Remembering Josh Malihabadi: The poet of revolution

Today marks the 121st birthday of one of the finest Urdu poets of the 20th century, Josh Malihabadi. The year 2018-2019 is thus being marked as the 120th birthday of Josh. The last days of Josh were spent in an atmosphere reminiscent of the final years of the Chilean socialist poet Pablo Neruda; both passed away under their respective countries’ worst military dictatorships. The difference being that while no one was allowed to attend Neruda’s funeral, about a hundred-odd people did attend Josh’s funeral, led by the great socialist poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz. Josh has been christened as the ...

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Islam’s mythopoetic conundrum

One of the unique traits of the Pakistani masses in general, and the ‘intellectuals’ in particular, is the arbitrary use of concepts without exploring their epistemological basis, resulting in a collective failure to explore the true depths of the different facets of life. It also explains our unwillingness to venture into domains which have thus remained unexplored. Though religion is the preferred topic of discussion for many, we remain largely ignorant about the topic because of a reluctance to truly engage with the religious corpus. For a clear understanding of religion, it is imperative to explain the nature of religious language and critically analyse different approaches, including theology, ...

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The mystery behind Sir James Abbott’s bizarre tribute to Abbottabad

If you were to take a stroll through Lady Garden Park in Abbottabad, you would eventually come across a marble plaque on which a rather infamous poem has been inscribed. Simply titled Abbottabad, the reason the poem has garnered a certain degree of notoriety is more to do with the man who penned the poem rather than the poetic styling of the piece itself. This poetic tribute to Abbottabad was written by the very man whose name the city and district still share – Sir James Abbott. It interesting to note that unlike certain other cities in Pakistan which were named after ...

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International Translation Day: Manto’s tribute to Leonid Andreyev

Today marks International Translation Day, a powerful reminder of the importance and vitality of translation in bridging gaps between and among various cultures in a fragmenting world where it is now the exclusive province of politicians to harp on about our differences; as well as educating and informing us about a culture, its language, its cities, people, morals and manners. It is a little known fact that the great Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto began his literary journey to stardom as a translator of English, French and Russian classics into Urdu. One of his little-known literary essays is an ...

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A sublime love

Her emerald eyes They glisten by the moonlight The satin dress The olive skin The auburn hair She is the rainbow of the night   She glides across the dance floor Capturing imagination far and wide She talks in song and smiles along She is every Romeo’s Juliet delight   Like fine wine she ages Every passing year more exquisite she seems Blame us not for being unable to resist Her beauty soaring like the falcon’s flight   She is rain In a dry, drab corner of the Sahara She is warmth In mother Russia’s icy dark December She is a heart To the savage who refuses to feel She is treasure To the swindler and his impulse to steal To a broken man She ...

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A searing jeremiad from Zehra Nigah to mark the Global Climate Strike

The Global Climate Strike from September 20 to 27 led to massive marches for climate justice around the world last Friday, including one in Pakistan. Meanwhile, the fiery and moving address of the 16-year-old Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg at the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York earlier this week took the global elite by storm. Yet, in countries like Pakistan, which could face massive droughts by 2025, possibly leading to water scarcity and water wars with our neighbour India, climate change is rarely seen as a pressing matter. It is worrying that in a country like Pakistan, which is massively dependent ...

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An infallible love

A penny for your thoughts, A dollar for your words, A fortune for your loyalty, So logical yet so absurd. You are my confidant, You are my friend, You are my rainbow after the rain, You are the means to my end. I tell you my secret, With you, I trust my darkest desire, And when the night is cold and harsh, You stoke the flames of my fire. You make me more, More than I have known before, More than I can fathom, dream or conjure, Like the first time a child caresses their mother’s skin, you complete me so. I want to hold you, cherish you, And keep you in my arms, Until the bells ...

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How Kishwar Naheed and Fahmida Riaz paid tribute to feminist icon Bibi Zainab

The battle of Karbala occupies a hallowed place not only in the annals of Islam, but in the long struggle for the values of truth and justice against the tyranny of lies and injustice. In this respect, it is illuminating to consider what our Urdu poets have written over time, not about the tragedy of Karbala – for that is a time-tested topic in Urdu literature – but about the aftermath of the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (AS) and most of his family by the army of the reigning monarch, Yazid ibn Muawiya. One of the legendary moments passed ...

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September 1, 2019
 Shariq Babar
TOPICS

Snows of good intentions

There is a cross on the ground I walk, There is a cross in this snow. There are footsteps of God knows who, Tire tracks of Old Chevy Malibu’s. There’s a horizon I can’t really see, Except for what the headlights show. There are moody storms with patches of snow, But it just always seems there’s more and more and more — snow. There is blood in the snow and it shines bright and red, There are people who walk past me, behind me, In front of me — but no one notices. There is a cross on the ground, There is a cross in this snow, There is a trail of ...

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The anvil of the East

In the cold hard stare of those shanty towns, You hear the busy bikes bustling around, You hear the hearty children humming to the sounds, You see the posh Prado that does not belong, You see the glock pointed, “Sir, go along”. You might even hear screams, Hair pulling, a lover’s affair, Shoes flying, such a disgrace, beware! You see the sewage water going down the drain, You see brown earth, roads nowhere in sight. You see the cows mooing with anorexic bodies, You see the baby wiggling its nose to escape the flies, You see the boys laughing in their four-inch paradise, You see the rest dying, day and night. You see ...

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