A befitting tribute

Rana Mehboob Akhtar chronicles the contemporary poetry of Saraiki in his new and most authentic and reliable book

A befitting tribute

Rana Mehboob Akhtar wears many hats; he is a bibliophile, political commentator, social worker, rights campaigner, columnist and author. He divides his time between Multan --his hometown -- and Lahore. He loves to spend time in his study room which is crammed with books on almost every subject. No wonder, his writings are not the usual run-of-the-mill stuff.

He regularly contributes a column to an Urdu daily on social, cultural and political issues. A selection from his columns has already been published in two volumes and makes for a thought-provoking read.

In his book Moonjh Se Mazahmat Tak, he accords a befitting tribute to the leading poets of Saraiki literature. The book is an outcome of his lifelong love and adulation for poets he had listened to all his life. His father had a sizeable number of books in their modest home that Akhtar used to browse from an early age. This is what attracted him to the written word to start with. The other reason for his passion for poets and poetry was that the area where he first opened his eyes -- Mehmood Kot Muzaffargarh -- was known for some of the top-notch poets of Saraiki language. This worked as a fillip and Rana Mehboob Akhtar turned into an inveterate poetry buff who sees poetry as an act of defiance and resistance.

For him, poetry in mothertongue is one of the greatest acts of defiance as it symbolises the power of the native land during a foreign onslaught. This is exactly why he decided to chronicle the contemporary Saraiki poetry in a book that can easily be tagged as the most authentic and reliable book on Saraiki poetry and literature in the present times. All contemporary poets make an appearance in the present volume. Not only is their background discussed but Akhtar has also written critical pieces on the poetry of Rifat Abbas, Ashu Lal, Ashiq Buzdar, Ahmad Khan Tariq, Aslam Javed, Surraya Multanikar, Iqbal Sokri, Asghar Gurmani, Sufi Taj Gopang, Jahangir Mukhlis and a few others.

He starts by giving a detailed and scholarly introduction to Saraiki language and literature, which reads like a full-fledged discourse on the historical and cultural history of the Saraiki area with special reference to literature. He believes that various foreign marauders couldn’t strip the area of its unique history, culture and especially its rich and melancholic language.

For Akhtar, poetry in mothertongue is one of the greatest acts of defiance as it symbolises the power of the native land during a foreign onslaught.

According to Akhtar, by saving their culture and language, the valiant sons of the soil resisted against the foreign rulers and their sidekicks. A classic example of resistance can be understood by reading Saraiki poetry, especially the Kafis of various poets. He selects nuggets from the fourteen poets and notes that all these poets sing paens of their native land; its flora and fauna, its resilient people, its ritual and customs. These poets don’t forget to mention the historical upheavals which their area went through due to the raids of foreign rulers.

While celebrating their land and its cultural richness, these poets can’t help come under the influence of Moonjh the translation of which seems impossible. He translates it as ‘melancholy’ or ‘weariness’ which has engulfed the entire region over the centuries.

Rana Mehboob Akhtar has done a marvellous job by presenting the most notable voices of Saraiki poetry for Urdu readers. However, after going through the volume, one does wonder if there is going to be another volume, or if this was the full and final volume. One hopes he writes an introduction to Saraiki fiction in the years to come. If you want to know about contemporary Saraiki poetry, this is the book to get hold of.

Moonjh Se Mazahmat Tak
Author: Rana Mehboob Akhtar
Publisher: Jhok Publishers, Multan
Pages: 320
Price: Rs500

A befitting tribute