From Germany with love
There is nothing better than a literary magazine that is published regularly
By Dr Abrar Ahmad
Jadid Adab: Issue: 13
Editor: Haider Qureshi and Dr Nazar Khaleeq
Publisher: 65795-Hattersheim, Germany
Pages 352
Price: not mentioned
Jadid Adab is a literary magazine published in Germany, which is available both in book form and on the internet. The editor Haider Qureshi is a notable poet and prose writer with eleven books to his credit. A devoted author and a seasoned campaigner, Qureshi continues to render tremendous services to the Urdu lovers living abroad.

Zia Mohyeddin column  
"Who's in who's out…"
You probably know the results by now, but I write this a couple of days before Britain goes to the polls. In all the years that I have spent in England I have never known an election in which millions of people have not made up their minds about who to vote for until today.

 

 

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Building a new world

When Ali Akbar Natiq's own story creatively converges with the story of literature…

By Farah Zia

Not exactly a rags-to-riches tale, Ali Akbar Natiq's story is unique in its own way. He is a master storyteller whose own life is stuff that literature is made of. His poems are a product of a lived experience along with a good knowledge of tradition and a refreshing diction. The best part is these are his poems and stories; absolutely original and aesthetically sound. His creative endeavours are brimming with life; perhaps this is what makes him so authentic.

Natiq has been noticed in the literary circles only recently, after his poems and stories were carried in respected literary journals Aaj and Duniyazad. They got surprisingly good reviews. They almost took the literary world by storm. An attempt to get his photograph to run with one of the reviews gave some interesting insights into the man. The gentleman who emailed his photo informed that Natiq is a grade-15 employee in the ministry of Education in the capital. The curiosity was further aroused. In the true spirit of journalism, the interest in the man preceded an interest in his work. I spoke to him on telephone and we agreed to meet once he came to Lahore.

The meeting with the writer happened sooner than I had expected and before I actually got a chance to read his works. It turned into an interview of sorts; an interview that proceeded in two different directions and for obvious reasons. I asked him questions I would ask an established writer because I knew he had already been published in reputed journals. In addition, I asked him about how he got to the point of recognition where he currently stands.

Meeting Ali Akbar Natiq is a surprise. He is unexpectedly young and good-looking -- not exactly in the image of a short-story writer. He appears too confident for a creative person and has an opinion about everything concerning literature. Aware of the praise showered on him by literary critics, he seems to be enjoying the attention. However, the best of surprises is reserved for his own story that begins in a village called 32-2L in what was then Sahiwal district (now it is in Okara district). It was demarcated as a model village during the British Raj, which meant the village had all the urban facilities including a big school, a dispensary and a union council office right in front of his house whose foundation was laid by none other than Mustafa Zaidi who was deputy commissioner Sahiwal. The union council had a big library too.

Natiq inherited a love for books from his grandfather and father. "I had started reading all the books in that union council library when I was in grade 4 or 5. These were Urdu literary classics. The environment around me was ideal -- all basic facilities as well as nature." Just the right environment for creative expression, I ask. "Yes but I didn't know as a child if I would become a writer. I read whatever reading material I got hold of. I read through the entire union council as well as my school library. My father went to Iraq and Kuwait as a labourer and brought back Arabic books. This is how I became interested in Arabic literature. I very much liked the Arabic qaseeda with symbols of desert etc. My poems carry Arabic metaphors."

Nehjul Balagha by Hazrat Ali is the greatest work of literature, in his view. "Arabic literature is so rich and full of fresh ideas and thoughts; the narrative descriptions are wonderful even in translations." Then he got Abdur Rehman Soorti's Arbi Adb ki Tareekh that he read with interest.

He could not have survived on reading alone. Being the eldest among his siblings, he had to contribute to the household income in order to avoid starvation. After doing his matriculation, he started working as a mason. Artistically inclined, he specialised in making domes and minarets of mosques mostly. Nothing could go wrong with a line once Natiq drew it. Where an ordinary mason charged Rs200, he would demand and get Rs400 or more. Once he started to work, the family forgot what hunger was. As for him, he continued to read and proceed with formal studies, doing his FA and BA privately, alongside his mason's work. He did compose many a poem while working on those domes in Kasur and Pattoki and all adjoining areas where he was especially called because he was so good.

While struggling with life, he even did his masters in Urdu literature privately. "Literature came so easy. I had always been the highest scorer in Urdu." When did he start writing formally? "I wrote my first story when I was in first year. I did not send it for publication. I thought I needed to read a lot more." He still has what he calls "a complete story" and thinks it needs some work before it is ready for publication.

There was no one to guide Natiq and he read all the classics of Urdu poetry and prose, even though randomly. In poetry, he started first with Anees, Dabir, Mir Taqi Mir, Sauda and Ghalib. "I loved Ghalib and there was a time when I knew the entire diwan by heart." Then he read Iqbal and he liked him more as a poet than a philosopher. "Ghalib is certainly a greater poet than Iqbal. After Iqbal, I have been most impressed by Meeraji and Noon Meem Rashed. Along with them, I like Majid Amjad and some poems of Faiz. Faiz has repeated himself a lot. Majid Amjad, on the other hand, has not repeated himself and has defended his culture. He has talked about the same level in which he existed." Isn't that for the reader to judge? "Yes if you have a discerning eye, you will immediately notice whether it is sincere to the cause. You are most emphatic about something you have experienced yourself. Then I like nazms of Akhtar Husain Jafri and Akhtarul Iman. In contemporary times, I have been impressed by the nazm and ghazal of Iftikhar Arif."

In prose, Maulana Mohammad Hussain Azad impressed him and he read Aaabe Hayat about eight times. Then he read the novel Umrao Jaan by Hadi Ruswa about four times. He read Deputy Nazir Ahmed "for the sake of language alone" and then shifted his attention to more recent writers like Qurattulain Hyder, Ashfaq Ahmed, Bano Qudsia and many more. "As you keep reading good literature, with time you can tell the good from the bad. My critics complain they could not understand the `problem' in my writings. I say to them it is not important to have a problem in literature. Literature per se is a problem. I have been a labourer for twenty years, which has added to my experience, but I do not want to always depict a labourer as the oppressed; sometimes a mazdoor is also an oppressor. Likewise, some feudals are soft-hearted and then some characters can both be oppressors and oppressed at the same time. Literature is complex like life. You have to move forward as life does."

Natiq's tale of resounding success is about one and half year old. Iftikhar Arif was the first person to appreciate his poem -- a ghazal -- in a mushaira. He gave him space in the Academy of Letters -- he was made incharge of the library. The poets around him did not think much of his nazms and said they were not like "ordinary poems" or that they were "non-poems". In Lahore, he met Ziaul Hasan who heard his poems and was quite impressed. He asked him to send them to some literary journals and gave him a few addresses. "I sent four poems to Dr Asif Farrukhi. After four five days he called and said these were very good poems and I should send him more. He then carried ten of my poems in Duniyazad and that created quite a stir."

Someone sarcastically remarked he should try sending his short stories to Aaj. "I did precisely that. I then got a call from the editor Ajmal Kamal who asked me to send more of them and he published all five. The literary circles were taken by surprise. Some editors tried to scare me and asked me to stop writing. I got appreciatory letters from Shamsur Rahman Faruqi, Fehmida Riaz and Saleemur Rehman. Many of the journals that discouraged me earlier on were now ready to publish even my published works."

It's been three years since he moved to the capital. These days Natiq teaches at a boys' college in I-8 Islamabad and runs a bookshop called Mirza Ghalib Kitab Markaz in the evenings. When Iftikhar Arif was replaced by Fakhar Zaman as chairman Academy of Letters, conditions were such that Natiq had to leave. Through a friend's help, he ended up in the ministry of education where he asked for a teaching assignment instead of the dull office work. He is thoroughly enjoying his teaching job as well as the bookshop business, which has become more of a literary adda where all poets converge in the evenings for tea and discussion.

Natiq has picked up material from his own soil, "especially the Punjab's soil". What is the writing process like for him? "I think in this life there is enough intellect; we don't have to bring it from outside. All you have to do is pick the characters from real life and bring out the essence of that intellect aesthetically. My stories exist and ripen in the mind as I go about doing my work. Therefore, this entire thinking process takes time, but I do not need a lot of time to actually write the story."

"The writer should keep himself away and let the characters breathe and act on their own, according to their nature. Those who manage to do that become great short story writers," he elaborates.

His poetry is simple just like his prose and is rooted in the soil. "It is most difficult to write simple prose. You can use the language adequately only if have absorbed the whole culture and tradition."

In poetry, he is opposed to using modern diction just for the sake of it. "Some poets like to use mechanical words like computer, missile, hydrogen bomb, but along with words there is a sense that one absorbs after centuries. Till such point that such diction is accepted by the society, it cannot be used in poetry. While bringing one word into another language, we will have to see if it is not disturbing the aesthetics of poetry. Poetry is all about aesthetics; philosophy comes afterwards. These days, people tend to lay more stress on the philosophical aspect." A truly modern poet, he says, is one who picks up his subject in a way that "as soon as he utters the first line, the reader is with him. The reader keeps getting surprised at every line and still understands everything."

About the literary history of this region, Natiq is absolutely dismissive of the Progressive Writers Movement. "All the genuine writers like Faiz, Qasmi, Sajjad Zaheer, Zaheer Kaashmiri, who joined the movement were all established writers before they became a part of this movement. Others did not produce a single great work of literature because they would identify a problem first and then write about it. It was all sloganeering, nothing better than a politician's speech. I think every piece of literature contains a progressive thought within. My short-story Qaim Din is also progressive. There are issues other than poverty and feudalism. These progressive writers sit in a drawing room, make a manifesto, announce it and discuss it in the same drawing room till the next speech. They haven't even observed the poor people closely."

Finally, how has success affected him and his writings? "No I don't think I am a great writer yet. Now I am more careful so that I do not write anything substandard. I want to work harder on my nazms and short stories." Meanwhile everything is going right for Natiq as he awaits the publication of an Ali Akbar Natiq Number in India and a collection of his stories and poems here in Pakistan. Construction of ideas and brilliant ones at that, he certainly has come a long way.

 

Email: ramisj@gmail.com

 

From Germany with love

There is nothing better than a literary magazine that is published regularly

By Dr Abrar Ahmad

 

Jadid Adab: Issue: 13

Editor: Haider Qureshi and Dr Nazar Khaleeq

Publisher: 65795-Hattersheim, Germany

Pages 352

Price: not mentioned

 

Jadid Adab is a literary magazine published in Germany, which is available both in book form and on the internet. The editor Haider Qureshi is a notable poet and prose writer with eleven books to his credit. A devoted author and a seasoned campaigner, Qureshi continues to render tremendous services to the Urdu lovers living abroad.

Its thirteenth issue (July-December 2009) has recently reached selected readers in Pakistan, since circulation on a wider scale is no easy task and Qureshi bitterly expresses his difficulties in carrying out a profitless project single-handedly and rightly so.

In the section of essays/criticism, Mirza Khalid Beg writes with command on the famous linguistic expert Professor Masood Hussain Khan on his 90th birthday. Khan is widely known for his extremely valuable book Muqaddama-e-Tarikh-e-Zuban-e-Urdu published in 1948 for the first time and which still retains its relevance today. Nazar Khaleeq (the honorary editor) writes on the ideological stance of Allama Iqbal. In another good article, Murtaza Ather correctly identifies and explains the enviable growth and commitment of the luminous Fehmida Riaz with specific reference to her recent collection Aadami Ki Zindagi.

Muzaffar Hanafi, Ayub Khawar, Kawsih Partapgadhi and Rauf Khair are impressive in the section that deals with ghazal, but Mubashar Saeed, with his two entrancing pieces, outshines the others, registering himself as a promising poet of contemporary sensibility with a neo-classical touch. Wazir Agha and Musarat Zaheer's poems are good and penetrating. Six poems by Satya Paul Anand deserve specific mention here since these pieces are intense and crafty emitting an aroma so peculiar to Anand.

Rashid Amjad, Anwar Zahidi and Moahmmad Hameed Siraj offer some unique subtle short stories.

Special sections on Sultan Jamil Nasim and Abdullah Javed occupy the main bulk of the magazine. Mirza Adeeb, Intizar Hussain, Mushfiq Khawaja and many others have written on them. The two have been present on the literary scene for almost six decades now. Such a life long performance definitely deserves an organised and serious evaluation, but a valid question arises here: who qualifies for such an honour and who is qualified to decide? Putting aside the actual stature of the two, one cannot help concluding that this choice rests entirely with the editor.

This issue of Jadid Adab had a lasting impact on me owing to a section on Anwaar Ahmad. He was one of my closest friends during our youth along with Mohammad Khalid, Akram Mahmood and Jameel-ur-Rehman. Unfortunately, he met a sudden accidental death at the age of thirty. Obviously, he did not find enough time, but whatever he wrote was haunting. As a focused and somewhat introvert poet, he seldom preferred to recite or get himself published. Those days we used to occasionally visit the ever-hospitable Wazir Agha, in Wazir Kot -- who always lavished praise on him. He enjoyed an identical relation with Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi. After graduation, he desperately needed a job. Agha and Qasmi extended help and strongly recommended him to Ibne Insha and Mushtaq Ahmad Yousufi who finally inducted him in UBL as an officer.

I am a direct witness to the creation of almost each couplet of the thirteen exceptionally beautiful ghazals included in the journal. The editor adds a passionate introductory note of appreciation and recognition. This is undoubtedly a great service to literature and I am personally indebted to Qureshi for the honourable gesture.

Jadid Adab remains the only magazine being regularly published and Haider Qureshi definitely deserves our gratitude for serving the cause of Urdu literature with grace and untiring zest.

 

Jadid Adab is also available online at www.jadeedadab.com

 

 

Zia Mohyeddin column

"Who's in who's out…"

You probably know the results by now, but I write this a couple of days before Britain goes to the polls. In all the years that I have spent in England I have never known an election in which millions of people have not made up their minds about who to vote for until today.

In the polls that one Tory paper has conducted Labour's support has crashed to twenty four percent, the lowest in approximately a hundred years. Does this then make a clear way for the Tories? Not necessarily. The country is firmly on course for the paralysis of a hung parliament.

It is the concerted view of political analysts that the country is famished for change. The man who embodies that attribute is Nick Clegg (the leader of the Liberal Democratic party) in a way that the conservative party leader cannot hope to equal. Clegg's rise to political power has irritated the two main parties. Nobody is in any doubt that Clegg is poised to shatter Britain's traditional two party system.

Poor Labour. They are in a tizz. Until last night they have not been able to do anything to turn this election around. The man who is single handedly responsible for the downfall of Labour, the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed Tony Blair when asked about what he thought about Labour's chances said, rather hesitantly, "I think we can still win if the election were about politics," a pseudo-profundity if ever there was one.

The Labour candidate in the constituency where I lived for two decades, a lady called Gisella Stuart, is not plugging for the Labour or socialist stance as much as "Vote for me" -- I have the guts to go against the party line' angle. In the letter that was pushed through my front door a few days ago she writes, "I think for myself. When push comes to shove you come first. On every big occasion I listen to you first. I then ask 'What's right for the people? If that means occasionally going against my party then that's what I will do." Ah well!

**********

Rowan Atkinson had appeared in a number of television shows before breaking through as one quarter of the team behind Not the Nine O'Clock News first broadcast over the BBC over thirty years ago. The irreverent sketch show was a sensational success and it opened the door for alternative comedy on television.

Today, Rowan Atkinson is known to millions of viewers throughout the world as the gormless goon, known as Mr. Bean, who can never walk or sit or drive without creating an absolute havoc, a persona exactly opposite to what he is in real life -- a deep-thinking, deep-caring individual. Last year he created a tremendous stir in the West-End playing Fagin in Oliver, a musical based on Dickens' famous novel, Oliver Twist.

Atkinson is famous for his reluctance to step into the public and has always avoided the kind of exposure in the press that usually accompanies the kind of success he has enjoyed. One issue, however, has drawn him into the public arena again and again over recent years -- freedom of speech. He has been a vigorous campaigner against the Labour government's attempt to restrict free speech through bills such as 'The Race and Religious Hatred Bill' which would effectively have made it a crime to make fun of, or satirise, any religious belief.

Many people accused him of racism. He was quick to point out that he was entirely opposed to racism. It was ridiculous and patently irrational, he said, to criticise someone because of their race, but he believed that the freedom to criticise ideas -- whether they were articles of faith or not -- was and should remain a basic right in a free society.

The Bill, as it was first proposed, would have potentially made any criticism of religious belief a criminal offence. Rowan Atkinson felt that this would have been intimidating and would put pressure on writers and performers. "Religious belief," he kept on insisting, were ideas -- however deeply held -- could not be immune from criticism. "The right to offend" he stated, "seems to be far more important than the right of tiny minorities of religious fundamentalists not to be offended." Hats off to him.

**********

An amazing trial has just ended with a romantic verdict. Movie-makers will no doubt get busy approaching the hottest screenplay writers to turn out a script that fills the gaps in the story.

The story centres around a Da Vinci masterpiece that was stolen a few years ago. As audacious heists go, it was one of the most daring in British history. The painting, dating to about 1501, depicts the Madonna with the infant Jesus holding a crown-shaped yarn winder, said to symbolise the crucifixion. The Madonna of the Yarnwinder belonged to the Duke of Buccleuch, one of Britain's richest landowners. The painting itself was valued at anything from £30million to £50 million.

According to The Times the duke was shattered when axe-wielding robbers wrestled the painting from the wall of his ancestral home during a guided tour. He was desperate to regain the Madonna, an heirloom which had been in his family for over two hundred and fifty years. It is believed to be one of only twenty Leonardo Da Vinci paintings left in existence. The duke offered a substantial reward to no avail. The robbers were never traced; the duke died heart-broken.

Four years after he died, the painting mysteriously re-appeared in a solicitor's office in Glasgow. As a result, three solicitors and two private investigators were accused of being part of a sinister plot to extort £ 4 million, the reward for the safe return of the painting.

In their defence the accused told the court that upon hearing of the stolen painting they had contacted a solicitor to see if they could get it back legally and to find out if any award existed. It was just something they wanted to do because it was a good thing to do.

The jury was told to decide whether the actions of the five men amounted to a criminal enterprise or were they the good Samaritans who deserved praise for achieving a masterpiece that the police had not been able to do. The jury deliberated for eight hours and decided in favour of the accused.

Speaking outside the court the two private investigators suggested that far from being punished for their role they should be praised. They had done something that nobody else could do. "We got offered a reward" one of them told the press, "we got the painting back. Where is the reward?"

 

 

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