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
; 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