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Thursday, February 22, 2018

A Dream Fulfilled: Mustafa Zaidi Event at T2F

Mustafa Zaidi Ki Yād Mayñ
Born 1930 Murdered 1970

It was really such a great event. All my dreams came true. For years after MZ's murder (although the courts asked us to consider it a suicide … and, sadly, many people believed it) I have been wanting to do something for his memory. Something that would put the record straight … instead of the idiotically crazy pictures that the press painted for us (and I feel that Jang, a newspaper that actually surpassed the sales of all other dailies in Pakistan, did). Something that would indicate what he was as a poet! He was one of our greatest poets that lived for just 40 years before death engulfed him and left us poorer in poetry.

But it wasn't just that …

It left us all poorer in the love of a man who always told the truth; poorer for a generation that had not even heard of him (thanks to the lack of availability of his books); the bans on his appearing on radio and tv broadcasts; the erasures of his lovely works from those libraries; and the actual poorness of that man's last few years when he didn't even have enough money to phone his family often.

After a ridiculous 303 movement — the removal of maybe many crooks but one that included a lot of decent people who were shunted out by President Yahya Khan (on advice from many who had personal grudges against them). The News says that "Yahya Khan’s military regime had summarily dismissed 303 civil servants and government functionaries, but did not prosecute them." That's not true, really. Blocks were put on MZ by having his passport confiscated and a ban was placed on his travels so that he could not see his family, a family that loved him and he loved so much. 

MZ mentioned this in a poem ("Pahla Pat'thar"). We all loved the poem … but the press refused to print it.

He then went to the two people who were known here as the speakers of freedom … but they, too, thought that it was wrong, so he wrote another poem ("Banaamé Idāraé Lail-o-Nahar"). Always worth listening to on his only audio CD: "The One and Only Mustafa Zaidi" — a collection that I have. It is now available at T2F (or by post in Pakistan if you pay the mailing charges).

Both became poems that the crowd celebrated and repeated to each other. But they were never published. You can read it now in the (almost!) full selection of his külliyāt.

The book is now available everywhere.
Why did I say almost? There were two lines that were omitted in this collection … I have them and can read them out to you if we meet ;)

It was soon after his death that I kept telling Nuzhat (my wife) that it was something we needed to do. The press was unfair. The politics was unfair. The people who read all this were being prejudiced because they neither knew the man … and even if they did, they thought the press must be right about him.

To the world he became the lover of Shahnaz Gul (a one year encounter in 40 years of his life!) …something that his wife, Vera, has to talk about, if she wants to.

How many people who read these posts can look into their own lives and not admit their 'other loves' after marriage. Many, I am sure.  Men and Women. But that's the theme of Hypocrisy. Blame others, not yourselves. One that now seems to pervade everyone … even more by the recently converted religiosity people. The first poem above says that, too, for MZ knew where we were heading.

Years later, when I was heading Enabling Technologies, we decided to do a CD-ROM (Do you remember what those were?). I decided to do one for MZ, first. Sabeen Mahmud loved his poems after I recited them for her and really loved the idea I had for the beginning of the CD-ROM and we decided that it would bring him back to life.

But … with MZ's books missing from the market, and no voices that I could gather other than what I had with me, added to the fact that many parents and others had removed his books from their libraries in case children would know about this mis(represented) man, plus the banning of Mustafa Zaidi's work from Radio and TV, would make for very few people interested in him. So we chose to do 'Faiz - Aaj Kay Naam' as a CD-ROM. There was lots available for Faiz, anyway. And we loved him, too. The Faiz CD-ROM had 16+ hours of amazing works. We hoped we'd do MZ the next time. As events passed we realised that a few kids, who had access to computers, knew nothing of MZ and their parents rarely understood or used computers. Pity.

Finally, back to our event …

The guests at T2F were superb:

Ismat Zaidi, MZ's daughter, who read out and talked about MZ in ways that we never would have known;

Saba Zaidi, Irtiza Ji's daughter (and MZ's niece), who talked of him;

Nusrat Zaidi, a 93-year old cousin who was a close friend of MZ, despite the age difference, talked about his humanity and love;

Nargis Saleem, the daughter of Dr Omar - a very close friend of MZ - who read MZ's letters to her father;

Khalid Ahmad who read out a few poems of MZ;

Our wonderful poet, Iftikhar Arif, who spoke for long and had so many wonderful things to say about MZ and our own lives in general (a person who is always worth listening to);

… and the moderator, Asif Aslam Farrukhi, who handled the occasion brilliantly. I am glad that he is on T2F's list as an advisor.

If you missed the programme (it was broadcast LIVE and will be on YouTube, too), here it is for you again.

One of the T-Shirts that I was wearing (now available at T2F and can be mailed out to anywhere in Pakistan, if you are willing to add the mailing price on it) had this shayr on it.

I knew there'd be an objection and a person in the audience did raise it. He said the shayr was wrong. There was no kahēñ but it was koē. I pointed out that MZ had written koē, but a young college boy went up to him and said that the word, Kahkashāñ, was meant for Milky Way and not Galaxies. We all knew that was the galaxy we could see with the naked eye (and still can, if the annoying lights that hide all the stars in the city don't block out the sky at night). In fact we never had a word for galaxies in Urdu (now we do: we say گیلکسی ) … so MZ agreed and changed it to koē. He wrote that to the publisher when the work was going to be printed in his book and the publisher added kahēñ to the book … but forgot to correct it in the preface that was written. So now we have both available, with the correct one in the poem and the original in the preface. Take your pick. I'll stay with new one.

We have had many people writing to us about the live broadcast. Some who missed it are waiting for it to go on YouTube.

Naseer Turabi (whom Saba and I contacted and got no response from him) was a very close friend of MZ. Now he says we wish he had been contacted. We did, NT! Several times. And would have loved you to be there. Don't worry we'll do another one next year on him and you'll be there, we hope.

We sadly missed Tina Sani who was supposed to come and sing a piece or two of MZ's poems … but she was extremely busy on that day and forgot. You'll be on the next programme, too, Tina!

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