Urdu Academy Pays Tribute to Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali
Urdu Academy of North America’s February 26, 2012 session was devoted to the life and work of Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi, (November 20, 1916 – July 10, 2006) who was a legendary Urdu and English language Pakistani poet, journalist, literary critic, dramatist and short story writer. With some 50 books of poetry, fiction, criticism, journalism and art to his credit, Qasmi was a major figure in contemporary Urdu literature.
The literary session, held at the Chandni Restaurant, Newark/Fremont, was presided over by Professor Ibrahim Siddiqui while Talat Khan was the chief guest. The Academy President Tashie Zaheer, the MC of the program, presented an exhaustive maqala on the life and work of this great literary personality.
As usual a number of Urdu enthusiasts presented Qasmi’s poetry which included: Ishaq Nagpuri, Misbah Rehman, Mukesh Kackar, Hatim Rani, Abdus Sattar Ghazali, Ismat Kamal, Meraj Sultana Ghazali, Naseer Humayoun, Dr. Maheen Adamson and Talat Khan.
Qasmi's poetry stood out among his contemporaries' work for its unflinching humanism:
Kaun kehta hai ke maut aee to mar jaaoon gaa
MaiN to darya hooN samandar me utar jaaoon gaa
Zindagii shammaa kii maanind jalaataa hoon ‘Nadeem’
Bujh to jaaoon gaa magar subah tau kar jaaoon gaa
Qasim’s Urdu afsana (short story) work is considered by some second only to Prem Chand in its masterful depiction of rural culture.
He also published and edited the prestigious literary journal Funoon for almost half a century, grooming generations of new writers. He wrote many English poems and short stories. His poem The Feed is included in the syllabus of intermediate classes in Pakistan.
Born as Ahmad Shah Awan on November 20, 1916 in the house of Peer Ghulam Nabi Qasmi in the village Anga of Khushab District in British India, he had one brother named peerzada Mohammad Bakhsh Qasmi and a sister. A graduate of the University of the Punjab, Lahore, Qasimi started his career as a government clerk, which he eventually left to pursue journalism.
In his long career as a writer and editor, Qasmi Sahib had the distinction of editing several prominent literary journals, including Phool, Tehzeeb-i-Niswaan, Adab-i-Lateef, Savera, Naqoosh, and his own brainchild, Funoon. He also served as the editor of the prestigious (now defunct) Urdu daily Imroze. For several decades Qasimi contributed weekly columns to national newspapers; a classic example was "Rawan Dawan" in Daily Jang, which focused on current issues.
In 1948, he was selected as the secretary general of the Anjuman-e-Taraqqi Pasand Musannifeen ( Progressive Writers Movement) for Punjab. In 1949, he was elected the secretary-general of the organization for Pakistan, a position he held for six successive years.
In 1962, Qasmi started his own journal Fanoon. The legendary friendship and support of Khadija Mastoor and Hajira Masroor and support to a host of other writers from Ahmed Faraz and Saqi Farooqi to Najib Ahmed and others is linked to Fanoon. The renowned Urdu writers Amjad Islam Amjad, Ata ul Haq Qasmi, Munnoo Bhai and Nazeer Naji proudly claim Qasmi’s patronage. Perhaps the most well known of protégés was Parveen Shakir, who considered Qasmi her mentor and called him Ammu (Uncle). Her first bestseller, Khushboo, was dedicated to Qasmi.
Qasimi is a recipient of Pride of Performance (1968) and Pakistan Academy of Letters’ lifetime achievement award, as well as the country’s prestigious civil honor, Sitara-i-Imtiaz (1980), for literature.
Published collections of his best-known work include poetry volumes Jalal-o-Jamal, Shola-i-Gul and Kisht-i-Wafa, and short story collections Chopaal, Sannata, and Kapaas ka Phool, Bagolay, Tal-o-Gharoob, Sailab-o-Gardab , Anchal , Ghar Se Ghar Tak .
Following an illness, Qasmi died on the July 10, 2006 of complications from asthma at the Punjab Institute of Cardiology in Lahore. He is survived by a daughter Dr. Naheed Qasmi and a son Nauman Qasmi.
An interesting feature of the February 26 literary evening was Beit Bazi in which the audience was divided into two parts to compete.
The program ended with a vote of thanks by Khalid Rana, a senior member of the Urdu Academy. He thanked the Urdu lovers to make the literary event successful. More than 60 people attended the event. Rana sahib particularly thanked Syed Sarwat, owner of the Chandni Restaurant, Newark/Fremont for hosting the literary evenings of the Urdu Academy.