International Urdu Conference: ‘Taboo’ was hallmark of Ghalib’s poetry
* ‘Ghalib was a was not a saint as he used to drink wine but was a great poet’
By Irfan Aligi
KARACHI: Intellectuals, writers, poets and authors of the Urdu language held a discussion with a special focus on eminent Urdu poet, Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib, on the occasion of the fourth session of the International Urdu Conference (IUC) at the Arts Council of Pakistan (ACP) in Karachi on Saturday.
The session was held in collaboration with the Bazm-e-Ghalib, Karachi.
Speaking on the occasion, the chief guest, Sindh Minister for Trade and Industry Rauf Siddiqui, said that it is a global rule of thumb that the formation of a nation is always done by writers and intellectuals, while the state can only facilitate them.
Unfortunately, the concept of a united Pakistani nation is missing in Pakistan and the Pakistani people are divided along religious, sectarian and ethnic lines. The spirit of a single united nation is observed only at time of disasters on a national scale.
Urdu was born in Punjab and flourished in Indian cities Delhi and Lucknow, claimed Siddiqui.
The IUC organizers and intellectuals have honoured Siddiqui and the Sindh government by inviting the minister to attend the IUC. Siddiqui in turn promised support and said he would do whatever he could do for the promotion of arts and culture through an an advisory team that he had constituted.
Writers, poets and intellectuals have long been divided into groups, hampering the cause of the promotion of arts, culture and intellectual activities in Pakistan, regretted Siddiqui.
Efforts have been initiated to establish an intellectuals’ fund for the welfare of intellectuals, but the division of intellectuals into groups has proved a serious hindrance, he said, adding that had the fund established, hundreds of intellectuals could have been benefited from the millions of rupees in the fund.
He said that he had pioneered the Shah Latif Bhittai Award, with prize money of Rs 100,000, the Josh Award worth Rs 50,000 and Sheikh Ayaz Award worth Rs 50,000. The Josh award was reserved for Sindhi intellectuals while the Sheikh Ayaz award was for Urdu intellectuals only.
He urged that the IUC organizers hold the IUC in Nawabshah and Sukkur, for which the Sindh Ministry of Trade and Industry will bear all expenses.
He criticized the caricatures, cartoons and anecdotal depictions of writers, poets and intellectuals by artists and actors for peoples’ amusement, which the masses have wrongly admired.
He announced Rs 100,000 for the ACP to meet IUC expenses while Jamshed Town Nazim Kamran offered Rs 250,000 as well.
Speaking at the IUC, eminent Urdu scholar Dr Aslam Farrukhi briefly said that Ghalib was a poet whose fame was initially limited but now, after his death, he is widely known, more so than any other Urdu poet.
It is difficult to end a discussion on Ghalib once it has started, claimed Farrukhi.
ACP Honorary Secretary Ahmed Shah suggested that the minister pursue the Sindh governor to form the Josh Chair at the Karachi University. Shah also requested the minister to rename Shahrah-e-Noor Jehan in North Nazimabad after Josh Malehabadi, since he had lived there.
Ghalib Institute, Delhi Director Shahid Mehalli said that his institute has so far awarded the Ghalib Award worth Rs 50,000 to over 150 Urdu intellectuals. Anjuman Tarraqqi-e-Urdu Hind President Dr Khalique Anjum focused on Ghalib’s prose in the letters that the poet had written to his friends. Dr Anjum highlighted the means of transportation available at that time as Ghalib revealed in his letters, which he used on his trips to other cities to plead his pension case with the East India Company.
Anjum also spoke of Ghalib’s childish behaviour and said that Ghalib practically used taboos against the city and people of Allahabad, a city of cultured people. He also discussed Ghalib’s extreme admiration of the city of Banaras, which Ghalib portrayed in his letters and is one of Ghalib’s landmark writings.
Anjuman Tarraqqi-e-Urdu Hind Secretary Siddiqur Rehman said that Ghalib should not be limited to the role of a poet but should be taken as the role model of cultural norms and values, which should be propagated across the world.
Former Karachi Port Trust Chairman Rear Admiral (Retd) MI Arshad said that Ghalib was a great poet but not a saint, since he was a drunkard.
Poet and writer Shahzad Ahmed said that Ghalib is a mutual asset for Indians and Pakistanis.
He said that just as it is not clear whether Einstein was the pioneer of modern science or the last of the classic scientists, so is the case with Ghalib. It is difficult to ascertain whether Ghalib was a poet of modern Urdu or the last poet of classic Urdu.
He paid tribute to Ghalib, saying that Ghalib was the Koh-e-Toor (Mount Sinai) and so the pilgrimage is compulsory for us.
Bazm-e-Ghalib Patron Tanveer Kazmi said that whenever any sitting is organized or conference is held on Ghalib, the speakers normally read papers and their theses, which do not necessarily carry detailed information about Ghalib, his poetry and prose.