Friday, 28 December 2012

Shaikh Ayaz: So Sang The Minstrel Beejal

O my nation of fools
Why do you think?
Of every gravestone as a milestone?

Mubarak Ali Shaikh, popularly known by his pen name Shaikh Ayaz was born on 2nd March 1923 in Shikarpur city. Lawyer by profession, he was a writer by heart. He has written more than 75 books out of which 50 are published. Those included poetry, prose and his autobiography. He composed poetry based on the concepts of humanity, love, revolution, death and patriotism. Partition of Sub-continent left a scar on his personality. He did not believe in division on the basis of religion instead he supported the idea of compassion and equality. During dictatorial regimes of Ayub and Zia he wrote under the influence of leftist thinking which offended dictatorship rule. They banned his books and sent him to jail thrice labeling him as a traitor. After the dictatorship rule he served as the vice chancellor of Sindh University. Later in his life during 90’s his poetry and prose took a realistic and spiritual approach. 

Ayaz went through intense personal sorrows and isolation which ultimately helped him to learn what would be the utopia for Sindhi/Pakistani society.  His isolation also bought him time to ponder on the combination of his idealistic nature with practicality. Results were seen in his work that produced national sentiment and national-self perception.

The poetry that I have selected to analyze in terms of it having a relation with nationalism is selected from his book “Kee Jo Beejal Boliyo” which was published in 1973. However he wrote this poem in 1971 during his confinement.
A great offender,
Ever since genesis
Seized and chained,
Hunted out and killed.
Condemned to drink hemlock,
Hanged from gibbet,
Roasted alive in cauldron of boiling oil,
Crushed in oil expeller,
Thrown down from mountain top
Despite all he persists in his luckless custom.

These lines describe how truth through the creation of mankind has remained suppressed. It has been brutally murdered whenever anyone has tried to voice it and we have several examples in history like Socrates, Mansoor al Hilaj, Makhdoom Bilawal and Tegh Bahadur. But the bequest of truth continues nonetheless because truth is the force which helps bind the suffering people as one nation. Truth sustains despite of all the dilemmas because without it endurance crumbles.

Any heart that he breaks into
Is always in turmoil;
Today he’s thy guest;
Have thee ever paused to ponder
Whom thou hast befriended,
The great offender,

Here the poet says that truth is a disease which will always keep you on your toes. He is saying that he has accepted the truth which instead of pleasing has always affronted people.
For any nation to emerge it is important that their realities and facts are acknowledged. Pakistan was only created when Muslims were able to make British and Hindus realize the truth of their national identity. Ayaz similarly is fighting for the identity of Sindh. He is talking about the acceptance of national individuality of being a Sindhi and not suppressing their rights.  He is labeled as a traitor when he talks about the rights of Sindhis. 

I’m a sinner, I’ m a sinner,
I’ve sinned many a time.
The blue lotus in this murky moss of reeds
Is too a sinner,
So is the red-legged partridge
That flies in the dark,
It isn’t a sin that I’ve
Kneaded man’s clay again;

In these verses he is talking about if something beautiful dares to grow in an ugly surrounding or if anyone tries to be free is the gloomiest times they in society are accused of committing a crime. The poet has committed a sin of reshaping the mind frame of people. It is a crime for someone to go against the norms of the society and to bring a better change, in eyes of the authority. The leaders of the nation have to go through this hatred in order to bring a change.
I’ m a sinner, I’ m a sinner,
I’ve sinned many a time.
It isn’t a sin that I’ve
Built a temple to the heart,
Thou has raised the wall of hate,
I have uprooted its foundation,
I’ve sung the song of love;
I’ve redirected the reins of motherland.

Instead of spreading hatred Ayaz accepts the sin of distributing the message of humanity amongst the nation. He is saying to the enemies of the nation by which he means the dictators and the people who caused partition have tried their best to evoke revulsion and hierarchy in the hearts of the people. He as poet through his songs and poems is readdressing the nation the message of love and revolution. He wants to bring the nation under the banner of humanity.

I’ m a sinner, I’ m a sinner,
I’ve sinned many a time.
The red beard of Mullah,
This black tuft of Pandav,
To me,
One is no different from other,
Both are the fire of burnt out ember,
Religion is their ware
To replenish their fare;

Ayaz in these lines is basically telling us about the two-nation theory which separates the people of Sub-Continent on basis of religion. He says that the stereotype religious clerics are similar because they keep saying repeated lines what they hardly understand. These agendas only benefit handful people.

Nations are not created for the benefit of few they are the mutual thoughts and benefits of many. Instead of bringing religion as on obstacle and exploiting it should be cherished and respected.

I’ m a sinner, I’ m a sinner,
I’ve sinned many a time.
When humans scorched by hot winds
Come out on the streets,
When workmen, smutted by suffering,
Come out of factories,
I strike my string,
N’ heart become carefree;

The protests by troubled people of a nation have always been neglected by the authority and have faced hardships. People who have supported the unfortunate are dubbed as conspirators. Ayaz says that when his songs reach the hearts of the troubled nation, they can relate to him because their miseries are being addressed.

I’ m a sinner, I’ m a sinner,
I’ve sinned many a time.
I blew the trumpet of liberty
N’ removed the shackles of slavery,
Were these mere songs or magic
The age-old chains are broken,
All are picking my tears as pearls
From my shirt-front.

Our nation is still trapped in the web of feudalism. Millions still serve as slaves to people who hold power. They are miserable and helpless. Ayaz says that his songs have worked as magic for those who are in dire need. He accepts his crime of being the voice of the helpless. He further says his sorrowful songs are admired as something valuable.

I’ m a sinner, I’ m a sinner,
I’ve sinned many a time.
I’ve come up with a unique gift,
String is locked in combat with swords,
When I collide my songs with thy ramparts,
Thy strong towers shake n’ shiver,
Thou art no stronger with thy weaponry;

His poetry is an exclusive contribution which is better and powerful than any other weapon because his message spreads stronger throughout the nation rather than of the hateful message spread by the weapons.  Although every nation requires fighting for their rights to be built but that does not mean it has to be through weapons. Words are most powerful weapon which strikes directly heart and changes the thinking of the nation. Thought of a nation cannot be destroyed by weapons.

I’ m a sinner, I’ m a sinner,
I’ve sinned many a time.
Thou’ll hang me by gallows?
No way,
I’ll never die by thy hand,
I’m the spring of that life,
Which’ll resound even after I’m gone;
I’ll become another minstrel,
N’ taking a mandolin,
I’ll come back, I’ll come back;
Are first denounced as sinners, hence
I’ m a sinner, I’ m a sinner,
I’ve sinned many a time.

Death is not the ultimatum for the poet. Ayaz says physical presence is a mere luxury his thoughts of a united and equal nation cannot be silenced by keeping him in jail or killing him. His songs survive in the hearts of millions who can relate with his work. Ayaz’s poetry could not be interpreted during the time it was written, but as four decades have passed today people of the nation are able to relate better to it as he predicted. 

Ayaz at the time of one unit never accepted Sindh to be a former province. He charged through his writing alone on the authority to preserve the nationhood of Sindh.  In his this poem we can clearly see his struggle to bring the change within the nation. He accepts the negative aspects of the society but is not ready to give up. To build identity of a nation it is necessary for the people not to give up their idea of individualism which makes them a community because if they fail their identity will never be completed and they will never come up as a nation. Ayaz in his poetry is urging the nation not to quit or stop believing in their identity. 

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