Urdu Academy Pays Tributes to Josh Malihabadi & Shabnam Shakeel
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

Urdu Academy of North American held its monthly literary meeting on May 19 at the ornate Chandni Restaurant in Fremont/Newark, CA.

The first session of the event was dedicated to the life and work of great Urdu poet, Josh Malihabadi. The second session was dedicated to a prominent poetess Shabnam Shakeel.

Author, critic, journalist and poet, Ahmed Rahi, who happens to be visiting the Bay Area, was president of the first session. Aftab Ahmed, a literary personality, presided over the second session.

As usual, Urdu enthusiasts read Josh’s poetry. Among those who presented Josh’s poetry were Asghar Ali Mandviwala, Asim Bajwa, Arvind Kumar, Hatim Rani, Ismat Kamal, Jafar Shah, Meraj Ghazali, Mobeen Khalil, Nagesh Avadhany, Syed Mujeeb Rahman, Talat Khan, Tasadduq Attari and Abdus Sattar Ghazali.

Dr. Tahir Mahmood, a senior member of the Urdu Academy, read a well researched maqala on Josh Malihabadi.

Josh Malihabadi was born as Shabbir Hasan Khan on 5th December, 1898 at Malihabad (UP) to a family of aristocrats and poets. He did his senior Cambridge from St. Peter's College, Agra in 1914. He studied Arabic and Persian. Due to the death of his father, Bashir Ahmed Khan, in 1916, Josh was unable to avail of college education.

In 1925, Josh joined the Osmania University, supervising translation work. He was exiled from the state of Hyderabad for writing a nazm against the Nizam. He then started the newsletter/magazine called 'Kaleem' in which he openly wrote articles in favor of independence and against the British. Soon, he was being called "Shaayar-e-inquilaab".

He afterwards launched his own magazine, ‘Kaleem’, in Delhi. About a year later, the magazine was merged with the Progressive Writers’ Association’s magazine, ‘Naya Adab’. He had a brief stint at Shalimar Pictures of Poona and then became editor of ‘Aaj Kal’, a magazine published by the Indian government. At the time of his migration to Pakistan in 1956, he was an adviser to All India Radio in addition to being the editor of the magazine.

Josh migrated to Pakistan in 1958 - despite Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru's insistence against it - over what is generally believed to be his concern regarding the future of the Urdu language in India, where he thought the Hindu majority would encourage the use of Hindi rather than Urdu (Wikipedia). After migration, Josh settled in Karachi and rigorously worked for Anjuman-i-Tarraqi-i-Urdu with Maulvi Abdul Haq.

He remained in Pakistan until he died on February 22, 1982 in Islamabad.

The first collection of his poetry was published in 1921. The collections of his poetry include Shola-o-Shabnam, Junoon-o-Hikmat, Fikr-o-Nishaat, Sunbal-o-Salaasal, Harf-o-Hikaayat, Sarod-o-Kharosh and Irfaniyat E Josh (all Urdu titles).

Josh Malihabadi's granddaughter Tabassum Akhlaq has carried over the legacy of his poetry. Josh Memorial Committee was formed in 1986 by Tabassum Akhlaq and she is the current chairperson as well. The committee organizes seminars on the personality, history and literary work of Josh Malihabadi. These seminars are usually held on the birthday and death anniversary of Josh Malihabadi on 5th December and 22nd Februaury respectively.

In August 2012, Government of Pakistan announced the award of Hilal-e-Pakistan for Josh Malihabadi. This award was presented to Tabassum Akhlaq by President Asif Ali Zardari at a ceremony held on Pakistan Day 23rd March, 2013. While in India, Josh was honored with the Padma Bhushan in 1954.


Shabnam Shakeel


The second session of the literary gathering was dedicated to a prominent poetess, Shabnam Shakeel.


As usual, Urdu enthusiasts read Shabnam’s poetry which included: Hatim Rani, Irshad Khan, Jafar Shah, Kamal Sahney, Meraj Sultana Ghazali, Nagesh Avadhany, Naseer Humayun, Sarwat Jahan, Shan Saigal, Tasadduq Attari, Talat Khan and Abdus Sattar Ghazali

Poet Arshad Rashid presented a well researched maqala on the life and work of Shabnam Shakeel who expired about two months back in March this year.

Shabnam was born on March 12, 1942 in Lahore. Her father Syed Abid Ali Abid was a poet and academician and thus she was given the opportunity to grow up in a literary environment and was exposed to notable people such as Ghulam Mustafa Tabassum, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Professor Nazeer Ahmed, Dr Syed Abdullah, Dr Taseer, and other luminaries of the day.

She was a student at Kinnaird College and graduated from Islamia College, both in Lahore. She received a Master’s of Arts in Urdu literature from Oriental College, Lahore.

During her career she worked as a lecturer at several colleges in Pakistan. Her first book Tanqeedi Mazameen, was published in 1965. Some of her other published poetry collections were Shabzaad (1987), Izteraab (1994), Taqreeb Kuch Tau (2003) and Musafat Raigan Thi (2008).

She won numerous awards, honors and titles for her contributions to Urdu literature including the prestigious Presidents' Pride of Performance Award in 2004.


Vote of thanks

At the end of the program, Nagesh Avadhany thanked the audience and poetry presenters for making the event successful. He particularly thanked Syed Sarwat, owner of Chandni Restaurant, for hosting and patronizing the literary events of the Urdu Academy. It may be pointed out that the Chandni Restaurant has been hosting Urdu Academy’s literary events since 2009.


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