Remembering Naseer Kavi

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This week (October 30) marks the 74th birthday of Naseer Kavi, a unique Punjabi and Urdu poet who also identified with the culture and civilization of his native land of Jhelum and the Potohar Plateau, despite the fact that he got his fame from Urdu poetry. He was also a resistance poet and a political worker, generally unrecognized and under-appreciated in his own life. He was among the very first workers of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), who had even met the late Benazir Bhutto. For the uninitiated, he was the creator of the legendary poem “How many Bhuttos would you kill?” with its verses ‘Ye baazi jaan ki baazi hai, ye baazi tum hi haaroge; Har ghar se Bhutto nikle ga, tum kitnay Bhutto maaroge?’ (This gamble is a gamble of life, this gamble you will not fulfill; a Bhutto will emerge from every home, how many Bhuttos would you kill?) in the wake of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s judicial murder; and which has subsequently become an indispensable refrain at every PPP rally. His untimely death from cancer back in 2011 aged just 64 deprived Punjab of a remarkably original voice, a true successor of the Punjabi people’s poets of the 20th century like Amrita Pritam and Ustad Daman.

In his life he published just a sole collection of poetry ‘Saade Hath Agni da Taa (Our Hands Carry the Agni’s Flame).”

One of my favourite of Kavi’s poems is given below in the original Punjabi followed by my humble translation in English:

Main vele de bhutte utte

Khangar banya

Main har aukar jhilli

Mere piyo da niyaan Daravar

Mera naan Musalli!’

(I became a carving

On the kiln of time

And underwent misery

My father a Dravidian

My name Musalli!)

One could thus christen Kavi as the ‘Musalli of Tilla Jogian

Written by Raza Naeem | Lahore