Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Shaikh Ayaz

Contemporary Sindhi Poetry is dominated by the giant figure of Shaikh Ayaz, whose distinct voice came into his own in the post-independence days. In a graceful and polished style and powerful diction, Ayaz wrote of Sindh's aspirations and predilections and soon emerged as the poetic conscience of his land. Well-versed in Western literature and equally at home in the Indo-Iranian ethos, prolific in output and with a variety of forms and themes at his command, Ayaz is the leading poet in the language.
With the imposition of One Unit abolishing the provincial entity of Sindh, began the long night of Sindhi literature when writers including Ayaz were persecuted and publications banned. As a gesture of defiance, strong feelings of nationalism took root which are a persistent feature of contemporary Sindhi literature. The MRD struggle against the Zia military dictatorship gave rise to angry, defiant and brave poems and stories. Tanveer Abbasi, Shamsher ul Haideri and Tajal Bewas are leading modern poets while Ustad Bukhari upholds the traditional mode of poetry.
A graceful style and socio-political consciousness characterise the poetry of Imdad Hussaini who came to the forefront in the '70s as did Anwer Pirzado who fused political activism with a modern consciousness in the prose-poem. Creativity and diversity characterise the poetry scene today. Sehar Imdad struck a new note.
Adal Soomro is a prolific poet, at home in several forms and so is Ayaz Gul. The clear, feminist voice of Attiya Dawood represents a new trend in Sindhi poetry. A host of new voices include Pushpa Vallabh, Mustafa Arbab, Amar Sindhu and Wasim Soomro. The work of Hassan Dars and Mazhar Leghari shows the promise of maturing into major voices.
The Sindhi short story had entered a new phase of development in the 1940s but suffered a set-back with the Partition, like the Punjabi short story as a substantial number of writers migrated across the border. From poet Narain Shyam and fiction writer Mohan Kalpana onwards, the development of Sindhi literature in India has followed a separate track. Together with Ayaz, Jamal Abro and Ghulam Rabbani Agro marked a new turn in the short story with progressive and nationalistic trends, followed closely by Najam Abbasi, Hameed Sindhi and others. A fiery new generation appeared in the 1960s taking the short story to a new and powerful phase of development with Amar Jalil, Agha Salim, Nasim Kharal, Tariq Ashraf, Ali Baba, Siraj, Ghulam Nabi Mughal and others.
An ironic view on the social scene gives an uncanny power to Amar Jaleel's work while Nasim Kharal handled the rural scene with a masterly technique. One of Agha Salim's novels unfolds the sweep of Sindh's history like a Japanese fan and the other focuses on mysticism. A painfully acute social awareness led to the depiction of the floundering and wandering of a whole generation termed The Drowning Generation by Manek whose later work documents the frustration of youth leading to the sense of being closed in by a collapsing world.
With Sameera Zarin onwards, the medium proved specially conducive to women writers like Mehtab Mehboob who opened a new area of experience. Noorul Huda Shah is generally regarded as the leading fiction writer while other important writers include Abdul Qadir Junejo and Qamar Shahbaz. The search for identity becomes the search for form in Tariq Alam Abro. Scholar and critic Fahmida Hussain has explored the relationship of literature with culture and society. Poignant and funny, Halim Brohi is the voice of Sindh laughing at itself.
Great Sindhi poet & writer Shaikh Ayaz died on Sunday 28th December 1997 at 3 a.m. in Karachi. Sindhi Writers, Intellectuals and Politicians Rasool Bux Palijo, M. Ibrahim Joyo, Noorul Huda Shah, Dr. Qazi Khadim, Gigi Zarina Baloch, Tajal Bewas, Khairunisa Jafry, Prof. Ameer Ali Qadri, Ayaz Latif Palijo, Inayat Baloch, Mahitab Mahboob, Hasan Mujtaba, Mahitab Rashdi, Hamid Sindhi, Bedal Masroor and others have expressed profound shock and paid rich tributes to Shaikh Ayaz's literary contribution and unforgettable great poetry.
Shaikh Ayaz - the doyen of modern Sindhi literature
SHAIKH AYAZ, who died in Karachi on Sunday, 28th December 1997, was a towering figure of Sindhi literature, known and respected nationally and by Sindhi-speaking people all over the world. He was equally acclaimed in progressive circles for his contribution to the advancement of human values. Shaikh Ayaz revolutionised almost all genres of Sindhi literature and is rightfully called the doyen of the 20th century Sindhi writers and poets.
Born in a middle class Shikarpur family on March 23, 1923, Shaikh Ayaz was a lawyer by profession. He also served as vice-chancellor of the Sindh University. But poetry was his forte. He began composing poetry as a zealous youth in 1940. This was an era of reawakening in Sindhi literature, as in the literature of other major laguagues of the subcontinent. In fact this was when Sindhi literature emerged from its early and mediaeval expressions and subjects and started responding to new cultural and social demands. A new generation of progressive writers, poets and artists came to dominate the literary scene.
Shaikh Ayaz, Abdur Razak Raaz, Dr Ayaz Qadri and Narain Shiyam were the pioneers.
Narian Shiyam laid more emphasis on Ghazal and developed it. He migrated to India after independence, where he died in 1989.
Dr Qadri had a predilection for prose and research and joined education. He died only 13 days back on 15th December 1997.
But Shaikh Ayaz was a different artist. The urge for creation was strong in him and he chose his own form, pattern and diction to express his feelings and message. His creative urge became his pathfinder. His work is spontaneous, objective and forceful. As a perceptive observer of his land and its people, he depicted their pains and sufferings, their dreams and wishes in whatever he wrote in a captivating way.
In poetry Shaikh Ayaz used a wide variety of metres and composed his verses both in traditional and modern forms. He not only revived the classical Sindhi school of poetry but infused it with new meaning.
Ayaz wrote short stories, novel, essays, poetry, travelogues, diaries and an autobiography. He portrayed the miseries of the uprooted, the sorrows of the deprived, the anguish of the desolate and the wretched conditions of the exploited who had been suffering at the hands of an unjust system for centuries. Such was the force of his poetry that during the anti-One Unit campaign one of his poems.
"Sindhri taan sir ker na deendo, sanhando ker mayar" (Is there anybody who will not sacrifice his head for Sindh, and be ashamed of it)', became the unofficial anthem of the people of Sindh. The government had to ban its broadcast from Radio Pakistan.
Shaikh Ayaz battled through his poetry against One Unit and the political and economic policies of Ayub Khan. For a number of times he was externed from the cities and towns where he was to participate in Mushairas. Three of his anthologies - Bhounr Bharee Akas (1962), Kulhe Patam Keenaro (1963) and Je Kak Kakoriya Kapri (1963) - drew sharp criticism from fundamentalists and the government proscribed them. He was even jailed for his "seditious" writings.
During the Bhutto regime, he was appointed vice-chancellor of Sindh University. For quite a long time he kept quiet. It was only after he quit as vice-chancellor that he revived his writing; but during this phase, he became more elaborate and purposive and evinced a profound commitment to humanism. In his later poetry, he spoke with an increasing force of the deprived millions of the world.
In his prose and poetry, the themes are interwoven in a superb manner giving a true picture of life. His fiction gives an idea of the psychological process of transformation through which the working classes become conscious of their destiny. His prose provides a deep study of the human struggle. Having observed the crises of society and mass struggles for liberation, Shaikh Ayaz brings to his literary creations a profound understanding of social, political and economic issues.
In poetry, he rises still higher. Richly steeped in the tradition of Shah Latif, he is free of artificiality and complexity. In fact, he is considered to be the greatest Sindhi poet after Shah Latif. The richness of his poetic expression is a treat to the reader and a great addition to the treasure-house of Pakistan's literature. He was awarded Hilal-i-Imtiaz in 1995.
He also composed poetry in Urdu and two of his anthologies "Booye gul", "nala-i-dil" and "Neel kanth aur neem ke pate" were highly acclaimed.
In 1989 he decided to dedicate the rest of his life to writing. Since then he wrote profusely and expressed himself in all genres. He is survived by 46 collections of poetry, short stories, essays, diaries and the translation into Urdu of Shah jo Risalo. All have been published. Many of his poems and stories have been translated into other languages. "Ki jo beejal aakhiya" was the translation in Punjabi by Ahmad Salim while "Halqa meri zanjeer ka" was the Urdu translation of his selected poems by Fahmida Riaz.
Dr Altaf Memon, in paying his personal tributes to the great man wrote: "I am deeply saddened at the passing away of my beloved poet SHAIKH AYAZ. His poetry was so dear to me that I named my son after him. With Ayaz gone, the progressive Sindhi literature has lost a towering figure. He was by far the best Sindhi poet of this century. Some even argue that his works are the second best after Shah Abdul Latif in the entire body of Sindhi literature.
Sindhis of my generation would feel this loss personally as we were intoxicated with Sindhiyat through his poetry.
I first read a brief collection of his works "Baqaool-e- Ayaz" in 1964, when I was in 8th grade. Those were the dark days of military dictatorship in late sixties, when Ayaz stood like a rock for the rights of Sindhi people in Pakistan. He inspired Sindhi youth to stand up for their rights. He was incarcerated many times. He used to say that the poetry he wrote in the dark jail cells was the best he ever wrote. I remember obtaining secretly his first collection of poetry ("Bhaoonra Bhuray Aakas" or Sky Humming with Black Bees) from Comarade Ghulam Hussain Soomro, who was then the General Secretary of the Sindh Hari Committee under the leadership of Hyder Bux Jatoi. All books of Ayaz and other progressive writers were banned in Pakistan at that time. I was hooked to the poetry of Ayaz. I have read almost all of his books, except may be his very recent publications. He has probably written more than 50 books.
He was one of those brave writers who said what they felt. During the Indo-Pak war of 1965, he wrote a poem about famous Sindhi poet of India - Suragwasi Narain Shayam and it landed him in Jail. In my view, this poem was the statement he gave on behalf of the Sindhis about the war. This poem goes like this:
"He sangram! samhoon Aa Narayan Shayam!
Hina ja munhinja qola bi saGya, Bmola bi saGya,
Hoo kavita jo kaaka-dharni, para munhinja ranga-ratola bi saGya
DHatu bi saGyo, DHolu bi saGyo, hanou bi saGyo, hola bi saGya.
Huna tay keean bandooka KhaRNa maan! hina Khay golee keean haRNa maan!
keean haRNa maan! keean haRNa maan! keean haRNa maan!"
My translation:
"This sangram! in front is Narain Shayam!
His and mine tales are the same, promises are the same,
He is the king of poetry, but my colorful ways are also same
Land also same, beloved also same, heart also same, horrors also same
How can I point a gun to him! How can I shoot him!
How can I shoot! How can I shoot! How can I shoot!"
People like Ayaz never die, as he himself said:
"Marandaseen ta miteea maan panhnjy, juRanda kayee jama
Nawan nawan matwala einda, harnada tini je hama."
"When we die, many will blossom from our soil,
Many a new insanes will come, to do what we said."
The President of SANA, Iqbal Tareen, paid his tributes to Shaikh Ayaz thus: "On behalf of the Sindhi Association of North America, I express our deep grief over the demise of Sindhi Nation's real hero, Shaikh Ayaz and daughter of Sindh, Sister Durreshahwar Syed.
Shaikh Ayaz was a nature's gift to the Sindhi nation. His contribution in the field of literature will always be treasured by not only the Sindhi nation but the entire world community. Although Ayaz used Sindh as his canvas, his writings transcended all cultural and geographic boundaries. He was probably the only poet who derived great ecstasy from the rough edges of his motherland. No one else but Ayaz will dare to say:
" Jit luka laghea, jit auk tapan, so des musafir muhinjo rae.
Jit sijhu phula thee nikre tho, ane aag ulla thee nikrea tho,
Jit djheehan karhahia jean karhan, so des musafir muhinjo rae.
Jit karee usa kanwattan tae,
aen verheechan jae vatun tae tha vareea ja vaskaar thyan,
so des musafir muhinjo rae".
I had personally known Ayaz since 1967. During the "Underground" days in early seventies, I had taken refuge in his house in Sukkur. Not a safe place, but who wanted to hide anyway?. It was always a great experience when being with Ayaz. During his tenure as Vice Chancellor of Sindh University, Ayaz increasingly came under fire of massive criticism by his friends and foes. This was probably the worst period of his life. A poet, a national hero, made an administrative incharge of the most volatile institution of Sindh. Ayaz lost more friends during this period than in his entire life.
But that is life. Some people are destined to live more than one life in their life span. No matter what people say about Shaikh Mubarak, Shaikh Ayaz will always be remembered as a hero who echoed from the darkest age of recent times with the beat of his poetic thunder that will last forever as a national awareness.
I hope, a day will come when death of a hero will teach us to love and cherish the living heroes of our time. Although Shaikh Ayaz has passed away, he will always live deep in the national conscience of the Sindhi nation. He is one hero who will never die."
World Sindhi Congress expresses its deepest grief on the demise of Shaikh Ayaz, one of the greatest Sindhi poet, writer, and political activist of South Asia. Shaikh Ayaz is regarded as a genius of Sindh. He has written more than 50 books and invented and popularized numerous new poetry genres. His writings inspired the two generations of Sindh and established the incomparable example of high quality, progressive, popular and revolutionary writings.
He is the most popular poet of Sindh and almost all the contemporary singers have used his songs. He has written in Sindhi as well as Urdu. He is also regarded as the "Messenger of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai", since he is the one who popularized the Latif's poetry genre and his messages. He also translated Shah Jo Risalo in Urdu. He was a symbol of resistance, freedom, justice and peace for Sindh, South Asia and World. He was strong advocate of various liberation and peace movements around the globe and extensively wrote about them. Some of his work has been translated in Punjabi, Urdu, Persian, Tajik and English.
His poetry, as defiantly sung as it was officially suppressed, inspired a generation in its hour of trial and tribulation, and in so doing performed a miracle that seemed no less than bringing life back to what everyone had written off as a corpse. As long as the Sindhi nation lives, generations to follow will not forget Shaikh Ayaz and his contribution to Sindh's rich culture, poetry and literature.
Ayaz infused Sindh's ancient legends and myths in his poetry, and considered himself thoroughly Vedantic and Sufi. His poetry was thus in the finest Sindhi syncretic tradition, even as he experimented with new poetic forms. He spoke for peace, opposing every war of his time, and persisted in expressing his pacifist beliefs with fervor even when the military government arrested him on charges of treason and his execution seemed imminent. His romantic idealism and righteous anger was undaunted.
It will be our quest to provide translations of some of his writings and poems within these pages, and to provide some glimpse of this courageous and compassionate giant of our century whose passionate poetry became the rallying cry of an oppressed people and their quest for cultural survival.
This is how a young daughter of Jeejal Sindh paid her tribute to the great Ayaz.
"Today we are feeling deep anguish because the great Sindhi poet of our time, SHEIKH AYAZ died few days ago. In Sheikh Ayaz Sindhi people had found their poet, their teacher, their leader, an intellectual and an interpreter of their grief, happiness, wisdom, love and freedom.
Actually he gave the voice and expression to the silent tongues of burning hearts of Sindh. Sindhi poetry reaches its height during the period of Sheikh Ayaz and his life reflected credit on a great Sindhi. Ayaz is regarded as a great poet, perhaps the greatest after Shah Latif and Sachal.
Sheikh Ayaz has left a strong impression on his nation. No doubt he was the continuity of a rich and most civilized ancient nation which is more than five thousand years old. He helped shape the attitudes of the present day Sindh. He felt the highest aim of life is to get rid of chains of mental slavery and urge for freedom .
He wrote more than fifty books of poetry. Some of his work has also been translated in Urdu, English and German. He was an inspiration for continuous three generations. He gave the moral support and encouraged his nation through his strong, creative and zealous poems, lyrics and songs.
Infact he was a real revolutionary poet who never gave up but always faced tyranny and cruelty. Sheikh Ayaz was also sent to prison couple of times because rulers accused him of harming the government by writing that much bold and liberal poetry. He and his poetry played an important role in dissolving the one unit. His poetry gave the great strength to the people who were struggling against the one unit.
Ayaz was both a speaker of words and a doer of deeds. He taught us to resist the injustice and fight against the evils of society. He introduced unique aspect of truth, peace and passion. He created positive thoughts in youth. From Ayaz youth learned to respect, courage, love, honor, bravery and fidelity to their homeland.
He was the one who shook our minds, souls and hearts through his rebellious poetry. We are lucky that we were born during his period and learnt from him. We are proud of Sheikh Ayaz, who was the man of wisdom, messenger of love, reflection of our age and ofcourse a symbol of Sindh. Though Ayaz is not among us any more but we consider him an everlasting figure because he will still be alive in our hearts, minds, souls and memories FOREVER."
[If the younger generation of Sindhis feel the way this young daughter of Sindh feels for her motherland, her fatherland and for the great souls of her jeejal Sindh, then I am sure our Jeejal Sindh is alive and well. Ayaz is dead, long live Sindh! Oh! Mother Sindh, may you live for ever and ever.]
Prof A.R.Nagori's Tribute to Sheikh Ayaz
THE late Shaikh Ayaz, who was a connoisseur of fine arts and a literary giant of Sindh, has left us with a treasure of Sindhi literary gems. I do not have words to describe his artistic and aesthetic qualities adequately. I observed many splendid facets of his personality during his conversation with Dr G.M. Mekhri; both persons being encyclopaedias of art and literature personified. On religion, it was unique experience listening to Shaikh Ayaz, while he would express his appreciation of the Holy Quran as translated by Professor Ahmed Ali, at various sittings held at the latter's residence.
Even a layman of letters could feel melodies in his poetry, be it ballads, anti-one-unit protest poems requiring martial tunes, or love songs invoking folk and local legends. He was closer to Tagore whom he admired the most, besides Amir Khusro, Tulsidas, Shah Latif and his contemporary Faiz. After Shah Latif, Ayaz is the most widely and fondly sung by the wanderers and fakirs in Sindh. He was truly a poet of the people.
Shaikh Ayaz was a collector of rare books and loved possession of best-sellers. I have yet to see a private collection of such a rare value. May I suggest that the Culture Department of the Government of Sindh should take steps for its preservation. The library, named after Ayaz be established without delay for public reference and research.

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