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An Autobiographical Note- Tryst With Progressive Writers.




Tryst with Progressive Writers


Our childhood, in many ways, was the antithesis of William Henry Davies famous poem ‘Leisure’ in which he laments;

 ‘What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare,

We had a lot of time to stand and stare, and watch a thrush singing in the bush, look for cuckoo’s eggs in bulbuls’ nests in the ivies cloaking neighbor’s house and chase swallows flying on the deserted streets long distances- sometimes a couple of furlongs. Truthfully, we had the luxury of leisure, long winter vacations, good summer breaks, and long sojourns after-examinations. Those days, after appearing for class eight examination popularly called ‘middle’   conducted by the School Board’, we had to wait for about two months for the results, so was true about the matriculation examinations then held by the University. The long holidays often took me to gossip with friends on a largely traffic-free roundabout in our mohalla, and shopfronts. One of my favorite rendezvous was sitting inside a calligrapher-cum-booksellers shop and reading Urdu novels. The shop was often visited by poets and writers, it was at this shop that I first time heard words like ‘progressive movement’, ‘progressive poets’ and ‘progressive writers’.  I had read quite a few Urdu novelists, even parroted some poetry, but        I could not appreciate why they prefixed word ‘progressive’ with writers and poets. A writer or a poet for me was one, who artistically gave music to words to communicate his feelings and ideas melodiously and harmoniously. Moreover, I saw prefixing or suffixing their names with labels ludicrous and absurd. 

It was many years after, in 1971, when I came to know two young poets Shafi Shauq and Gulshan Majid that I once again got interested in the phrase ‘progressive-poets.’ The duo often sang songs of two of my favorite poets Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Sahir Ludhianvi, it was they who informed me the two were ‘progressive’ poets and were part of the progressive writer’s movement. Nonetheless, the names of poets associated with this movement in Kashmir for having sung paeans for bête noire Khrushchev and Bulganin on their visit to Srinagar denounced by people as ‘Russian bugs’ and deserters.  Russia had vetoed resolution of Kashmir in United Nations.

Notwithstanding, the dubious role played by some prominent poets and writers of this tribe in the Kashmir, the Urdu literature produced by the top progressive writers was widely read by boys and girls in our generation. Names of some Urdu writers for their bold and beautiful writings had got embossed on our minds, even on the mere mention of their names the titles of their works instantly like corn inside a popcorn-maker popped up from the hinterland of our minds.

Most, of the progressive poets and fiction writers, had chosen Bombay now Mumbai as their home and had got associated with cinema. In the second week of February 1983 I was transferred and posted in Bombay, the posting despite dislocation from home had its excitement on many counts-   topping them all was getting an opportunity to meet some important progressive writers- many of them  were still calling shots as men of letters, lyricists, and filmmakers.

It was perhaps, my third day in office on the fourth floor in  Chicago Building, Kala Ghoda, an important area of the metropolis known for a number of heritage buildings, museums, art galleries, educational institutions- in fact, cultural and commercial hub of India. Suddenly, sling door of my chamber opened and a tall man, with thick gray hair split in the middle, a bit stub-nosed entered my room. I offered him a chair. Much before, he would introduce himself, he pointed towards a six by four blow up of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah with his finger pointing towards an Urdu quatrain, the name of the poet was not mentioned. The verses read: 

Mai jaha’n tumko bulaata hun waha’n tak aao
Meri nazrun se guzarkar dil o jaa’n tak aao
Hosla ho to udo meray tassavur ki tarah
Saath meray’ meoray firdous e jawa’n tak aao

In 1976, the state was flooded with such hoardings and these were prominently displayed in every office of the state.  He asked me whose verses are these, I instantly replied these could be of Iqbal. Blood ran into his face, he used foul language against the then Director Information who had used these verses for the hoarding without mentioning name of the poet and    told me, these are my verses and I am Ali Sardar Jafri………….. (To be concluded)


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