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Monday, October 17, 2011

Mustafa Zaidi

He was born 81 years ago in Allahabad. He wrote poetry (first as Tegh Allahabadi and, later, as Mustafa Zaidi) and several of his books of poems were published. We now even have a proper Kulliaat, so those of you who have not read most of his work should go out and get it. Now!
(This is unlike the various forms of Kulliaat of Faraz published, with incremental verses, while he was alive … and, recently, Fahmida Riaz's Kulliaat, although I hope to see her writing many more verses).
My first reaction to seeing his work was of utter amazement. Published in 1949, I read Zanjeerayñ about 3 years later - when I was just 12 - and could not stop. Since then I bought every book he published: Roshni; Shehré Azar; Mauj Meri Sadaf Sadaf; Garaybaan; Qabaaé Saaz — and, of course, his posthumously published Kohé Nida.

Through all my love of Urdu poetry, something that had happened almost as far as I can think back — with regular mushaeraas in our own house and among relatives and Abi's friends — I did read a lot of poems. In spite of being a great Josh Maleehabaadi fan, a Sahir Ludhianvi devotee, and a lover of Faiz, Mustafa Zaidi's works were always my favourites. This man's works were remarkably different. I still read his collected works after a few days. His poetry had truth, beauty, love, and honesty.

Mustafa Zaidi was a great follower of Josh

and the old poet looked upon him like a son. 

Mustafa's poems contain some of his finest ghazals, too, but his nazms were even better. His response to Faiz and Sibté Hasan for refusing to print his work (because of the government's ideas!) had him write a lovely poem. It became the talk of the town. Even the poem that didn't get published became a household kalaam and everyone of us recited it. His poem about a possible war with India is remarkable. Whether it's his small poem on Vietnam or a major work, like his amazing travel tale, they are works that I find impossible to see in any collection of other poets. (Why do I not name the poems? I want you to go out and get his collected works and find them!) 

Sadly, Mustafa was murdered in 1970 (just 4 days before his 40th birthday). Part of the blame fell on his 'girlfriend' of the time, Shahnaz Gul. She was caught and tried, but the police — for reasons the intimate parties know well but won't tell —  cleared her and decided that Mustafa had committed suicide. Shahnaz probably was in the know of what really happened, though she did not actually kill him. She went back to her husband, who had actually found Mustafa's body (and Shahnaz Gul, in a stupor, lying next to him). Yes, she was an absolutely amazing woman and had loads of strange and madly-in-love 'friends'. None, I imagine, could have loved her as much as Mustafa Zaidi. His last five poems about her will tell you the kind of love he had for her. Here is one beautiful shayr he wrote for her:

اترا تھا جس پہ  باب حیا کا ورق ورق 
بستر کی ایک ایک شکن کی شریک تھی

The government (I really wouldn't know who else to blame!) went to town on him. The entire period after the trial we heard nothing in the papers other than a 'second murder' of Mustafa by the press. Jang, the paper with the highest readership in Pakistan — and something that went into millions of homes — carried images, stories, discussions, even interviews with prostitutes, about how 'evil' Mustafa was. The public 'swallowed' all of this, decided that the murder of such a man was something that needed no tears, moved his books either out of the house or locked them up. Children were not to read about him. Youngsters were never to be given his writings. Soon, we lost his works and his popularity — and, for many younger people, Mustafa did not exist.

It is fortunate that Mustafa is now 'back' and many young people are beginning to read him again today.

There are many things to read about him, including Laurel Steele's beautiful English work (which includes some of his poems, translated by her, and an elegy by Salaam Machli-Shahri). There is a remarkable piece by Raza Rumi on his blog. I was a bit perturbed at the piece's early statement (has it now been slightly modified?) that Mustafa had committed suicide. I knew that was not the truth and many people also felt that way. But that's what the government and the police had people believe — and Raza is much younger than I am so I won't begrudge him writing that way. He writes well, and the piece is beautiful.

However, Saba Zaidi (a niece of Mustafa) wrote two lovely remarks on Raza's piece so do read those, too. It'll help you, perhaps, change your mind a bit.

I would have liked to write a lot more about Mustafa Zaidi ... but I decided that this should be enough. I'll hold a session at T2F soon and you'll be able to come and hear his voice reading his poems and also hear other people who knew him better talk about him.

In the meanwhile, here is a piece by him that should keep you thrilled. It contains a shayr by Mustafa Zaidi — and one that I know still holds good:

ہر ایک شخص طلبگار تھا کہ شام و سحر 
اسی کا نام  لیا جاۓ  اور  اذاں  کی طرح

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Blogger Kamran Nadeem said...

This is a good introductory article about Mustafa Zaidi. Actually he was one of the few great poets of Urdu who were neglected badly. He was probably (as far my knowledge is concerned) the ONLY Urdu poet who has given up the poetry due to non recognition by veteran Urdu critic like Vazir Agha. If we read the preface of his last poetic collection Koh e Nida, he has mentioned this in much detail. Actually he was acceptable for the right wing and was always under severe criticism on the other hand he was also not acceptable by left wing. He was a genius poet, he was a really great poet.

17 October, 2011 06:16

Anonymous Raza Rumi said...

Kidvai Saheb: many thanks for the post and thanks for the appreciation. I wrote this piece for The Friday Times nearly 6 years ago and solely relied on what I had read "about' him in the press. However, over the years I have been more and more fascinated by his life and poetry. I am publishing apost correcting the facts about his death as I have been assisted by his family, fans and followers.
Plan to write a book one day - not sure if I will do justice.
Thanks again. Adaab arz haye. R

17 November, 2011 20:24

Blogger Zakintosh said...

Dear Raza - So glad to hear from you.

Do send the post link in the comment box here when you are ready. I'd like my readers to see it, too.

I enjoyed his poetry and his recitations (although these were much less than we hear from most poets). He was remarkable.

17 November, 2011 22:16

Anonymous Saba Zaidi said...

Dear Zakintosh saheb, I can not thank you enough for your article . Also many thanks to Raza Rumi for writing this additional piece.Our family had recordings of Mustafa chacha's voice on tape which were lost over time because they were preserved correctly. I have promised his daughter Ismat (his only surviving child) that I would try to get ecordings of Mustafa chacha's voice for her. For this, I have spoken to a lot of people. If you have recordings of his voice, please arrange copies for us. Both I and Ismat would be really grateul ! Saba Zidi

05 December, 2011 01:16

Blogger Zakintosh said...

Saba Zaidi - Please send me your email address at

06 December, 2011 17:39

Anonymous mystic said...

Thank you sir! It was a great read...

Sahi kaha tha unhoN ne

Bacha gai bohat se logon ko muttahid lehren
Hame to dubo diya payabiye Tamanna ne
Main kis ke haat per apna lahu talash karun
saare shahr ne pehne hain dastaane

11 December, 2011 08:38

Blogger Zakintosh said...

Thank you for your comment, mystic.

However, the correct shayrs are:

بچا گئیں كئ لوگوں كو متّحد لہریں
ڈبودیا ہمیں پایابئ تمنأ نے
میں كس كے ہاتھ پر اپنا لہو تلاش كروں
تمام شہر نے پہنے ہوے ہیں دستانے

11 December, 2011 08:56

Blogger mystic-soul said...

Thank you Sir for correcting!

Leaving away from country takes it toll!!!

12 December, 2011 11:20

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderful to read this ongoing conversation--It was an honor to research and write about Mustafa Zaidi--and I very much appreciate the kind words concerning my work. Currently, I am revising my dissertation (the Ph.D. is from the University of Chicago) on Mustafa Zaidi and hope to publish it. It contains a lot of translated poems, as well as the original texts--

Saba--I plan to contact you in the near future--very much appreciated your earlier comments on the dissertation. I have tapes of Mustafa Zaidi's friends and colleagues talking about him (from the early 90s) Are you still in Dubai? Thanks, Laurel Steele

31 January, 2012 20:49

Blogger Zakintosh said...

Dear Saba Zaidi - I haven't received your email address and don't know how to send you the few pieces that I have. You may already have them, but I did want you to get them just to make sure. I will also send you a few of his letters to his friend, Dr. Omar.

Please use in case you sent it earlier and I didn't get it at the other address.

What happened to Mustafa Bhai's son? It was awful to hear that his daughter is the only one alive.



Dear Laura Steele

Thank you so much for reading this and writing in my blog. I'd love to read your book and hope it comes out soon.

I haven't got Saba's email address. If you have it could you send it to me. I need to send her (and to you, so I need your address, too) some poems that I have on tape and the letters.


01 February, 2012 11:15

Blogger Dr A Haider said...

I m Dr Adnan Zaidi. Second nephew of Mustafa Zaidi my email

11 January, 2017 01:44


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