Majeed Amjad: The Poet Less Remembered

Posted on December 13, 2009
Filed Under >Fawad, People, Poetry, Urdu
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In the post-Iqbal era of Urdu poetry there are few greater poets than Majeed Amjad (this is a link to a short bio of him in Wikipedia that I wrote and I would love readers familiar with his work to add to it).

Yet, he may also be amongst the most under-recognized and under-appreciated of our great poets.Even amongst the lovers of Urdu poetry his name is least likely to be recognized.

Reading Majeed Amjad’s magnificent poetry I have often wondered how it is that some literary reputations get created from meager contributions but some people forever struggle to gain just acclaim.

In Majeed Amjad’s case I think it was a confluence of factors: he was a quiet, reserved introvert with no inclination for self-marketing. He lived away from the literary center of Lahore in small Punjabi towns like Sahiwal and Jhang and never had many influential advocates of his literary merits.

But, perhaps more importantly, Majeed Amjad was not an ideological poet affiliated with one or the other group of literary luminaries who could beat their partisan drums on his behalf (Progressive Writers Movement managed to turn everyone who knew the words ‘mazdoor’ or ‘kisan’ into literary giants).

However, on to some examples of his wonderful poetry (unfortunately I do not possess any talent for translation so my apologies to those who struggle with literary Urdu).

Shab-e-Rafta was the only collection of his poetry published in his lifetime. He wrote a beautiful poem (Harf-e-Awwal) as an introduction to that collection:

DardoN ke is koh-e-garaaN se
MeiN ne tarashi, nazm kay eewaN
ki ik ik sil,
Ik ik soch ki hairaaN moorat …Garche qalam ki nok se tapke
Kitne tarane, kitne fasane
Lakh masaail
Dil meiN rahi sub dil ki hikayat!

Bees baras ki kaawish-e-paiham
Sochte din aur jaagti raateiN
Un ka haasil:
Aik yahi izhaar ki hasrat!

The persistent undercurrent of Majeed Amjad’s poetry is a view of life that is essentially tragic (perhaps another reason why it is difficult for the young to embrace him compared to say Faiz’s optimistic theme of ‘we shall overcome’) . Majeed Amjad feels the inexorable cruelty of time in his bones. Life’s circle continues with unremitting regularity indifferent to what it leaves behind.

In the poem “KunwaN”, the water wheel symbolizes the perpetual circle of time and the water carrier, symbolizing the divine, watches this passing of time and its ravages with complete detachment:

KunwaN chal raha hai! magar khet sookhe pare haiN, na fasleiN, na khirman, na dana
Na shakhon ki bahein, na phooloN ke mukhre, na kalioN ke mathe, na rut ki jawani …KunwaiN wala, gaadi pe leta hai, mast apni bansi ki meethi sureeli sada meiN
KahiN khet sookha para reh gaya aur na us tak kabhi aai pani ki bari
KahiN beh gayi aik hi tund rele ki fayyaz lehroN meiN kayari ki kayari …

Aur ik naghma sarmadi kaan meiN aa raha hai, musalsal kunwaN chal raha hai
Payape magar narm rau us ki raftaar, paiham magar betakan us ki gardish
Adam se azal tak, azal se abad tak badalti nahiN aik aan us ki gardish
Na jane liye apne dolaab ki aastinoN maiN kitne jahaaN us ki gardish

RawaN hai rawaN hai
TipaN hai tipaN hai
Yeh chakkar yuhiN jaawidaN chal raha hai
KunwaN chal raha hai

I could go on but the last poem that I would like to quote in this piece is “Maqbara e Jahangir”. Notice the wholly different tone of Majeed Amjad’s poem. His reaction to this beautifully historic sight is a deep sadness as he sees human beings (gardeners, people picknicking etc.) in this serene setting either struggling to get through the day or wholly oblivious to this fleeting existence.

Khurdre, maile, phate kaproN meiN boorhe maali
Yeh chaman band, jo guzre hue sultanoN ki
HaddiaN seench ke phulwariaN mehkate haiN
Ghaas kat ti hai ke din in ke kate jate haiN …

Teen sau saal se mabhoot khare haiN jo yeh sarv
In ki shakheiN haiN keh afaaq ke sheeraze haiN
Saf-e-ayyam ki bikhri hui tarteebeN haiN
In ke saaye haiN keh dhalti hui tehzeebeN haiN …

MarmareeN qabr ke ander, tahe zulmaat kahiN
Kirmak-o-Moor ke jabroN meiN salateeN ke badan
Koi dekhe, koi samjhe to is eewaN meiN jahaaN
Noor hai, husn hai, taz’een hai, zeebaish hai
Hai to bus aik dukhi rooh ki gunjaish ha

Fawad is a California-based literati-at-large and manages the blog Moments of Tranquility, where a version of this was first posted. This post was first posted at ATP in October 2006 and is now being re-posted.

38 responses to “Majeed Amjad: The Poet Less Remembered”

  1. Talat Afroze says:

    December 31st, 2010.
    Dear Fawwad Zakariya Bhai:
    Assalaam Alaikum. I am a big fan of Majeed Amjad since 1977 when I bought and started reading Shab-e-Rafta kay Baad…. during my college days at Forman Christian College, Lahore.
    I have just launched my web site ( dedicated to modern Urdu poetry. Majeed Amjad will be the central attraction of my web site! I am also working on a screenplay depicting the life of this great poet.
    Your father, Mohtaram Dr. Khawaja Mohammad Zakariya is my hero since he compiled Kulliyaat e Majeed Amjad which was published by Mohtaram Khalid Shareef of Maawaraa in 1988!! (As an aside, Dr. Zakariya is also my distant Uncle since my father (Khawaja Mohammad Shafi) and the recently deceased Mrs. Shaista Kirmani (wife of Ahmad Saeed Kirmani) were first cousins.)
    But that is beside the point.
    The real reason I am writing to you is to have my request forwarded to your father. Dr. Zakariya noted in the preface to Kulliyaat e Majeed Amjad (p. 33) that he received a very valuable “register” or journal from Mr. Abdul Rasheed (the person who compiled Shab e Rafta kay Baad, the collection that came out immediately after Majeed Amjad’s death) . This journal or manuscript contains the entire early poems of Majeed Amjad. Due to space and time constraints, Dr. Zakariya only selected some of the poems from this early manuscript for publication in the Kulliyaat of 1988.
    I would like to request Dr. Zakariya to kindly make the contents of this journal/register/manuscript available to serious fans of Majeed Amjad. The best way would be to use a Hewlitt-Packard or HP scanner (priced around $80) and convert all of the 500 or so pages of this manuscript containing all early poems of Majeed Amjad into pdf files and upload it onto a web site so that everyone can gain access to it. I would like to offer my web site as a repository for this invaluable literary treasure.
    Please convey my message to your father. I can be reached via my email ( I look forward to hearing from you and especially from Dr. Zakariya.
    I would be most grateful for any help you can provide in making Majeed Amjad’s early work available to his fans.
    Warm regards
    Talat Afroze, Toronto, Canada.

  2. coolest gadgets says:

    why we are not producing these sort of great poets now a days thats the sad news and big question mark :)

  3. Fawad says:

    @ATP: thanks so much for including this video as I had not seen this before. This is indeed an extremely rare recording.

    @Osman: I have included the outlines of his personal life but I am confused about your comment about controversies. Majeed Amjad was an intensely private and extremely introverted person and uncontroversial in almost all respects so it would be helpful if you could elaborate what you mean.

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