Ayaz Daudzai

If you build castles in the air; your work need not be lost; there is where they should be. Put no foundation under them. Thoreou.
     Seemingly, poets appear as if they are prone to exaggeration. Poetry prospers in unusual, elusive and un-graspable conditions. But what may be misunderstood in poetry as exaggeration is in reality the lustre of the rays, beaming from the poetic imagination and dazzling the perception of the common reader. This element makes the appeal of poetry felt by the reader, stirring his sensibility to comprehend the rarified feelings, the intensified emotions and awareness-provoking thinking which a poetic composition is intended to convey.
     Writing about poets and poetry tends to go astray from the beaten track. He bounces out of the bounds to survey the unexplored, unknown regions of the human consciousness. Evaluation of poetic works inescapably involves the process of the rediscovery of the artist, lurking behind his piece of art. It is because a piece of art materialises from the creative impulse, artistic skill and susceptibilities of the artist. Unless the artist dissolves his aesthetic-self, as it is at the creative moment, in his creative composition, a really great art seldom comes into existence.
     It is, therefore, commonly assumed that a piece of art - be it a poem, a portrait or a melody - no matter to what extent being transcendental, ethereal, is in essence a manifestation of self-projection and self-expression. It is here that even if unwanted, the narcissism gate crashes into the domain of art. Subjectivity in the creative process is unavoidable because narcissism is as much an instinctive human impulse, particularly so of the artists, as the urge to create an object of art. This concept has been contended, contested, denounced and defended by the art and the literary critics in various periods and this very discourse has resulted in "a hundred schools of thought to contend" and also in the blooming of "a hundred flowers". Writing for and against `narcissism' is itself, in fact, motivated by this very impulse.
     Even this view may be contested and contended but any one doing so may better search his heart to find out from where the motivation springs. This diversion has been occasioned by the subject I have chosen to write about Aminullah - the poet of eternity. Much can be written on why the man yearns for eternity and what `eternity' in fact is or should be. But constraint of space compels me to concentrate on the subject and leave the detailed discourse on the art and the artist for another occasion.
     While going through the manuscript of Aminullah's poetic compositions, I noticed abundance of what may appear as narcissism and exaggeration in his quest for what is abiding, what is eternal. Most often he adopts the technique of Socrates, asking a series of questions to lead to the ultimate answer - to the ultimate human desire to attain `eternity' in one way or the other and even in any way. Great art asks great and difficult questions. It is because the questions provide occasion and prompt for the answers. If there are no questions, there can be no answers. Hence the creative value of the questions - not ordinary but exceptional questions which add to, and are beyond, the collective human funds of awareness and consciousness, is accumulated from time immemorial.
     Aminullah's poetic pieces in blank verse are deeply moving, radiant with detail. He presents his `sense and sensibility' in a new effulgent light. The originality and the limitless expanse of his vision qualifies him to be elevated to the status of being a `visionary'. All the same, he is not enamoured to chase the shadows and mirages. Instead he materialises and concretises the elusive moments of the awakening of the creative impulse and of the stirring of the slumbering yearnings in the rosy lap of the human instinct. His spectacular imagination creates his own mythological reality - builds his own imagined world of lasting lustre of life. Yet he is not euphoric but prophetic, shaping in physical form what may appear to be metaphysical. He did not invent a new language to express his complex vision. The every day speech of the common man has been magnitised by his creative skill to capture, visualise and verbalise the most uncommon phenomena, and make it shine in a strange splendour.
     Words and phrases convey different meaning to different persons at different stages of mental development. Words and phrases are the very stuff Aminullah's wonderful world is made of. Therefore, it may be seen from different angles by different people in different states of mind. To me, however, it has revealed itself as the abode of `beings' and `objects of eternity personified'.
     This unassuming Pukhtun muse, Aminullah, is a charming person, with impressive personality. Lean, smart and full of life, of medium height, fair complexion, with eternal smile playing on his radiant face, he is warm-hearted, extremely sincere and friend of friends. His disarming informality and sociability keeps him quite at ease even among the unfamiliar, among the strangers. In no time, he becomes the centre of attention with his witty remarks and endearing gaze of his hazel-hued eyes, radiating love and regard. This, of course, is not a crude attempt at a panegyric in prosaic prose. This is the truth and the whole truth that I have been observing in his person right from the time he was only a tiny, tender toddler. Now he is standing on the dividing line of middle age with all the bygone ages behind him and with fixed gaze on the distant, far off, hazy future in front, aspiring to remain, as he perceives himself to be, from eternity to eternity.
     Aminullah is born and bred in a pastoral village, nine and a half miles north of Peshawar city. Bountiful in natural beauty, this village, Chaghri Matti, is situated on the bank of river Shah Alam, a branch of river Kabul, midway between Warsak on the west and Abazai bridge on Charsadda road on the east. The ancestral house of Aminullah is just on the verge of the bank of this river - the bank which overlooks a vast and extended vesta, merging in the horizon, providing an occasion to a sensitive and conscious mind to explore the unbounded boundaries of eternity. Perpetuity of his perception of an eternally youthful world behind the horizon, keeps him young - young in body and soul. He sought pre-mature retirement from radio Pakistan as programme producer because the office routine always remained at loggerhead with his poetic genius. While in service, he had a sojourn to the United States, with declared intent to settle down there. But the restlessness of his poetic impulse forced him to say adieu to the `maddening crowds' of New York and to return to his native village never to leave it again. There is a grove of trees on the bank of the river, with a ferry-boat nearby. This is the place that inspires outpourings of his uniquely conceived poetic compositions. The grove, the river, the boat suggest to him strange images which are clearly identifiable in some of his poems.
     The symbols and images that people the strange world of his imagination are mythical, celestial, legendary, and divine. You can meet there the proverbial Cupid of Roman mythology - god of love; son of Venus, represented as beautiful, naked boy with wings, carrying bow and arrow with which he pierces human heart to stamp it with love; Dionysus, Greece mythical god of the fertility of nature and wine - inspirer of music and poetry: Abul Howl (the Egyptian Sphinx), symbolising endurance and durability, (merged with Sphinx of Greek myths - with women's head and lion's body - killing all those who could not answer the riddle it had propounded); Adam and Eve; Solomon the wise; Luqman the learned; Socrates the philosopher; Moses on Mount Sinai; Pharaoh personifying ferocity; Roman emperor Nero with his flute; Alexander the great; mythical winged horses; fairies; angels of death and destruction; the roll of time; Mona Lisa - beauty eternalised by the great painter Leonardo da Vinci adored for its strange smile; Juliet a heroine of Shakespeare's plays; Romeo and Juliet representing love in its pristine purity; and Milton the blind British bard who enriched English literature with a treasure-trove of classics.
     The poetry of Aminullah abounds with similar other images and symbols. But the intent here is not to catalogue all of them. The objective is to give a glimpse of the flight of imagination of this gifted poet. He has not merely referred to such symbols and images nor he has only listed them. He, in fact, has relived them, met them, conversed with them, confided in them to know the unknowable, to measure the immeasurable. He discovers that relics of the immortal (dead) have a force of revelation. It is from here that we can plunge headlong into the river of elixir that springs from his magical imagination. A mere peep in his `world of wonders' convinces us that it is not a mere phantasmagoria that he conjures up. It is rather a world of real life brought nearer through the relativity of `Time, Space and Dimension', metamorphosed by his poetic genius.
     For having a `feel' of this world, the lifting of a stanza from here and a verse from there will lead us nowhere. It calls for going through all the felt experience the poet has gone through - weathering storms and tempests, tribulations and torments, pains and pangs, mounting the Cross to be crucified, to be beheaded and born again - born again to be beheaded, to understand what "life in death and death in life" actually means. Yet it is not a world of suffering alone. There flows the river of wine, there are chances of having a thrilling flight through the constellations, and galaxies of stars, traversing the infinite expanse of cosmos, going into ecstatic trance with the mysterious music, produced by incomprehensible instruments.
     Rendering into English of a few lines would hardly serve the purpose. Even so, I can not avoid the temptation of outlining in brief the Pukhtun poet's chance meeting with Milton who's ghost appear to be still stalking the planet earth in a quest to regain The Paradise Lost. This Pukhtun poet meets the wandering British bard, plodding his weary way with his guiding staff in his hand in a cemetery. The Pukhtun poet imagines himself to be dead in life and buried in the graveyard of his dashed aspirations. Miltons stands by his `grave' (in human body), puts his hand on his tombstone, that is his shoulder, and says; "Whatever you have written in life will not suffice, I have brought all the works of Keats, Byron, Shelley and Tennyson. Take these, along with my own poetic production and your own compositions. Heap it all, burn it as incense to your deity, --- Laila."
     The muse in Aminullah can not be better visualised than what is portrayed by Wordsworth in his sublime lines in "Tinted Abbey".
Whose dwelling is in the light of setting sun,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And in the blue sky and in the mind of man!
A motion and a spirit that impels all living
things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things.
     The zestful explorer of the infinities of human soul, Aminullah, appears destined to go on `excelling' as if motivated by Long Fellow's concept - Excelsior! and be more blissful than the youth in Keat's Ode on Grecian Urn. Here are the relevant everlasting lines from this unimitable masterpieces:

Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not
leave thy song, nor ever those trees be hare;
Bold lover, never, never canst thou kiss
Though winning near the goal - yet do not grieve;
She cannot fade, though thou hast not they bliss,
Forever wilt thou love, and she be fair!
     Throughout the writing of this discourse, a few lines, committed to memory by me as far back as 1951, hovered over my subconscious, for the first time. I know not why? I also don't remember from whom and from where did I pick them up. As I come to the close of this piece, I think, these lines provide most appropriate ending. Here are those long-ignored lines:
When silence is overcome by love;
it turns into song,
When a song becomes obstinate;
it turns into noise,
When a word feels like dancing;
it turns into music,
And when music goes a drumming;
it turns into silence;
Silence is the beginning
Silence is the end.
(Courtesy: daily Frontier Post; 4 November 1995)


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