Why would a poet of Mustafa Zaidi’s stature decide to end his life?
Thirty five years ago, Mustafa Zaidi, a poet of notable standing and a dismissed CSP officer, was found dead in Karachi’s Hotel Sumar. The mystery of his death remains unresolved to date but there is an informal consensus that he committed suicide. He was only 40-years old and had produced several outstanding, original collections of poetry. He had also tasted and fallen victim to intimacy with the state. He was married to a woman of German descent and had two children; yet his final companion was not a member of his family but Shehnaz, the last love of his life. That October day in 1970, Shehnaz was found unconscious along with Mustafa Zaidi’s dead body. His last five poems were a series titled ‘Shehnaz;’ and it is through these powerful poems that we know of the woman who was immortalised by Zaidi.
As is often the case, Zaidi started off writing in Allahabad under the pseudonym Tegh Illahbadi. His first volume was published when he was in his teens. He was a disciple of another maestro, Josh Malihabadi, and was well-known by the time he migrated to Pakistan after the partition of India. The later trajectory is also familiar: advanced studies in English literature, a brief period spent teaching and entering the civil service of Pakistan through the competitive examination. However, his poetic side thrived through the various phases and he was published regularly to mixed acclaim.