Urdu critic and poet Sarfraz Shahid speaks about what is currently on his bookshelf and which poets he holds in high esteem.

Q: What books are you currently reading?

A: I am reading Namak Dan by Majeed Lahori which contains a selection of his poetry. He is known for his satirical and humorous poetry. In his poetry, he presents political and socio-economic issues. The book is about the problems of the common man in the past and present. He wanted to present the issue in a manner so it gets attention from readers.

Q: What was the last book you particularly enjoyed reading?

A: I recently read Afkar-i-Pareshan by former chief justice M.R. Kayani which is a collection of his speeches. He has discussed problems of the common man and has talked about the things of which judges are aware.

Another book I particularly enjoyed reading was a collection of poems by Parveen Shakir. She was the best poet of the country who has presented the feelings of women in a fine way. Though there are many women poets, Parveen Shakir has the distinction of giving a voice to marginalised segments of society. The third book would be Andaisha-i-Shehar by Mirza Mohammad Sarhadi. He was from Peshawar and wrote humorous poems on socio-economical issues.

Q: Are there any classics you could not get through?

A: Being a meteorologist, I was always busy in science subjects and did not have enough time to read some classics. I could not get through the Masnavi by Maulana Rumi and Bostan-i-Saadi by Sheikh Saadi. I read some parts but could not complete all of it.

I am searching for three books written by now forgotten poets. Fasana-i-Azad by Pandit Rattan Nath Sarshar, Avadh panch by Munshi Sajjad Hussein which was published in Lucknow before the partition and Inkar Laq Laq by Haji Laq Laq, who was a famous poet during the Pakistan movement and who presented his works in public meetings of the Pakistan Muslim League.

Q: Which Pakistani writer or poet is your favourite?

A: Asadullah Khan Ghalib was the best poet in the world. He changed poetry patterns in Urdu and Persian and introduced a new way of presenting serious issues in a humorous way.

Akbar Allahabadi, Nazeer Akbarabdi, Zameer Jaffri, Col. Muhammad Khan and Shafique-ur Rehman were the best writers. I am impressed by Pitras Bukhari as his writing style was excellent and he is incomparable in Urdu literature

Q: What are you planning to read next?

A: I will be reading the works of humorous poets in India and Pakistan. I wanted to write a book on the history of humorous poetry in the Indian sub-continent. Humorous poetry was started in this part of the world in the 17th century in the tenure of Mughal Emperor Farrukhsiyar. Jaffar Zatli was the first humorous poet who was assassinated by the Mughal emperor as he wrote something when the king levied tax on food items in Delhi.


Originally published in Dawn, August 16th, 2017

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