The Urdu Academy of North America's February 15, 2015 event was dedicated to the life and work of two great Urdu poets, Jaun Elia and Saghir Siddiqui. The literary event, at the Chandni Restaurant, Newark CA, was presided over by Hatim Rani, a prominent community member.
At the outset Khalid Rana, a senior member of the Academy, welcomed the guests on behalf of the Urdu Academy. He thanked entrepreneur Syed Sarwat for patronizing the Urdu Academy by providing venue to hold its monthly literary event.
The first session was dedicated to the work of Jaun Elia. Kausar Syed was MC of the first session. Tashie Zaheer, President of the Urdu Academy, introduced Kausar Syed for conducting the first session on Jaun Elia. It was the first time that Kausar Syed was presenting any Urdu Academy literary event. And she did a good job.
She presented a well researched maqala on the life and distinguished poetry of Jaun Elia.
As usual, a number of Urdu lovers recited the poetry of Jaun Elia: Abdus Sattar Ghazali, Syed Aslam, Hatim Rani, Tasadduq Attari, Syed Babar, Moiz Khan, Zafar Khan, Ahmar Shehwar, Salman Siddiq and Nagesh Avadhani
Jaun Elia was born on 15 December 1931 in Amroha, Uttar Pradesh. He was the youngest among his siblings. His father, Shafiq Hasan Elia, was a poet and was involved in art and literature.
He was the brother of journalist and psychoanalyst Rais Amrohvi and journalist Syed Muhammad Taqi, and husband of columnist Zahida Hina. He was fluent in Arabic, English, Persian, Sanskrit and Hebrew.
He migrated to Pakistan in 1957 and made Karachi his home. His poetry won him both acclaim and admiration in the local literary circles. Poet Pirzada Qasim said: "Jaun was very particular about language. While his diction is rooted in the classical tradition, he touches on new subjects. He remained in quest of an ideal all his life. Unable to find the ideal eventually, he became angry and frustrated. He felt, perhaps with reason, that he had squandered his talent."
His first poetry collection Shayad (an Urdu word which means "maybe") was published in 1991, when he was 60. His preface in this collection provided deep insights into his works and the culture within which he was expressing his ideas.
The preface can also be considered as a fine example of modern Urdu prose. The second collection of his poetry Ya'ani was published posthumously in 2003. Later, his companion, Khalid Ansari, compiled and published his three consecutive collections, Gumaan in 2004, Lekin in 2006 and Goya in 2008.
An eminent Urdu literary critic, Muhammad Ali Siddiqui, has called Elia one of the three most eminent ghazal poets of Urdu of the second half of the twentieth century. Elia was an open anarchist and nihilist in generally a conservative and religious society. His elder brother Rais Amrohvi, himself a poet and influential intellectual, was murdered.
Jaun Elia had a distinctive sense of humor and was a person who loved ‘fantasizing’ about various aspects of life. Many literary critiques believe that Jaun’s poetry was influenced by the likes of John Keats and T.S. Eliot. Similar to Eliot’s poetry which laments the spiritual hollowness in the West, a subject that can be found in some of Jaun’s poems. Jaun Elia died after a protracted illness on 8 November 2002 in Karachi.
Urdu Academy pays tribute to Saghir Siddiqui
The second session was dedicated to the life and work of another prominent Urdu poet, Saghir Siddiqui. Poet Arshad Rashid, a senior member of the Urdu Academy, was MC of the second literary session. Arshad Rashid presented a well researched maqala on the tragic life and work of Saghir Siddiqui.
Saghir Siddiqui was born in 1928 in Ambala, East Punjab. He was named Muhammad Akhtar at birth. Saghar was the only child of his parents and he spent the early years of his life in Ambala and Saharanpur (UP, India).
Young Akhtar got interested in Urdu poetry. He started writing at the age of seven or eight and soon became so fluent in Urdu that people used to come to him to get their letters written.
At age 16, he would regularly attend mushairas. He was also active in an Urdu Majlis (society) formed for the advancement of Urdu literature by Dr M. D. Tasir and Maulana Tajwar Najibabadi and attended its mushairas.
Upon creation of Pakistan, Saghir moved to Lahore, Pakistan where his poetry blossomed.
1950's were the golden creative years for Saghir. A career that was going nowhere, unrequited love and the general apathy of Lahore's intelligentsia towards a poor young man who was head and shoulders above most of them in literary talent and the sheer fire of creativity, led to a downward spiral, with morphine addiction.
Sometimes he would have to sell his ghazals to other poets for a few rupees. He would use the waste paper spread around to light fires to stay warm during winter nights while wandering at streets. Ultimately, he passed away on a street in Lahore on 19 July 1974 at age 46. His dead body was found one early morning outside one of the shops.
Despite his shattered life, some of his verses (ash'aar) are among the best in Urdu poetry. It is unbelievable that he kept his inner self so pure and so transcending.
His long time friend Younis Adeeb collaborated with the renowned Lahore publisher Safdar Husain (Al-Hamd Publishers, Lahore) to publish his collected verse as "Kulliyaat e Saghir Siddiqui" which is a masterpiece in modern Urdu poetry.
The Urdu ghazals of Saghir Siddiqui are steeped in the birth pangs of a newly born, raw and bloody Pakistan.
A number of Urdu lovers recited Saghir Siddiqui’s poetry: Abdus Sattar Ghazali, Syed Aslam, Hatim Rani, Tasadduq Attari, Syed Babar, Moiz Khan, Zafar Khan, Ahmar Shehwar, Salman Siddiq, Nagesh Avadhani, Mehmoodul Hasan, Syed Mujeebur Rehman, Khalid Rana, Jaafar Shah and Mobeen Khalil.
Nagesh Avadhani stole the show by singing Saghir Siddiqui’s ghazal Hay dua yaad magar harf-e-dua yaad naheen in his melodious voice.