Farzana Ahmad is a short story writer who is routinely published in leading Urdu periodicals. She is the wife of Feza Aazmi, a writer, social and political analyst, lawyer, journalist and poet of great repute. He emerged as the founder of a new genre of poetry, i.e. a series of book-length poems on major national and global issues in their historical and analytical perspective, and has written seven book-length poems on wide ranging topics. The book Poet, Beloved and Philosopher is Farzana Ahmad’s translation of the captivating and lyrical book-length ghazal ‘Shair, Mehboob aur Falsafi’ by Feza Aazmi. Here, I would like to mention that it is extremely difficult translating a book, and that too a good book, into another language and when the book involved is one of poetry, this difficulty increases manifold. More often than not, when people have taken up this crucial task, they have ended up either falling short of the original texts or exceeding them. However, Farzana Ahmad has done a commendable job translating this ghazal and has succeeded in keeping the lyrical formation and meaning of the original text intact.
The book begins with a few reviews by Dr Farman Fatehpuri, Sardar Zaidi and Anis Ahmad. I agree with Dr Farman Fatehpuri’s opinion that unlike all other professions, there is no qualification, no education and no training that can turn one into a poet. Poetry is an art that one is born with — you either have it or you do not — and good poetry is the result of uncontrollable emotional tumult and sensitivity, and not of deliberate effort or acquired knowledge. Dr Farman states in his review that Feza Aazmi is a true poet and has quoted some of the verses from his ghazals to confirm his statement. One of my personal favourites among these verses was, “Mujh ko bhi ho chala tha wafa’on ka kuch yakeen/ Lekin wo muskura diye ehd-e-wafa ke baad” (On her pledge of love, Almost convinced was I/ But for her parting smile, that was winsome but wry). This verse was unique in nature as it was marked with simplicity yet it carried a deep meaning. I have always believed that a good poem is one that brings a smile to your face, one that you might not even be aware of or have a reason for but you just cannot resist the urge; let me just say that this particular verse did the trick.
The poem Poet, Beloved and Philosopher can best be described as a philosophy of life where Feza Aazmi has taken up the role of all three, poet, beloved and philosopher and has explained life through the perspectives of a romantic, idealist poet, a teasing, tantalising beloved and a curious and rational philosopher. How he has brilliantly switched from one role to the other throughout the poem is commendable. As a poet, lost in his own world of fantasies, he writes, “Mein uske paas hoon aur woh hai mere pasih-e-nazar/ Haseen, shoakh, dilaawaiz, misl-e-shams-o-qamar/ Hazar baar who khoya hai mujhsay mil kar/ Woh kaun hai, yeh khayalon ko hai har aan khabar/ Magar nazar se nehaan hai ke chha raha hai kaun” (So close in proximity her I behold/ Like the sun and moon her enchanting allure and charm unfold/ She crosses my path often yet I fail to capture, to hold/ Aware is my heart of a luminous presence untold/ But woebegone! My eyes are oblivious/ Of that which my heart is desirous). As is evident from this verse, Feza Aazmi’s ghazals have been composed in rhyme and meter, yet he has not fallen victim to replicating his thoughts, which proves his mastery over the art of ghazal writing. His use of idioms, e.g. the sun and moon, to describe his beloved’s beauty is a quality that only a real artist possesses and, together with the way he has expressed his desire for her, without appearing even slightly vulgar, is a trait that distinguishes him from many other poets of his time. Moving on to the role of an iconic, elusive beloved, he writes, “Tujhe talaash hai meri tou mein ayaan hojaon/ Teri nigaah mein khursheed ka nishan hojaoon/ Wagar na kehtay rehkar hazaar pardon mein/ Teray khayal ki khatir teri zaban hojaoon/ Hayat-e-zauq-e-nazar ke siwa mein kuch bhi nahin” (I will reveal myself surely, if you so desire/ Dazzle your eyes like the sun’s blinding fire/ Or make myself obscure behind a thousand veils/ And let your pen weave magic in your tragic tales/ I exist not but, as a treasure-house of life’s yearnings entire). Here, Feza Aazmi has exquisitely described the behaviour of a beloved who is cajoling her lover into proving his devotion to her, to tell her how much she is desired and, in the end, she humbly accepts that she is everything beautiful that life has to offer. Then suddenly, he transforms into a rational but thoughtful philosopher and writes, “Meri nazar ko tamanna hai teri kurbat ki/ Meri khirad ko zaroorat hai teri soorat ki/ Mere khayal sulajh jaa’engay tujhe paakar/ Ke inko aaj talab hai teri haqeeqat ki/ Nazar ke vaastay tera shabab leloonga” (My eyes in their search crave your vicinity/ My reason demands you be in close proximity/ The aura of your presence will calm my turbulent thoughts/ My contemplations command you surrender before my majestic mind’s onslaught/ Your charisma youthful I will steal to be the cynosure of my eyes).