Sadequain the poet discussed
By Peerzada Salman
KARACHI: In an erudite manner, the logic and ethics of the principle of poesis in famous artist Sadequain’s life and work was discussed by Dr Nauman Naqvi during a lecture titled ‘Acts of Inheritance, Scenes of Mourning’ at T2F on Thursday.
Dr Naqvi is the Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Toor Cummings Centre for International Studies and the Liberal Arts at Connecticut College, and was a producer in the Urdu section of the BBC World Service.
Dr Naqvi in the beginning of the talk admired the Urdu translation of anthropology, bashariat, and laid emphasis on speculative enterprise (qayas), which he regarded as the force behind poetry, philosophy and wisdom (hikmat). He said the character of Qais was in love with Laila (dark night), hinting that it was a kind of speculation in the dark. He told the audience that throughout his lecture two words poesis (sher goyee) and askesis (faqr) would feature the most, which he claimed were verbs, an act. He showed with the help of slides some 16th and 17th century paintings in which Majnoon (Qais) is seen meeting his mother, and a scholar and in all the pictures he looks emaciated. Then through a couplet of Nizam Ganjvi he tried to make the point that Majnoon’s estrangement was actually an arduous task (mashaqqat).
Then Dr Naqvi came to Sadequain and divided this part into three scenes. The first scene was called The Hand. He informed the gathering that once he saw a TV interview of the great artist in which he had described his regimen of work. He said Sadequain had read out the following rubai (quatrain):
Funn ki chal to rahi ha rerhi ya Rab
Satrein likhta hoon terhi merhi ya Rab
Likhte huay ayat-e-junoon bachpan se
Ab unglian ho chuki hain terhi ya Rab
He said the painter showed his hand that had crooked fingers. Dr Naqvi said the artist’s mimesis of Ghalib’s famous couplet Dard-i-dil likhoon kab tak, jaon un ko dikhlaon/ Unglian figar apni, khama khoonchakan apna described, with the help of hands one of which had the quill, the specificity of torment. This he called the violence of the quill, cutting and fusing together thought and body. He said the artist’s published quatrains were calligraphic, all containing the word Allah. He claimed askesis and poesis had a strong connection.
The second scene was called The Head. In that part he touched upon Sadequain’s Sir Bakaf series (head in hand) and recounted the story of Sarmad Shaheed who later on in his life had become Dara Shikoh’s spiritual leader and was killed (decapitated) by Aurangzeb, and in the process completed the journey from negation to affirmation. He said, in extremity, askesis and truth were the same. He then showed a painting in which Aurangzeb is holding a pen with Sarmad’s head under his foot, while Sarmad stands before him headless. The next drawing showed an artist trying to draw himself by holding his severed head. He said by painting that picture Sadequain had again brought Sarmad alive – inheritance was an arduous legacy.
The last scene was Gesture. In that segment he talked about the genre of ghazal and its gestural modalities. He said gesture was the arresting moment of the body, and the furtive glance of the beloved indicated the body of tradition (mashooq ko nahin pa saktey). To highlight his point he quoted Nasir Kazmi’s couplet:
Mil hi jaey ga raftagan ka suragh
Aur kuch din phiro udas udas
And rounded off his lecture by suggesting the inherent truth in Sadequain’s name (sidq), again claiming that poesis and askesis went together.