Sohail Abid

Backpacking across the world on a Pakistani passport

Topics: Poetry (Page 1 of 3)

No, it cannot be said

“I might be committing a blasphemy here,” she said and then paused for a while as if reconsidering her choice of words.

The topic under discussion was a lack of connection with the land among people our age—including us. From owning history to languages; the sense of belonging; the gratification from the soil; and all. It’s not like we hadn’t talked about this before but that day she had something more.

“I was playing this Punjabi qawwali and a few lines just had me captivated,” she said. “You know what they say about the Koran that such verses cannot be written again. I think I felt that.”

And then she sang one of the lines: ‘Harrh wangon charhiyaN nein nainaN dian naddiaN.’*

“I don’t think it could be said in another language. It would at least lose its luster. No, it cannot be said.”

From a Qawwali by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

The national cannot describe the regional

When the important people from good neighborhoods of our cities speak of the Pakistani literature, they mean the works produced in English and Urdu. The literature being created in hundreds of languages spoken throughout Pakistan is termed “regional” and hence less worthy of attention.

But this mainstream ‘Pakistani literature’ misses greatly on the lived experiences of the many peoples of Pakistan. There are things that are only being said in the regional languages. There are things that could only be written by a regional writer. The national, for many reasons, cannot describe the regional. The national does not read the regional. The national is living in a bubble.

Last year when I was in Lahore, a Sindhi friend of mine, Aadarsh Ayaz Laghari, would visit me every weekend and in the intoxicating moments after dark, we would read each other poetry. I would read poetry in Punjabi and he in Sindhi. We learned that our languages share very many words. We learned that the poetry we were reading was more intimate than what we had ever read in Urdu. It had a different tone and a different atmosphere. It had the heat of the desert, the roughness of the terrain, and the shadow of the trees. Why don’t others read this literature, we used to wonder.

We could only continue it for about four to five weeks. But those sessions of exchange are the kind of memories I would cherish for the rest of my life, I know.

Andar hu te bahar hu!

Cannot believe what I found this morning! All thanks to Chintan​. He asked for a link to the song I woke up to, the one the milk shop was playing. It was googled and sent to him but, while searching, I found something else too. A great one at that.

It’s an original Abida Parveen song based on Sultan Bahu’s lyrics. In her signature 80s style! The style we grew up listening to. It was a great time. I don’t know who was composing for her back then but all her music from that time has a feel, a directness, an energy. She was singing all these Sufis from across India. It was like she had discovered a big treasure of lyrics and it was all so natural for her. She developed a method, the lyrics were abundant, she could sing with ease. One song after another. There was no stopping her. She was comfortable so very comfortable. I can go on and on but you get the point.

Oh man, this is too big. Too great. Okay, I won’t make you wait anymore, play it here.

An arduous task

i wake up
and start counting
one after the other
it doesn’t end
i am still counting
by the time i go to sleep

it is an arduous task
to count the dead

Folk treasures

While going through a collection of BaaraN Maaha, I just stumbled upon a beautiful Punjabi song where the girl gives 12 reasons why her man shouldn’t leave for pardes (for work) in any month of the year. It ends at her saying: baarañ maheene channa, rall mill khediye.

It’s a folk song—meant to be sung. I have only found the text in a collection. My searches for a sung version haven’t been fruitful so far. The lyrics are great though.

It’s times like these when I wish our modern-day singers would also look through the treasures we have in folk and classical poetry before they select (or worse, write themselves) what they are going to sing.

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