By Zubair Ahmad

Ikramul Haq has surprised many with his maiden book of Punjabi poetry


kramul Haq is a well-known columnist. He writes regularly for The News on Sunday and participates in talk shows on electronic media. As an advocate of the Supreme Court, he specialises in constitutional, corporate, media and cyber laws as well as international taxation. From 1979 to 1984, he was a full-time journalist with Viewpoint and Dawn. From 1984 to 1996, he served in the Civil Services of Pakistan. His subject include journalism, English literature and law. He is the chief editor of Taxation and part of the visiting faculty at the Lahore University of Manaeement Sciences. Alongside his wife, Huzaima, he has co-authored many books on taxation and tax reforms. He also wrote a Urdu poetry book titled Nai Ufaq (1979) with Siraj Munir and Shahid Jamal.
He has now surprised everyone with his maiden book of Punjabi poetry, Phull Kikkaran Day, published by Kitab Trinjan, Lahore. Where had he been hiding his excellent Punjabi poetry for so many years? Besides his professional expertise, Ikram is a man of many colours and shades.
Ikram belongs to the 1970s generation. The cohort dreamed of changing the world. Regrettably, most of those dreams were not realised. By and large, this generation has remained unchanged, yet the world has changed, arguably for the worse. However, the dreams that gave birth to a lot of art, poetry and books still exist, capturing how people once thought and explored. Ikram’s Punjabi poetry resides in that era; some of it is well anchored, the rest somewhat adrift. To call it a history of that period will not be an exaggeration.
Ikram’s diverse persona can be better understood by focusing on his roots in Temple Road, an old neighbourhood of Lahore, though he received early education at Sacha Sauda, a small town not far from Lahore. This town is renowned as the site where Guru Nanak engaged in a divine transaction. His rural upbringing vividly informs some of his poetry. To reach a broader audience, the book has been transliterated into Gurmukhi and Roman scripts. Despite being written years ago, the poetry has retained a sense of freshness. Comprising around 40 poems, the collection spans a wide array of subjects. Starting with a girl’s poem, the book culminates in the expansive theme of a garrison state.
Allow me to share the two poems:
“ku n ! t n k han n si l pa
Ka ak n pakk khal t n
chh h v l
t n pair n na g
kikkar n di n s l n utt
urad j v n
va n n lagg n ka ak n t n
si bhann bhann
jh bharad j v n
nikk jih jh d vich
ikk v l d ukkar
t n b la v g n Ika h k t
ghar t vich pi bha l
m n d hañjh n n
bhari h i
ku n ! t n k han n si l pa ”
Portraying the ordinary and commonplace aspects of rural Punjab, it is the hidden and subtle touch of poetry that crafts a poem out of nothingness. Poetry, often referred to as the third eye, has the power to see the unseen and make visible that which is not visible.
Comprising around 40 poems, the collection spans a wide array of subjects. Starting with a girl’s poem, the book culminates in the expansive theme of a garrison state. 
The last poem ties all the pieces together, making them relevant to our times. It touches upon the most pressing issues in Punjabi poetry, just as it does in Urdu and English, showcasing the versatility and depth of Ikram’s work in capturing the essence of contemporary concerns.
Here is the other poem:
“Chhowni Riyasat
Chhihattar(76) vareyan magron vi
assi ik ‘garrison state’ vich i haan
lokai nun ki pata aye ki hondi e
unhan nun sub khabar e
anjan te purhaku lok i han
national security state te lokan di bukh nang mukaandi e
chhowni riyasat vich lokan di
zameena te janan di he khair i nahin!”
The poems flow like silent water, presenting a kaleidoscope of the Punjab. Here is one of the poems showcasing the best of Ikram‘s craft:
“Nim jih l
Kidhar t han r vich n
ug g Ikk nim jih l
kad t dil n vich n nikal j s
arad bh t bal t
jad n s r Ikk h j va ag
nah n rhav g kidhar v
zulam d lamm r t
ghupp gh r han r n n v
kh j nd
Ikk nim jih l ”
The underlying reason is that not much has fundamentally changed. Oppression and tyranny have merely been reinforced, now appearing in new, disguised, hybrid forms. In his brief introduction, Raja Sadiqullah, the poet, quotes several of Ikram’s poems. Recalling his early life in a village, Ikram alludes to a new awakening in his poem:
“Kiyun pa u k kis h r d ava
dhamm v l jad pehl kiran ih ugn
s ch n d thak v n mukk j
nav n safar d gall urn ”
In another poem, this yearning of hope continues:
“Man andar jh t p
s ch n n lagg ka varhi n d
zanag la jandar u
ghumma gh r n v l aukh pai mukk
as n gav ch azal n d
Jh k mila d huk ''
A few lines from another poem, complete this journey of hope.
“Ghupp gh r han r n n v
kh j nd
Ikk nim jih l ''
In essence, Ikram addresses a multitude of issues through his writing—the exploitation of women, the insulted and humiliated, matters of existence and non-existence and the narratives of the alienated and the involved. He doesn’t overtly preach any ideology, yet the politics of the times are intrinsically woven into his poetry.
Here is a poem where the political undertones are inherently present:
“Akkh n uh par vaikhat h r
sh m n, akkh n d vich uttar n
ubbad s raj v kh h i
dil h ud s
rutt , p l , sabaz t n l chann n v l shaher
uhad vich phirad bandi n d mukha k l th ga
suñj nai b h th ga
s d juss bald l h h
as n vagad agg d badal h n
s d pair n h h zam n n sir asam n
as n labbhad phira th h hik
as n gav ch kadd s n
as labbha h r n k
r t n thakk juss n d jagar t
hu suñj nai b h th ga ''
Written in chaste Punjabi, the poems touch the heart and surprise you. Don’t miss those.

Phull Kikkaran Day
Author: Ikramul Haq
Publisher: Kitab Trinjan, Temple Road, Lahore
Pages: 208
Price: Rs 400