Tributes to a Punjabi poet on the brink of language memory loss – Newspaper


Friends and family of Punjabi poet Irfan Malik gathered at the office of the South Asian Free Media Association on Saturday night to celebrate his poetry and works.

Malik suffers from Alzheimer’s disease which has affected his language and communication skills. Once well versed in four languages ​​of Punjabi, Urdu, English and Swedish, the poet has only his mother tongue, Punjabi, and has lost the ability to read, write or understand other languages. Having the first symptoms of his condition about 13 years ago, Irfan Malik was diagnosed with logopenic aphasia, a language disorder, in 2015.

Speaking at the gathering titled Beyond Words, Punjabi poet and scholar Mushtaq Soofi spoke about some distinct characteristics of Irfan Malik’s poetry, calling him one of the few Punjabi poets with an urban sensibility.

“Irfan Malik is a purely urban poet. It does not carry the baggage of rural Punjab. He has only Lahore (in his blood) because he was born, raised and raised in Lahore without any influence from rural Punjab. This is why his poetry, in its imagery and its emotions, is the poetry of an urban citizen, bearer of novelty. He writes about images of urban life (of Lahore), its streets, roads, flora and fauna.

Mr Soofi pointed out that there had been a recurring problem with Punjabi that its writers and scholars only thought of villages when discussing Punjabi culture.

“It’s there in the media, in the newspapers. I was in the PTV whenever there was talk or talk about Punjab or Punjabi, people would think of rural images like wells, artifacts, pitchers.

He pointed out that even designers (of book covers, etc.) would also think of this model. However, the reality is that Punjab has an urban history of over three millennia, starting with Harappa, he added.

“There is another aspect to this, which is that the villagers have remained connected to their language (Punjabi) and their culture for various reasons. On the other hand, in the cities, education spread after colonialism, which created a disconnection with the mother tongues and their negation. The urban population would think in Urdu or English.

He added that there were very few urban Punjabi poets until very recently despite the fact that one of the greatest Punjabi poet Madho Lal Hussain was a Lahori.

Punjabi poet Raja Sadiqullah read an essay on Irfan and his poem about him. In his essay, he said, “Irfan Malik has a sense of wonder in him, which is reflected in his poetry. “He surprised me many times. First time, when he wrote one or two line poems in his book before leaving a blank page. Asked about it, he replied that poetry needed of space.

He said that born in Dabbi Bazaar of the walled city of Lahore, Irfan wandered the narrow streets of the city and grew up there. He said that every poet remains alone despite all the company that surrounds him. Irfan continued his journey into the wonders of Mall Road and its lights, Sadiqullah said. He spoke of the poet’s move to Europe and then to the United States, saying that his wondering nature brought Irfan to other countries, including Sweden, and their open cultures.

He said that Irfan Malik was not a poet by trade as he did not use rhythm and rhyme and was not afraid to adopt new techniques.

At the end, he recited his poem Alzheimer, written about Irfan Malik and his state of health.

Irfan’s friend, Shahid Jamal, remembered that time in the 1970s when he, Irfan Malik and a few other leftist friends started a literary organization called Naey Ufaq. Speaking about Irfan’s poetry, he said that in addition to his rebellion and politics, he had a special respect and love for traditional relationships that many of our friends on the left were unaware of. Reciting a poem Irfan wrote about his father, he said the poem was symbolic of how he felt for his family. “Irfan wrote about all his experiences in his poetry, including those relationships that we consider purely traditional,” he added.

After General Ziaul Haq’s military coup and the overthrow of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s government, Irfan Malik joined the underground communist party. He was soon disappointed in this and moved to Sweden with his wife. However, he continued to write Punjabi poetry wherever he went.

Irfan’s Swedish daughter Arianna said he met her mother for the first time and had been the only Pakistani in a Swedish town for years. Sadly, father and daughter need a translator even to communicate as she does not know Punjabi, the only language Irfan now understands.

Poet Hasan Mujtaba in a video message from the United States, recited a poem by Irfan. Amar Alam also read his poem in English while Amna Buttar recited his poems.

Irfan’s poetry books include Wich Jagratay Sutti Tangh, Akath, Noon Ghunna, Dooji Aurat and Chhanday Aggay Kaiser.

Posted in Dawn, April 11, 2022


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