Annual of Urdu Studies, v. 3, 1983 p. 27.


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Faruq Hassan

SAQI FAROOQI: A POET'S PROGRESS

Saqi Farooqi may not as yet have become a major poet writing in Urdu, but he has been accepted as one of the few contemporary poets whose literary achievements are likely to endure. The publication in 1981 of his Raz5N se BHara Basta

("A Satchel full of Secrets"), which is a record of the past twenty-five years of his creative output, and which includes poems from both of his earlier volumes of verse, pyas ka ^ahra

("The Desert of Thirst") and Radar ("Radar"), as well as two recent poems, offers a welcome opportunity to^examine his poetic development. ^-

Saqi Farooqi (ne Qazi Shamshad Nabi Farooqi) was born on December 21, 1936, in Gorakhpur, a medium-sized town on the banks of the river Ghaghra, not far from the Himalayas. When he was twelve his family emigrated from India to East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). In 1952 the family moved once again, this time to West Pakistan, and settled in Karachi. Between 1952 and 1963, he lived, studied, and did piecemeal work in Karachi. In 1963 he left Pakistan to settle in England, the main reason for this move being his inability to find steady work in Karachi. "I did not want to waste the rest of my life worrying about my livelihood," he said in a recent interview.2 He had already graduated from Karachi University and later, in England, received some training in handling computers. He now lives in London with his Austrian wife and a daughter, and works as an accountant. He reads literary criticism and computer printouts, drinks cognac, dreams about "lolitas," and writes poetry.3 Recently he has taken up painting.

It was during the late Fifties, when he was in Karachi, that he began to write poetry, and in the early Sixties, that he acquired a certain reputation (one might even say, notoriety) as an atypical student and critic of literature, especially poetry, and as an iconoclast, breaking cherished public idols --literary as well as religious. (It is an activity he seems to enjoy even now.) His contributions to literary journals during those years -- occasional reviews, polemical essays and brief notes -- show him sniping at soulless and cretinous critics, taking potshots at fellow poets, and carrying on frequent literary feuds with his contemporaries. Adab-e-LatIf (Lahore), under the editorship of Intizar Husain in the early Sixties, had initiated a lively dialogue among Urdu writers and intellectuals on issues such as the "effeteness" of certain literary genres, the usefulness of university education in creating literary awareness, and so on. Saqi's contributions to this dialogue appeared often enough, and the boldness of his approach, even more than the validity of his arguments, made them noteworthy for others- This was the time when Saqi displayed fully his youthful bravado, or what G. C. Narang terms his "rebelliousness."4

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