Sunday, October 31, 2010

Aai Mousam Rangeeley Suhaney

Least bothered about the price hike the rising cost of living this old man is playing at the flute and tempting the lover to leave his work aside to join his waiting beloved. 
I just found this old man displaying his art at the main entrance of Changa Manga Forest on 23rd of October 2010. In spite of the hostile attitude of Aurangzeb Alamgir and General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq towards art in general and music in particular, the poor masses of far flung areas are still attached to it.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Even the broken reed can sing in the hands of a musician.

Pip the Piper at Khanaspur.

Strangled in the Web of Life

Lahore Grammar School, Junior Branch, Ghalib Market, provided an opportunity to its young artists to display their creative skills in school on 27th May 2005. A feast it was for the eyes of the spectators and a mote for the modern Hamlet to shake his very being.
The whole school building whirled around our eyes showering creative colours. There were paintings, engravings, models, statues and cards displayed all around in the most becoming manner. Undoubtedly, the school administration, teachers and even custodians had outdone themselves in exhibiting to perfection the work of our young Picassos and Van Goghs.
Chattering, chatting, ogling, and commenting the parents were roaming around with their little ones. They were wonder struck as each and every work of art spoke of the tremendous effort of the art teachers and there disciples, the importance  Grammar School attaches to Fine Arts.
Being the father of a young artist, I was also trying to comprehend the language of colour, curve and canvas. I was struck by the painting of a class five artist. My mind was perturbed by the title of the painting which read “modern man strangled in the web of life”. The painting below was steeped in modernity. A black human figure struggling but strangled in the bright red, yellow, green and purple webs reminded me of the great novelist, Albert Camus. In the Myth of Sisyphus, Camus depicts a human character that is doomed to carry a huge boulder to the top of a mountain. From morn till night Sisyphus toils to push the stone to the top of the mountain but the moment he reaches the top the stone hurls itself back to the ground. How true but how sad is the plight of the modern man. Our young artists are quite aware of the hard realities of life. The depiction of modern man strangled in the web of life by a fifth grade student had almost the same effect on my mind which Wordsworth had experienced when he had a glimpse of the daffodils. But the after affect was entirely different. The great poet’s heart was filled with joy whereas my heart overflowed with melancholy as the locale was not Lake District but the city of Lahore which is quickly turning into an immeasurable pot where intellect is receding with awful haste. The tradition of learning is being replaced with the rituals of eating. Thanks to Lahore Grammar School which is upholding the banner of learning. Bravo! young artists, you are “putting” a mirror to those aspects of life which can never be realized by those who stand in queue outside a hotel and wait to be served.  
(Published in the School Times, the school magazine of Lahore Grammar School, Ghalib Market, Lahore.)                 

“The Unkindest Cut”

Abdul Mohammad Ismail, known as Gulgee was found dead along with his wife and maidservant in his Karachi residence at Clifton. His son Amin Gulgee who lived in the adjoining portion of the same house discovered the dead bodies, after a few days. The bodies were decomposing and the stench was unbearable. The paints and brushes were scattered all around and the artist was rotting amidst. What a terrible scene it might have been for the family members and the art lovers through out the world.
Gulgee was born on October 25, 1926 in Peshawar. He was an engineer by profession but had an urge to cultivate his artistic faculties. While getting training in America as an engineer at Columbia and Harvard Universities he taught himself the language of colours, curves and canvas. A self-taught artist reached the height of his talent and did marvelous experiences in abstract art. He was a gifted and highly skilled naturalistic portrait painter. As a portraitist he painted the whole Afghan Royal family.
He was influenced by Islamic tradition of Calligraphy and American tradition of Action Painting; in this genre of art colours are splashed on the canvas. According a critic, “Gulgee’s calligraphy paintings are abstract and gestural interpretations of letters. His sweeping layers of paint explore the formal qualities of oil paint while they make references to design elements.”
His paintings and calligraphic patterns are displayed in the famous Faisal Mosque, in Islamabad and other galleries around the world. He also worked on sculpture and used his calligraphic skills in this field of art. Some times his sculptures were based on the verses of Holy Quran.
As an artist he was showered with a variety of awards both at home and abroad. He also received awards from Saudi Arabia, France and Japan. His exhibitions were not meant for all and sundry. An art gallery was established in Clifton, Karachi near South City Hospital and Sea View Karachi.
It is hoped that Amin Gulgee the son and heir of Ismail Gulgee will continue his tradition of painting and calligraphy, which is not only an asset for Pakistan but also a great contribution to the field of art.
His mysterious death on the evening of December 19th, 2007 is a big sign of interrogation for all art lovers at home and abroad. Art and artists in Pakistan are already in a critical situation owing to the attitude of the general public and the general atmosphere which is no more conducive. One wonders how art and artists can survive in such a situation of fear and suppression!  
  (Published in the Aspirant, a life style fashion magazine)

A Romance With Death

On 27th of December 2007, Muhtarma Benazir Bhutto, former prime minister, and the chairperson of Pakistan People’s Party ended her long and thorny political carrier with a bang. Her untimely death was a big blow not only to the bereaved family but to the fragile political culture of a country which has a short democratic history  punctuated frequently with military dictatorships. Quickly flipping through the history of  the first Muslim female political legendary warrior one discovers tragedy performed at each and every page of her history book but like a typical Greek hero she stared death in the face and never bowed down.

Pinky (her nick) was born in 1953, (the same year Stalin, Russian dictator died) in the landed and politically charged Bhutto family, a family known for tradition of dying for democracy. Her life changed as the fate of the country changed. A pathetic study indeed! Tests, turmoils and tribulations waited for both Pinky and Pakistan.  Both were nurtured and nourished mostly on the tunes of despotism, mismanagement and mass ignorance.

A convent qualified girl later on quenched her thirst of knowledge at Karachi Grammar School, Harvard and Oxford Universities obtaining her degrees in Arts, Philosophy, International law,Comparative Study of Governments, Politics, Diplomacy and Economics. During her stay in the West she observed the working of democratic socities and the urge to strengthen the roots of democracy in Pakistan got hold of her and the life she led after completing her education speaks a lot : how she suffered and sacrificed the last drop of her blood to nourish the roots of democracy and freedom of speech.

Right from her teenage she started accompanying her father, attending historic events and acquiring the acumen required of a mature politican and diplomat. She was with Prime Minister Zulifiqar Ali Bhutto when Simla agreement was signed between Pakistan and India after the war of 1971. During the government of her father she mostly spent her time in the west participating in debating societies, attending seminars and learning the pros and cons of life. Quite a sociable lady fond of increasing the circle of her friends, Pinky at last came back to Pakistan to face the most troublesome phase of her life which later on stamped the seal of love for democracy and freedom in her heart.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the first elected prime minister of Pakistan was executed by the Martial law regime on 4th April, 1979 and Benazir Bhutto was imprisoned along with her mother by the forces of dictatorship. However, in 1984, she was allowed to move to the United Kingdom where she remained as an exiled leader.

In 1986, she came back to Pakistan and was warmly welcomed by the people who were tired of Zia regime. In the elections of 1988 she succeeded  in forming a coalition government and became the first woman prime minister of a Muslim state. She got married to Asif Ali Zardari on 18th December ,1987. During her short tenure she tried to reform and modernize the society but the retrogressive forces dismissed her government on the charges of corruption. In the next elections, she could not form government and played her role as the leader of the opposition. But again in 1993 her party won elections and Benazir was elected Prime Minister of Pakistan for the second time. She promised to repeal the controversial Hudood and zina ordinances during her election campaign but failed in introducing modernism in Pakistani society. Her government was again dismissed by the President Farooq Leghari and she went to U. A. E. in exile where she looked after her children Asifa, Bakhtawar and Bilawal. During her stay abroad, she delivered lectures and wrote articles in the national and international press.

On 18th October, 2007, after eight years long period of exile she at last had a political dialogue with President Pervaiz Mushraf and came back to Pakistan. She was warmly received by the people at Karachi air-port but her rally was attacked by the suicide bomber creating havoc and chaos. She fortunately survived the attack but on 17th of December the leader was mercilessly killed at Liaqat Bagh, Rawalpindi. She had already been informed by the local and international agencies that there was a threat to her life but Pinky was a romantic to the core. She had a romance with death. Life for her was an existential question of the being. “To be or not to be that is the question…”She had no choice regarding her birth but she exercised her choice of death and died the death of a hero and joined the line of immortals who are always alive in the hearts of the people for whom they sacrificed their lives.

(Published in the Aspirant, a life style fashion magazine)


Monday, August 9, 2010

English rendering of a few verses of Saif ul Malook

1-O Khuda! Pour on me the bounteous rain of your

blessings to resuscitate and make fruitful the

withered garden of my hopes and aspirations.....
.. ..

2-Bless me with such a sweet fruit which may be a

panacea to the sorrows and maladies of those who

taste it.....
.. ..

3-Bless this garden of mine with an ever lasting

spring so that the thousands may relish your

.. ..

4-Kindle in my heart the light of your ishaq(eternal

love) so that this light may spread all over the

.. ..

5-Give me wisdom enough to understand your

blessings and a heart that is grateful to you. ....
.. ..
6-Remove from me the darkness of ignorance and

bless me with an understanding of poetry----....

.. ..
7-Bless me with a heart that is treasure trove of pure

poesies and a tongue that utters jewels of verses.....
.. ..
8-Unfold the musk of my poetic nature to let its

fragrance roam far and wide and let the intellect be

perfumed with the blend of the aroma of ishaq.....
.. ..
9-Let the tip of the pen be sweetened with the sugar of

my poetry and let the essence of my verses be the

decorating mole on the fair surface of paper.....
.. ..

10-Adore the newly wedded bride like book of mine

with luster that may guide those across the stream of

ishaq(love) who have pure intents.....

.. ..

11-If some one look at it with malice and criticize it

unduly, he must be punished in your court of

.. ..
12- Some die in pursuit of making a mirror and some

shatter it with a stone. There are few in the world

with a taste of poetic appreciation.....

.. ..
13- People have lost the taste of listening to poetry

and those who listen they do not analyze the illusions. ....
.. ..

14-Gone are the friends of mine who had a taste of

poesy. O Muhammad Bukhsh! They were the traders of rubies.....

Translated by M. Shafiq


Art, with its diverse branches, deals with higher truths. It beckons to imponderables and flows on the icebergs of the untouched and deep recesses of human soul. It raises pity and pathos and leads the spectators to a new region of experience where he asks himself questions. One undergoes a process of metamorphosis.

Drama or natak is a form of art which lets the audience enter a silent dialogue with their own selves, and at the end of the performance they are no longer the same people. “Sassi”, the annual play of Lahore Grammar School, 94-B/1 M.M Alam Road Gulberg-III, provided an opportunity to the people of Lahore to enjoy the story of Sassi enacted by the final-year students. The lovers of serious theatre rushed to ChenOne and relished the feast-like performance of the amateur artists for three consecutive nights.

The real skill of a director lies in utilizing the limited resources to obtain the maximum results. Ms. Huma Safdar uses her craft well. The dexterous change of scenes according to the requirements of the atmosphere on the stage of Sassi established her as an artist who hankers after change. Quick changes in the fate of Sassi led to a METAMORPHOSIS, demanding a true metamorphosis in our attitude towards “woman”.

Hashim Shah has portrayed the age-old conflict between two different philosophies, i.e. folk wisdom and the Semitic view of woman. Both of these lifestyles are so juxtaposed that reconciliation is almost impossible without a proper dialogue. The successive invasions of the subcontinent and the imposition of the philosophies of the invaders, with the help of ruthless power, have left the land with a malaise. The invasions not only exploited resources but also affected inter-human relationships, especially that between the opposite sexes.

Woman in the indigenous culture was “devi”, the sacred one. Devi was turned into a “devdasi”, a kind of nun, or a “tuwaif”, a kind of prostitute, and was no longer able to raise a voice against the inhuman attitude towards her. She was no more worshipped and adored but rather looked down upon as an evil incarnate and a shameful phenomenon. The rational, balanced and human attitude changed into an irrational, unbalanced and inhuman attitude where woman became the passive victim of the anger and wrath of the male, who had in turn been humiliated and subjugated by the invaders. As the male debased, distorted and deprived of his true self, he took his vengeance on, not the invaders, but on woman by depriving her of her true human identity. She was no more an independent individual but was transformed into “awurat”, something to be covered and protected even at the cost of female infanticide.

As a proper dialogue on the issue was almost nonexistent, so the situation deteriorated to the extent that “Shakti” was turned into weakness and a permanent source of embarrassment. The symbol of fertility and power sank to the emblem of shame and weakness. “Frailty thy name is woman,” uttered Hamlet in the hours of madness and impotency.

The real tribute undoubtedly goes to the young and talented performers who stirred so many questions in the minds of the audience, in particular, the resonant narration of Sadia Jamil and Anam Zafar who provided a link between the audience and the performers. As a whole the night was enchanted due to the magicians and musicians of Lahore Grammar School, who cast a penetrating web of great theatrical performance on the spectators and they found themselves in the clouds of ecstasy wallowing on the waves of Najam Hussain Sayed’s music compositions. “Sassi”, like the mythical Circe, led the audience to the island of introspection and they left wondering whether “Sassi” is, in fact, still wandering in the desert of life.

(Published in School Times, the annual magazine of Lahore Grammar School, Ghalib Market, Lahore)