Enlivening Punjabi Mushaira in Houston
By Iftikhar Nasim


L to R : Sabir Raza (Manchester, UK), Karamat Gardezi, Ata ul Haq Qasmi (Pakistan), Dr. Amanullah Khan and Iftikhar Nasim

Houston: The Association of Pakistani Physicians of North America (APPNA) had a three-day convention which brought two thousand doctors, their family members, and friends together in Houston. In the programs there was an Urdu mushaira and a very unusual poetry session of Punjabi language. It was the first time in the history of North America that a Punjabi Mushaira at a large scale was held under the auspices of the distinguished and vibrant organization of medical doctors of Pakistan origin.
The mushaira was a brainchild of Dr. Aman Ullah Khan who has just appeared on the Punjabi literature scene. His poetry collection “Mukar Gain nay Chawan” is considered a watershed in Punjabi literature. He is a Renaissance man. His Punjabi poetry is sung by Indian and Pakistani young and mature singers. He has been acknowledged for his literary contributions in both East and West Punjab. His poetry has also been translated in Gurumukhi.
The venue of the mushaira was crowded by the attendees who soon outnumbered the available seats. So the chairs were rearranged. At about 9 pm Dr Naeem Kohli, the master of ceremony, took the mike and began to call the names of the poets. The name of famous columnist and poet Ata Ul Haq Qasmi was announced as the guest of honor as Karamat Gurdezi was asked to preside over the musahiara. A very prolific poet, both in Urdu and Punjabi and a novelist Mr. Sabir Raza, who was invited from Manchester England, took his chair followed by the host Dr. Aman Ullah Khan, Iftikhar Nasim, Rev.Afzaal Firdaus, Shehnaz Imtiaz, Younas Ajaz and Nadir Durrani.

Karamat Gardez

The proceedings began at around 9:30pm. Members of the audience were glued to their chairs as the quality of the Punjabi poetry heard on the occasion was par excellence. Usually in a big convention people have lots of choices but many people opted for the Punjabi mushaira.
Some of the people were curious about the language. Some thought it was a “bhangra” offshoot like the one they see in Bollywood movies and songs. But they were amazed at the sensitivity of the language and the seriousness of the poetical content. On every couplet recited by the poet, there were appreciative chants of “wah, wah” from the audience. At the end, the audience wanted to hear more of Punjabi poetry.
Luckily present in the audience was Urdu literature icon Dr. Gopi Chand Narang. I requested him to come to the stage and say a few words. He readily obliged and in his brief address on the occasion informed that the Punjabi zaban is three thousand years old. It has a rich history of literature, especially in mystic poetry. He mentioned Heer Waris Shah, a famous love story, narrated by famous Punjabi poet Waris Shah. It is sung in carnivals as well as in private mehfils. Dr. Narang was very much impressed by the quality of modern Punjabi poetry recited by Sabir Raza, Dr.Aman Ullah Khan and the rest of the poets. At the end, Mr. Karamat Gardezi thanked the poets and audience.

 

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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