The Heer Waris Shah Sessions by Paraga

Waris Shah - Source: maati.tv

Waris Shah – Source: maati.tv

My friend Sohail Abid, who also happens to be the founder of Folk Punjab and the Folk Punjab Fund for Punjabi Books, was leaving town so I thought I should see him. He invited me to come over to the Academy of Letters and introduced me to a remarkable treasure for which I would remain grateful to him.

Every Wednesday evening, a calm but captivating session of reading is held in the common room of the Writer’s House in the Academy of Letters, Islamabad.

People passionate about Punjabi classical literature gather to recite the epic love story Heer Waris Shah, which is considered the most famous literal masterpiece of the civilization in Punjab. Written by renowned Sufi poet Waris Shah in late eighteenth century in Central Punjab, this romantic tragedy epic is surpassed by very few works of art, if any, in terms of its eloquence.

But what is so significant about reading Waris Shah in this forum when you can do so at home, you would ask.

Not only is the language difficult to grasp for even the more experienced readers, but the discussion in the sessions offers the right historical, etymological and cultural context for the passage. And every single session is an education.

The session is regularly attended by some of the renowned Punjabi and Urdu poets and writers. A regular is Punjabi short story writer Malik Mehr Ali, who is known for his mastery of the language and exploring rare interpretations. The likes of Punjabi poet and vocalist Hazrat Shaam also attend the sessions, who keep alive the age old tradition of reciting this piece of poetry in a melodious tune.

I have personally learned a lot from these sessions, which have ignited a renewed interest in Punjabi classical literature, but more than anything else, in Heer Warish Shah. The lyrical quality and the folk wisdom of this fascinating work of art really gets you hooked. And add the intellectual orgasm the discourse offers you and there is little else that you can ask for.

The sessions are organized by Tariq Bhatti, a civil servant by profession and a man of refined taste in literature. He founded Paraga in 2013 for the development and promotion of literature and arts in Punjabi language.

“I always had this urge to establish a forum where friends with a common interest could gather to read Punjabi classical literature.” Tariq Bhatti said while explaining his aims behind Paraga and these sessions. “Since the times of the Mogul, Punjabi has largely been a verbal language. Even today people cannot read or write the language because of the lack of familiarity with the script. Paraga is a humble effort to bridge this gap.”

Bhatti also said that the forum plans to recite literature from other classical Punjabi poets such as Shah Hussein, Baba Farid and Bulleh Shah. The forum also plans to offer a platform to budding poets.

You can join the Paraga.org facebook page for updates pertaining to the sessions. The recordings of the previous sessions can be found at paraga.org.

The session will not be held in the last Wednesday of Ramadan. However, it has the last session of July tomorrow right after Iftaar at the same venue. After the fasting month, the sessions will be regularly held at the usual time of 7 in the evening at the usual venue.

It is an excellent opportunity for those who want to learn about classical Punjabi literature and want to increase their Punjabi vocabulary.

In any case, I always look forward to the event and there is hardly a better way to spend the evening.

Paraga welcomes everyone.

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Note: The edited version of this post was published here

Faiz’s Word – Dare to Speak the Truth

One of my very good friends, Ahmad Jamal Saeed, who lives in Lahore, the city of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, is a great fan of this revolutionary poet. He shared this link earlier, which is probably his greatest tribute to the people who dare to speak the truth against tyranny and are tried for it.

A tribute to people like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Faiz Ahmed Faiz himself. And yes, to the late Governor of Punjab Salmaan Taseer too, who recited his uncle’s revolutionary verse in a press conference about the Blasphemy Law before he was murdered.

To all the Soldiers of Truth.

Update: A very good translation found at Aligarians.com

Let’s go today to the bazaar in chains

The tearful eye, the noisy spirit, are not enough.

The accusaion of the hidden love is not enough.

Let’s go today to the bazaar in chains.

Let’s go with hands waving, intoxicated, dancing.

Let’s go with dust on our heads, blood on our sleeves,

Let’s go to the city our love lives in

Everyone is watching

The city’s ruler, the general populace

The unhappy morning,

The day with no purpose

The arrow of accusation

The stone of abuse

Who else beside us is their intimate friend?

Who now in our beloved’s city is still pure?

Who now is worthy of the executioner’s hand?

Pick up the burden of the heart, let us go heartbroken ones.

We are the ones who have to be murdered again, my friends

The Iqbal Day Post: Pakistan Need to Revisit Iqbal for Inspiration

On this day, November 9, in 1877, Allama Muhammad Iqbal was born. His works had great impact on whoever they reached, particularly the Muslim community of India. Like the undying words of a Philosopher-Poet, his legacy lives on.

The Poet of the East and the Sage of the Nation.

We are good at bestowing titles, but never following what the Great Sage would say.

While Pakistan is in a state of shambles thanks to a morally corrupt mechanism of government and disenchanted masses with a lack of direction, it will not take more than a minute to get everything fixed.

Not more than a minute to find direction, not more than a minute if the intentions were right.

Adversity is not misfortune. It is in fact, the best of the teachers and trainers.

In the words of Nietzsche, What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.

However, snap out of false pride, megalomania and blind patriotism. If you need to build a strong fortress, then build on the foundation of honesty, truth and if there is any such thing, justice.

Maybe this is what you need to fly higher, the resistance of a strong gust of wind.

Only struggling will keep you afloat, keep you from drowning.

 

The Words of Iqbal.

طالب علم

خدا تجھے کسی طوفاں سے آشنا کر دے

کہ تیرے بحر کی موجوں میں اضطراب نہی

تجھے کتاب سے ممکن نہیں فراغ کہ تو

کتاب خواں ہے مگر صاحب کتاب نہیں

To the Student

May God Offer Thee a Storm to Fight

A Challenge for the Ship of Thy Effort

Have Ye Time to Ponder, O Reader of the Book

That Ye Read Without Learning

We know everything we need to know.

Do we want to act is the question?

You could keep on sleeping though.

I hope I never wake up after I fall asleep.

Therefore, today

If only for a moment

Revisit Iqbal.