Remembering the lost voice – Majeed Amjad

I was thrilled to read about Majeed Amjad‘s amazing poetry on my friend Fawad’s blog. In his post titled Majeed Amjad – The Poet Less Remembered Fawad writes:

“In the post-Iqbal era of Urdu poetry there are few greater poets than Majeed Amjad….  Even amongst the lovers of Urdu poetry his name is least likely to be recognized. Reading Majeed Amjad’s magnificent poetry I have often wondered how it is that some literary reputations get created from meager contributions but some people forever struggle to gain just acclaim.

In Majeed Amjad’s case I think it was a confluence of factors: he was a quiet, reserved introvert with no inclination for self-marketing. He lived away from the literary center of Lahore in small Punjabi towns like Sahiwal and Jhang and never had many influential advocates of his literary merits. But, perhaps more importantly, Majeed Amjad was not an ideological poet affiliated with one or the other group of literary luminaries who could beat their partisan drums on his behalf…  “

Indeed Amjad is less remembered and this is only a metaphor of what sells in the world of Urdu Literature. He was neither a cheap romanticist nor an ideological zealot. He was truly original and therefore not easily brand-able. This is why the literati has found it difficult to place him in a ‘category’.

Fawad has posted an excerpt from the first poem – Harf-i-Awwal in the only collection of verse published in Majeed’s lifetime. Here is a feeble attempt at its translation:

First Word 

From the onerous rocks of woes
I chiseled slabs to create 
pavilions of my verse, 
the bewildered sculptures of my thoughts

Even though
many songs and fables, 
numerous issues
oozed from the tip of my pen
yet the tale of this heart
locked within the heart

Unremitting endeavour of twenty years
contemplative days and insomniac nights
what was the end-result:
This very yearning for expression

And the Urdu original –

DardoN ke is koh-e-garaaN se
MeiN ne tarashi, nazm kay eewaN
ki ik ik sil,
Ik ik soch ki hairaaN moorat …

Garche qalam ki nok se tapke
Kitne tarane, kitne fasane
Lakh masaail
Dil meiN rahi sub dil ki hikayat!

Bees baras ki kaawish-e-paiham
Sochte din aur jaagti raateiN
Un ka haasil:
Aik yahi izhaar ki hasrat!

Also found this poem on the web. Apologies to non-Urdu readers as I failed to translate this one. Maybe another time..

Amjad defies the boundaries of conformism, the mainstream was nervous to acknowledge him; and state and civil society being consenting bedfellows in Pakistan conveniently chose to ignore him. He is not known because his works were deliberately under-rated and brushed aside by media, literary critics and mini-mafias that rule Urdu literature across the globe. It was only when the independent and thoughtful Professor Khawaja M Zakariya of Lahore researched for years to compile and document his works, that Amjad re-appeared. Professor Khawaja’s labour of love is a befitting tribute to the fountain of creativity that Amjad is.

Fawad concludes: 

“….. the last poem that I would like to quote in this piece is “Maqbara-e-Jahangir”. I was particularly reminded of this reading the poem Raza has posted on his blog with an allusion to Shalimar. Notice the wholly different tone of Majeed Amjad’s poem. His reaction to this beautifully historic sight is a deep sadness as he sees human beings (gardeners, people picknicking etc.) in this serene setting either struggling to get through the day or wholly oblivious to this fleeting existence.

Khurdre, maile, phate kaproN meiN boorhe maali
Yeh chaman band, jo guzre hue sultanoN ki
HaddiaN seench ke phulwariaN mehkate haiN
Ghaas kat ti hai ke din in ke kate jate haiN …

Teen sau saal se mabhoot khare haiN jo yeh sarv
In ki shakheiN haiN keh afaaq ke sheeraze haiN
Saf-e-ayyam ki bikhri hui tarteebeN haiN
In ke saaye haiN keh dhalti hui tehzeebeN haiN …

MarmareeN qabr ke ander, tahe zulmaat kahiN
Kurmak-o-Moor ke jabroN meiN salateeN ke badan
Koi dekhe, koi samjhe to is eewaN meiN jahaaN
Noor hai, husn hai, tazzayan hai, zeebaish hai
Hai to bus aik dukhi rooh ki gunjaish hai”

And Fawad: bhayya kahan hum aur kahan Majeed Amjad… Challo hamaree Shalimar kay qissay se aap ko yeh sub yaad tau aya…!


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17 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. thank you raza (and thank you fawad) for bringing majeed amjad here

    there are touches of noon meem rashid … but more of akhtar ul imaan in the urdu one

  2. Came to your blog from. onbiously, indscribe. Nice blog here.. and the byline is really nice.

    Am not a fan of Bab Bulle Shah.. just identify with that poem too much.

  3. Temporal: thanks for the comment. Yes Majeed Amjad shares the modernist tone and style with the poets you mentioned. However, his poems have a distinct flavour and often these traverse between the personal, the political and the civilizational..Will post more. Hope you were not disappointed by the translation.

    How Do We know: thanks or visiting. The line from Bulleh you posted on your blog is from a timeless poem of Bulleh Shah. If you identify with that, I strongly urge you read more of his poetry and you will relate to most of it!

  4. I am yet to find a muslim who has absolutely no taste of urdu poetry, you know someone like me 😛
    I am an idiot when it comes to shayer-o-shayeri…hoping to learn few things here 🙂

  5. Reading about Majeed Amjad is great. Actually, literary magazines in India have published him a lot. I have read a few of his nazms and was impressed.

  6. …and great to see poem in Nastaliq. The first poem of Majeed Amjad, which I had read and which I always remember is Autograph on the teenaged girls who wait for cricketers/sportspersons with autograph books in hand.
    Sharique bhai. Many Muslims are not poetry aficionados though. I work in a office where in my section there are ten people out of whom I am the only person who is Muslim.
    But four others (Hindu) are lovers of Urdu poetry and two of them (both Hindu) read and write Urdu. Incidentally the Muslim guys in other section can’t read Urdu script and don’t have interest in shaayri.
    I got interested in poetry after reading Majaz’ poetry. Your must have read/heard Aawara…

  7. enjoyed the transcreation…i may have coined this word…not sure…but have not examined it in detail wrf to the original…perhaps later

    try to avoid ‘translation’ … many reasons…most often translation is an individual’s attempt to get into the mind of the poet/writer…a double whammy…language, its intricacies and another person’s mind…transcreation affords more leeway…a more personal reinterpretation of the original….my tuppence

  8. Adnan bhai. I know urdu is not just confined to muslims but to non-muslims even. But still at least all muslim bloggers are obsessed with poetry. Same case in my family even. Never heard of Majaz 😦
    BTW Parvez Shahdi, calcutta was my grandfather. Ever heard of him?

  9. Temporal: thanks for the advice. I also liked transcreation. By the way, never heard of it before..! I agree it gives some leeway..From now on it will be transcreation..

    Interesting debate – Adnan and Sharique. You would know better than me that Urdu poetry was enjoyed by most Indians in the pre-partition era. In fact Pandit Nehru was fluent in spoken Urdu and appreciated Urdu poets and poetry.

    I agree that in blogosphere Urdu poetry is widely quoted and discussed and this is extremely encouraging. The old tradition of Mushaira and poetry gatherings is slowly being replaced by blogging on urdu poetry..
    amazing, isn’t it?

    Sharique: Parvez Shahedi – the name rings a bell? poet? Let us know more. Why not write a post on him.

  10. Sharique! I am surprised. Parvez Shahidi, he was a very unique poet. I can’t believe to have met you, his grandson.

    I think now West Bengal government announces an award in his memory every year. The literary magazine Inshaa often published him. He was well-known though lately I guess magazines haven’t published much about him. I am sure he will be re-discovered soon. I think he was senior to Sardar Jafri, Majaz and Jaanisaar.

  11. Adnan, thanks for giving the details on Shahedi. Are his poems available online? You may wish to do a piece on him on Indiscribe?

  12. Yes Adnan bhai. Infact my whole family was into urdu shaiyere. My grandmother used to write extensively for Pakeeza Anchal. Partition snatched everything from the family and i think the poverty that followed provided the fuel to shaeraana passion. My mother was then married to an engineer so you see the balanced has shifted now 🙂
    We still have the complete collection of his writings. BTW i have done one to make my ancestors proud…i was the all india topper in urdu in CBSE, class 10th 🙂

  13. Raza
    I really can’t but i promise, the next time i go home, i will dig in all the details

  14. Very nice post. I love the urdu poetry that is always touching. Well done

  15. All India Topper! That’s really an achievement. Honoured to know you 🙂 Really.
    I searched through my collections of anthologies and books but unfortunately couldn’t find any of your grandfather’s works. But I have them somewhere. Actually most of my books are in Lucknow. Khair. I hope you would publish some of his ghazals on your blog.

  16. Beautiful. I thought your translation was quite impressive as well. Keep it up.

  17. Majeed Amjad z gr8 poet …Luv his Poetry..

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