LIFE AND LITERATURE;
A CONVERSATION WITH "QALIL DALTONGANJVT
NP: Qalil Daltonganjvi Sahib, to talk with a person of your seniority and literary eminence is an extraordinary honor. It is most gracious of you to take the time to meet with a humble and junior (though of course promising) poet like me,
QD: Not at all, not at all. I make a point of treating my juniors almost as though they were my equals. As one of the venerable Sufi pirs has said, the mark of detachment and nobility of soul is to show as much gradousness to inferiors as to equals—for after all, how often can a truly superior man expect to meet an equal? But what brings you here, all the way from the rich country of America, and the posh city of Pittsburgh, to my humble takiyah?
Where is Pittsburgh, and where Daltonganj? How can my letter-bearer find her house?
NP: Qalil Sahib, begging your kind indulgence, I have come to discuss with you several literary matters. You are known throughout the Urdu literary world for having taken several classical genres past the point of completion—through satiation, and on into exhaustion. Your series of 108 rubaiyat, each comparing the Beloved to one of the constellations visible in the summer night sky above Isfahan, is held to be incomparable. You have written sequences of verses containing ingenious alphabetical progressions, anagrams, chronograms, cryptograms, only dotted letters, only dotless letters, only medieval Turkish words, and only the letter 'am. At a musa'ira two years ago you recited a radically innovative ghazal consisting of ten minutes of silence— and the audience's enthusiastic response compelled you to repeat certain parts of it, so that it lasted fully half an hour in actual performance.
QD: Enough, enough—what need of embarrassing me with such compliments?
NP: Most recently, however, you have won the Daltonganj Rotary Club's annual Cultural Award for your musaddas of 900 bands, containing the whole Daltonganj Traffic Code in wonderfully memorable verse.
QD: Enough, enough—please don't put me to shame! Why, what can my five literary awards (one of them pan-Bihari) and eight books of poetry (which have now sold more than three hundred copies) mean to me-scholar and Sufi that I am at heart? And of course there is my wife, who makes such fine pans, such as you can hardly find outside old Lucknow families in these sad times. And my three fine
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