By Dr Syed Shabihul Hasan
Al Qamar Enterprises; Pp 224; Rs 200
Review: Dr Amjad Parvez
Aslam Kolsri is self-effacing about his creative ability of writing poetry. In all modesty, he compares his talents to a market of glass having a clay pot that could break anytime. While going through Kolsri’s résumé in the book titled Jadeed Ghazal Aur Aslam Kolsri Ka Sheri Sarmaya written by Dr Syed Shabihul Hasan, one discovers that his traits include reticence and hard work. Born in Okara, he worked as an ordinary labourer without feeling any shame. While working as a laboratory supervisor from 1968 to 1978, he completed his intermediate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees as a private candidate. After moving to Lahore and serving as a sub-editor at the daily Mashriq, he spent 16 years in the Urdu Science Board, initially as research officer and later on as deputy director. After retiring from this post, Kolsri now works as a director at the Punjab Institute of Languages, Arts and Culture. He has penned numerous ghazals. A couplet in which he says that many children who come to the cities forget that their mothers had sold their jewellery to raise money for their education made Aslam Kolsri famous instantly.
Dr Syed Shabihul Hasan has included the views of many literary persons on the poet’s work in the first chapter of the book and comments on his first poetry book Kaash in the next chapter. Published in 1992, Shahzad Ahmad wrote its foreword and Zafar Iqbal and Bano Qudsia gave their reviews. It consists of 76 ghazals. Here, the poet has combined classic trends with modern ones. In addition to comments on Aslam’s book Weerana, it contains four geets as well. This attempt indicates that he has been successful in deviating from tradition. Observing that this book is an evergreen collection, the writer believes that Kolsri has written his own life stories under assumed names, thereby trying to inhabit the backwoods with life. The late Mushfiq Khawaja had commented that after reading the poem Duniya, he felt that he belonged to Kolsri’s city. In the fifth chapter, Aslam’s fourth poetry book titled Neend has been discussed in which the poet describes how he felt his life was destroyed when he witnessed the poor and how they could not make ends meet. This again highlights the sense of pathos and concern in Aslam’s poetry. By writing on such subjects, he not only proves his solidarity with the masses but also brings out the wrongs of society into the open.
Aslam Kolsri’s fifth poetry book, published in 1996, is discussed in chapter six. It comprises one naat while the rest of the book contains ghazals. Though Aslam is neither a philosopher nor he attempts to offer any philosophy through his poetry but this particular book does raise certain questions and also provides answers (something that is not usually done by others). Dr Saadat Saeed, an eminent personality in his own right, believes that the poets of this era have paid attention to social problems in one way or another and Aslam Kolsri has made use of the psyche and reflections of the modern era. Dr Syed Shabihul Hasan has given titles of each chapter according to the treatment of the poetry given by the poet himself. For example, in the seventh chapter, he says that Kolsri’s book Barsaat has the latest linguistic touch and the eighth chapter describes his book Amber as a reflection of the problems of the present. Kolsri has adopted Zafar Iqbal’s practice of creating his own vocabulary with the verse ‘Hawaaon Ko Agar Talwarna Tha/ Kiran Ka Roop Bhi To Dhaarna Tha’ being a good example of it. New words such as talwarna and dhaarna add to the beauty of the couplet, observes Dr Shabih. In his work Barsaat, Aslam uses various elements of ilm-e-bayan, the knowledge of expression. For example, he says, ‘Bailain, phool, qalam, kaghaz, deewar, parindey/ Mein hi kahan akela tujh ko soch raha hun’. With beautiful structure and meaning, it is a unique way of saying that all the creations of God are thinking about you. The poetry has both worldly and spiritual touches and it is for the poetry lover to decipher whatever shade he desires to enjoy. The writer has also discussed Aslam’s Punjabi work titled Panchi. Like his Urdu poetry, it shines like the moon. The book has been dedicated to Kolsri’s parents and children. The highlight of this collection is the poetic autobiography titled Yaadan Faryadaan.
The rest of the research on Aslam Kolsri’s works comprises his translation of Austrian poetry, which he did with Muhammad Ikram Chughtai. Titled Aik Nazar Kaafi Hei, it is divided into works from four different eras. The eleventh chapter ‘Aslam Kolsri Ka Sheri Ikhtesas’ sums up his efforts in the ghazal format. There have been many outstanding poets who are not very well known in their time. According to Amjad Islam, these include Baqi Siddiqui, Zahoor Nazar, Raees Farogh, Ghulam Muhammad Qasir, Roohi Kunjahi and — you guessed it — Aslam Kolsri. This reviewer cannot vouch for the others but is sure that because of his introverted attitude Aslam Kolsri is not as popular as he should be. This book by Dr Shabihul Hasan is therefore a step ahead for literature lovers who wish to know about the creative endeavours of Aslam Kolsri.
The reviewer is based in Lahore and can be reached at email@example.com