by: Dr Afzal Mirza

Dr Afzal Shahid is a physicist by profession but a prolific w riter of Urdu and Punjabi poetry. He has written more than half a dozen books of verses and all that by sitting in Atlanta (Georgia). After a PhD in physics and a short teaching stint at Govt. College of Science in Lahore he migrated to America and worked in the famous Bell Laboratories from where he got recently an early retirement. At present he teaches in a College and devotes his whole extra time in following his favorite pursuit of reading and writing poetry. Hailing from Shahkot (Sheikhupura)—the district that boasts of being the home district of  Waris Shah –Afzal Shahid has drawn lot of inspiration from that great Punjabi poet. That is why his latest project is translating Heer into English in the same rhyme scheme that Waris Shah uses in his Heer. After going through some of his translations of Heer when once I asked him to send me translations of those famous Heer Waris Shah stanzas like Doli charrh dean mariyan Heer Cheekan Shahid surprised me by writing back that those stanzas are not of Waris Shah but are wrongly attributed to him. Anyway translating Heer is an incredibly difficult proposition but he intends to complete it as he did with the poetry of Ghalib that he translated into Punjabi.
I know of only two writers who have done this before. Sufi Ghulam Mustafa Tabbasum the great teacher and poet had earlier translated Ghalib into Punjabi. One must remember that singer Ghulam Ali’s rendering of one of Sufi Sahib’s translation has attained universal popularity which goes as:
Mere shoq da nain aitabaar tenun
Aaja vekh mera intezar aaja
Ghalib’s Urdu poetry undoubtedly is difficult to understand and that’s the reason that so many men of letters have tried to write interpretations (Tashreehat) of his only Urdu Deewan.  But Ghalib’s own favorite is his Persian poetry for which he wrote:
Farsi been ta babeeni naqsh ha- e rang rang
Beguzar az majmua Urdu keh berang –e- man ast
(If you want to see a spectrum of colors read my Persian poetry.
Forget about my Urdu anthology which is quite colorless.)
The special thing about Sufi sahib who was indeed a scholar of Persian language is that he translated some of the Persian ghazals of Ghalib into easy and simple Punjabi. Sufi sahib was a popular Punjabi poet too. Another poet who has tried to translate Ghalib is Aseer Abid. And the latest addition is that of Afzal Shahid’s Chobh Sui Di (The Prick of a Needle).
In his introduction to Shahid’s poetry Tanweer Bokhari writes,” Aristotle was right when he said that the first poets were religious poets. One can easily assess how Doctor sahib has cleverly widened the horizon of his mother tongue by giving an individualistic style and meanings in his books Gallan de parchavein, Murr Ghar Aa, Sanjhi Kul Khudai and Ratjage. Now I have Chobh Sui Di in my hands and I have seen that he has not translated Ghalib into Punjabi just for the sake of bringing out another book. This work was done by Aseer Abid before him. Now we can say that Dr Shahid has stretched the earlier work further with his own style and imprint. His style is of a neo-realist writer who creates poets out of his readers. Such a thing can not be accomplished by an ordinary writer. Both Ghalib and Maulana Roomi are philosophers and translating their work is not an easy job.”
 Dr Shahid himself realizes that he had undertaken a stupendous task. He writes,” Ghalib is that literary stalwart whom his own contemporaries and friends could not understand. The reason is that he used Persian diction with philosophical connotations and he was justly proud of it. He had written:
Na samjhe nein na samjhan ge oh mere sheir te ghazlan
Badal de dil ohna de main aakhan wand na badlan
(Ya rab woh na samjhe haein na samjhen ge meri baat
De aur dil unko jo na de mujh ko zaban aur)
Even then I have undertaken this task because my purpose is that Punjabi speaking public could understand the intricacies of Ghalib’s poetry.”
For Chobh Sui Di Dr Shahid has selected about fifty ghazals of Ghalib and most of these are his famous ghazals. Here are a few examples:
Sheeshe’ch vekh aap nun oh ho gaya pachi
Sohne nun dil na den te chokha ghumand si
(Aeena dekh apna sa munh le ke rah gaya
Sahib ko dil na dene pe kitna gharoor tha)
Balan de khidone jehi dunya ae mere lai
Din raat nawan roz tamasha ae mere lai
(Bazeecha’e’atfal hae dunya mere aage
Hota hae shab-o-roz tamasha mere aage)
Suk gaye ne roan de paron samandar akh de
Kannyn te jhalran jholi vi hale tar nahin
(Darya-e-muaasi tanuk taabi se hua khushk
Mera sar-e-daman bhi abhi tar na hua tha)
About  Shahid’s Punjabi poetry in general Sibtul Hasan Zaigham has commented ,”In spite of being an original poet Shahid has delved deep into the Punjabi classics. His poetry has its melody derived from Ragas and one can also find his poetry’s connection with classical poets. He draws inspiration from Sufi school of thought on one hand and on the other is fully conscious of the problems of common man on the mundane level”.
While living in America for many decades now Shahid has not forgotten his roots and says:
Punjan panian nasha kamal da ae
Varhe lungh gaye hale khumarian nein
In the same vein he remembers river Ravi of his birthplace and writes:
Ravi kare zaaran
Asan des chade koonjan vang daaran
Teri taang rehni asan paasdaran
Teri khair dian mantan man da han
Kali raat mukke dhami deg charran
Shahid still longs for his native Punjab but laments the changes brought by time and environmental depredation.

Kikar rahe nan bohrr nishaan
Bhulian nein ghar aona kih (End)