Celebrating an epic

June 13, 2021

Nadir Ali, who passed away in December, has left a rich legacy in Punjabi literature

The quarterly Pancham is the successor to Maan Boli, one of the earliest Punjabi magazines. Every issue of the magazine carries the latest in Punjabi poetry, prose and criticism. The magazine also publishes special issues from time to time. In the past, it has published special issues on Safdar Hashmi, Kulwant Singh, Bhghat Kabir, Kahani, Maan Boli, Baba Sohan Singh Bhakan. The latest is on writer Nadir Ali who passed away last December. It also regularly publishes translations from literature in other languages into Punjabi. Every issue of Pancham is eagerly awaited by Punjabi lovers, not only in Pakistan and in the Indian Punjab but also all over the world.

Its editor, veteran Maqsood Saqib, is well known in literary circles all over the world particularly among readers of Punjabi. Pancham is published by Suchet Publishing House which also has the honour of publishing the works of Najm Hosain Syed.

It is always difficult to review a special issue of a periodical particularly when it is about a writer of Nadir Ali’s stature. It contains all his poetry, prose and a brief autobiography. All 45 poems penned by the writer are featured in the magazine. These speak of Ali’s command on the language. Ali always felt deeply about the rural Punjabi culture in which he was brought up. He was well aware of the suffering of the downtrodden Punjabi.

Although after joining Pakistan Army he spent most of his time in cities, he never lost touch with his roots in the rural Punjab. He had seen the lives of the kammis very closely and felt their agony.

Here are a few samples from his poetry:

This special issue contains one section of poetry

and three sections of shorts stories:

The third section, Kahani Kara, includes translations of the works of prominent authors from all around the world, including the works of Kafka and Margaret Green.

All 45 poems penned by the writer are featured in the magazine. These speak of Ali’s command on the language.

The last section Hud Verti, Balpan Daa Shahr is an autobiography in which Nadir Ali discusses his family, his birth, schooling, marriage, in-laws, college, life in the military and becoming a Punjabi writer.

Ali joined the Pakistan Army and was chosen later on selected to be part of a special services force. He claims that when he was posted in East Pakistan, he did not shoot a single unarmed Bengali. He also says no one in his command killed any Bengali, though being a commando he did cross into the Indian territory to thwart the Indian designs against Pakistan.

What he experienced, saw and witnessed in East Pakistan deeply affected his mind. The trauma turned him into a neurotic. He retired from the army on health grounds.

He then went to the USA where he lived for five years. He states that he was cured by the special healing touch of his mentor Najm Hosain Syed. He was introduced to the weekly Sangat of Najam and started writing Punjabi poetry on the advice of Najm sahib. This not only cured him, it also made him a Punjabi poet and fiction writer. His command over language, choice of plot and craftsmanship were recognised by his contemporaries. He visited India a number of times as a member of peace delegations. He found his progressive roots in his father’s ideas.

After reading his biography and interview with Farah Zia in The News on Sunday (TNS) it is probably fair to say, “once a soldier always a soldier.”

This issue of Pancham is a very valuable collection of Punjabi literature which anybody interested in Punjabi writings and the Punjabi society must read.

Pancham magazine

Special issue on Nadir Ali

Edited and Published by:

Maqsood Saqib

Pages: 665

Price: Rs 1,000

The writer is a freelance journalist, human rights defender and peace activist

Celebrating an epic