines and used it as a vehicle for the spiritual improvement of the people. However, the Punjabi religious literature began when (during the reigns of Jehangir and Shah Jahan); Maulvi Abdullah Abdi wrote his twelve religious pamphlets known as Bara Anvaa. These twelve religious pamphlets are: Tohfa, Nas-o-faraez, Muamlat, Uloom, Marfat-e-Ilahi, Khabirul-Aashiqeen Kalan, Khabirul-Aashiqeen Khurd, Siraji (meeras), Hisarul-Iman, Sekal Avval, Sekal Dom and Tohfa-e-Jadeed.

Besides mystical themes, romantic and amorous affairs were also discussed by some other poets. Damudar Das is the first Punjabi Romantic poet who for the first time wrote the romantic story of Heer Ranjha during the reign of Akbar. Afterwards, the same story was written by Ahmad Kavi, Charagh Awan, Pilu, Hafiz Shah Jahan Muaqbal, Waris Shah, Hamid Shah Abbasi, Fazal Shah, Bhagwan Sing, Imam Bakhsh, Maula Bakhsh Kushta and several other poets. The story of Mirza Saheban was for the first time written by Pilu. Later, Hafiz Barkhurdar Ranjha and Muhammad Yar Aleel also wrote on the same subject. Barkhurdar also wrote the stories of Sassi Punnu and Yusuf Zulaikha. Fazal Shah acquired fame by writing the story of Sohni Mahinwal while the story of Sassi Punnu written by Hashim became famous everywhere. Maulvi Lutf Ali Bahawalpuri, Mian Muhammad Bakhsh and Makhdoom Muhammad Bakhsh wrote the story of Saiful-Mulook. Imam Bakhsh wrote Badi-ul-Jamal and Shah Behram, etc. In the same way, Munshi Khahish Ali wrote Sohna Zeni and several other stories and thus made genuine contribution to enrich Punjabi poetic literature, further.

To read the full article please visit: http://www.apnaorg.com/research-papers/nasir-rana-1/

 

Special Issue of South Asian Diaspora: Imagining Punjab and the Punjabi Diaspora

Posted in Academic Journals, Articles, Migration, Poetry and Literature by Pippa on July 30, 2014

South Asian Diaspora Volume 6, Issue 2, 2014

http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rsad20/6/2#.U9jNzKgpOHl

 

Introduction

Imagining Punjab and the Punjabi diaspora: after more than a century of Punjabi migration

Anjali Gera Roy

Articles:

  • ‘The heart, stomach and backbone of Pakistan’: Lahore in novels by Bapsi Sidhwa and Mohsin Hamid Claire Chambers
  • Culture shock on Southall Broadway: re-thinking ‘second-generation’ return through ‘geographies of Punjabiness’ Kaveri Qureshi
  • Punjabiyat and the music of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Virinder S. Kalra
  • Tracing Sufi influence in the works of contemporary Siraiki Poet, Riffat Abbas Nukhbah Taj Langah
  • Exiled in its own land: Diasporification of Punjabi in Punjab Abbas Zaidi
  • (Dis)honourable paradigms: a critical reading of Provoked, Shame and Daughters of Shame Shweta Kushal & Evangeline Manickam

The politics of exclusion By Sarmad Sehbai

Posted in Articles, Partition, Poetry and Literature by Pippa on January 21, 2014

This is an old article but worth sharing here:

Tossing the empty bottle he shouts,                                                          

‘Oh world! Your beauty is your ugliness.’                                                  

The world stares back at him                                                                  

Their bloodshot eyes rattle with the question                                          

‘Who nabs the pillar of time                                                                        

By the noose of his drunken breath?                                                      

Who dares to break into dim corridors                                                        

Of twisted conscience?                                                                            

Who intrudes upon poisonous dens                                                            

Of demonised souls?                                                                        

Through icy glasses his rude glance                                                                    

Chases us like a footfall                                                                            

Foul monster!’                                                                                        

Bang! Bang!                                              -Majeed Amjad, Poem for Manto

Saadat Hasan Manto, a red rag to both conservative and progressive writers, was feared by the reactionary press, the state and the literary mafias of his times. All his life he fought the bigoted social reformers, ideologues and religious fanatics, facing various court trials with a heroic smile. His characters were not the mouthpieces of ready-made truths who would sermonise from a pulpit as saviours; neither Noori na Naari, neither angelic nor satanic, Manto’s Adam was born out of mud.

Manto spent the prime of his youth in Bombay and Delhi where he celebrated his poverty and prosperity, his successes and failures with the same zest for life. In 1948, betrayed by his friends, Manto decided to leave Bombay and move to Pakistanin the hope of a better life in the new country. He was disturbed by the communal riots and the gruesome scenes he had witnessed during the migration. With his failing health and two dependent daughters, he couldn’t figure out his whereabouts: “all day long I would sit on the chair lost in my thoughts not knowing what to do.”Lahore was far from welcoming. The doors of Radio Pakistan were closed to him and the reactionary press was hounding him for his bold writings. After a few months he wrote Thanda Gosht for which another trial was ready for him.

Manto could have survived all those slams and slurs but what threw him into total despair was the attitude of his own friends who expelled him from the Progressive Writers Association (PWA) in 1949. What had created panic among the progressives was first, a book Siyah Haashiye, and then Urdu Adab, a literary journal, through which Manto included writers from all schools of thought without bias. Siyah Haashiye was a book of black jokes about the callous killings during the riots. It showed a terrifying despair where one could not tell laughter from a scream. Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi, the secretary-general of the Punjab branch of PWA, said after reading the book, “What I can see is a field littered with dead bodies where the writer is stealing cigarette butts and money from their pockets.” Qasmi’s critique was as callous as the callousness of the characters in the book.

On the publication of Urdu Adab, edited jointly by Muhammad Hasan Askari and Manto, Qasmi as the spokesman of the PWA, wrote  an open letter to the latter: “Get rid of the opium of art for art’s sake; bring Askari into your fold by converting him to the art for life. Our movement is based on owning, understanding and respecting the suffering of the masses.” Qasmi guided Manto like a protective father, fearing that Manto could be spoilt by Askari’s “influence of decadent French writers like Baudelaire, André Gide and Flaubert.”

In November 1949, at the all-Pakistan conference of PWA, a resolution was passed against certain writers including Hasan Askari, Manto and, according to Abdul Salam Khurshid, Qurratulain Hyder, whose name was later withdrawn. While Manto didn’t react directly at the time, he later (1951) wrote in Jaib-e-Kafan, “I was angry that Alif (Qasmi) had misunderstood me, doubted my intentions … I am depressed. I earn through my writings by working day and night. I have my wife and children, if they fall sick and if I were to beg for money going door to door I will be really disturbed. Art is autonomous and is an end in itself. It’s no one’s monopoly and it cannot be hegemonised by ideology. The government takes me as a communist and the communists take me as a reactionary.” Probably during the same period he wrote his epitaph which was inspired by Ghalib’s couplet, “ya rab zamana mujh ko mitata hey kis liay/loh-e-jahaan pe harf-e-mukkarrar nahin hoon mein [Oh God, why is Time rubbing me off? I am not a letter twice written on the slate of the world].”

Urdu Adab was closed down after the publication of only two issues. In the first two issues both the progressive and non-progressive writers were published but soon after an ‘office order’ by the PWA forced the progressive writers to boycott the journal. Many of them requested Manto to return their work to them. A desperate and visibly intimidated Arif Abdul Matin wrote to Manto, “for God’s sake return the manuscript of my play; it is no longer possible for me to get it published in Urdu Adab as our union has decided not to cooperate with certain writers.” Qasmi also withdrew his request for Manto’s story which earlier he had wanted to publish in Nuqoosh: “I had asked for your story before the decision by the union to avoid publishing those authors who don’t agree with the progressive movement.”

Why was Manto considered a threat to the progressives? Could it be ‘obscenity’ that had offended them in the context of the newly-founded Islamic Republic of Pakistan? But Faiz Ahmed Faiz had appeared in his defence at the trial of Thanda Gosht, and had not found the story obscene. According to Intizar Hussain, writing in Saadat Hussan Manto — After 50 Years published by GC University,Lahorein 2005, the reason for Manto’s exclusion “was all about the reaction of progressives to the Partition of India.” Quoting Askari, he says, “the progressives in their opposition to Partition were implying that had there been no demand for a Muslim country there would have been no communal riots.” Even this doesn’t appear plausible. If the progressives were not in favour of a Muslim state, why would Faiz, a staunch progressive, be the first and one of the very few commissioned officers who opted for the newly established state of Pakistan, and continued his job with the Pakistan Army and the Inter-Services Public Relations? And why would he write an editorial in The Pakistan Times on “the glorious role” of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah in “the birth of a major state and the liberation of a major nation.”

In Siyah Haashiye or Urdu Adab, Manto did not appear to advocate a separate country but simply brought out the barbaric humour out of the killing of people in the name of religion. Manto in his writings had never defended one religion against another. Mozel, a Jewish woman, dies while saving a young Sikh, Tirlochan. While she is dying, Tirlochan tries to cover her naked body with his turban, but she sneers back: “Take away your religion.” In Thanda Gosht, it is the “wretched blood” of the wounded Ishar Singh that topples religion, caste and race. As to the demand forPakistan, Manto who had property in Amritsar didn’t claim anything after Partition except for an ice store inLahoreand that too was denied to him.

“Those who were talking of freedom of expression were resented by the progressives,” says Syed in Noori na Naari. But why should the progressives resent Manto when in their manifesto they had committed “to promote the freedom of expression”? They were struggling for the freedom of expression and so was he; they were “respecting the suffering of the masses” and he was going through suffering; they were talking about poverty and he was living it; they were romanticising the fallen man and Manto himself was the fallen man. So what caused such a reaction to the most gifted short story writer of his times? Muzaffar Ali Syed further elaborates, “immediately after the Second World War, the leaders of bourgeoisie socialism were ready to collaborate with the bourgeoisie — they were willing to sacrifice Mira ji, Manto and [Noon Meem] Rashid.”

Perhaps all that has been said are mere polemics of their times but there could be more than meets the eye…

Sometime in the mid-1930s, on a foggy “Night in London,” young Sajjad Zaheer saw “The Light.” In Nanking restaurant, amongst a coterie of like-minded male writers, Zaheer, lovingly called Banne Miaan, announced the manifesto of the PWA. Zaheer’s novel A Night in London established him as an icon of social commitment. The novel featured Hiren Pal, a committed freedom fighter who leaves his beloved Sheila Green to pursue the ideals beyond the love of a woman. This motif became a template for the progressive writers, “Aur bhi gham hein zamanay mein mohabat kay siwa [There are other woes in the world, apart from the woes of love]”.

The ‘othering’ of the female to assert the progressive mission created a binaric schizophrenia between the love of woman and social reality. The deferral of anima, the feminine side of male, is to repress the mother, the womb, the unconscious and to assert the father. As [French psychoanalyst] Lacan states, “When ideologues preach, they assert the patriarchy and it’s phallic.” Manto renames Qasmi as Alif, the vertical alphabet of Urdu language. The unbending thrust of ‘Alif’ is suggestive of phallic oppression. In his playful irreverence, Manto calls Zaheer an armchair communist, Faiz an afimi (lotus eater), and his own guru Bari Aleeg, a coward and a runchhor (unreliable). He prays to God to turn Chiragh Hasan Hasrat into Stalin who could dictate from behind the iron curtain. For Manto, they were the oppressive fathers who in Freudian terms would tell the child not to play with his genitals.

Mumtaz Shirin says, “Manto has presented the mother in the image of the prostitute.” In her book Noori na Naari, she discovers Manto in myth and religious archetypes. For her, Manto juxtaposes the holy mother Mary and Mary Magdalene, the sinful whore; the sacred and the profane. Manto’s heroines don’t queue up with the hearth-bound bibis or the drawing-room ladies of the elite; they stand out mostly as sex workers fighting for bare existence in a male’s world of exploitation and human degradation. With detached limbs and body parts as utility props they are the disfigured image of Madonna; damaged Eros. The loss of mother is the loss of womb, the loss of compassion, love and humanity in a society which is admonitory, tabooed and restrictive like the punishing father.

Manto resurrects the ghost of the feminine side, otherwise banished by the progressive patriarch, and by giving her a voice topples the despotic father figure of reform, pity and sympathy. Manto brings out the mother from the womb of a prostitute and confronts the oppressive father. He shatters the romantic ideal of the progressives by bringing out Sheila from their closets. He strips off her romantic trappings and places her next to Janki and Saugandhi. Perhaps this act of Manto made the progressives run for lights; he had nabbed “the pillar with the noose of his drunken breath.” His rude glance will keep chasing us like a footfall for many ages to come.

Sarmad Sehbai is a poet, playwright and drama director.

Link to article: http://herald.dawn.com/2012/05/14/the-politics-of-exclusion.html

A living encyclopedia By Haroon Khalid

Posted in News/Information, Poetry and Literature by Pippa on May 28, 2013

This article originally appeared in The News on Sunday: http://jang.com.pk/thenews/jun2009-weekly/nos-14-06-2009/she.htm#1. It is worth publishing here in full as it highlights the tremendous work done by Iqbal Qaiser on Punjab. Visit the Centre he has set up in Kasur, further details are available: http://punjabikhojgarh.org/.

There is hardly a person who has more knowledge about Punjab than Iqbal Qaiser. Coming from a humble background, he could not afford formal education beyond matriculation but his thirst for knowledge kept him going outside the formal environment. He kept on studying and traveling to learn as much as he could about the land that he adores, and now his expertise in the field is such that he guides people doing Doctorate and Post-Doctorate through their thesis.

Iqbal Qaiser is a historian, anthropologist, poet, story writer, activist, etc. He also happens to be a prolific writer having adventured in numerous fields. What makes this man really special is his unrelenting commitment to Punjabi. Despite the fact that the readership of Punjabi is negligible, and being aware of the fact that one can’t expect to make a living at all by writing in Punjabi, this man continues to serve Punjabi. He says, he knows that if he writes in Urdu, his readership would improve tenfold and also his financial status but he wants to write in his own language. Who else would do it if he doesn’t, he says.

There is hardly any historical site in Punjab which he hasn’t visited or is not aware of. In his late 50s, Iqbal Qaiser is still not afraid to go out in the scorching summers of Punjab. Without a private conveyance, he travels on foot or public transport. With the amount of work that he has already done, one can only conjecture what he would have been able to do if he had the resources.

He is currently in the process of writing ‘A History of Lahore District’, which of course would be in Punjabi but would also be translated into English and in Gurmukhi script. This work of his is an encyclopedia of Lahore, having reached proportions, never even thought of earlier. Perhaps, the greatest contribution so far in noting down the history of Lahore is of Maulvi Nur Ahmad Chisti. This late 19th century work is a must in the library of any person who is interested in Lahore. This book is roughly of around 1000 pages. The Encyclopedia that Iqbal Qaiser is in the process of writing would be divided into five volumes, and each one would include roughly around 1000 pages. Comparing the work of these two scholars, the former would only appear as a shadow to the latter. However, this is not to take away the credit from Maulvi Nur Ahmad Chisti, whose work acted as a beacon of light for Iqbal Qaiser. No stone has been left unturned in the Lahore District. No neighborhood, no village, no personality, site has been spared. This contribution of Iqbal Qaiser would make him immortal in the annals of history.

Simultaneously he is also working on another book, which he would call ‘Historical Jain Shrines in Pakistan’. This would be a survey of all the extant Jain temples across Pakistan. This speaks in volumes about the dedication of a person. Not many people would dare to take such two projects simultaneously, however for Iqbal Qaiser this second project is a piece of cake in his own words.

‘Historical Jain shrines in Pakistan’ is inspired by his own earlier work which got him international acclaim and numerous awards. This book is called ‘Historical Sikh Shrines in Pakistan’. This book was published in 1998 in Punjabi with a rendition in English and Gurmukhi script. When he was writing this book, he was also a primary school teacher. He says he used to do his field work during the summer vacations. This book covers 175 important Sikh Gurdwaras all over the country, describing their present condition, locality and history. In the project, he has been able to achieve what the Department of Archaeology could not accomplish, even with all the funds.

‘Historical Sikh Shrines’ made Iqbal Qaiser from a parochial writer to an internationally recognised author. He was invited to America and Canada for book launching ceremonies. The Sikh community world over lauded his efforts and bestowed him with various titles and awards. The Punjab Times Gold Medal, Guru Nanak Award, Punjabi Saat Lamparada Award are just tip of the ice berg. He even got the honour to have lunch at the White House because of this book. The recognition that Pakistani Government gave him was harassment from ISI. Today at the Patiala University, a Ph.D programme is being offered on this book by the History Department.

With the money which he amassed from the sale of this book he bought a piece of land in Lalyani and opened a research institute there by the name of Punjabi Khojgarh. This is yet another effort to promote the cultures of Pakistan but things are not working smoothly for the institute at the moment, which is facing water and electricity issues because of shortage of funds but the struggle is going on.

Besides being a historian and anthropologist, Iqbal Qaiser also happens to be a Punjabi poet. Inspired by the Sufiyana kalam, Iqbal Qaiser has two collections of Punjabi poetry to his credit, one of which was given the Bulleh Shah Award by Majlis Bulleh Shah. During Zia’s Martial Law, he was sent to jail for having read one of his poems at a conference condemning the Martial Law. This poem was called ‘Aaj boodh dardiya boodh vai’. This poem was dedicated to Bhagat Singh on his death anniversary, 23rd of March when these people dared to organize a Bhagat Singh day.

Besides writing books and finding jobs to make a living, Iqbal Qaiser writes for Indian Punjabi newspapers Ajeet and Nawa Zamana. Unfortunately, here too he is not properly compensated for his efforts, as the newspapers are Indian and the governments don’t allow them to pay him. He prefers to write in Indian newspapers over Pakistanis because there is greater reverence for Punjabi there than here, where it has become a second if not third language.

Iqbal Qaiser is an inspiration for any person who wants to do something but believes that certain factors are holding him/her back. He teaches us to face all difficulties head on without fear through his persistence in doing what he wanted to do. Iqbal Qaiser says in one of his poems:

 

‘Kaal jithe se Baba muya

Mein utho he panda choya

Mein khure hun kithe marna

agla panda kine karna’.

‘Yesterday where our predecessors ended their journey

I have begun from there

Now I don’t know where my journey will end

And who would pick up the thread’.

harunkhalid@hotmail.com

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Opening up a treasure trove of Punjabi literature

Posted in News/Information, Poetry and Literature by Pippa on March 1, 2012

The Times of India, 22 February 2012

Diplomat-writer Navdeep Suri opened a treasure chest of Punjabi literature with the launch of the ‘A Life Incomplete’, an English translation of his grandfather Nanak Singh’s iconic novel, ‘Adh Khidiya Phool’ based on the Punjabi nationalist writer’s 10-month stay in Lahore jail in the 1920s.

Written as a draft by Nanak Singh in jail, it was redrafted 18 years later as a novel.

The book, second of Suri’s English translation of his grandfather’s books, was published by Harper Collins-India. A joint secretary at the Ministry of External Affairs, Suri had earlier translated Nanak Singh’s novel “Pavitra Paapi” as “Saintly Sinner” in 2003.

“Pavitra Paapi” was also made into a movie starring Parikshit Sahni in 1970.

“A Life Incomplete” was released by Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur Tuesday evening at Bhai Vir Singh Sahitya Sadan. Unveiling the book, Kaur said, “Nanak Singh was a leading light of Punjabi literature. He wrote 59 books, including 38 novels and was honoured with the Sahitya Akademi award in 1962.”

Kaur said: “Several of Nanak Singh’s books were prescribed on high school and university syllabus, and I am told many of his novels are in their 20th and 30th reprint.” She said Nanak Singh’s books conveyed several messages pertinent to the times — “religious tolerance and empowerment of women.”

“The translation will carry the novel to new sections of Indian lovers of Punjabi literature and to the Indian diaspora around the world,” Kaur said.

Read full article:

http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-02-22/books/31086275_1_punjabi-literature-novel-english-translation

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