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'Mustafa Zaidi outgrew rhetoric'.

Byline: Peerzada Salman

KARACHI -- Mustafa Zaidi is one of the mind-bogglingly under-discussed Urdu poets. So, it wasn't a surprise to see a good number of poetry lovers attending a programme at T2F on Saturday evening held to highlight his life and work.

It was also nice to see the late poet's daughter Ismat Zaidi taking part in the event. She spoke in English and with a great amount of affection for her father. She said he was a special person. She called herself one of the luckiest people on earth to have shared moments of her life with him, albeit not for a long period, and now had the chance to share those memories with the audience. Her father was loving, generous and a genius in his own way, she said. Ms Zaidi said her parents met in England when Mr Zaidi was at Oxford. Her mother at the time was very young and he proposed to her 'very soon'. He then went to Germany to seek her mother's permission who gave the permission on one condition: she wanted her daughter to come back and live with her in Germany for a year and prepare herself for the 'transition' to Pakistan. And if both of them were still sure of marriage, she'd give them her blessing.

Ms Zaidi said her father wanted the best of education for his children. He loved his children, and whether he was a good husband was for his wife [her mother] to say. She also spoke about some of the difficult times that the family went through and then read out a few letters that her father wrote to her mother. They were a moving account of the life that the family lived, and for lovers of Urdu literature introduced a new aspect of Mr Zaidi's life to them.

Poet Iftikhar Arif, who had flown in from Islamabad to participate in the programme, said it was poet Naseer Turabi who introduced him to Mr Zaidi. The first time he met the poet, though, was when PTV held its first mushaira. Zaidi had come with the 'paraphernalia' of an officer. Then came the time when the late poet was out of the authorities' good graces but he [Arif] didn't know about it. Therefore in the holy month of Muharram, Mr Arif recited one of Zaidi's marsias, which made his bosses inquire about it.

Quoting Ezra Pound, Mr Arif said we should not be talking about painters but instead focus on their paintings. If we started discussing how many emperors Hazrat Amir Khusrau tried to please, then we would lose our way. However, in order to understand our contemporaries, it was necessary to know about their lives. And yet, there was very little written about the poets, especially those who did not leave India after partition, such as Akhtarul Iman and Majaz, despite their valuable work in literature.

Mr Arif said Mr Zaidi was an aesthete, he was fond of beautiful faces. 'I could tell from his poetry the various facets of his romantic personality. He was not a womaniser. His association with Shahnaz [a woman with whom his relationship became known in literary circles] was just one year of the 40 years of his life. But there's intensity in it.'

Mr Arif said in his early days Mr Zaidi wrote under the influence of Josh with an element of rhetoric in his verses. 'But he outgrew rhetoric. Rhetoric is part of poetry, not poetry.' Literature should be literature first and then anything else. A bad poet could not last for long; only those sustained who had something substantial in them. He added that in his view Mr Zaidi's poem 'Aakhri Baar Milo' was one of the noteworthy poems in Urdu literature.

Dr Nargis Salim read out the poet's letters that he wrote to her father who was a close friend of the poet.

Nusrat Zaidi, the poet's cousin, shared his views on the poet's life.

Khalid Ahmed recited a few of Mr Zaidi's poems, beginning with the nazm 'Be Samti'.

Asif Farrukhi moderated the event.
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Publication:Dawn (Karachi, Pakistan)
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Feb 19, 2018
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