The Dawn: Jul 03, 2015

PUNJAB NOTES: Abid Ameeq: an inspiring poet and challenging intellectual

Mushtaq Soofi 

You rarely come across a person in our hierarchy driven and materialistically motivated society who has the courage, moral and intellectual, to defy the norms of conformity and reject the incentives of so-called material uplift in pursuit of dreams that have hard-to-see contours of holistically oriented more humane world replacing the existing one which dehumanizes and as a result ends up being dehumanized. The reason is simple; you have to pay a price which can be huge. Few among us can afford what rightly seems to be unaffordable in terms of material and social cost. Most of us, happily or unhappily, are content doing what the great poet and mystic, Baba Farid saw people doing way back in time: ‘the world beats its drum and you dance to its tune’. The world in its play has its rigidly defined rhythm that repeats itself ad nauseam. Its rejection has consequences. The sages, poets, artists and revolutionaries who struggle to discover the new liberating rhythms in search of life’s playfulness know the worthlessness of what the acceptance of the old and given can offer. Hence are ever prepared to give up the seemingly tantalizing dividends of falling in line which the well-intentioned propagandists and sentimental hoi polloi interpret as sacrifice. The act though informed by social consciousness is in fact not animated by egoistic illusion of making a sacrifice but rather by a sense of existential compulsion i.e. endogenous factors.

Abid Ameeq, the poet and writer, can safely be counted among men of such vision in our generation. He is conscious enough to see the decaying insides of hierarchical social structure and brave enough to say no to the dictates of authoritarianism regardless of consequences, be they chains or accolades.

Multan-based Abid Ameeq has been associated with education department and taught English literature. During the darkest period of our recent history he was picked up for his independent and democratic views by the goons unleashed by Ziaul Haq, the bigoted dictator. He withstood what being picked up entailed. He survived but never told the harrowing tale even to his closest friends to keep them out of harm’s way. He suffered it all in silence with a saintly resignation. It was perhaps his creative mind, overriding passion for poetry and deep interest in humanist causes that helped him retain his mental and psychic sanity.

His life is driven by two underlying urges; creative expression and intellectual dialogue. As an intellectual he is capable of talking on any subject under the sun for hours, even for days. He refuses to mince his words and fiercely defends his intellectual independence, an outcome of his diverse readings and critical thinking. He swims against the current whether it’s the Punjabi-Seraiki controversy or leftist politics. This is due to his mental habit of always taking the bigger picture into account. And this is the reason that the opinionated find him extremely challenging.

Strangely when it comes to poetry, we find the man who has mastered the art of talking highly economical with words. He has published so far just two books of poetry. He generally composes short poems in an aphoristic fashion. The aphoristic expression itself at the surface seems to carry a disarming simplicity. But apparent simplicity is highly deceptive in the sense that underneath it lies complex experience that hints at the ambiguity of human predicament. But he also has the creative ability and skill to express complex ideas in a highly lucid manner. His poetry is subtly underpinned mainly by themes of love of land and nature, human freedom and erotic romance. His love for his land, the Punjab, for example, has nothing to do with the constraints of parochial outlook. Look at the way he handles a highly contentious issue of what is indigenous and what is alien. “Hard to judge what is indigenous? Just imagine what belongs here; the rivers, the desert’s date trees, the monsoon clouds, the migratory cranes and the flocks of birds, the flowers, the tribes and the clans. Wherever they come from they belong here. Imagine it all; the sun, the moon, the days that have yet to dawn, and the children (yet to be born). Wherever they come from they belong here. Take count again and see, whatever adds to the beauty belongs here”.

Abid Ameeq is politically conscious artist but never allows his expression to degenerate into popular political slogans. His frequent use of the word ‘us’ for the oppressed and ‘they’ for the oppressors makes him one among the people, not an outsider expressing compassion and pity for the wretched of the earth in a condescending gesture. His stance shows him as a person who suffers, setting him apart from him the one who is a mere spectator. His ironic tone effortlessly exposes the hollowness of the exploitative system. “Tired and exhausted, worn out by the long day, they continue raising the cry with their wares out on the street and the road as if the world is dumb, as if the world is blind”.

It’s not just the socio-political consciousness that makes his creative experience dynamic, a subtle understanding of man-woman relationship adds nuanced whisperings to his poetic audio landscape that is familiar but refreshingly suggestive. Here is a short poem: “Easy for you to say something small that looked like a knot; tight and thick. Unfurled, it would imperceptibly turn into a rose inside of me whenever I imagined your lusty eyes”.

Abid’s poetry delights the soul, provokes the mind and stirs the imagination. His language is gestic like that of Bertolt Brecht which conveys the clear stance of the poet and the force of what is said in a world that starts with ifs and ends with buts. —

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