ameed of the sentimental school of Urdu fiction has written some good stories in that genre. But the genre is itself difficult to handle, ever threatening to descend into sentimental pulp. It is only a rare Krishn Chandr, who can rise to the top in it.
However, A. Hameeds editing of an anthology of Urdu poetry, Urdu Sher ki Daastaan (Published by Shaikh Ghulam Ali and Sons, date not given), which stretches from the Deccan period up to Firaq Gorakhpuri, has a surprising omission. Its last section, titled Iqbal and His Contemporaries, has dozens of entries, including Hasrat, Fani, Jigar, Seemab, ending with Firaq. But Josh is nowhere to be seen in it. This was so unexpected that I rubbed my eyes and turned the pages again and again to find his name, but in vain.
Now, one may like or dislike a poet, even a poet generally recognised as great. But to ignore the existence of a poet, acclaimed by millions for the greatness of his art, is not a problem of literary criticism, but of psychological malaise.
In the modern Urdu poetry, which starts with Iqbal, there have been three great names after him, Josh, Firaq and Faiz. Joshs first collection Rooh-e-Adab, with its freshness of thought and richness of expression was liked by Iqbal so much that he persuaded the Punjab University to buy 200 copies.
Each subsequent collection was richer in both - the thought and expression. Important critics agree that Josh has used more words than any other poet of Urdu, except Anis. But some feel that his thought is unable to keep pace with the torrent of words. Here the question is the subject of poetry. He was not writing about tasawuf or some other branch of metaphysics. Hence, there was no need to make his writing unintelligible to all, except a handful in the manner of Baqar Mir Damad. Neither was he expounding a philosophical theory. If he were to do so, he would use prose.
Joshs poetry is the imaginative replica of the human condition in a state of material penury and the mans struggle to overcome it. Its lyricism arises from the concentrated expression describing the intensity of this challenge and response. As he himself puts it,
Kitny shabon kay taaq mein rakh kar charagh-e-dil,
Parkhhi hai rooh-e-alam-e-imkan teray liay.
His poetic repertoire, like those of other poets, contains many lines of an essentially transient nature. But his good poetry will live as long as there is Urdu, e.g. Kisan, Dihati Bazar, Badli ka Chand, Jangal ki Shahzadi, Fitnai Khanqah, Tulu-e-Fikr, to mention only a few of his great poems.
The first poem mentioned above combines landscape, social struggle, labour process and naked exploitation. At the same time, it shows that the mans relationship with nature, though his primary relationship, is conditioned by the social relations of exploitation:
Sarnugoon rahti hain jis say quwatain takhreeb ki,
Jis kay bal par hi lachakti hai kamar tahzeeb ki.
Bay rida biwi ka sar, bachchon ka munh utra hua,
Seem-o-zar, nan-o-namak, aab-o-ghiza kuchh bhi nahin.
Or the man as the object of agrarian class exploitation:
Maon kay kandhon pay bachchay gardanein dalay huay,
Bhook ki aankhon kay taaray, piyaas kay paalay huay.
There are two aspects of beauty, natural and human:
Vo sanvlay pan par maidan kay halki si sabahat daur chali,
Thora sa ubhar kar badal say, vo chand jabeen jhalkanay laga.
Ghalteeda fasl-e-gul ki ghata chashm-e-naz mein,
Roodad-e-shab tammawuj-e-zulf-daraaz mein.
Josh openly declared his political views and his support for the anti-imperialist struggle in British occupied India. He was not imprisoned, but was harassed by the police on a number of occasions. Further, he twice rejected the colonial administrations attempts to buy his collaboration.
He also supported the communist movement. Though being from a lightly industrialised region, he was unfamiliar with the workers struggle and saw the peasantry as the mainly exploited class. In this connection, he, Prem Chand and Dr Abdul Haq were the first writers to sign the manifesto of the Progressive Writers Association in 1935, launching a movement which brought the greatest revolution in our literature.
The writer is a retired ambassador.