Any Punjabi speaker will confirm this: after a day of navigating through polite English; or perhaps formal Urdu or Hindi, there is nothing quite like the warm embrace of your mother tongue. This collection of Punjabi ghazal, geet and nazm, written in Urdu, ranges from simple village life, to the complex issues of industrial cities and world politics; from the intimacy of love and deep friendships to the savage alienation of divided communities, brought about by hatred and war. The common themes are man’s human-ness, and of course, Punjabi.
The book is a celebration of Punjabi, but also of the Urdu script in which it is written. For the inquisitive, who lack written knowledge of these languages, each poem has been translated into English, with the transliteration below it, to help you brush up on your linguistic skills.
As Ziai sahib says,
Whenever a few Punjabis get together
The conversation flows in Punjabi
Fazal Karim Akhtar Ziai, or Ziai sahib, as he preferred to be called, was a seminal poet, community leader and activist. He was the author of five books of poetry and four novels/ short stories, as well as a regular contributor to international Urdu newspapers, and editor of the monthly magazine, ‘Husen Kar’.
On migrating to the UK in the 1960’s Ziai sahib founded the Asian Literacy Circle, in which he held mushairas, acting as an ambassador for Urdu poetry for over 40 years. He would invite national and international poets to his mushiaras and was a leading proponent for promoting female poets. However, his native language was Punjabi, and he wanted to celebrate its legacy. This, his final collection of poetry is devoted to his mother tongue: a collection of Punjabi ghazal, geet and nazm, written in Urdu.
This collection spans 50 years but its messages are still germane to current world events and our everyday lives.
Farrukh Akhtar is a Senior Fellow, at a British university, where she specialises in teaching transformative curricula. She is published academically, and this is her first book of translated poetry. She is currently working on a book of ghazals for children.