The Dawn: July 26, 2006

Ahmad Rahi remembered

Shafqat Tanvir Mirza 

AHMAD RAHI –- BAATAN MULAQATTAN by Ahmad Saleem; pp128; Price Rs140; Published by Dost Publications, Post Box No 2958, Islamabad.

HMAD Rahi had sent his A first collection of Punjabi poetry to his senior writer and friend Krishan Chandar, which was acknowledged by the latter as: “Your collection brought a whole of the Punjab itself to me.” This letter was published in daily Imroze on May 23, 1953. Krishan Chandar, in his letter had said; “Pakistan needs a Punjabi literary monthly to which we all here in Bombay are ready to contribute and even ready to donate copyrights of our books for the cause.” Krishan had urged Ahmad Rahi to talk to Nadeem (Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi) and Nazeer (Chaudhry Nazeer of Savera) and arrange the publication of a monthly in Punjabi.

Krishan Chander was inspired by Rahi’s first collection of Punjabi poetry Trinjan in which many of the poems were about the women kidnapped, killed and raped during partition. Krishan Chandar says: “My wife Vidia reads it (Trinjan) daily and weeps, reads it daily and then laughs –- it is her routine.” Krishan’s letter had offered timely suggestions to the writers of West Punjab and he was rightly expecting from Qasmi Sahib that he would seriously take up this issue. But, unfortunately, this was the period when under deep influence of American policies, Pakistan government had hit hard at the progressive elements. The Progressive Writers’ Association was virtually banned and many of the writers, including Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi, were sent behind bars.

The Punjabi cause was also reported to be associated with an anti-Pakistan lobby. This was the period when every Pakistani language was taken as being a rival of Urdu. The phenomenon started after Urdu’s confrontation began with Bengali, the language of the majority. Rahi and Nadeem were separated from publisher Chaudhry Nazeer. No doubt, the Progressive writers had also committed some blunders but they did not deserve the treatment they were meted out at the hands of the establishment and their rival group of writers.

The official ‘Pakistaniat’ was not ready to spare such voices: (Ahmad Rahi addressed a colleague who was forced to leave Lahore while he himself was thrown out of his ancestral city of Amritsar).

Aidon vadh kay hor keeh dukh hosi teri akh aithey meri akh oathey, Tutey dilan da keeh shumar kariay, kaee lakh aithey kaee lakh oathey Keho jeha ujarria ahlna nein, koi kakh aithey koi kakh oathey.

Under these circumstances, Rahi was absorbed in the film industry which never allowed him to seriously face the challenge in respect of Punjabi. On the other hand, what Rahi did through film poetry earned an honourble place for the language. Our two brilliant poets from Punjab, sucked in by film industry, were Sahir Ludhianvi and Ahmad Rahi –- both had served as editors of the prestigious Urdu magazine Savera.

Ahmad Saleem is really a very hard-working writer who has never missed an opportunity to meet a writer and then arrange an interview with him/her. If that was not possible he tried his best to jot down what he observed or heard during his meeting with the person concerned. He further collected printed material about the personality of his subject and cobbled it all into one impressive whole. The book under review falls under this category.

From the political point of view, Ahmad Rahi, who was a full-time member of the Communist Party, and in that capacity he supported the Pakistan Movement, but after independence it was the tribe of Rahi which suffered the most. He and A Hameed had to calligraphi the voters’ roll for the Bahawalpur State elections. The job was won by publisher Chaudhry Nazeer. These were the circumstances under which Rahi lived, as did most of his friends. Their talents could not flourish well. Overall, this is a good, small book on Ahmad Rahi who always avoided exposure in the media.


KHOJ—53-54, quarterly research magazine of the Punjabi Department of the Punjab University, editor Dr Ismat Ullah Zahid; pp206; Price Rs125; Published from the Oriental College, Lahore.

T has been claimed through an I editorial in the magazine that “Khoj always publishes the best research articles, which has made it a prestigious publication. The current issue will also provide the same high class matter.” The editorial board of the magazine should have gone through the matter being published in the issues dated December, 2004 and June, 2005. There are five articles, of which three, Lok adab tey qissa adab vich mazahiya ansar by Dr Inamul Haq Javed, Punjab dian lok varaan by Dr Akhtar Husain and Na’atia sinfaan da vairva by the late Aftab Ahmad Naqvi. The last mentioned has already been published in a book form.

All three are part of the doctoral thesis of the named scholars above. All three theses were published in 2005. It clearly means that the material published in this issue was already in the hands of the readers and researchers.

The second point to be considered is whether the editorial board has finally decided that they will produce only pieces from doctoral theses. In the past Khoj produced three such theses in full. They were by Dr Aslam Rana, Dr Naheed Shahid and Dr Kashmiri. The two other papers included in the issue under review are also by two doctors who were awarded degrees on Hakeem Nasir and Bulleh Shah. The pieces remained unpublished.

After going through the editorial of this issue one expects that it will publish latest research articles and, if needed at all, publish extracts from any PhD thesis for it to live up to its promise.

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