Mustafa Zaidi – A poet remembered 2/9

Inappropriate as it may sound, I have always been fascinated by Zaidi’s death, particularly by his apparent decision to end himself. Perhaps a sub-conscious death wish in me finds this such an alluring case. In real terms, Pakistan lost a fine civil servant and an unsung poet whose stature could be belittled only by a society as dysfunctional as ours. I have followed his path: in Dera Ghazi Khan, where he served as the sub-divisional magistrate; in the medieval resort of Fort Munroe, where he spent his summer, working away and composing verse; and all the places in the inimitable Murree hills. I have had a chance to stay in proximity of where he lived in Murree. For years, I have studied him in order to appreciate the intricacies of his inner universe. Would I be melodramatic in proclaiming that during this Zaidi trail, I have heard the echoes of his anguish, observed flashes of his infinite genius and traces of his apparent hedonism?

Wherever I have been, culturally endowed locals ascribe the following couplet to the houses in which he lived:

“Traverse these stones, if you can, to reach me
The path to my house is not studded by a galaxy.”

Cont. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]

Published on July 25, 2006 at 6:20 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. Further to your comments above,please consider the following facts :
    1)Mustafa Zaidi’s letter dated 8th October,1970 (four days before his death) to his wife Vera Zaidi,who had taken his two childen to Germany:
    “My dear Vera,
    At this moment,I am not thinking of anyone but you and the game destiny is playing with our lives…….How long is this going to be stretched? Both you and I are helpless……Apparently,they are playing for time,because every time their answer is evasive and new (NOTE: he was trying to obtain permission to leave the country to join his family in Germany)…..I never thought there was so much callousness in the world.I have been wayy from you and my children for 6 months.I have lived a life of misery,ignominy and harasment,and now I am being penalized for not having accepted money from a Brigadier’s brother.
    Please try to take it calmly.If you can do anything about it,so much better.If not,please endure the suffering also.Let’s not allow ourselves to be destroyed.Perhaps,when children have vacations,you three can come here for a while….”

    2)Mustafa Zaidi’s nephew Shahid Raza was one of the last persons to see Mustafa Zaidi alive on Monday,October12th,1970.He remembers that Zaidi had not seemed any more or less distubed than usual that day.Also, Mustafa Zaidi helped his chowkidar Mohammad Iqbal to wash his car (Note : Very unusual behaviour for someone who is contemplating suicide!)

    3)In a news item dated March 20th,1971,The newspaper ‘DAWN’ reported as below under the heading ‘Evidence of Zaidi’s nephew recorder’:
    “Mr.Shahid Raza said that there were signs of struggle having taken place in the room in which his uncle’s body was discovered last October 12.He was testifying in the Court of the District Magistrate,Mr.Kunwar Idris,in the committal trial of Mrs.Shahnaz Saleem.wife of Mr.Saleem Khan,who is charged with the murder of Mr.Zaidi.
    Mr.Raza deposed that he entered the residence of his late uncle on the morning if Tuesday,October 13,after learning of the latter’s death…..He saw that it (the body) was lying on the bed.The telephone receiver was off the hook and was dangling on the other side of the body,with the cord stretched across the body.
    Caked blood could be seen just below the nostrils and there were other blood stains on the bed-sheets and the pillows.The sheets were scattered about the room,and some other articles,such as a settee had also been over-turned.Nepthelene balls were scattered on and beneath the body.

    Question :While I often come across the conjecture that Mustafa Zaidi had committed suicide (and certainly it is the more ‘romantic’ version),I find this version hard to believe ,because;
    a) Does a man wash his car just before killing himself?
    b) There were reported suicide attempts when he was young but none were successful because he always made sure that he informed someone who could ‘save’ him in time. They were,perhaps, more attention seeking attempts than serious suicide attempts.
    c)While the letters Zaidi wrote to his family right before his death seem to be written by someone who was very upset,they do not seem to be written by someone who was suicidal.He was actively working on getting to Germany.He had sent his nephew,Shahid Raza,the same day on a task to find about the location of the Pakistan Consulate in Germany.

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