Ambreen Salahuddin is one of the best women poets from recent times I have read. All About Pakistan team met Ambreen at her residence to interview her. Ambreen Salahuddin proved to be a great host. She welcomed us into her artistically set home with a welcoming smile. The poet in her is too visible. No wonder Ambreen has proved herself to be one of the finest poets in Urdu language in recent times. Ambreen Salahuddin completed her graduation from Lahore College for Women Lahore. She holds an MA in Philosophy and another in History, both from University of the Punjab. She is working on her Ph.D as of now. Ambreen Salahuddin has published three books so far. Her first book, “Sar-e-dasht-e-gumaan” was published in 2004. This book was awarded the best first book award by PEN. In 2005 Ms. Salahuddin published “Feminism in modern Urdu poetesses (1857-2000). Her latest collection of her poetry “Sadiyon Jaise pal” was published in 2014.
After settling down and exchanging pleasantries, we got down to business. Famous Urdu poet Ambreen Salahuddin had very clear and well defined answers for all our questions. “Exactly how is one to draw the parallel between women and poetry?” she says. “This here, is a question that has been explicated for the longest time. Because where on the one hand we often allude to the basic difference in ‘intellectual level’ between men and women of this art, it is also seen that whenever we speak of Urdu poetry, numerous female names seem to dominate. Although women are proven to be ‘more creative’, still today we don’t see too many successful names which could prove this creativity right. Thus I never understood the question. No, I don’t blame the society; this is simply a preoccupation of our times.”
Ambreen believes that the women who really stand out are those who a) have ample time to invest in the art and b) those who ‘ride solo’. She mentions, for instance, the name of Quratulain Haider which strikes her as such, suggesting that indeed, those who function as a sole entity are the ones who really make it big. “I mean, if Lata Mangeshkar sings for an audience, there is no mention of any Asha Usha”, for each stands alone as an equally powerful force.
According to her, in today’s era, the majority does not write well-not as good as it used to be. Urdu poetry in recent times has evolved, and so have the poets. This, however, is truer for men than it is for women, popular Urdu poet Ambreen Salahuddin says. Often the future of literary art was anticipated and rather dreaded, for it was said that the art would be left devoid of afsanas, ghazals- that even the language (‘zubaan’) would not hold the same power. “There has definitely been a change, a change in words, in references, even names. But perhaps another ten to twenty years, and we’ll know for sure what change have really taken place. At this very moment it would be slightly difficult to spot a Ghalib here and a Faiz there from amongst the hundreds of artists.” This is not how it works, says Ambreen.
Ambreen Salahuddin goes on to say that indeed, Art does not progress like science; a man’s art dies with his last breath. Sure the legacy remains, it ought to remain, and that’s how it is. Often in Faiz’s technique we see a little bit of Ghalib surfacing and just like this, there are countless who attempt to employ such techniques within their own work. But language and technique aside, the real question, according to her, still remains. “Who are you? The amount of effort you have put will be rendered utterly useless if it fails to ‘affect’ the reader. What’s more important than language and technique is ‘taasur’, the impact.
Speaking of impact, Ambreen Salahuddin talked about the sharp decline in Ghazal singing. “Where at one time,” she said, “Mehdi Hassan, Iqbal Bano, Farida Khanum and such maestros worked towards expanding and popularizing the trend, what appears now is that this is one legacy that no one seems to want to pursue”. She believes that this is perhaps because there’s an evident lack of credible artists (as far as ghazals are concerned), and even if they are present, there isn’t anyone to guide these poor souls.
At one time, the Golden Age of art perhaps, connectivity was the norm but now this is not so. “With the poet working elsewhere and the afsana (story) writer somewhere else, each seems to be too immersed in his own line of work, drawing certain boundaries between these facets of art which in reality are all interconnected.” And so she feels that perhaps this is another reason for the decline of the ghazal legacy- lack of connectedness. The culture is unaware of its most vibrant poets, and the nation does not know what incredible artists exist. No one knows anyone.
Upon being asked as to whether she plans on doing some ‘afsana’ writing, she said that the idea has crossed her mind numerous times but as yet she has not done any writing. When asked about how she decides if a piece of poetry or an afsana is written well or not, Ambreen Salahuddin replied that “the only thing that matter to me is impact. In a lighter tone it is sometime said that everyone finds some audience for whatever art they have. But that is not long lasting. Ghalib is still Ghalib because of the quality of his art”.
“There is a word that is often used in the field of art, ‘originality’.” The audience, she says, plays a very vital role. One’s work must be targeted for that specific original audience and this piece of work could either make you or break you, hence “it is very important to consider the audience- quality pe no compromise”
Ambreen Salahuddin quotes Mehboob Khizan’s couplet,
“baat ye hai k aadmi shayar
ya tau hota hai, ya nahi hota”,
That is, a man either is a poet, or he simply isn’t. Famous Urdu poet Ambreen Salahuddin believes that if you have the drive to write or pursue your art, then you find ways to ‘manage life’. “I am currently doing my thesis for PhD and I am teaching at the same time, but my routine does not collide at any point, in fact, I feel like 24 hours is a lot for me to further fit in 2-3 more things to do.”
Speaking of female writers, Ambreen says that many of the recent credible writers are female- “Kamila Shamsie”, for instance is a brilliant writer who has written mostly in English language. She feels that females have been always restricted to a specific class, and whenever a woman expresses herself, she breaks the stereotype because expressing in itself is going against the tide, and for it to be done by a woman is definitely something. And the next step, she deems, is that of sharing and spreading awareness, because that is what this society lacks. Once more Ambreen Salahuddin, the famous Urdu Poet alludes to ‘originality’- originality in expressing oneself. “You are an individual, and that is what you will express.” Ambreen ends on this very note, that it is your individual idea that you must express, the original ‘ingredients’ are what must come out.
After an interesting and very informative evening with Ambreen Salahuddin, we left her residence. We Wish Ambreen all the best and we are for sure waiting for her next collection of poetry.
Pakistan has a rich literary background and is a home to numerous talented Authors and Poets. Here are a few Authors and Poets from Pakistan. Read more..
Jaun Ailya was born on the 14th of December 1931 and produced wonderful pieces of art until his demise in 2002 on the 8th of November. He was not only a distinguished Urdu poet but he was also a philosopher, biographer and scholar. He was not the only creative one in his family, his brother; Rais Amrohvi was a well-known journalist and philosopher. His other brother, Syed Muhammad Taqi was a very popular Psychoanalyst as well as a journalist. Jaun Ailya married Zahida Hina who was a very popular columnist. Jaun Ailya other than possessing all these abilities and such a rich background, he also had an exceptional ability to speak various languages, some which included Arabic, English, Persian, Sanskrit and Hebrew.
His Literary Work
Jaun Ailya had just the right environment at house to develop his abilities that he possessed. He was so inspired and motivated that he composed his first Urdu couplet just at the age of 8. His first poetry collection, titled as “Shayad” which is an Urdu word for “maybe”, published in 1991. At that time he was 60 years of age. The preface to his book can really prove to be a great insight in the culture and traditions of the sub-continent. Just the preface to his book can be considered as a fine piece of literature.
Praise for Jaun Ailya
“Yani” was later published in 2003. One of his good friends, Khalid Ansari got the other three of his books published. They were titled as “Guman”, “Laikin” and “Goya”. Dr. Muhammad Ali Siddiqui referred to him as one of the three most prominent Urdu Ghazal poets of the twentieth century.
Mashkoor Hussain Yad was an eminent poet, writer and educational expert. He was not only recognized nationally, but he has been admired on the international front as well. Professor Mashkoor Hussain Yad has been awarded by the Mujahid Tehreek-e-Pakistan for his writings.
Mashkoor Hussain Yad and the Struggle for Pakistan
Mashkoor Hussain Yad has seen with his own eyes the tragic phase of history when Pakistan was separated from the Sub-continental territory. Not only did he see the awful events with his own eyes but he also vigorously participated in the struggles with all his mind and soul. Thirty of his other family members were also part of the struggle for freedom. Those thirty members did not only fight and struggled but also lost their lives for the cause of Pakistan.
Mashkoor Hussain Yad was not only the fighter for the Pakistan movement but he has been a great poet, author and education expert. Mashkoor Hussain Yad is not only counted among the first ever writers of Pakistan but he has blessed us with more than twenty five book. The book titled as “Azadi Ke Chiragh” is not just a book; it holds the value of a historical piece of document.
Mashkoor Hussain Yad- an Inspiration for us
Other than his involvement with literature, fighting for a great cause, working with educational development and poetry, he has also been working as the chairman for the censor board of Pakistan. His feelings, experience and ways are a valuable treasure for us. He is not only an example but a great source of inspiration for us.
Amjad Islam Amjad was born in Lahore. He received his early and secondary education from the Government Islamia College Civil Lines. After obtaining another degree from the University of Punjab in Urdu literature, he started working as a lecturer. Eventually he became the director of PTV. But after a number of years he returned to the post of a lecturer again.
Also a drama writer, Amjad is usually remembered due to his poetry. But he has made a mark in the drama industry with his drama ‘Waaris’ which turned immensely popular and was aired on PTV. Dehleez, Raat and Apnay log are also a few of his dramas which have turned into viewer’s favorite. He also writes columns for The Daily Express, an Urdu newspaper. The name of his column is Chasham-e-Tamasha. Amjad Islam Amjad’s poetry is about life’s gift to man, its boundless beauty and the joy it brings. Us Par, Fishhar, Barzakh, Baarish ki Awaaz and Hum Us Kay Hain are a few examples of his entrancing and striking poetry. Amjad Islam Amjad is a natural poet who expanded his writing capabilities into other fields such as drama writing and column writing, it is his poetry that makes him unforgettable. For all his contributions he has been gifted with numerous prestigious awards. Amjad Islam Amjad is the holder of the Sitara-e-Imtiaz and also he has received the Pride of Performance award Amjad Islam Amjad is one of Urdu’s greatest literary figures in the modern era.
Mir Taki Mir
Known as the God of Poetry Mir Taki Mir was the most popular poet of the 18th century. His real name was Muhammad Taki and he was born in 1723. His father influenced his philosophy of life and that inspiration is visible throughout his poetry. A deeply sensitive and romantic man, his prose focused on love and compassion. Although he has shown in every style of poetry, his ghazals are his most important work. His long narrative rhymed couplets ‘The Stages of Love’ and ‘Mir’s Vision’ are considered to be a narration of his early love affairs. Mir is the famous creator of the ‘Hindu” language of poetry, which still inspires new poets. But life was not kind to meet and tragic life experiences like his family’s death turned him into a melancholy poet full of grief. But even then he produced strong and moving poems.
Arguably the last greatest poet of the Mughal Empire, Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib was the spark that brought life to Urdu poetry once again. His poetry, unlike others before him was based on a large number of topics, not just love or grief but on the political developments of that time as well such as the British overthrow of the Mughal Dynasty. His pen name was Asad. Although Ghalib had seven children, none survived and the grief that engulfed Ghalib is painted all over his ghazals.
Faiz Ahmad Faiz
Born on February 13th 1911 Faiz Ahmad Faiz near a small village nearSialkot. He was a radical poet. Although his family followed strict Islamic principles, he was more interested in the Sufi side of the religion. A Marxist, he was accused of being involved in the plot for a coup on the government of Liaquat Ali Khan. Using Urdu poetry Faiz tried to spread his socialist thinking and enlighten the people ofPakistan. A lyrical poet, he also held important posts such as the Secretary of the Arts Council. Naqsh-e-eFaryaadi, Dast-e-Saba, Mere dil Musafir and zindan nama are among his famous literary works.
Perhaps the best dramatist and playwright in Pakistani history, Haseena Moin has written plays, drama serials and films. She has done it all. Her work has gained international recognition in the field of writing. Haseena Moin with her family migrated from highly populated city of Kanpur (India) to Rawalpindi, Pakistan , moving further on to Lahore and finally Karachi where she eventually settled. Haseena Moin graduated from the Government College for Women in 1960 and later on got her masters from The University of Karachi in History. Read more..
Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi, famous Pakistani poet and author, was born in the year 1916 in November. He died in 2006 on the 10th of July. He was born in Anga, Khushab in the subcontinent. Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi graduated from the University of Punjab in 1935. His family was a rather religious family. They were famous as the Peerzada, Qadri family. He played as the secretary for the “Progressive Writers Movement” for which he had been arrested several times. He was a diamond with multi facets. His work is not only based in the Urdu language but also English. Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi had worked in various aspects. He was a wonderful poet, journalist, critic, dramatist and a brilliant short story writer.
Literary Work and Awards
Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi has written a total of fifty books in the following genres; poetry, fiction, journalism, criticism and art. His Afsanas are equated to that of Prem Chand for their quality of rural culture depiction. The element of humanism is greatly depicted in his work. He was an outstanding poet of his time. Not only he received the prestigious Pride of Performance award but he also possessesd the Tamgha-e-Imtiaz.
Work as an Editor
Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi had been editing the magazine “Funoon” for about half the century. By doing this, he had been mentoring a whole new generation of writers.His other works as an editor includes; Phool, Tehzeeb-i-Niswaan, Adab-i-Lateef, Savera, Naqoosh and Daily Imroze. One of his poems, “The Feed” has been included as part of the syllabus for the intermediate students in Pakistan.
Few poets and poetesses of the present era have been able to influence the Urdu poetry as deeply as Parveen Shakir of Pakistan. Known as one of the greatest contemporary Urdu poetesses of Pakistan, Shakir was born in Karachi Pakistan in 1952. Perveen Shakir completed her education in Karachi and did her Masters; one in English Language and one in Linguistic. Later she got another Master’s degree in Bank Administration from Harvard University. Shakir also cleared the CSS exam; a highly competitive exam for Pakistani Civil Services. For nine years Shakir was associated with the teaching profession and then joined the Customs Department as a Civil Servant. She also worked as a second secretary, CBR Islamabad.
It was while she was a college student, Shakir was asked to write a poem on Defense Day; although she did struggle to compose her first poem, her efforts were appreciated. Shakir too found the experience stimulating and thus began her long lustrous journey. Her father was against her composing poems as he though that she will not be able to concentrate on her studies but nothing could control her new found passion for poetry. Shakir sent two of her poems to Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi a noted poet who not only published them in the digest “Faoon” but also encouraged her; later he was to become her mentor.
Shakir’s biggest contribution is that she added soft feminine touch to the Urdu poetry. Her poems contain a clear feminine tone and the grammatical feminine gender is used throughout her poetry; something even the poetesses before her and of her era could not do. The word “larki” (girl) has consistently and beautifully been used by Shakir as well. The profuse use of metaphors and similes is yet another unique quality of Shakir’s poetry; the methpohrs have been so beautifully blended that the reader cannot resist being mesmerized by its beauty and intelligence. Her style could be simple or ornate or even literary depending upon her mood.
Parveen Shakir’s published work consists of six books of poetry and one book of prose. This exceptionally talented lady died in a car accident in 1994 leaving the world of Urdu poetry poor.
Ahmed Faraz is another shining star in the galaxy of famous Urdu poets of Pakistan. He was born as Syed Ahmed Shah on 12th January 1931 in Kohat a city in the Khyber Pakhtunkhawaprovince ofPakistan. Faraz did his masters in Urdu and Persian language fromPeshawarUniversity and was appointed a lecturer in the same place.
Popular poet of Pakistan Faraz showed promising signs of a great poet from an early age. He grew up idolizing the progressive writers Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Ali Sardar Jafri and used his poetry as a medium to express his rebellion against oppression. He was also a member of the Progressive Writers Movement. Instead of merely entertaining people with his romantic ghazals, he used his verses to fight for the common man. Faraz was very vocal against the dictatorship of the military leader Zia-ul-Haq and was arrested for reciting a poetry that criticized his regime. Faraz then went into self exile and for six years stayed inCanada,Englandand other European countries before finally returning toPakistan. On his return he accepted the post of the Chairman of Pakistan Academy of Letters and later remained associated with the National Book Foundation as a Managing Director. Faraz also actively participated in protest rallies against General Pervez Musharraf in 2007 demanding him to restore democracy.
Faraz’s poetry is not all about resistance, revolution and motivation; it contains some finer elements of human nature as well. His romantic ghazals are very popular and have been rendered beautifully by seasoned singers. His “simple but inspiring” writing style is admired by all those who enjoy Urdu poetry.Pakistan’s highest civil awards Sitara-e-Imtiaz and Hilal-e- Imtiaz and Hilal-e-Pakistan have been conferred on him by the government.
Ahmed Faraz left us for his eternal abode on 25th August 2008 but has left behind a legacy of verses that have immortalized him.