Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Urdu Blogs

Here's a list of blogs in Urdu:

I have mentioned the site itself before. It is a Wiki in Urdu.

I will post more on blogging and wikis in Urdu as I find it...


Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Sahir Ludhianvi Remembered on His 83rd birthday

Speakers at Yaum-e-Sahir in Milpitas California
Originally uploaded by iFaqeer.
Yaum-e-Sahir, an event rememberring Sahir Ludhianvi, a major poet and lyricist from South Asia, was held at the India Community Center in Milpitas, California, in the San Francisco Bay Area. The event, which fell close to the 83rd anniversary of Sahir's birth on March 8, was attended by over 200 people and the two hours that it lasted were educational as well as being pure entertainment for the attendees. Yaum-e-Sahir was the latest in a series of successful literary evenings arranged in tribute to the masters of Urdu literature by Hamida Chopra, who has taught Urdu at the University of California, Berekely, and is a relentless patron of the Urdu language and literature. Previous events have included "Jahaan-e-Ghalib" and "Darbar-e-Zafar", the latter devoted to the major poets associated with the last Mughal court in Delhi.

The proceedings started with Ms. Chopra's recitation of a poem in which Sahir describes his writing and the moving spirit behind it:

Dunya nay tajurbat aur havadis kee shakl mein
Jo kuchh mujhay diya hai, lota raho hoon mein

She then introduced Dr Tariq Rahman, a linguist who holds the Quaid-e-Azam Chair in Pakistan Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, who presided over the evening. The microphone then passed to local writer and multimedia artist, Ali Hasan Cemendtaur, to emcee the program. Cemendtaur has seven books in Urdu and English to his credit and is currently working on an animation film and a documentary.

The evening proceeded with a recounting of Sahir's life and achievements, and recitations of his poetry.

Prem Joshi, a retired Engineer originally from Allahbad, sang,

Pyar per bas to nahin hain mera laikin phir bhee
Tu bata daay tujhay pyar karoun ya na karoun

in a melliflous voice that appeared to be much appreciated by the audience.

Rajni Dubey, who originally hails from Delhi and who has sung on radio and TV in India, sang "Havis naseeb nazar ko kahin qarar nahi".

Sulekha Choudhary, a scientist by profession and introduced as Bulbul-e-San Jose, sang "Khuda kaay wastay ab bay rukhee saay kam nah lay". Her beautiful rendition visibly moved the audience.

Anil Chopra, a professor at UC Berkeley, in his presentation, said that sentimentalism and a desire for revolution were the two important themes of Sahir’s poetry. He read Sahir’s "Teri Awaz" to illustrate the sentimental side of Sahir’s poetry:

Raat sunsan thee bojhal thee fiza kee sansain
Rooh peh chhaaay thaay bay-nam ghamon kay saay

Mr Chopra then read Sahir's famous poem on the "Taj Mahal" as an example of a poem soaked with a desire for revolution:

Yeh chaman zar yeh jamna ka kinara yeh mahal
Yeh munaqqash dar-o-deevar yeh mehrab yeh taaq
Aik shahanshah nay daulat ka sahara lay ker
Hum ghareebon kee mohabbat ka uraya hai mazaaq

Sudha Jauhar, born in Gujarat, Pakistan, sang "Tang aa chukay hain kash makash e zandagi saay hum".

Rajni Dubey, in her second appearance on the stage sang Sahir’s famous poem, "Chuklay" (Brothels). This poem is not for the faint-hearted. Sahir packs more than a few powerful punches in it. He challenges the "eulogizers of the sanctity of the East", or "Sanaakhwaan-e-thaqdhees-e-mashriq" (who are often also the strongest critics of the West’s immorality) to go and see for themselves the exploited women in the brothels of our Eastern lands:

Yeh koochay yeh neelaAm ghar dil-kashee kay
Yeh lut-thay hoay karvan zindagi kay
Kahan hain kahan hain muhafiz khudee kay?
Sana-khwan-e-taqdees-e-mushraq kahan hain?

It is hard to read or listen to Sahir’s ‘Chuklay’ without a stream of tears flowing down your cheeks.

Madad chahtee hai yeh Hawa kee bai tee
Paighambar kee ummat, zulekha kee baitee

In the prose-section of Yaum-e-Sahir, running in parallel to the recitations, the poet's life, his achievements and peculiarities were noted by Cemendtaur, Hamida Chopra, U. V. Ravindra (Ravi), Sabahat Ashraf (iFaqeer), and Tariq Rahman.

Cemendtaur presented a rather interesting comparison between Sahir and Saadat Hasan Manto. He said that writers and poets are supported by their pen only when these creative artists are able to be compensated for their toils, and the market for their writing is directly dependent on the literacy level in a country. “Because of the overall low literacy in South Asia, people who live by their pen, in general, don’t seem to live a comfortable life. But writers and poets are supposed to be proud of their creativity, so how come these creative artists of our lands don’t find creative ways to be financially strong?” Cemendtaur said that Sahir and Manto took diametrically different paths. While Sahir moved from Lahore to Bombay, Saadat Hasan Manto moved from Bombay, where he was pursuing a successful career in writing, to Lahore to ultimately die in poverty. In Cemendtaur’s view Sahir made the right choice by creatively finding a way to live off his pen. “When the general population in our region is not reading books and instead watching movies, then our creative artists should fit in somewhere in the production of the movies.”

Hamida Chopra read an informative paper on Sahir. Her paper delineated the life history of the man who was born as Abdul Hai in a landed family in Ludhiana, now in the Indian part of the Punjab; saw poverty in his childhood as his mother decided to move out of his father’s house when the father married a second wife; his unrequited love in the college; the move to Lahore during the Partition of the Subcontinent; finding out a few years later that an arrest warrant had been issued for him for his ‘rebellious’ writings in the newspaper ‘Sawera’ moving back to India and then ultimately ending up in Bombay and working for the film industry. Chopra peppered her paper with interesting anecdotes that gave a glimpse into the idiosyncracies and private life of the great poet. She said that Sahir was not happy writing film songs because he didn’t believe this was what a true poet should do. However, Sahir never hesitated to fight for his own or other peoples' rights, among other things serving as the President of the Film Workers' Union.

Mr U.V. Ravindra, usually known as "Ravi", read a paper that focused on Sahir's career in the film industry. Ravi chronologically described most of the films Sahir wrote songs for, informing the audience that the first film Sahir wrote for was "Azadee kee rah peh", released in 1948, before he moved to Bombay. He said that whereas Sahir spent quite some time in Lahore his longest stay was in Bombay where the film industry made great use of Sahir's talent in poetry. "Sahir's first superhit movie was 'Bazee.' The last film Sahir wrote songs for was 'Jio aur Jeenay do' posthumously released in 1982 (Sahir died in 1980)", along the way forming very productive partnerships with such musical greats as SD Burman, OP Nayyar, Roshan, and others.

Sabahat Ashraf, a Silicon Valley writer and activist who blogs extensively under the name "iFaqeer" (his blog is at paid his homage to Sahir from the point of view a person that grew up in the 70s, when such movies as "Kabhi Kabhie", named after a poem by Sahir, were popular. In his homage to Sahir, Sabahat said that the poets give people the words and sentences that people use to express themselves. Mr. Ashraf said that everybody is affected by things around them but only the poets and the writers have the skills to portray their experiences in words, and the rest of the community uses these descriptions to help others--and sometimes, themselves--understand the experiences and feelings that they go through. He said that for several generations of South Asians, the first exposure to Sahir, and often to Urdu literature itself was through the movie lyrics that Sahir wrote. He said that because of the fact that Sahir did not compromise the standards of language or depth of thought that is usually associated with Urdu poetry, he served as a bridge between pop culture and the world of Urdu literature. His closing thought was that that this bridge is a very important one, serving to raise the level of discourse in pop culture while at the same time providing the community that identifies itself with the Urdu language a seat at the table in the 21st century's media-dominated society. [His speech is available in full, as written, on this blog at:]

Tariq Rahman, the president of the literary evening, acknowledged his ignorance about Urdu literature itself, but said that he had studied Sahir and his poetry from the point of view of its importance in development of political movements and political thought in South Asia.. Dr. Rahman said that whereas Sahir himself was not a philosopher, his poetry was often used by the philosophers, especially by the thinkers of the Left. For example, the quatrain quoted above from Sahir’s famous poem "Taj Mahal" were often quoted in progressive and communist circles in the context not only of the imperialism the Mughals, but as a powerful statement about all kinds of imperialism.

Tariq Rahman said that whereas at one time he had thought that it was a great loss for Pakistan to have driven Sahir Ludhianvi away, his thinking had evovled to where he understood that poets and artists do not belong to any particular country their work enriches the life of all who are reacched by their art. Even though Sahir left for Bombay what he produced is now enjoyed by and edifies Pakistanis just as much as it would if he lived in Pakistan itself. To that this writer adds that had Sahir not left Lahore, he probably would not have become the part of the popular culture the way he did become, and consequently would not have reached the multitudes he now reaches.

The evening ended with Hamida Chopra thanking the audience and annoucning about the next program in the series--an evening on Jigar Muradabadi and Asghar Goandvi, to be held on June 25 at the India Cultural Center ( She ended the evening by reciting Sahir's poem "Hiras".

Teray honton peh wo-h tabassum kee halkee see lakeer
Mairay takhayul mein reh reh ker jhalak uththee hai

It was not only the sweet memories that the attendees were able to take home with themselves. An audio CD of Hamida Chopra reciting Sahir's poetry from his book "Parchahian" was available for sale at the event.

[Pictures, papers read, and other information about Yaum-e-Sahir will be presented at]

Friday, March 18, 2005

The Ghost of Urdu?

A rather dated article from Chowk is making the rounds on discussion lists of South Asian writers. It is titled "The Ghost of Urdu" and was written in 2003. Here's a link to the original piece:

Anyone care to comment? I am working on a response myself; will post it when I can.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Address at Yaum-e-Sahir in Milpitas California

I had the honor of speaking at an event in memory of Sahir Ludhianvi last weekend. Reproduced below is my paper as written. (I apologize for posting this in English/Roman script.) The Press Release will be posted here soon.

Audio of the speech is here, with an English introduction included for a pilot podcast for the iFaqeer blog.

Sub say pehlay thoe shukriya adhaa karna chaahtha hooN Hamida Saaheba ka, aisee mehfil munaqqidh karnay kay liyay. Yahaan pay maujoodh ka'ee naujawaanoN kee thar-haa, main un logon main say hoon jin hoon nay yay zabaan apnay waaldhain kay g-hutnoan kay aas paas seek-hee aur jin ka Urdu zabaan say tha'aalluq aur laga'o aisee hee mehaafil kay zariyay banaa hai. Yay thaqreeban pehla aisaa mauqaa hai kay maiN Urdu main main aik adbee mehfil say, yaa ithnay logon say bayak-waqth mukhaathib hoe rahaa hooN. Kuch lazim saa lagtha hai kay peshgee mu'afee maang loN. Agar mairee ko'ee baath, ya mairee zabaan, adbee mayaar par pooree naa uthray, thoe mu'aaf kar dhijiyay ga.

Thoe Sadr Saahab kee ijaazath say, baath shoroo kar thay hain.

Aaj, hum sub yahaaN Saahir Ludhhianvi naamee aik shahyar koe yaadh karnay jamaa huway haiN. Aur uss say bhee zyaadha, Saahir nay shaayaree ka joe khazaana bakhksha hai humaiN, uss main tatolnay jamaa huway haiN kay humay, yay Sha'eir, yay adeeb, yay mufakkir, kyaa asbaaq muha'eeyaa kar sakthee hai, kay jin say hamaaree zindhagee ka safar kuch sehel, yaa kum-az-kum bardhashth kay la'eq hoe jayay.

Kyoon kay, ch-hota-moo' baRee baath; yahaaN buzurg bat-hai haiN, magar mairay nazdheek insaanee zindhagee aur mu'ashray maiN, adab aur adeeb ka sub say ehem kirdhar yehee hai. Adeeb, ya ko'ee bhee funkaar, humaiN upnay adab, upnay funpaaroN kay zaryay zindhagee guzaarnay kay liyay samaan mu'hiyaa kar thay haiN. Aur jiss fun koe hum "Sha'eree" keHthay haiN, woe iss kaam kay liyay khaas thoar pay mauzoo hai. KyooN kay sha'eree ka auzaar alfaaz hothay haiN. Aur rangon-bharee naqshnigaaree kay zaryay baath har insaan pay asar-andhaaz nahee hoe pathee. Magar alfaaz aik aisaa zaryaa haiN joe har insaan--yaa thaqreeban har insaan, kyooN jaisay buzurgoN nay humaiN bathaayaa hai, khaalis laathoN kay b-hooth b-hee paayay jaathay haiN-- Alfaaz thaqreeban har insaan thak rasaa'ee rakthay haiN.

Ijaazath dhaiN thoe iss silsilay maiN aik waqeyaa suna'oN.

Kaalij maiN humaaray aik buzurg th-hay joe kamaal kee sha'eree karthay th-hay. Aur jaisay kay kaalij kay sha'eroN kais saath aksar hoe tha hai; un kee sha'eree maiN aksariyath romaanee sha'eree kee th-hee. Aik thaizaabee saa unsar hoe thaa th-haa unkee sha'eree main. Aik dhin aik dhoast nay pooch-haa, kay "Woe kaun shakhsiyuth haiN jin kee badhaulath Bhai aisee ghazab kee sha'eree keh thay haiN. Bahoth azeem ko'ee husthee lagthee haiN." Iss baath pay main th-hoRee soch main paRh gayaa. Kyaa waqa'ee ko'ee bay-nazeer shakhsiyath th-heeN jin pay bhai nay dheewaan kay dheewaan lik-h diyay? Kyaa aur Bhaiyon pay jub ishq tharee huwaa, kyaa unka ishq uthna gehraa, uthna sachcha nahee th-haa jithna kay in bhai ka? Kyaa unkay mashooq uthnay "azeem" nahee th-hay? Bahoth izzath karthay th-hay hum apnay sha'er bhai kee, un kay ehsaasaath aur jazbay kee, magar ka'ee aik aashiq bhee hum nay aisay dhaik-hay th-hay kay jin kay ehsaasaath kee gehRaa'ee aur shidhdhath kee baraabree nahee kee jaa sakthee th-hee--aur in aashiqoN nay ko'ee sha'eree nahee lik-hee. Balkay, jaisay kay kaalij main aksar hoe thaa hai, aik dhoe thoe hamaaray bhai sha'er say kuch lik-hwaa kay bhee lay gayay th-hay.

Yay sub soachnay kay baadh, main nay uss dhoast say kahaa, kay mairay khayaal say sha'eree jiss shakhsiyath kay baaray main, yaa p-hir jiss thajarboobay kay natheejay maiN kahee jaathee hai, uss say uss sha'eree ka mayaar nahee bantha hai. Balkay, lik-hnay waalay kee, sha'er kee apnay thajurbaath, khayaalaath, aur ehsaasaath koe lafzoN maiN dhaalnay kee salaahiyath; uss ka zoar-e-qalam kehlijiyay, ya khoobee-e-qalam ka mazhar hoe tha hai hai uss kee sha'eree ka mayaar.

Thoe jaisay main keh rahaa th-haa, yay samaan joe adeeb, sha'er, humai farahum kar thaa hai, yay is soorath ka bhee hoe saktha hai kay humain woe aanay walay marhaloN kay baaray khabardhaar karay. Aur yay iss soorath ka bhee hoe saktha hai kay jub kisee waqeyay, kisee haadhsay say hum dho-chaar hoN, thoe humai jin thajurbaath, khayaalaath, aur ehsaasaath say aashnaa'ee hoe jayay, un koe aik manthaqee shakal maiN d-haalnay main madhadh karay. Iss la'eq karthee hai kay hum un thajurbaath, khayaalaath, aur ehsaasaath ka dhoosroN say izhaar kar sakaiN; ya p-hir kabhee kabhee thoe apnay aap samajnay kay qaabil hoe ja'ein.

Ab is hawaalay say, aaj ki iss mehfil main madh-hoo kar nay kay liyay joe "eVite" milaa th-haa, us kay oopar joe Sahir ka shair darj hai, (yehee shair un kee kitaab "TalkhiyaaN" kay sar-waraq pay bhee darj hai) uss pay ab agar hum thawajjay daalaiN...woe shair kuch yooN hai, kai:

“Dunya Nai Trajurbat-O Hawadis Ki Shakal Main
Jo Kuch Mujhai Diya Hai Woh Lota Raha Hon Main”

Hur insaan ka liyay tajurbaath-o-hawaadhis ka yay silsila chaltha reHtha hai, zindhagee b-har chalthaa reHthaa hai; aur Saahir jaisay adeeb, in koe apnay fun, apnee sha'eree kay zaryay qalam-bandh kar kay paish karthay haiN, thaakay, hum sub, joe sha'er nahee hain, ya kum-az-kum uss pa'ey kay sha'er naheeN haiN (kyooN kay sha'er hona ka gumaaN thoe hum mai say khaasay logoN koe hai--ya rahaa hai); hum aam insaan, p-hir, ain us hee thar-haa say kay jaisay humaaray kaalij kay saath-hee humaaray sha'er bhai say rujoo kar thay th-hay, uss hee thar-haa say hum loag azeem sha'eroN ka; azeem sha'eree ka sahaara laithay hain apnay thajurbaath aur ehsaasaath koe samajnay aur samj-haanay kay liyay.

Thoe is silsilay maiN, iss hawaalay say Saahir aur humaara saath poorana hai. Main un logon mai say hooN jin kaa bachpan 70 kee dhahaa'ee maiN guzraa'. Zindhagee kay hawaadis aksar bay-saakhtha Saahir kee sha'eree koe humaaree zubaan, qalam aur keyboard pay lay aathay haiN. Woe kabhee kabhee humaray dhil maiN khayaal aayay kay zindhagee kisee kee narm ch-haa'on maiN guzarnay paathee thoe shadhaab hoe bhee sakthee th-hee; ya Taj Mahal kee kisee thasweer koe dhaikh kay bay-saakthaa uss dharya kay kinaaray; uss munaqqash dhar-o-dheewaar; uss mihraab; aur uss thaaq, kay jiss ka zikr Saahir nay kiyaa hia, un ka khayaal aatha hai. Ya p-hir zidh kay aalam maiN yay baath zehen goonjay kay "lay dhay kay apnay paas, faQath aik nazar thoe hai; KYOON dhaik-haiN zindhagee koe kisee kee nazar sai hum?!"

Magar humaaray hum-asar shakhsiyaath kee Saahir say aashna'ee sub say pehlay kisee aur tharhaa say hu'ee th-hee..aur yay baath adbee mahaul maiN hoe sakthaa hai giraan guzray, guzray thoe mu'aaf kijiyay ga, magar Urdu sha'eree kay iss azeem suthoon say, balkay hum mai say khaasay logon kay liyay thoe mayaaree Urdu sha'eree say hee hamaaree pehlee waqfiyath filmoN main Saahir geeth aur gaanoN kee shakal hu'ee.

Magar filmaiN, gaanay, aur geeth thoe humairee Urdu aur Hindi boalnay waalee dhuniya mai kasrath say payay jaathay haiN. Geeth, gaanay, ghazal, qawwaliyaN kay railay hain ab "Paap Culture" main. Aur bahoth sha'eroN nay--jiss maiN har simf kay Urdu kay sha'er aur Urdu aur Hindi kay geethnigaar, aur kavi shaamil haiN-- bahoth saar lafzi qalabaziyoN kay namoonay aur moseeqee pay thakyaa karnay waalay hazaaroN shahkaar hamaree samaa'at kay liyay paish kiyay haiN. Aur uss main aksar Urdu kay saqeel alfaaz, aur hadh thaa kay Ghalib kee sha'eree kay "tukRay" ya "tota" bhee shaamil kiyay haiN.

Magar yay soachiyay, kay abhee bhee, yehee paanch maheenay peHlay, jub mairay kunbay pay ba-thor-e-rehmath aik saahabzaadhee kee wilaadhath hu'ee, thoe main nai aik bahoth mukhthasar saa barqee paighaam, yanee "e-mail", lik-haa jiss main unka naam, thareekh aur waqth-e-paida'ish darj kiyaa aur bhaijnay say peHlay, jub computer nay unwaan, yanee "Subject" pooch-haa, thoe baisaaktha theen lafz ungliyoN say keyboard aur keyboard say screen pay uthray...buss ithnaa likh dhiyaa kay "Mairay ghar ayee..." aur "Send" ka "button" dhabaa dhiyaa. [Aap logon kay radh-e-amal say pathaa chal rahaa hai, aap koe bhee bathaanay kee zaroorath nahee hai, kay mairaa ishaara kiss misray aur nazm kee tharaf hai.]

Aaj-kal kee dhuniya aisee hai kay kuch hee ghanton main aik azeez dhoasth ka Karachi kay jawaabee paighaam aaya (yay khudh bhee achchay khaasay shaa'eir haiN), jiss maiN iss andhayshay ka izhaar th-haa kay aglee nasal apnay buzurgoN say aashna'ee paa sagay ge ya nahee, toe p-hir baghair kisee zeHnee mashaqqath kay, bay-saakhthaa thoe dhoe sathray lik-h kay jawaab arsaal kiyaa, kay:

Thoo apnee ada'ein baksh inhay; main apnee wafaa'eiN dhaythaa hooN
Joe apnay liyay sochee th-heeN th-hee kabhee woe saaree du'aiNn dhaythay haiN

Jaisay humaaray aik aur dhoast keHthay th-hay, humairee poadh kay liyay zindhagee ka safar uss jagaa say shoroo hoe tha hai jahaan dhil mai khayaal yehee hoe thaa hai, kay "Main pal-dhoe pal ka sha'er hooN; pal-dhoe pal mairee kahaanee hai" aur wahaan thak jaatha hai jahaaN yay baath samaj aathee hai "Main har ik-pal ka sha'er hooN; har aik pal mairee kahaanee hai".

Hawaadhis kee iss qathaar main, jiss koe hum zindhagee kehthay hain, jub hum sha'eree sunthay ya paRhthay haiN thoe woe humaray zehnen main aksar un thajurbaath say munsalik hoe jaathee hai jin say hum guzar rahay haiN aur jin ka woe bahoth khoobee say izhar kar thee hai. Magar baqaul sakhsay, sirf wohee sha'eree iss gehree say humaree hasthee main rach-buss jaathee hai, joe thajurbaath aur aap-beethee kee bh-hatee main seenchee gayee hoe, aur p-hir khoobee-i-qalam aur zoar-e-bayaan say ehsaasaath kee aik ka'enaath koe alfaaz kay koozay main uthaar layay. Saahir ka kamaal yay hai kay un hoo nay "Paap Culture" kay mangal bazaar mai hissaa lay thay huway b-hee Urdu sha'eree kay adbee ma'yaar aur khayaalaath kee geHra'ee ka dhaaman nahee ch-hoRaa. Aur iss zaryay say, woe hamaree adbee saqaafath aur nayay dhaur kay "Paap Culture" kay dharmiyaan aik pul ka kaam dhaythay hain. Aur yay raabtha, mairee haqeer ra'ey maiN bahoth ehem hai. Hum Urdu kay sheh-da'iyoN kay liyay bhee; aur hamaaray khittay kee aam zindhagee, hamaaray "Paap Culture", kee sehath kay liyay bhee. Iss say aik tharaf humaaray hum-asar aur hum say agay aur p-heech-hay kee k'ee podh kay logon kay liyay Urdu Urdu Adab kee pooree adbee ka'eynaath thak rasa'ee ka dharwaaza k-hulthaa; aur dhoosree tharaf ek-keesweeN sadhee main "MTV" aur "Satellite" kee rangeen mehfil maiN Urdu adab aur Urdu boalnay waalon kee "microphone" thak dhastharass yaqeenee hoe thee hai.