In the spirit of reviving the forgotten art of storytelling, an evening of Urdu poetry and prose titled “Baithak” enchanted literature buffs on Thursday.
The guest speaker at the gathering, held at Kuch Khaas, was Tajdar Zaidi of Theatre Wallay, who elaborated on the fond association people hold with Urdu literature, since it is engrained in our history and culture.
Reading from some printouts and hardbound copies, he focused mostly on prose writing, relating a letter, a column, a dialogue and a short story, while also offering some verses.
His first pick was a ghazal by Bahadur Shah Zaffar which portrays a romantic recollection of the past days of glory, while the poet speaks of his impending death to his beloved. The lyrical flow and a principled stand come together to make the piece engaging and bittersweet.
Next up was a letter from the Pakistan Tea House illustrating the candid correspondence between a woman and her fiancé, discussing the pitfalls of modern life, the romance of pre-marital days and the struggles of a long-distance relationship.
A Zameer Jafri dialogue titled “Rooh-e-Iqbal se Muqalma” was also read out loud. Relating the present day social situation with Allama Iqbal’s idealistic poetry, the piece is a hilarious read. Listening intently, the small, albeit enthused, audience responded with well-syncronised grins.
Before reading Wasatullah Khan’s column “Amma ka dil aisa hee tha” from BBC, Zaidi shared that the piece on motherhood was close to his heart, by virtue of its emotional and provocative nature. “It is more than just a column,” he added.
In this piece, Khan recalls being brought up in a modest household where his family of seven could ill-afford to have proper meals, leaving morsels for the mother. The naïve woman, as the writer illustrates, was a tailor, a housekeeper and a beacon of love and light all in one. Told from a child’s perspective, the piece tugged at the heart in narrating the unconditional and undemanding support of a woman who put up with circumstance without a sigh.
His rendition of Noon Meem Rashed’s “Hassan Koozagar” garnered applause, rekindling love for the soulful poetry. Another poem by Majeed Amjad “Lahore Mein” reeked of nostalgia for a chance meeting with the beloved at the post office.
The final poems by Qatil Shifai, “Mutharma” and “Gayee ruton ka jhonka”, reflected the loss and longing experienced in love etched in the lover’s heart.
“Noom Meem Rashed was a surprise for me because I’m in love with his poetry,” said Huma, an audience member and fiction writer. “There was a whole tradition of storytelling but you can’t find it anywhere, which is very unfortunate. Still, it is encouraging to see someone take the initiative,” she added.
The event was organised by Theatre Wallay in collaboration with Kuch Khaas.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 4th, 2014.