Turning words into swords

Writers, poets shouldn’t surrender to the forces of extremism

By Najmul Hasan Rizvi (Issues)

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Published: Fri 23 Aug 2013, 12:56 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 7:11 PM

They all were word-smiths, trained in turning words into gems and jewels to adorn their prose and poetry, but they now wanted to turn them into swords to fight the demon called corporate dominance. “You may call it globalisation or neo-imperialism,” Mr Right smiled.

“You must be talking about the national conference of the Progressive Writers’ Association (PWA) in Karachi last week,” I said. “Dedicated to Ali Sardar Jafri, the Indian icon of protest poetry and one of the stalwarts of the progressive writers’ movement in the sub-continent, the event reminded the people that they generally kept worrying about Hepatitis, dengue and hyper tension, but there were other ailments too that needed to be tackled seriously.”

“Globalisation is not an ailment it’s an epidemic,” Mr Right said. “It’s going to change everything, food, lifestyle and aspirations.”

“Speakers gave vent to their feelings against invasion of corporate culture and uninterrupted march of capital through international borders,” he continued.

“They included PWA office-bearers and delegates from other cities. One of them, a fire-eater, assailed writers for not doing enough to counter the socio-political and economic onslaught from the West.”

“It’s spreading like cancer according to writers,” I said. “That’s why they decided to meet in a hospital to discover a vaccine against our cultural decay.”

“Mairaj Mohammad Khan, veteran leader, no doubt, prescribed one,” Mr Right said. “He urged writers and poets never to surrender to the forces of oppression and extremism and carry on their mission to spread rational thinking and enlightenment in society through their writings.”

“Prof Sahar Ansari, Salim Raz, Rashid Misbah, Wahid Bashir, Dr Anwar Ahmad, Taj Baloch, Zahida Hina, Prof Shabbir, Fatima Hasan, Sahar Imdad and Ambreen Haseeb Amber also expressed their views on how to deal with the situation,” I said. “But some of their views drew blunt responses.”

“I liked that because it shows our writers have the courage to cross swords in order to reach right decisions,” Mr Right remarked.

“A speaker’s insistence on the purity of language sparked a heated debate on the subject and the scholarly discussion meandered its way from bazari language (market dialect) to free market economy that is going to become a market-free economy.”

“Dr Agha Nasir from Quetta in my view stole the show with his impressive performance,” I said. “He was sweet in tone and most reasonable in approach.”

“I agree,” Mr Right said. “Coming from a city plagued with terrorism, he displayed an uncommon calm temper and spoke of the grape wine, an apple tree and birds. He provided a touch of serenity to the conference.”

“May be this was his recipe of creating goodwill and defeating extremism,” I said. “Mazhar Jamil tried to deal with the question whether our writers are oblivious of their responsibility to portray the rigours of life in their works,” Mr Right said. “Disagreeing with those who thought the writers were enjoying a siesta, he listed a number of novels, short stories and non-fiction books published in recent years depicting the realities of life after 9/11.”

“This proves only one thing that many of us have stopped reading books,” I said.

“The conference was held to mark the centenary of Ali Sardar Jafri who served as the mouthpiece of the progressive movement since its beginning, “Mr Right said. “Muslim Shamim presented an article highlighting Jafri’s achievements. Some of his verses were also recited.”

“The one-day event was attended by men of letters, students, trade unionists and labourers. When one of the delegates said he didn’t see any labourers in the audience, a few hands went up to make their presence felt,” I said.

“The conference was aimed at making the writers raise their hands too expressing their readiness to face the challenges of globalisation,” Mr Right said.

“These challenges were earlier spelled out by Dr Syed Jafar Ahmed in his paper on globalisation and its influence on language and literature,” I said.

“The guests were treated to a rice and daal (pulse) lunch called mazdooron ka khana (labouers’ meal) by him. And everybody loved it,” Mr Right said. “It was completely free of global bacteria.”

Najmul Hasan Rizvi is a former Assistant Editor of Khaleej Times

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